Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Voice of the Holy Spirit

Anita Van Ingen emailed me,

“I write a blog called Moving Godward: The Desert Blogs
"and I’m doing some research on what the voice of the holy spirit sounds like to different people."

I'm going to expand "sounds like" and include feels like, sounds like, tastes like and smells like! It’s striking the Westminster Catechism says a sacrament is a sensible and outward sign – rather than simply a visible one, so I’m thinking about sensible (sensory) manifestations of the reality of the presence and activity of the HS in our lives. And since you asked me, it’s probably most appropriate for me to respond in terms of my own experience, and not even in terms of what other people have told me – you’ve probably asked quite a few people to answer this question, right?

I’ll begin by mentioning the help the HS gives us in interpreting scripture – a witness to God’s activity in the world that from the beginning was Spirit-breathed – a witness whose canonization also was Spirit-ed. Although that can be problematic, since different people claim various and sometimes conflicting interpretations of the same text.

In everyday life we intensely can sense the Spirit’s presence in conversation, in many kinds of human and animal interaction and – traditionally – in worship (but not always in worship). I’d love to say I sense the HS’s presence within the ecclesial community, but too often church settings, like committees, etc., are so charged with conflict, overt and covert hostilities and general irreconciliation or at least non-conciliation it’s almost impossible to breathe.

But since this question’s supposed to relate to “desert blogs,” I want to go off onto something like a tangent from what I just wrote, though definitely not a tangent in the least as this relates to the work, witness – and presence – of the HS in our lives, most particularly in our experiences of seeming desertion. In the desert Israel first rendezvoused with Yahweh; in the desert – driven out by the Spirit – Jesus first met the Spirit; possibly our first meeting with the real presence of the HS happens in the desert, too...not the presence we imagine we need but the Presence God knows we need.

Scripture’s multitude of promises includes God’s assurance of life lived eternally in the presence of God. How many times have I said the real miracles aren’t the spectacular signs and wonders, but rather Yahweh’s enduring specialness is the passion of presence with the people?! What’s been going on in almost any particular scriptural passage? Lots of things, but in particular the extraordinary fact of God with the people!

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