With the arrival of Pentecost we focus our studies on the Holy Spirit. With as much celebration as Easter, we should lift up songs of praise that He has arrived! He lives within us! The Living Waters flow from our hearts! The problem with Pentecost and our understanding of the Holy Spirit is that we cannot fully grasp an understanding of how He works. The Holy Spirit is spiritual not physical and we, in our finite world, can only begin understand the physical laws of God - the spiritual aspects allude our grasp entirely.
When we discuss God and try to explain Him to others, we generally will look to His creation and point to the wonders of His handiwork. We don't know how He accomplished it but creation falls within the realm of our understanding. We make things, create things, and fashion things. We create so God is like us, only better. He creates bigger things. We also can discuss God in terms of earthly characteristics with which we are familiar such as fatherhood, love, peace, justice, and forgiveness. Grace is a little beyond our grasp but it still represents a thing of which we can attempt to understand and will occasionally see or experience in our lives. God, no matter how awesome and amazing, is something we can begin to understand through our physical experiences.
With Jesus, we have concrete evidence of who He is; after all, He was a man. We struggle with the concepts of a miracle birth and His being raised from the dead, but in many ways these are fairly small steps of faith. God created the entire universe, so why can't He fudge a couple of His natural laws in order to do His creation a favor? Jesus is God made flesh. There is nothing more physical than this. It is solid. We can kick the tires and experience His teaching. We can envision the calluses on His feet and the holes in his hands. We can call Him prophet, Messiah, teacher, friend, and Savior with an understanding and experience of what each of these names mean and represent.
However, the Holy Spirit is another matter all together. By definition, He is spirit. Now we are in unfamiliar waters. He is vague, illusive, and undefined. Nothing in our lives provides us a point of reference. We can't see Him, hold Him, touch Him, or taste Him. Many can't hear Him or feel Him. Because of this, we tend to overlook Him and focus only on the physical characteristics of God we can comprehend. With the writings of John, St. Augustine, and most other biblical scholars throughout the ages, however, we recognize that it is the spiritual aspect of our relationship with God that is most important. It is in the spiritual that we meet our maker, fulfill our purpose, and achieve our destiny.
So what can we do this Pentecost Sunday to grow in our understanding of the Holy Spirit and to find evidence of Him in our lives? What we want is physical evidence. If the Holy Spirit, the essence of God, is living in our hearts, then where is the proof? If one person feels His guidance in their life, then shouldn't he or she be able to describe Him to others so they too can find Him?
Most analogies fail to fully explain the Holy Spirit because they are rooted in the physical world, however, Jesus has provided us a clue in our verses in John when He said: "Have faith in Me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you." (John 7:38 CEV) Earlier, when I suggested that we are in unfamiliar waters in our attempts to describe the Holy Spirit; we are exactly that, in the waters of His spirit.
To find evidence of Him in our physical world, let's take a look at one-celled organisms that are living in the waters of our planet. The amoeba and paramecium represent life at its most basic level. They are unique and separate species. Their cell membranes create a barrier between the waters of the ocean in which they live and waters that make up their nucleic material. The membrane is a barrier that creates individualism and life and yet, it allows oceanic and nucleic waters to flow through it and across it. The amoeba is separate from the ocean yet, in an amazing way, still is part of it. The living waters flow in and out, giving life, purpose, and sustenance.
This analogy falls apart when you look to the complexity of our lives and the myriad of things in which we can control through the wonderful gift of free will. But what if, in some amazing way, the spiritual essence of God is flowing through us at all times in the same way the waters of the ocean support the life of an amoeba? What if, the living waters Jesus referred to, were constantly flowing in and around us? What if the Christ, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, were as real as the waters of the ocean, only, instead of being limited to the time and space of our physical world, He resides in a spiritual realm just outside our consciousness and physical awareness? This is what Jesus taught, a presence would come to those with faith that would flow the entire essence of God in, through, and from their lives.
So how do we tap into the Holy Spirit? How can we drink from His nourishing waters? How do we utilize His life-sustaining love and guidance in every aspect of our lives? We do this by recognizing that He is there. It is a step of faith. We are not to go out and seek evidence of His presence before we decide to believe in Him. We are to believe and trust in the promises of Christ. When we do this and when we give control of every aspect of our life into His capable hands, then and only then, will we experience the spiritual essence of God. We may float around in His waters and benefit from His blessings in our life but the full essence of God will remain hidden from view as long as we resist believing that He is there.
Holy Spirit, Life-giving Water, Essence of God: Come, fill the hearts of your faithful. Create in us the ability to trust that you are always apart of every aspect of our lives. Give us the ability to move beyond the limitations of a physical world and move us, instead, into the waters of your Spirit so we can come to more fully know and experience your glory. We recognize Lord, that any limitations to you are created by our reluctance to give up control of our lives and to not fully trust you. Give us the courage to follow you even in those times when we do not know where we are going. Give us the faith to believe and the willingness to trust. Most importantly, thank you for this gift, your spiritual presence, because we know that it is only through your love for us that such a gift could be made possible. Through this love, help us experience the fullness of your glory. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and with the Holy Spirit as an integral part of our being, we pray. Amen.