"Spirit of…" - Rev. Tony Romaine – 05/23/2021
The theologian Walter Kasper once said, “When the Spirit comes after Jesus' resurrection and exaltation, it is the fulfillment of the message of Jesus and salvation, as the Spirit is the way in which God is present in the world.” The way in which God is present in our world…hear those words and let them sink into your heart. The Holy Spirit, the breath of God, ruach Elohim, our Advocate, our Helper, God present in our world. Sit with that for just a moment and invite the Holy Spirit into your world.
I make a big point of this, not just because it is Pentecost, but because we need to hear this more, that God is here in our world with us. On that Pentecost over two-thousand years ago, the Holy Spirit which was promised to us by Jesus came upon the disciples and forever changed their lives and ours. Yes, it was awesome and amazing that the Holy Spirit spoke in and through the disciples in various languages and filled them with the power to go and share the Good news with people all over the known world, but even more amazing is what the Holy Spirit coming meant to Christians.
Remember, not too long before this, 50 days give or take, Jesus died and was resurrected. Even more recently Jesus had ascended into heaven. So, the disciples were without God, without Jesus, and in that moment of waiting as Jesus had told them to do, the promise came through and Our Helper came. God coming present in our world once more, the Holy Spirit came to set the world straight about righteousness, about judgment, about sin, about power, about all the things we think we control in our world.
The Holy Spirit came to remind us that we know the Truth of what Jesus taught, that we are to forgive as we were forgiven and love as we are loved. The Holy Spirit came to intercede on our behalf, in the wonderful words of Paul’s letter to the Romans, “with sighs too deep for words.” The Holy Spirit came to be the ever-strengthening arm of God that lifts us out of our muck and mire so that we can once again live into the call God has placed on our hearts. And the Holy Spirit came to remind us that God is with us!
Theologian Thomas Aquinas reminds us that through the Spirit, humanity is one with God and God is one with humanity and that the Holy Spirit has used the church to prepare the way to receive the gift of the Spirit, eternal life, and salvation. God is here with us and we are with God; united in and through the Holy Spirit and gifted with talents for our church and world. But how to do we know our gifts? How do we know God is with us?
In the UCC we say that God is Still Speaking. The way that God is still speaking to us is through the Holy Spirit. The way that God can affect change in our world without stepping all over the created free-will God has granted us is to direct us via the Holy Spirit. And the way that we trust God is we stop and listen for the Spirit within us.
Sometimes the Spirit comes across loud and clear and other times it takes some real meditative listening. Either way, God is speaking to us and filling us, loving us, revealing to us, and trusting us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God revealed to us through trusting in that God will reveal God’s self. In other words, God longs for us to know God and makes that knowledge possible through the Holy Spirit.
In this manner, the Holy Spirit is both the easiest and the most difficult member of the Trinity to contemplate. On the one hand, humanity has from the dawn of theological time argued for a Spiritual “otherness” that when attained will bring us closer to God. At the same time, there is no tangible way to tell someone the Holy Spirit did this, or the Holy Spirit did that, in fact, some may call you crazy if you walked around saying you were listening to a spirit. But what is so crazy about believing that God would want to forever be with you and inspire your days? Perhaps then what it truly comes down to is trust in that God continues to be active in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
Walter Kasper also states that “Knowledge of God's incomprehensibility is the beatifying fulfillment of the human person.” In other words, when we trust in the mysteries of God, we are forever changed as we put our faith in the very things which are most holy. We are sanctified in the Greatness of God!
Would it be great if God or Jesus were right here with us in physical form, sure. But there is a very good reason they are not; us, we are the reason why God and Jesus are not physically here. We have been given everything we need to live a life in following Christ. We have all the tools we need to be the hands and feet of God to our neighbors, to strangers, to our world. And we have the Holy Spirit breathing the power, the peace, the strength, and the love in and through us all the time as the very breath of God.
Brothers and sisters, this is why it is so important for us to be reminded that the Holy Spirit is the way in which God is present in the world. Because the way that God is present to those in our world is through us. Can and does God work according to God’s will, absolutely. But you and I, we are part of God’s will and the way we treat one another is either a step toward healing and hope and unity and love, or it is a step in the opposite direction. The way you and I worship and have faith is either a reminder to our world that the God of love still exists, that God is active in the world through the Holy Spirit and that no matter who needs to hear the Good News of salvation and grace through Jesus Christ they can, or it is a step in the other direction.
And not to be too pessimistic or cynical, but our world has been stepping in the other direction for far too long. We see violence, hate, war, dis-unity, people vilifying others just for political gain, people killing one another for power and greed, people segregating and closing others off in order to protect unjust systems, people hanging onto the threads of an earthly existence which is doomed to whither and fail…Where is God in this world? And we, the church, should not wonder why people are leaving the church, when the very people who should be sharing the Good News of the love of Christ are sometimes the ones preventing others from hearing the Good News of Jesus’ love.
So what is the answer? The Holy Spirit in and through us is the answer. And if the problems of our world seem too vast to conquer, or the languages too difficult to comprehend, then whittle them down and speak the languages you know. We know how to be neighborly to the outcast, to the homeless, to the widow, to the stranger in our own corner of MN. We know how to welcome and be the hands and feet of hope for those who have none here in Little Falls. We know when we listen to the radio or watch the tv or read the paper when we hear things that are not in line with Christ’s teachings about grace, mercy, hope, forgiveness, and love. And we know that God is here with us, present in our world because we can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in and through us always if we only but stop to listen and hear and act, Amen!
“That I Know Very Well” – Rev. Tony Romaine – 05-09-2021
One night a woman went to bed and was trying to fall asleep. She was having trouble though, as all of her interactions, thoughts, and experiences were being re-lived like her mind was giving her its own version of the nightly news. While lying there, struggling to fall asleep, she was suddenly surrounded by the brightest of lights and seemingly transported to another world. Wondering what was going on she called out for someone to hear her, but no one else was around. And then as she began to become frightened by the emptiness and fear that this was something beyond earthly, a voice came out of the light, “My child, do not be afraid, it is I.” Hearing this, she was frozen in complete awe and fear, her memory searching for something to assign this strange occurrence; to what could she draw upon to find herself in this moment of trepidation. And then the voice spoke again, “My child, do not be afraid, it is I.”
Something different happened after hearing the voice a second time, suddenly a calm and awareness surrounded her, she felt goosebumps all over and an all-encompassing warmth filled her soul. The voice was both one she now recognized and yet still did not know; like a strange, yet familiar kind of comfort. She begged for her voice to find its chord as she struggled to say, “Is that you God?” Nothing happened after she said this, so in only the way we humans think, she thought maybe I should say it louder, so she summoned her strength once more and said it louder, “Is that you God!?”
And in that moment, the realm of light answered, not with voice, but with a wind that blew over her and filled her with such a sense of belonging and purpose she knew the answer to her question. When she gathered herself once more, she felt another question burning inside of her, so she blurted out in complete anticipation, “Is this heaven?!” The Light again did not answer, instead holding her in complete love, as if awaiting the question she really was going to ask. Well now she had all her faculties about her and she began to wonder what this was all about and why God would be speaking to her in the first place.
But before she could even pose the question, a voice came from the Light once more to say, “I have approached you in this way because I need you to do something for me.” Excitedly again, the woman answered before even thinking about her response, “Yes, whatever you ask, I will do it!” Then the voice said to her, “I need you to be a mother to my people, to all my people, so that they will know that I am a God who loves unconditionally; loves all children, loves those no one would ever love, loves those who no one will ever know, loves those who do not love me, and longs for all my children to know how grace-filled and loved they are.”
The woman was almost speechless, but she summoned enough will to ask, “Um, God, how am I supposed to do that? I am only one person, one of many women, one who has not always lived well, one who sometimes gets angry, one who knows love, but not that depth of love.” The Light answered, but this time it was different; the voice had changed to become something incredibly familiar. Now the voice was of her own mother and said to her, “Love others as I have loved you.” The woman began to cry, as memories of her own mother filled her. Immediately she knew she could protect as her mother had protected her, she could teach as her mother had taught her, she could indeed love naturally for her mother naturally loved her.
Then the Light spoke again, this voice she recognized as her friend’s mother saying, “Love others as I have loved you.” This time, she felt a sense of duty come over her and she knew she could love even those who were not her own children. That she could be the love the world needs whether she could ever have children or not. Just as her friend’s mother had loved her at some of the most important times in her life, she felt she could also be a love for those who were in need.
Yet again the Light spoke, “Love others as I have loved you.” This voice was sweet and tender, because this was the voice of her grandma who had been the strength for her during times and through things which she could not herself share with her mom or her friend’s mom. And just as her grandma had been a love for her through times of good and times of difficulty, she then knew that she could be the soft voice, the warm hug, the patient ear to help all those who needed someone to turn to when they felt they could go nowhere else.
Then she heard yet another voice, “Love others as I have loved you.” This voice she did not recognize, and so she asked the Light, “Who are you this time?” The answer was calm and pleasant, “I was the stranger who gave you that hug when you were crying without speaking. I gave it without question and without any need in return. I gave you love for a moment and then was gone.” A memory flashed before her eyes, and she suddenly remembered the time she was in the store after she had just lost her job, and as she tallied the groceries to see if she could afford everything, she broke down and began sobbing. As she stood there crying, a woman approached, who it was she never knew, but she gave her a hug, said “everything will be okay,” and then was gone in an instant.
At this memory of the love of a stranger, perhaps one of the greatest loves we can offer our world, for everyone needs our love whether we know them or not, she knew she too could offer others love, regardless of knowing them or not. And she thought to herself that when we offer that love, without strings attached or love needed in return, well then, we are truly being motherly!
But something was bothering her, a burning question that she did not know quite how to ask, because she knew that some mothers are incapable of love and some people feel they never truly had a “mother.” Unexplainably, a wave of fear came over her, as she thought to herself, “What if I am that mother, the one who harms instead of loves; who hates instead of nurtures; who despises instead of cares for; who does not love as I have been loved?” And in her moment of fear, another voice came from the Light, this time the most familiar of them all, for it was her own voice saying, “You are enough, you are every part of perfect the world needs. You are the love that you have heard in all these voices, you are the love that has been shared with you, for you are God’s light to your world; have no fear.”
Then God’s Eternal Light spoke once more to say, “You see my child, I have given you everything you need, and this you know very well. I created you to know what love is in your heart of hearts, so that when you feel it, it would become so comfortable and amazing you would instantly know it was me. You know of the prophets and the law; you have heard them speak of how you were made wonderfully and made in complete awe in your mother’s womb. That is because you were created by me with my God spark inside of you for this very purpose. For I am the Great Mother and have loved you into being. So, everything you will ever need, I have given to you, and this you know very well!”
“Will you make mistakes; sure. Will you not always love perfectly; absolutely. But you have heard my Son Jesus share the message with you of forgiveness through the cross, of love beyond love, and grace beyond grace. You know of His conception by the Virgin Mary, who too struggled with the very same questions you ponder now. But just as she answered in deep faith, I covenant with you and trust that your faith will guide you, a faith you know very well.”
“You must follow my commandments and believe in what my Son has shared with you. Trust in what you have heard about all of the loves I long for you to show my world as a mother, and I say ‘mother’ for woman is too specific. See, I am calling you and everyone to be a mother in all the ways you have experienced tonight. For while Jesus speaks of me only as the Father, I am also the Mother for I have conceived the whole world and created all you know and see. Everything you can touch and feel, and everything you can imagine, or have yet to imagine…And this you also know very well!”
As she heard these words, she fell to her knees and began to cry. From behind her tears, she asked God, “How can this be? It is too much. I cannot be a mother to the whole world. I cannot even mother my own world sometimes!” Suddenly, as if lifted into the arms of all the voices which spoke to her that night, she was embraced by the Spirit and felt a love that words cannot do justice. Then the voice, now speaking softly, so softly it felt as if it were coming from inside of her, said,
“My child, be who you are, where you are, for you are more than enough. Share that wisdom I hear in your prayers, that patience I see in your days, that hope you give your family and friends, the compassion you share with strangers, the love you find with me in all times, and you will indeed change the world. And if you ever need me, if ever things become too difficult or you need to be strengthened anew; turn to the one thing I hope you know most of all…my love for you!”
And just as quickly as she had been swept away, she was now back in her bed. She closed her eyes, longing to be in that place of peace and comfort again, begging herself and God to be conversing together again. But as hard as she tried, she could not make it happen, and as she lay there remembering all she had just experienced, she lifted a prayer from the depths of her heart whispering, “God of my days and nights, of my wakefulness and of my dreams, thank you for loving me, so that I can love…and for all the things that I know very well, Amen!”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.