Holy Spirit Dancing

This past Wednesday night our Bible Study, at the inspiration of Caroline, we shared our experiences of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It was the second session under the theme, “The Holy Spirit,” and it seemed a fitting way to complete the more detailed study of the biblical texts about the Holy Spirit and the Trinity that Larry had offered the week before.

We shared honestly and revealingly about the times in our lives, from earlier that very Wednesday to our childhood years, about where and how God’s presence moved in our lives.  Examples were as diverse as the participants around the table, as the Holy Spirit is want to do!  While not every experience resonated with me — some were actually foreign and unaccessible to my way of being in the world — all were shared from the heart.  Thus, I was touched by every offering, and even led to tears on a couple of occasions.

Of course, I could not help but reflect back upon the tensions of the week before.  Particular persons’ presence or absence notwithstanding, I think the approach and focus of this week’s study lent itself to a different atmosphere and sensitivity.  When we talk about beliefs, which is much more of a wily beast than we often acknowledge, we tend to talk about doctrines, dogmas, creeds, confessions, manifestos, credos, and other such “line-in-the-sand” stuff.  When we share experiences, we offer stories and perspectives and glimpses that invite others into our world while respecting their own world.

This must be why I am so drawn to sharing stories.  Telling you my story doesn’t assume you should ever live out my story.  Stories always assume they are your own stories!   However, telling you what I believe implies — okay, sometimes even directly demands — that you must believe like me or be wrong.  [This dilemma relates to the charged political atmosphere to which I was referring in my blog post last week.]

I take my lead from Jesus, who was more prone to tell stories and parables, which rarely had a simple or single interpretation, than he was to tell people exactly what to believe.  Even when he was teaching what we might call beliefs, such as in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), he filled his language with rich metaphors and compound meanings, which always require us to discuss, ponder, explore, and tell stories in order to fully live into their truths.

I admit it, though.  I do like the more detailed study of the biblical text which we had the week before.  I admit I honestly don’t know enough about this ancient text that has changed and directed the lives of so many people across the centuries and is still effecting change in our world today.  I’m eager to learn more about its content, its language, and its interconnectedness.  What I don’t find helpful is when we demand, implicitly or explicitly, that others understand the text the way we do, or even require the Bible to have a certain place of prominence in our lives.  My faith is in God, not the Bible.  Yes, God is revealed in many ways, including the biblical text, but not exclusively so.  I’ve always said that I take the Bible so very seriously that I simply cannot take it literally or legalistically.  In order to be faithful to the Bible, I must read it as Jesus read it.  Jesus often was quoted as saying, “You have heard it said…” and then he would quote a Hebrew Scripture text, only to follow it up by saying, “But I say to you…” and offer an interpretation of that text.  We are called to do the same — humbly and carefully — but do the same as Jesus.

There are at least as many stories as there are human beings in this creation, so there are at least as many ways to relate to God… certainly to God’s Holy Spirit.  My task as a pastor is to open up more and more pathways and invite others on the journey.

So, what’s your story?

God’s Grace Is Abundant,

Pastor Allen