Acts 2:1-4; Romans 8:18-39
Today is the festival of Pentecost, so called because it happens on the Sunday 50 days following Easter. Penta = 5 and all that. It is significant because it is the day that the Holy Spirit comes down upon the people and in a way, the church is formed. Of course, the Holy Spirit has always been around as the third and co-equal part of the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but today is the one day of the year we focus on the Holy Spirit.
We should focus on the Spirit much more than we do but the other two, God and Jesus, are somewhat easier to talk about. Especially Jesus. He was a real live human being. Did some kind of crazy things here and there, like healing the sick. Not to mention that dying and coming back to life thing was pretty wild, but he still walked the earth as a human being. God is God and while we may not, and in fact CAN not, apprehend all that there is about God, we can still kind of relate to God as our creator. The Holy Spirit though, that’s something a little different. The Holy Spirit is kind of hard to pin down and connect to. The truly ironic thing about THAT is that our understanding of God and Jesus comes from the Holy Spirit giving us the ability to understand such as we do. Who we are as God’s claimed children and followers of Christ is a result of the Holy Spirit working in and with us.
However hard to pin down she is, grabbing onto the Holy Spirit is an important kind of thing because in a sense, we can think of the Holy Spirit in terms of anchoring us to God’s promises. This matters in big ways because we are all too familiar with the storms of life blowing over us on occasion. Some days, some weeks, those storms can feel non-stop so having an anchor to keep us grounded is truly a blessing. I don’t care too much for Paul’s explanation when he says, “18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” I mean, I like the idea of glory in the future but that doesn’t mean the sufferings of the present time aren’t a real problem for us. That said, maybe Paul is riffing on the idea that if we spent as much time praying about things as we did worrying about things then we’d have a lot less things to worry about. When I’m really worried about something, or someone, those prayers that I lift up can really get in the way of those worries.
Still, our life is real and the storms are real, too. Which is where the power of the Holy Spirit can be a big deal for us. When everything is coming apart at the seams, when that future glory business seems a long way off in the midst of today’s struggles and we don’t know which way to turn then, this is V26 in today’s reading, 26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Those must be some pretty big sighs if they come from the Holy Spirit and they’re too big for words. But isn’t that how it feels sometimes? Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is right there with us anchoring us in our faith.
The Holy Spirit anchors us in our faith and helps us hold on when our world feels like it is coming apart at the seams. At the same time, and somewhat ironically, the Spirit is also drawing us toward that future glory that Paul is talking about. The Spirit anchors us in our present reality but she doesn’t leave us there. All the while the storms are blowing around us, we are being drawn toward that future glory. That’s tremendously hopeful. I’m not exactly sure what future glory means but Paul does give us a hint when he says that we’ll be released from the bondage to decay and receive the glory of the freedom of the children of God. That is encouraging to me.
It tells me that no longer will the storms of life toss us around, never again will it feel like our lives are coming apart at the seams, and we will enjoy a resurrected eternity with God. That’s a pretty hopeful thing to consider.
Maybe it all comes down to this from v38, “38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a pretty comprehensive list of things that can leave us feeling like life is coming apart at the seams. Yet none of it can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit we can begin to grasp what that means. The certainty of God’s presence in our lives works to release us from the fears that try to overwhelm us. When everything feels like it is coming apart at the seams, the Holy Spirit is right there with us giving us a reminder that nothing can get in the way of God’s love for us. There’s no magic bullet that makes all the problems and pain go away but we’re never alone as we work through all that business.
That’s the message that God’s people experienced 2,000 years ago and that is the message that we experience today. The Holy Spirit is with us, now and forever.