Dear congregation, today we celebrate Pentecost, and I am celebrating a little anniversary:
According to my records, today is my 200th sermon! (And it is Betsey’s birthday)!
May it fall on fertile ground – this is what I wish myself and us.
Up to this time, and here I mean the time of the sermon, we have heard and sung a lot about Pentecost and the Holy Ghost. Everything together describes what happened at Pentecost. It also describes the Holy Ghost, meaning how we can imagine God’s Spirit.
And yet I ask myself: is this enough?
Have we listened and sung enough so that we can do something with the Holy Ghost in our life, in our every day practice?
I do not know how you feel but I hardly ever pray to the Holy Ghost.
I ask God or Jesus to ask the Holy Ghost to come up with something meaningful for the sermon or that a conversation goes well or that a meeting makes sense. However, like we sung the opening song, „Holy Ghost touch my heart“ – I really never pray like that.
I asked myself why this is?
My first answer is obvious, but I will expand on the second one during my sermon. According to me, my first answer is, that the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spiritual power does not have a body. He or she is missing the personality and with this I recognize that the Holy Ghost is not a real counterpart. I cannot have a real conversation.
But as I said, I find the second answer more exciting: I believe that I underestimate the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spiritual power. I will explain in three key words what I mean: calling, preservation and encounter.
First I would like to state that under the key word, calling, we find the most important effect of the Holy Ghost is described. We heard it in the reading from Romans: „The Holy Spirit itself bears witness to our spirit that we are the children of God.“
It is simply said that therefore we only believe in God because God causes this belief in us.
A few weeks ago, in my sermon about trinity, I said that only God can recognize God. Without the effect of the Holy Ghost, no one can believe. We should also hear the reverse conclusion because I also find this important: whoever believes has experienced the Holy Ghost. Just because someone cannot speak in tongues, didn’t fall down during his or her conversation, or cannot relate a life-changing experience, does not mean that he or she has not experienced the Holy Ghost.
And however true it may be, that we cannot make belief or impact – either in ourselves nor in other persons – it is also true that the story of God with the world is not a history of submission but a history of calling. If you want, this is the painful story of God’s love, because we humans have the power to reject our calling.
Exactly here, God’s love becomes all to clear: If God were to force our relationship, then he would not only have his love counterpart, but at the same time his love be destroyed. Love from the loved can not be replaced by anything.
So, I would like to say the following about underestimating the Holy Ghost and the key word calling: The root of my faith, the first beginning, is by the power of the Holy Ghost. Every day of my life in faith up to today has it’s foundation in the Holy Spirit, which has convinced my spirit that I am a child of God.
Now I have arrived at my second keyword and that is the word preservation.
Often I hear from people that they do not believe in a loving God because God allows so much suffering in this world. Why does God not take action here and prevent children from starving? Or why does not God jump in and end this war? Can he not or does he not want to?
From interesting to churned up or as accusing as these questions may be:
Meanwhile, I personally believe, that the last question, „can he not or does he not want to?” is the key to my understanding about God. I cannot answer the question about, „why“? It is simply not my place to make statements about God and his will or the decisions he makes.
Sometimes I have tried to decide in conversations to differentiate between things caused by humans and suffering not caused by humans. It does not change the facts, that no person can explain uncaused suffering.
Therefore the book of Job was written and I totally identify with it: I cannot explain the suffering in the world.
But I also believe, that we immensely underestimate the power of God and his Holy Ghost when we do not open our eyes to preservation. It is quickly asked why God does not do anything. Rarely is it acknowledged where God has stepped in, when he has prevented disaster. A few simple examples: our health is taken for granted until we get sick. We do not lose any thoughts about the preservation of traffic until there is an accident. The blessing of a regulated job will be first acknowledged when the employee is given notice.
So how can we counter the underestimation of the Holy Ghost in preservation? I mean with gratitude. By saying THANK YOU rather once too much than too little.
My final key word in connection with the underestimation of the Holy Ghost is the encounter. Anyone who has ever dealt with the basics of communication knows how difficult it really is that two persons can communicate with one another. A well known model for this was developed by Friedemann Schultz von Thun: We humans speak a sentence and simultaneously four pieces of information are being sent. One distinguishes between the factual level, self-disclosure, the relationship level and the appeal level. Sounds complicated but there is a very well known example:
A man sits in the passenger seat while his wife drives the car. She stops at the traffic light. When the traffic light turns green, he says, „the light has turned green”.
Factual level: the light has turned green. Self-disclosure: I am in a hurry. Relationship level: look, I am helping you. Appeal level: Start driving.
If you keep this madness in mind, then we have to constantly give the Holy Ghost credit for every successful conversation! It is similar to the approach like the key word preservation but isn’t every conversation beeing really successful an actuall miracle?
And of course, I mean successful conversations that go beyond the small talk or the irrelevant pleasantries in our human exchange.
Every successful encounter is a gift and we humans live from the encounter.
I found a nice quote from Fulbert Steffensky with which I would like to end this sermon. Fulbert Steffensyk writes about the encounter:
„How old does one has to get to realize that self-actualization yields nothing to live on? I need brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and teachers and books and theories and stories to negotiate what the truth is and what the truth requires. Growing up and getting old means being able to admit to yourself that you do not have that much to feed yourself on. The hope we draw from ourselves is too small. The courage that we muster alone is not enough. The dreams of our own hearts are too mundane and too short-lived. We are beggers. We cannot feed, comfort and encourage ourselves alone.“
I wish that we take the carrying power of the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit power seriously in our lives. So that we can rejoice in our calling, gratefully accept our preservation and celebrate our encounters.