June 7 - 2015

The Fire of the Holy Spirit

Approximately 50 thousand years ago Barzec stood on the banks of the Beaton River in northern British Columbia (neither the river or the province were named at that time) and looked north very late one day. He could see some strange lights in the night sky. As he watched the lights grew brighter and brighter, and they seemed to be moving about very rapidly, and changing colour. He was very frightened but at the same time very excited. He could not only see the lights but could feel, and hear, the strange crackling noises that accompanied them. The lights became closer more active and brighter until he was completely surrounded. 50 thousand years later I stood on the same spot and had the same experience. If you ever experienced the northern lights or Aurora Borealis close up you will understand. There is no way to describe it properly. What both Barzec and I both knew was that there was a power out there that we did not understand. Personally I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was either showing off or just having fun. I believe that the Holy Spirit is much more than the gentle wind we normally think about. More than once the Bible mentions fire when the Holy Spirit is being talked about.

If Moses was astonished by seeing a bush burning without being consumed, imagine how Barzec felt. There must be someone, or something, out there. Using what little communication skills he possessed he soon told everyone he knew about it. They all agreed that some form of spiritual Deity was at work. While we have no written evidence, archaeological finds tell us that the “Great Mother Earth Goddess” was the common identity used to describe whoever was responsible. Interestingly, the first Deity was thought to be female. Later, male identity was given to the lessor “gods” who were responsible for things like the sun and moon, wind and rain. If the Holy Spirit really is female she is obviously fed up with the status quo, and is flexing her muscles. Just maybe there is someone responsible for the changes of the last century.

The last one hundred years has seen more changes than in the previous 2000 years. Science has led the way with physics showing us new ways to look at our universe and the way it works. Man has gone to the moon and come back. Computers have gone from being too large to fit in this building, to being small enough to fit into your shirt pocket. Perhaps the most significant change has been in the area of women's rights. What started out as women's liberation has migrated into a demand for women's equality.

Women, married or single, gained the right to run for public office; we won the right to vote; we gained the right to own property in our own name; we are allowed to have a credit card in our own name; we are allowed to participate in public worship; we gained the right to be ordained as priests and ministers. After several thousand years of oppression the speed of change is phenomenal.

It was not until the advent of organized religion about 5 thousand years ago that the idea of a male God was adopted. The Holy Spirit was downgraded to a minor role as part of the Trinity. Today many people claim to be spiritual but not religious. What they probably mean is that they recognize the idea of a spiritual Deity but do not believe in organized religion.

About the same time that God was assumed to be male, women were blamed for Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden of Eden, and, as punishment were relegated to the level of second class citizens. An interesting thought is that organized religion is directly responsible for the status of women. In earlier times the church was the government, and when control was relinquished to civilian authority the rules stayed the same. There was a tendency to view culture and religion as constant realities to which all else must conform. This view was both unrealistic and unscientific.

After centuries of denial, the world began finally to realize that the female brain showed the same composition as the male brain, that the other half of the life force was in them too. That a little girl could run as fast as a boy, that women could lead, and manage, and speak, and write as well as any man. The scales are already shifting – force is losing it's weight and mental alertness intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong is gaining ascendancy.

In the words of benedictine nun Sister Joan Chittister, The Holy Spirit, God’s energizing presence among us, the life force that drives us beyond ourselves, that whispers us into the great quest within, that makes life alive with a purpose not seen but deeply, consciously, stubbornly felt even in the midst of chaos, even at the edge of despair, sounds the truth in us that we are more than we seem to be.

Life does not begin and end with us. There is more than we know, there is an electric charge animating the world at every level and, most of all, within.

The Spirit keeps us moving toward, through, the black holes of life, certain that on the other side of them is light, waiting and wishing us on.

The Spirit of God permeates the universe with a presence. The Spirit of God truly infuses us and is really en fleshed in the human heart in each of us. All creation and life are subject to laws of change, decay and renewal.

This divine energy is more life force than ghostly presence. The Holy Spirit is the most active, least honoured presence of God in the church.

God’s Holy Spirit hovered over the waters in the process of Creation and gave gifts, to the entire community – both sons and daughters – as the prophet Joel envisioned.

The Spirit embodied the life force of the universe, the power of God, the animating energy present in all things and captured by none. Because of the Spirit, Jesus was not gone and God was not distant. The Spirit was the restless urge to life in us. The Spirit moves us to new heights of understanding, to new types of witness.

We must live in the Spirit and the Spirit will show us the way.

The Spirit shows us ways that are not always in the book.

The Spirit lives in us, driving us on and demanding a response from each of us, and all of us for the sake of creation, for the sake of the Church itself. Let us pray that we will listen to the Holy Spirit; That we will accept the changes demanded of us; That we will go into the future confident that the will of God, will not lead us anywhere that the grace of God cannot sustain us.