Easter 6C, In Which I Use This Image For My Muse...
(Easter 6C propers can be found here)
The third person of the Trinity often gets short shrift in our observances...God and Jesus tend to lend themselves to more concrete images, they seem (if the deity can be conceptualized as such) solid almost. We’ve lived with images and descriptions of God and Jesus throughout our lives and, many of us can bring to mind a depiction of God or Jesus that feels “real” to us.
And, yet, in many ways it is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost as it were is the “person” of the Trinity with which we spend the most time, the aspect of the divine that operates in our world and drives us forward. The “part” that Jesus tells us will remain following his departure,
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
So who is this advocate, this Holy Spirit?
Oddly enough, the first thought I had (in the random word association fashion in which my mind sometimes works) was of “The Sound of Music”
“How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”
And, as I contemplate Julie Andrew’s role as Maria in The Sound of Music, I can’t help but think of the Holy Spirit as Maria...
A willful force, bringing light, life and transformation to the world she encounters. Unexpected and constantly bringing new things and new creation into being, the world she enters is utterly transformed by her very presence...
Advocating for her charges, she encourages them to become more fully themselves. It is her presence that liberates, it is her presence that breaks open the wounded and brings healing, and it is her presence that creates something out of nothing.
Play clothes made out of the curtains aside...
Doesn’t the spirit do all of these things? Encouraging us to be more fully ourselves, liberating us, breaking us open and bringing healing, bringing God’s creative and generative will into the world.
I use Maria as my image here, because we delve into the metaphorical and allegorical in our pursuit of an image that describes the very movement of the breath of creation.
And now, to get back all of you serious theologians who I lost with the Maria metaphor, theologian Jürgen Moltmann in his book The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, that the Spirit is "the divine energy of life animating the new creation of all things”...which leads "to the rediscovery of the same Spirit in nature, in plants, in animals, and in the ecosystems of the earth." (p. 9,10).
Scripturally the first reference we have to the Holy Spirit, the Ruach Adonai, or breath of God is as the spirit/wind/breath present from the beginning of creation. So, when Jesus indicates that God will send the Holy Spirit, what can be understood is that through receiving the spirit, we become part of the creative energy that renews and engages with Creation. The Spirit is the breath that brings life, and when we receive the spirit along with that spirit comes the invitation to bring life into the world.
We become the stewards of creation, no longer a task left to God alone--we become co-creators with the divine by virtue of our baptismal vows, our agreement to participate in the renewal of the earth, to share God's concern for creation.
The Spirit leads us to a renewal of creation, the vision in Revelation presents a vision for a new creation--the city on a hill, where the river of life flows and the tree of life produces fruit and leaves that bring healing.
Peace, healing, open gates and a foundation grounded in God’s promise that out of Abraham would come many nations. From breath, to life, to a city on a hill--we are not left bereft by Jesus’ ascension, rather we are called to engagement with the new creation, the Spirit that will teach us and remind us of what Christ calls us to do in the world.
And it is in our learning and remembering through the Holy Spirit that we are brought to this, our observance of Rogation Sunday. If we are to consider the Spirit to be the generative and creative face of the Trinity in the world--that which calls us to learn and remember and act IN the world--then taking time to walk the bounds of the land we possess, taking the church out into the world as it were, becomes a means of connecting ourself to our calling as stewards of creation.
Traditionally, Rogation Sunday is observed on the Sunday prior to the feast of the Christ’s ascension (or leave taking)--and our lectionary allows us to ponder how this liturgical action can be understood as a manifestation of the Spirit in the world.
In this liturgy we witness to the truth of our calling to be in the world through processing outside, participating in a litany in a public place, and asking for God’s blessing upon the earth, the harvest and our creative actions in the world.
And so, in an urban corner, the ground is prepared, a seed is planted, the seed grows and is nourished by sun and water, weeds are kept at bay and order is preserved. The vegetables grow, and they are watched and hoped for. When the harvest time comes, they are carefully picked and then shared with others. The Shelf of Hope becomes the recipient of the gift of creation, of our engagement with creation. And in that engagement with creation we participate in the movement of the breath of creation in the world...food for the hungry, beauty for those who too often are not offered beautiful things. The tree of life grows because we nourish it at its roots...and today we ask that this tree, like our faith, bloom and grow forever.