Belief in the Holy Spirit is part of the Profession of Faith which we make in our Baptism and Confirmation services in the Anglican Church and in a more general form what we profess each week in the Creed. Our first task is therefore to ask what, or who, this Holy Spirit is and what She does in the world that requires our belief and trust. After all we cannot claim to believe and trust in someone or something about which we know nothing in particular.
I had cause to think about this in a new way a few years ago when one of the prisoners who I was leading a Bible study with in a Young Offenders Institution read to us from Genesis Ch 1 and reminded us …
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God hoovered over the waters ..
This small matter of what the Spirit of God actually is and does is fundamental to our ability to believe and trust in this entity.
We start to build a picture of the Spirit of God in this text at the very beginning of the Word of God which talks about creation .. and which tells us that the Spirit of God was present and indeed active in the act of initiating life out of a formless, empty and dark environment. In fact we read that the Son of God, Jesus, the Light of the world was also present in this act of creation and this is a fundamental part of why we profess a Triune God .. because the distinct actions of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit seem to emerge out of this account of creation in Genesis.
So the Spirit of God is there at the beginning of creation. And it is perhaps this involvement in God’s creative acts that I would want to focus on in relation to who or what the Spirit is and does. The Spirit of God reflects the idea of intention and the direction.
The Spirit of something or someone is always that part of them which harnesses the intentions, the desires, the hopes, the fears the plans of that entity. And so we find ourselves with the suggestion that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is the Being through which the intentions, the plans, the desires of God are expressed and worked out.
If we consider our first introduction to the Spirit of God as taking place in Genesis we therfore have a glimpse of what the intentions and desires of God the Father might be. We have the Spirit of God hovering, not hoovering, over that which was dark, formless and without purpose, just empty. And the Spirit of God causes the Father to speak and call into being order, light and purpose. Just as the Spirit of Martin Luther King might be said to have been the thing that gave rise to his speech about having a dream so God’s Spirit is that Person, that place where the desire to speak the world into being came from. A persons Spirit urges them to act in a particular way.
So perhaps the idea that the Spirit of God hoovered over the waters is not so far from the truth after all. Certainly the role of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit is to bring order from chaos, to re-form the mess into a place in which the purposes of God can be achieved.
But what does this all this mean for us by way of belief in God the Holy Spirit the one who gives life to the Church and reveals Christ to the world in our churches and communities?
I think what we are called to believe in the Holy Spirit’s continued desire to speak ‘order, light and form’ into what can often seem like a bit of a mess. Do you ever feel that life is a bit of a mess?
The call of the Christian is to believe and trust that the intention, plan and desire of God is to redeem this mess. It is the idea that all of this … our suffering our pain our loss our joys our laughter and our tears , are all working towards a particular end! It is not a futile world created by accident. It is a world full of purpose and with an ultimate goal because it was created according to a particular Spirit. A Holy Spirit. A Spirit of love and devotion.
And this is why we are called to believe and trust in the Holy Spirit which came at Pentecost to lead and strengthen the Church… because a persistent belief in this Spirit is what gives life to the people of God! Belief and trust in this Spirit is what allows the Church to continue 2000 years on to be co-workers in the act of taking the formless and dark and chaotic experiences that life throws at us, and turning them into sources of goodness and creativity and life. We are called through Pentecost to transform our experience of the world as dark and chaotic through acts of kindness and generosity and love .. for this is in keeping with the Spirit of God!
If we do this we make Christ known to the world because it is in Him that all things will eventually be redeemed completely and that the Spirit of God will achieve her ends … the goodness, kindness and perfection of God’s plan in creation will be complete through the cross of Christ.
And so our belief in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost should mean that when we are shown acts of anger we do not pass it on but we transform it to acts of love. When we are shown meanness of spirit we transform this to generosity and pass it on. In doing so we continue to re-order the world and we continue the work of God through His Holy Spirit in the Church.