The Wild, Mysterious, Life-giving Spirit of God

by susan on May 18, 2016

ruach

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. – Acts 2:1-4

I believe that within each of us,
there is a longing to experience the Divine.
To know & to feel without a doubt:
that God is here,
that God is acting in a decisive way,
that God has the power to change the course of things.

There is this other part of us, though,
that is skeptical & with good reason.
We want to experience God’s presence,
but we’ve trusted before and gotten misled,
wounded, even abused at the hands of those
who claimed to have special access to the Spirit of God.

We’ve watched TV evangelists manipulate & make a profit.
We’ve encountered hypocrites, hustlers & holy-rollers.

While we hunger & thirst for an experience of God,
our skepticism has left us wondering if it’s really possible,
if there is any sincerity in all this talk of the Spirit.

Can we experience the real & powerful presence of God?
Can we know, as Jesus promised, the comfort & companionship of the Holy Spirit?
What even is the Spirit?

Looking to scripture we find the Spirit is a central character in the story that was first introduced not in fire or flaming tongues, but as the Spirit that hovered over the chaotic waters of creation and as the very breath of God.

“then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; (make a breath sound) and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7

This passage introduces the Spirit through the Hebrew word Ruach. Ruach means “breath”. This word mimics the sound we make when we breath in and out. The Spirit is God’s breath of life breath life into
through us. God, ancient people believed, is as close as the air we breathe.

Breathing is something, though, that we can easily take for granted. It’s no wonder the presence of God began to take more noticeable forms: like guiding the Hebrew people as a cloud by day & a pillar of fire by night.

Even then, there were moments recorded in scripture where people felt very near to God and moments when they felt completely abandoned. Just look at the Psalms. And yet, the Spirit (or presence of God) continued to weave its way into the story.

Prophets like Joel began speaking of the spirit as something that would be poured out into us:

“And that’s just the beginning: After that—
I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters.
Your old men will dream,
your young men will see visions.
I’ll even pour out my Spirit on the servants,
men and women both.” – Joel 2:28-29

pouring outThe Spirit was not only God’s breath,
but also the initiator of boundary-breaking dreams & visions.
The Spirit was poured into all kinds of human beings;
just like it was poured into Jesus.

The first words Jesus spoke as he returned home after being baptized & experiencing a season of wilderness were those of the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
…Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
– Luke 4:18-20, 21

Jesus promised that same Spirit would come to us. Scripture describes its coming at the day of Pentecost.

**

Imagine being there:

You’ve journeyed with Jesus, experienced the pain of his death, the joy of his return & now the uncertainty of his departure. It’s now the Feast of Pentecost and you are surrounded by friends, eating, drinking & celebrating life. You are full of gratitude – thankful to be on this journey, yet anxious for where this adventure will lead next.

Without any warning at all, there is a sound like a strong wind, a gale force blows through the room — no one can tell where it’s coming from. It fills the whole place.

Pause to take in this scene. What are you thinking & feeling? Is this the end of something or another beginning?

Then, like wildfire, a powerful Spirit starts moving through person after person. You all start speaking in a number of different languages. It’s crazy! An ordinary day of feasting together, a ritual gathering with friends has become a powerful experience of God. It’s like nothing you have experienced before. You can’t even put words to it.

Sit with what seems like the undeniable sense of God’s presence. What do you see? Know? Or feel?

Devout religious onlookers from all over the world are nearby. Overhearing the sound, they come running.They can’t believe what they hear. Their own mother tongues being spoken. They are awestruck. They can’t for the life of them figure out what’s going on either: “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our mother tongues?!”

Their heads are spinning; they can’t make head or tail of any of it. They talk back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” Others joke, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

But Peter know different.
He stands up and speaks out with confidence:
They’re not drunk. They are filled with the same spirit that the prophets told us to expect! God is here.

You hear his words & it starts to make sense. Suddenly, you know.
The same Spirit who gives life & breath, visions & dreams & stirred Jesus is also moving through you.

Pentecost mosaicWhat will you do now?
How will this presence change the way you live?
The way you love?
The way you relate to friends, neighbors & enemies?

**

The Spirit or God’s presence comes in many different ways.
The Spirit even interrupted a room full of followers
& is still interrupting us today.

What will it mean for us to move beyond our skepticism & to reconnect with the wild, mysterious, life-giving Spirit of God?

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