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“A Sermon on the Subject of the Holy Spirit”
Even after all these years, every time Pentecost Sunday rolls back around, I am struck, all over again, by the fact that Northminster’s red Pentecost paraments were given to us by Beth Israel; a powerful sign of the biblical truth that everything about Pentecost was Jewish before it was Christian.
Not only did Acts chapter two borrow the day of Pentecost from Exodus chapter thirty-four, the whole New Testament borrowed the Spirit of God from the entire Old Testament, where David prayed, in Psalm fifty-one, not to lose the Holy Spirit, Isaiah prayed, in Isaiah chapter sixty-three, not to grieve the Holy Spirit, and, in Ezekiel chapter thirty-seven, the wind of the Spirit transformed a graveyard full of dry bones into an orthopedic square dance revival.
All of which is to say that the Holy Spirit which blew into Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost was not a New Testament invention, or a Christian innovation, but, rather, the same Spirit of God which was present on the first day of creation, and has been at work, each day since, in the lives of the people of God.
We have made an industry out of making the Holy Spirit more complicated than the Holy Spirit actually is. The truth is, the Holy Spirit is another name for the Spirit of God, which has always been at work in the people of God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God; present with us, speaking to us and working through us.
Several years ago, I was attending an interfaith dinner at the Hilton Hotel on Countyline Road, when a person who is a member of Fondren Presbyterian Church approached the podium to offer greetings to a ballroom full of Jews, Christians and Muslims. As he made his way to the microphone, I thought of all the ways this one man had embodied the Spirit of God across a lifetime of courage and kindness, and it occurred to me that here was a person in whom the human spirit and the Holy Spirit had become so seamlessly integrated that one could no longer tell where one ended and the other began.
And, needless to say, if anyone can be that way, everyone can. The more prayerfully, and intentionally, we stay open to the Spirit’s nudges and whispers, the more deeply, and fully, the Spirit of God will transform our lives; until, eventually, the human spirit and the Holy Spirit will become so seamlessly integrated in our lives that we will no longer be able to tell where one ends and the other begins; a whole human life, filled with the Spirit.