Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spirit Witness

The other day, I was coming home from a meeting, and decided to stop at a store along the way.

I rarely go to this particular store. But there I was, making my way back to my car, after making my purchases, when someone called me by name.

I was hardly paying attention to my surroundings, really quite lost in my own thoughts but when I looked up, I saw a woman standing in front of me.

She said my name again, and while I was searching my memory trying to retrieve her name, because I recognized her face, she commented,
“oh, you don’t remember me, ?”......

And just as she was about to say her name, I spoke it too!

The woman had been my neighbor, living just down the block from me. Of course I remembered her and was amazed to see her again. We lost track of her and her family when they moved away, but she was a kind and gentle person, someone to treasure. 

As she began to tell me a bit of her current story to catch me up I sensed that for some reason, my only reason for being at that store on that particular day, was not for the purpose of making the small purchase I held in my hand. I was there because this woman very much needed someone who knew her and cared about her. She needed someone who would ask what was happening to her, and someone to reach out to her in a tangible way.

Now, many people would just chalk that occurrence up to “Small world!” and then be about their day. But I look at an occurrence of this nature differently.

In my experience, I had been the one the wind of the Spirit of God had blown to be placed on her path. I only know this from my past experiences. I had started my morning by opening myself up to God, inviting opportunity to be present with whosoever was in need of someone to bring God’s presence into their midst. When I start my day with that level of openness to being present to whomsoever, I am rarely disappointed with the experience. I walk away with a feeling of having entered into holy space and time  Too bad I’m not so receptive every day.

I think this is participation in the divine dance with the Godhead. The orthodox church speaks of the Trinity as the perichoresis, and likens it to something of a swirling dance. Perhaps imagining the image of the Sufi dervishes will bring to mind an image of the spiritual connection... invisible but connected.

In Paul’s letter to the Roman’s he writes about the “Spirit bearing witness with our spirit” and that is the best description from scripture that I can give to how I “know” that experience to have been true.

"So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him." Romans 8:12-17 New Revised Standard Version Bible

I often find, as I am reading through the texts that there are so many rich ideas, I can hardly decide which of the ideas I will settle on for Sunday mornings’ sermon. If we were sitting across the table from each other we could read through the passage, and lift the ideas and images that speak to each of us individually and work through them, sharing how the God’s Spirit is speaking to each us individually.

As I pointed out in my last post, the Revised Common Lectionary Scriptures chosen for this week are intended to stress a Christian Doctrine; the doctrine of the Trinity, God as Triune in nature. This idea is so complex; as a child being told that God was “three in one” an easy thing to accept. Yet as we mature, this becomes a sticking point for many people. This passage from the letter Paul wrote to the Church in Rome refers to those three persons, but offers no explanation. God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, requires at least a dash of faith to work through for most people. Naturally, most non-Christians, whether Jews, or any other people group, assumed these to be discretely different entities, each one self contained, not an indwelling unity of being. Jews thought Christians where Tri-theistic, therefore, violating the first of the commandments handed down to Moses from the Mount.

The Celts, whose territory at the time of the early Christian Church actually stretched well into the region we know as Turkey, had a variety of symbols to express the divinity. Among them is the triquetra. The beauty of the Triquetra is how it conveys an interwoven, unbroken nature of God.St. Patrick is credited with having used the shamrock as a teaching device for early Celtic Christians. It's simplicity is it's usefulness, in the connection of each section being unbroken. 

In practice, I think Christians don’t adequately grasp the idea of the co-equal and co-eternal nature of God in three persons. I work my way through the concept by resisting a lot of imagery offered up by others in the name of trying to describe God as three persons. On the other hand I also have sought symbols that can adequately describe this multifaceted nature of God. I appreciate the way prayers contained in the Book of Common Prayer consistently conclude with an affirmation of the unity of the three persons. “in the name of Jesus who lives and reigns with you and the holy spirit, eternally one God.” AMEN … so complete that no one can confuse the nature of God as multiple entities.

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