From the Christian perspective we have traditionally spoken of the Spirit in the context of our other themes. For example, the outpouring of the Spirit has followed the resurrection experience. Gathered in the upper room Jesus appeared to the disciples and said Peace, And he breathed on them and said Receive the Holy Spirit. The link between Jesus and the Spirit is clear.
The week following Pentecost the story expands and the divine nature of Jesus and his Holy Spirit are placed in the context of the totality of being, the grand picture of God the father creator. The three are identified as the ultimate and comprehensive expression of the Divine Absolute.
In other words Spirit is not an isolated entity. One author likes to speak of Spirit in Action. Another the ever-present origin.
Traditional Christian Spirituality has been quite exclusive in its understanding, but the changes that have taken place over the past half century have created a more complex picture for us to review. While some might doggedly stick to the traditional explanation, I’m inclined to think that it is good to be open to the possibilities of the changing picture.
JUPP AND FLANAGAN
Two sociologists have surveyed contemporary experience related to religion and spirituality. They speak of five categories.
Within the church they note two major styles.
1.There is a group they speak of as innovators.
This group refers to a broad collection of Christians that have explored with enthusiasm and great energy worship. It is identified with new expressions of life identified with the Spirit.We have come to speak of them as Pentecostal or Charismatic and see them significantly shaped by their high energy music, and rousing prayer.
2. The second group within the church are referred to as reclaimers. They are specifically people who have found great solemnity and sacredness within the mystery of the churches rituals. The spiritual encounter in this group naturally tends to be more introverted and has led to the revival of meditation and the sacredness of silence.
3. The survey then notes three main realms of life centre around experience identified as spirit.
The first of these is the influence of the Asian religious traditions, typical of the Hindu or Buddhist traditions. Both have captured the imagination of many looking for the meditative or yoga type experience. The Centred experience of peace has been related to the spirit of the ultimate.
4 The fourth group is often referred to as the wholistic living movement. Centred in well-being centres, or gymnasiums they gather small businesses designed to emphasise quality living from massage, to mindfulness and yoga, to healthy diet and exercise. You might say learning to live in harmony with life’s natural forces.
5. The fifth group is spoken of as the New Age movement, which has a focus in retail shops, offering various practices of healing or reiki, amongst the many articles, of candles, incense and literature.
In their own way all five groups speak of spirit.
How does the church respond? Does it reject all none Christian Institutional forms of behaviour. That probably gains little.
I’m inclined to think that as so often is the case, different practices have something to offer and the broad and comprehensive understanding of the divine is very difficult to pin down to any one simple formula.
I believe the changing face of humanity into an ever-expanding global village requires an increased respect and toleration of one another’s view of life. Without such respect the conflict across the planet will grow to the point of great destruction.
The Christian way of life is built around its beliefs in Jesus and the Spirit in relation to the father creator. From here we build our understanding.
WORD AND SPIRIT
Today I would emphasise one point. A common contemporary answer to anyone asking the question of what is Spirit is frequently spoken of as energy.
Of course spirit is energy for life itself is energy. But we must ask, ‘is that an adequate and comprehensive answer’?
Our Christian teaching would certainly say no. The life of the spirit emanates from the life of Jesus. The risen nature of Jesus mirrors a fuller picture of his spirit. John captured the most extraordinary insight into his spirit. In the opening verses to his gospel, he declared,
“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and all things were made through him… and the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.
The Logos, or word is perhaps translated as the rational wisdom of the divine. There is no spirit without the word and no word without spirit.
The breadth of human experience is changing and developing across our society.
I believe there is always much to learn and I have learnt from others outside our immediate Christian tradition, but the specific call we are following is to grow in our teachings.
Spirit is far greater than energy, for its energy is the fulness of the life that creates and sustains the creation itself. But it is not a random life force the life force of the logos or divine wisdom of the eternal we best know in the risen Jesus. It is purposeful. There is no spirit without word and there is no word without spirit.
Today we gather to celebrate the wonder of this divine mystery upon which the ultimate partnership of life is lived.