I Believe in the Holy Spirit. Period?

From Guest Writer:
Pastor Mark Honstein
Associate Pastor of Watford City Lutheran Parish, Watford City, North Dakota

What do you say we all agree to put a period in the creeds immediately after professing our belief in the Holy Spirit? Wouldn’t that make life easier? Since many of us in mainline Protestant churches don’t know what to say about the third person of the Trinity, I think we would be perfectly happy stating our belief in the Holy Spirit and stopping there. Yes, Pentecost, the feast day commanded in Leviticus for Israel to celebrate 50 days after Passover, has become the Spirit’s day since, 50 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and was described by Luke in Acts with images of wind rushing through them and fire alighting on them. He drew the people from the neighborhood to the disciples’ door, and She empowered the disciples to preach the Gospel boldly in languages for all those gathered from around the world to understand. It was an amazing, miraculous display of God’s might in a time when the Roman government seemed to have all the power. And, if it happened in one of our churches today, how many of us would be calling for our ushers to grab extinguishers and escort those “unstable, combustible people” outside?

I am exaggerating of course, but not by much. We seem uncomfortable witnessing the acts of the Spirit, in large part I believe, because we do not know where He comes from, or where She is going when we experience it. On one hand, it is awesome when we preside at a service and, without prior coordination, the music the choir director picks, the children’s message the youth pastor gives and your own sermon fit perfectly together, broadcasting one clear message! We are happy to thank God and admit the Holy Spirit was involved there, if only to each other. But when we are delayed from heading home by a homeless fellow who had nothing else to do all day but wait until 4:55 to ask you for help, and then after helping him you head home only to be detoured from the quickest route and blow a tire in a pothole on the detour, we’re not too quick to thank God or admit the Holy Spirit is directing us. Even when we see the fellow who stopped to help us change the tire in church the next Sunday, we think only of how happy God must be that we talked to the guy about coming to church. We fail to see how God was involved in the whole day, how God’s Spirit was blowing through us as we worked that day, helped the man, followed the detour and spoke to the good Samaritan who stopped to help us.

Martin Luther, a father of the Reformation celebrating its pentacosiostos (500th) anniversary this year, taught about the Holy Spirit in his explanation of the third article of the creed. He said, “the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this church the Holy Spirit forgives all sins—mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.” Essentially, Dr. Luther said we cannot put a period after professing belief in the Holy Spirit because the remainder of the creeds speak to what the Holy Spirit does for us. The Spirit calls us into ministry, sure, but She also gathers our cohorts together, He unites us in our common purpose, and gifts us to perform the ministry needed in our community. Perhaps it is appropriate in Pentecost, on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, to reform the way we interact with and acknowledge the third person of the Trinity? If there was ever a time our churches, communities, counties, states and nation need to be “called through the gospel, gathered together, enlightened and made holy” it is now. Would you pray a verse of Luther’s hymn “Come, Holy Ghost” with me this Pentecost?

“Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord, with all your graces now outpoured on each believer’s mind and heart; your fervent love to them impart. Lord by the brightness of your light in holy faith your church unite; from every land and every tongue, this to your praise, O Lord, our God, be sung. Alleluia! Alleluia!”

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