Today we work ourselves back in the creed to the part we skipped over last week. I want to begin by saying that when I skipped over the section on the Spirit last week it is not because the Spirit is unimportant in our faith, rather I saw an opportunity to connect God’s word to the nature of the celebration of All Saints Sunday last week so I took it. I bring this up because we often do this to the Spirit, but we don’t come back and it is our understanding of who the Spirit is and the work the Spirit does in our lives that feeds our faith. As I went through my learnings I noticed that unless you were of a Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition your understanding of who the Spirit was blurred into your understanding of the other two persons of the Trinity, more often than not Jesus, and we never fully understand the presence of the Spirit.
So let’s start there for a moment so we can better engage the significance of the Spirit in our lives. As Christians we are a trinitarian faith, but what does that mean? The Trinity is a tricky concept because if we focus too much on one aspect of it then we run the risk of being labeled as a heretic of the church. We believe, as Trinitarians, in one God, but in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a quite a loaded theological term, and one of the most hotly debated theological words in Christianity, because in it is our nature as monotheists, that is a belief in one God, but also the nature that we believe that Jesus and the Spirit are as much the one true God as the first person of the Trinity is.
Without going too much deeper I just want us to understand the nature in which we are trinitarian because our misunderstanding of the basics of the Trinity leads us to misappropriate the persons of the Trinity and even forget them all together sometimes.
So who is the Spirit? What is our understanding of the Spirit’s role?
In our scripture today we get a glimpse at the nature of the Spirit from Jesus himself and it gives us a great understanding because we believe that Jesus was the incarnate God. We know that Jesus was physically on this earth, and the cool thing is that Jesus promises to be with us always, but with that promise comes an understanding that Jesus will not physically be with us. Therefore, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)
It is that word Advocate as it is translated here. The word in Greek is paraklete, and advocate is a pretty good translation, but so are words like comforter and helper. The base of the word means, “called to one’s aid” (thebible.org). Jesus was sent to help us to understand and know who God is. Once Jesus was killed and ascended the Spirit comes down as “another Advocate,” as Christ says, and continues to aid us in our faith.
The question is how. If the Spirit is our Advocate, our Comforter, our Helper, then what does that mean?
There is an understanding that the Spirit works in our lives in three different areas. That is in our individual lives, our communal lives and our social lives.
Jesus says, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:17)
There is the nature in which the Spirit resides within us and is a part of our very being. Luke Powery writes, “In the Spirit, one’s life awakens, fueled by the subject and object of the gospel.” (The New Interpreter’s Handbook of Preaching, “Holy Spirit/Passion,” Luke Powery. pg. 309) Our very essence of life and faith is found in the Spirit. We are literally living embodiments of the Gospel through the Spirit. Our individual manifestations of the Spirit is played out in our understanding of grace. We believe grace is threefold, and through justifying grace we take on Christ and confess God in our hearts and invite the Spirit into our lives. This commitment leads us towards how the Spirit works in us and does and Christ notes saying, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
The Spirit teaches us and reminds us of Christ. That my friends is sanctifying grace, the manner in which through grace we are moved along the journey of salvation towards what Wesley terms as Christian Perfection.
There is also the nature that the Spirit manifests itself in a communal sense beyond our individual selves. This was embodied in our discussion last week as we discussed the manner in which Christ calls us towards community. Powery continues on in his commentary on the Spirit, “Each person receives a manifestation of the Spirit for the benefit of the community, establishing the body of Christ as a charismatic community. The gifts of the Spirit are communal experiences of the Spirit.” (The New Interpreter’s Handbook of Preaching, “Holy Spirit/Passion,” Luke Powery. pg. 309)
Basically, the Spirit is not only the primary actor in our lives as individuals, but the Spirit also plays a large role in our sense of community. Namely, the Spirit is whom we gather around. The Spirit is what brings us together and forms us as a community. Without the Spirit, our lives and our communities would be nothing. The nature in which we leave room for the spirit in our communities sets the standards by which our communities are slated to exist. Much like I said last week we must be conscious of creating intentional space in which the Spirit is present in our communities. We have a call to worship and invocation, we pray before meetings, overall we create a mindset that this is a place where the Spirit is. We are a community driven by the work of the Spirit. We are receptors of the teachings of God, and reminders of who Christ is. We listen to God’s call and embody it in our work.
This leads us to our last work of the Spirit and that is the social aspect of it. While Jesus gives us a good glimpse into the person of the Spirit in our scripture today we learn about this aspect from Paul who shares with us the fruits of the Spirit. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. This is what it looks like to have the Spirit in you and a part of you. Lowery writes, “The Spirit sends people into the world to serve in love.” (The New Interpreter’s Handbook of Preaching, “Holy Spirit/Passion,” Luke Powery. pg. 309) This service is driven in part by our call to be like Christ. The Spirit calls us and drives us towards this embodiment.
Remember it is not enough for us to simply believe. It is not enough for us to simply come to church or Sunday School, to sit here and to learn. It is great and wonderful to create space here amongst ourselves here in this community. However, our calling is not to only be filled with the Spirit, but to be overfilled. We come here and receive and are revived through the work of the Spirit to then take the Spirit out into the world so that others may be filled with it as well.
We confess in the Apostles creed saying, “I believe in the Holy Spirit” (Apostles Creed). In this seemingly simple statement is all of this stuff I have talked about today. The Nicene Creed, a creed that came about through much debate and conversation over the first few centuries of Christianity confesses of the Spirit, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets” (Nicene Creed). A bit more depth in the Spirit’s relationship to the Trinity, but also gives us a peek at the Spirits role in the church through the ages.
The Spirit works through the people, the individual, for the sake of the community to glorify and build the Kingdom of God. That is what it means to confess the Spirit and to live it means that you not only create space for the Spirit in your life but being overflowed by the Spirit you go and share it with others. That is your homework. How are you being overfilled with the Spirit and who is Good calling to share that overflow with? Bring the Spirit into your life and allow it to truly change you and bring you to God’s calling. We have invited the Spirit to be a part of our lives. You have come and have learned and been reminded through the work of the Spirit, now take the Spirit into the world and fill others.