Daily Reflection
May 21st, 2007

Joan Blandin Howard

Christian Spirituality Program
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Receive the Holy Spirit

Paul, on his travels through the countryside of what is now Turkey came, to Ephesus and encountering “some disciples” asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered straight-faced and in full candor, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Who ever said the Bible was no laughing matter?)

If not directly from scripture you might think these lines were from a stand-up comic: “Receive the Holy Spirit? I’ve never even heard of the Holy Spirit!” I can just image Paul stifling a chuckle, scratching his head in befuddlement and self questioning ‘where have they been, how can they not know of the Holy Spirit?

How would one know of the Holy Spirit? How do I know of the Holy Spirit? Is it because I have been told – or is it that I have experienced the Holy Spirit? Do I know of the existence of the evil spirit; have I experienced the reality of evil? I believe a lot of truths that I myself take on the word of others: the world is round and moves on its axis while the sun stays put. We all believe that, don’t we? Who is all? Somewhere on this wild and untamed planet there are humans who believe the sun literally pops up out of the ocean each and every morning and when it is late or moves even a fraction - can send waves of anxiety. Something out of the ordinary, the unexpected, can be very unsettling. That happened to me just last week – sitting on the coast; the sun was late, I was beginning to worry, but then it finally did appear and I gratefully cheered its spectacular appearance!

Our language is so very limiting, but the depths of our experiences allow us to know in very different, unique and intimate ways things that we just can not know intellectually. I know in my gut that I am loved, but there are times I forget it. I experience what it is to be full of fear, or full of hope. My experience is valid.

The experience of evil to a greater or lesser degree is universal. From international war, global starvation, disease, international drug trafficking, murder and genocide to neighborhood muggings, family abuse, imprisonment, and gang violence there are few if any who have gone untouched by some form of evil. For many, daily evil and violence is much more than an article in the newspaper.

But the Holy Spirit – how do I experience he, that, it? Jesus told us that he would send his Spirit to be with us. His spirit is peace, joy, love, hope, freedom, laughter, humor, comfort, compassion, hospitality, challenge, fire of conviction, and the art of speaking and listening so that others might be invited and encouraged to listen and speak from their own experience.

Where and how has the world experienced the Holy Spirit? In the outpouring of immediate response to the 9/11 tragedy – and in the ongoing support to those affected. In the efforts of those involved in world health organizations. In the compassion, in the midst of the horrors of the Iraqi war, of the men and women who gather and tend to those in need on both sides of the conflict. In the kind, thoughtful, caring words and acts done in friendship and love. Again, for many of us, loving kindnesses are more than articles in the newspaper of happenings to others. It is part of our daily experience.

Where and how has the Church experienced the Holy Spirit? So much more is expected from us who profess to have received, to know the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is present in the challenge to be hospitable to our own brothers and sisters; to our sister churches; in listening and speaking with those whose experience of the Holy Spirit is different from our own, but no less valid.

“Received the Holy Spirit? I have never even heard of the Holy Spirit.” Well now you have. I invite you to get acquainted with this glorious Spirit that dwells within and around each one of us. Think of it as an Easter egg hunt – look in all the expected and unexpected places of you life, especially in the dark corners.

The Good News is that it is the Spirit that challenges my thoughts and actions, brightens my day and lightens my load.

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