By: Rev. F. Robert Tafel John 17:6-9 | Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 Sunday, June 4, 2000
This dramatic account of Pentecost begins the story of the activities of the Lord’s disciples in Jerusalem after Christ had ascended into heaven. It shows the power of the Lord working in people’s lives through the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is a powerful story for it is a story of inclusion by breaking through language barriers. Yet it could be misleading if one limits the understanding of spiritual reality primarily to speaking in tongues. This would limit gifts of the spirit to a narrow band of experience.
Reading from Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them.
Actually, gifts of the spirit and spiritual reality comprise and include a whole wide range of everyday experiences which often go unnoticed, because they are relatively unremarkable signs of the Lord’s presence and guidance.
So, then we may ask: who, or, what is the Holy Spirit? What is the spiritual dimension of life? How do we receive and incorporate into ourselves God’s spiritual gifts?
One of the fascinating and important contributions of Emanuel Swedenborg was his redefinition of the trinity in terms that are understandable and in which the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son are an integral unity.
We affirm this definition in our statement of faith: We worship the one God, the Lord, the Savior Jesus Christ, in whom is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not mentioned very often in the gospels. John writes, "the Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). In True Christian Religion Swedenborg writes:
The three essentials called the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in the Lord like the soul, the body, and the activities of a person are one; the Holy Spirit is the divine operation proceeding from the one only God in whom there is a divine trinity....
“When it is known that the Lord appears in heaven as the sun in the sky, a just idea can be had of the proceeding divine operation which is called the Holy Spirit; namely, that it is one with the Lord but proceeds from him as the heat and light from the sun”. True Christian Religion, #146
The Holy Spirit basically is the working of the Lord in our everyday lives leading to spiritual health and well-being; this is a process we know as and call regeneration. It is the process of building up the spiritual life of people. What then is the spiritual? Spiritual life, spiritual gifts, living spiritually? I rediscovered this interesting passage in Swedenborg’s theological works while considering the spiritual:
What the spiritual is relatively to the natural.... In its essence, the spiritual with a person is the affection itself of good and truth for the sake of good and truth and not for the sake of self; and also the affection of what is just and fair, and not for the sake of self. When a person feels ... delight ... from these things, that is the spiritual.... This then, is the spiritual, which, when it reigns with a person, affects and as it were tinges everything one thinks, wills, and does, and causes one’s thoughts and one’s acts from the will to partake of what is spiritual, until at last . . . these also become spiritual with that person. In a word, the affection of charity and faith ... and the delight ... thence, which are felt interiorly with the person ... are the spiritual. Arcana Coelestia #5639.2
The spiritual need not be dramatic. The spiritual need not be so extraordinary. The spiritual dimension within us is usually manifested in hidden, unexpected developments. Perhaps we begin to think differently about and grow in our appreciation of someone we have known [or thought we have known!] for a long time. Or, maybe we gain an insight into our own behavior while reading and meditating on the bible. The spiritual dimension might become known within us at an important, dramatic turn in our lives, but it need not be. A career change or decisions about retirement might be occasions when we become aware of crucial issues or be occasions for us to reflect upon and discover higher values.
But the spiritual dimension, as the affection of good and truth and justice for their own sakes influences our outlook on life, our behavior, our choices, our reactions to all the people and events within the sphere of our everyday lives. When we pray for guidance, when we offer our prayers of thanksgiving for the Lord’s guidance and sustenance, we confirm the spiritual dimension and incorporate it in our lives by valuing and seeking it. Our worship, our Bible study, our prayer life, the various activities of our church, our everyday decisions and activities all of these combine to build up and nurture our experience of the spiritual.
The experience of the disciples on Pentecost was a one-time, dramatic out-pouring of the Lord’s Holy Spirit in the beginning of the Christian church. It was a powerful and dramatic start to give impetus to a new relationship between God and his people.
The outpouring of the spirit on Pentecost to the disciples transformed them into apostles evangelists. It was so extraordinary that Peter was moved to stand up and explain the behavior of the disciples, saying: This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: and in the last days ... I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and: your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
In this new age, spiritual realities abound in less obvious and dramatic but by no means less important ways. The Lord continues to pour out his spirit among people today. Among and within you and me.
The Lord’s spirit continually flows forth, more powerfully now because through his divine humanity as the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ.
His spirit, the spiritual dimension, touches and impinges on us at every level and area of life: in our hopes, our dreams, our vision.
Let us affirm the Lord’s spirit operating in our lives by seeking the higher values of what is good and true, what is just and loving. By seeking first his kingdom and its righteousness.
Let us pray.
Copyright 2000 by Rev. F. Robert Tafel