Holy Spirit day

Yesterday was Pentecost, commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit.   I think part of the religious problem today is that when people imagine God, they picture the Deist god, an entity above and beyond this world, who looks down on it all from afar.  But the Christian God is very near to us.  He is the one in whom we live and move and have our being.  He became incarnate–a tangible human being– in Jesus Christ, who took into Himself the world’s evil and its suffering.  Then He ascended back into the Trinity, but He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.  And so He is really present–bodily–in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  He has also sent us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to be our helper, our comforter, and the giver of life, bringing us to faith through God’s Word and preserving us in that faith, indwelling us so that we are nothing less than Temples of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, faith is not merely the acceptance of God’s existence, as if He were merely another fact in the universe, which is again something like the Deists and their followers thought of Him.  Rather, faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, something those of us who have it can hardly help.  It was formed in us by the Holy Spirit working through Baptism and our hearing and reading and being impacted by God’s Word.  So have a happy Pentecost, the season that lasts for the rest of the church year, and revel in God’s nearness.

Pentecost as holiday of Law and Gospel

For the Jews in Jesus’ time and today, Pentecost was a celebration of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, which was thought to have happened 50 days after Passover.  So for centuries, it was a holiday that celebrated the Law.  But then, on the same day, God gave His people the Holy Spirit, making it also a holiday celebrating the Gospel. [Read more...]

Who proceeds from the Father and the Son

Happy Pentecost yesterday!  May the Holy Spirit pour out His richest blessings on you.  May the Holy Spirit work in your heart as you hear God’s Word.

Here is a  question about the Holy Spirit that I would like to submit to the collective theological knowledge manifested in the readership of this blog:   In Western Christianity, both among Roman Catholics and creedal Protestants, the Nicene Creed that we confess says that we believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

In Eastern Christianity, on the other hand, the Orthodox rendition of the Nicene Creed says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. [Read more...]

Better than witnessing the Transfiguration

Yesterday was the climax of the Epiphany season, Transfiguration Sunday, marking the most explicit epiphany of Jesus during His time on earth.  St. Peter saw witnessed it personally, as he describes in His second epistle.  But he goes on to say that we have something even better, even more certain, than witnessing the Transfiguration. [Read more...]

Pentecost & Memorial Day

Two big holidays this weekend, one in the church year and the other national.  I hope you had a meaningful Pentecost on Sunday and that you will have a meaningful and enjoyable Memorial Day today.

So let’s play a holiday game.  Connect the dots.  What connections can you make between what we celebrate on Pentecost (the gift of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the Church) and what we celebrate on Memorial Day (the sacrifice of our troops, in some locales the memory of those in general who have died, the beginning of the summer vacation season)?

Pentecost questions

Yesterday was Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church.  In celebration and contemplation of the day and the new season of the church year that we will be in for awhile, I would like to pose a couple questions:

(1)  At the first Pentecost, those upon whom the Holy Spirit descended spoke in tongues.  But why is this associated with the charismatic practice of glossolalia?  Wasn’t what the disciples did the opposite of that?  The whole point is that their languages were understood.   People from every nation, speaking many different languages, were all hearing the apostles preach “the mighty works of God” in their own language.  Isn’t Pentecost fulfilled even today as people all over the world are hearing the apostolic testimony recorded in the Word of God, which has been translated into so many of the world’s languages?

Speaking in  tongues that no one can understand is referred to in the epistles to the Corinthians, so I’m not totally discounting the phenomenon.  But I’m just saying that the Pentecost account is describing something very different.

(2)  Some theological traditions think of the Holy Spirit as coming to us from the outside (for example, through God’s Word); others as coming from the inside (inspiring us through inner voices or impulses).  And yet both perspectives speak of the Holy Spirit guiding us.  Is that just a matter of reading the Bible to see what the Holy Spirit tells us?  Or do you think–and I’m especially addressing those who stress the external work of the Holy Spirit–that He guides us in other ways?  If so, how does that work?  For those of you who stress the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, how can you discern what inner senses are  from the Spirit and what isn’t?

I don’t particularly want to provoke a bitter theological debate about the charismatic movement.  I’d just like to hear from different people on how they perceive the Holy Spirit in their lives.