A Life and Death Matter of the Holy Spirit
By Adam White
“Theology is truly a matter of life and death.”
This is what my then-professor, Dr. Joerg Rieger, said to all of us students on the first day of our Systematic Theology class at Perkins School of Theology in the fall of 2012. My immediate reaction was thinking – “I don’t think I signed up for the right course…I wonder if there is enough time to still swap classes. I hear Prayer and Spirituality is being offered this semester.”
However, Dr. Rieger had a point, as he usually always did. And, by the way, I still have trouble calling former professors by their first names, so bear with me here.
Dr. Rieger’s point was that our faith, what we believe and how we act in accordance with those beliefs, informs life and death issues that affect us all. Our faith is not passive or isolated to only a specific institution, community, prayer, or worship service held once a week. Our faith is a daily invitation to go out into the world and explore how God’s presence in the Spirit is at work within our institutions, communities, prayers, worship services, and all the life and death moments we endure.
Life in the Spirit is recognizing God’s presence in the struggles, joys, successes, pains, and other human emotions or experiences that connect us to each other as parts of God’s creation.
If we look in John’s Gospel, we find that the Spirit is indeed wrapped up in dealing with life and death issues. Later on the same day that Mary Magdalene had seen the resurrected Christ at the tomb, Christ then shows up in a room full of grief-stricken disciples and says,
“‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23).
God created us equally able to be guided by the Spirit. However, just because God created us equally does not mean that we, with our limited and error-prone tendencies, always treat one another equally. So, thank the good Lord, made flesh in Jesus Christ, and manifested in the Spirit, that we have a divine presence that surrounds us throughout our existence. This divine presence yearns for us to follow God in ways where loving equally and caring for others flows naturally.
The Holy Spirit moves through our deepest grief, even through the dark corners of death, and asks us to go out into the world and be breathing agents of God’s peace and forgiveness. This invitation to be sent out sets our task as we seek to serve with one another as a missional people. We are called to missionally offer peace and forgive others as much as we are to receive peace and forgiveness from others.
Over the next ten weeks we invite you to come along as we bear witness together to the personal, communal, missional, and life and death piercing divine breath, that we know as the Holy Spirit.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
How have you experienced the Holy Spirit in life and death moments?
Where do you currently sense God's Spirit calling you to follow?