What has Spirit brought to birth in our spirits? Today three passages show us how Spirit works and what it feels like.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet experiences an epic and still intimate rebirth of his spirit. Paralyzed by his sin before God, all the action unfolds around him. Special effects touch all the human senses, culminating in the touch of burning coal from the altar on the prophet’s lips. He does not cry out with pain. Instead, he hears the seraph declare his sin forgiven. All the action has become personal. He knows his spirit is free when the voice of the Lord asks the compelling question “Whom shall I send?” and he can respond “Here am I. Send me.” Once immobilized by the oppression of sin, Spirit has liberated him.
I wonder how we are immobilized, oppressed–unable to participate in God’s work. What is the touch we seek to set us free? How does Spirit get our attention? What are the words we need to hear?
In Romans 8, we hear more about Spirit’s personal work. We learn Spirit gives us an identity as children of God. Fear will never earn it. Spirit leads us to the gift of adoption where fear is disempowered. The work is done. We are now God’s children, a relationship of intimacy, love, and acceptance.
I wonder what holds us back from participating in God accepting us and calling us adopted children? Have our fears kept Spirit’s work at arm’s length?
In John’s Gospel, we may squirm with Nicodemus and still understand his searching spirit. We, too, have been awkward in the presence of gospel that is somehow always new—even when we’ve been raised in it. When Jesus says “what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of Spirit is spirit,” it makes perfect sense. But it is also the introduction of a power that Jesus describes as absolutely free. He invites us to understand that freedom as fundamental to Sacred Mystery. Spirit blows where she chooses. We cannot know where she is going or where she comes from. Yet Spirit does very personal things—birthing things of Spirit in us.
I wonder if we are aware of what Spirit has birthed in us? What in our spirit comes from Spirit?
Some celebrate this Sunday as Trinity Sunday. Many try to explain what that means, and what that doesn’t mean. But Spirit is a bit of an “also ran” for many. Operationally, the Bible may become the third person of the Trinity for some. For me Spirit is who overcomes our imperfect understandings of God . Spirit reveals the gender specificity of Jesus as a sign of humanity and not symbol of divinity. Spirit didn’t come last. She was always there. For Isaiah, Spirit got him moving and participating in God’s work again. For Paul, Spirit told us something important about who we really were that we did not know before. With Nicodemus Jesus did not speak of himself but of Spirit, and that Spirit birthed spirit in us. Spirit works personally, intimately in our lives at ease with truths beyond our pay grade to reveal more of who we are meant to be in the world.
These are daily gifts to celebrate that make our faith and ministries unapologetically personal and wonderfully mysterious. It is Spirit who makes wholistic sense and meaning out of God and Jesus no matter what the gifts and challenges of our incarnation may be. Spirit is long before, ever still, and forevermore. Spirit. No definite article. The name of the third person of the Holy Trinity.
Diane Strickland is in her 33rd year as an ordained minister now serving in The United Church of Canada as retired clergy. She is a Certified Community and Workplace Traumatologist, Compassion Fatigue Specialist-Therapist, and Critical Incident Responder in private practice. She produced pandemic resources and workshops for ministers and congregations.
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