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The Spirit at Work: Water, Breath & Fire

with Rev. Barbara Gorsky

May 19, 2024

The Holy Spirit is also an advocate, the Spirit of Christ, a guide, a counselor, an aid, a witness, a spirit of truth, a wind, a sanctifier, a teacher, a comforter, a strengthener and even more…You see the Spirit will be for you exactly what you need at any specific time and place.

The Scripture

Mark 1:9-11

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

John 15:26-27

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

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.

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The Spirit at Work – Water

Today is Pentecost Sunday! The day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit! And we begin this celebration of the Spirit in the gospel of Mark with the baptism of Jesus. It is here we get the image of a dove, the very presence of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. This marks the beginning of his ministry, a beginning of the work he was called to do, a work where he will face many challenges…and the Holy Spirit will be with him, to strengthen him and give to him an ever present reminder of his intimate connection to God, the One he calls his Father. His baptism prepares him!

I remember so clearly another baptism, a baptism I witnessed as a seminary student. Together with a pastor at the church I was serving, along with several elders, we traveled to the southside of Chicago to a long term care facility, to the bed of an aging, sick man. I’ll call him Sam, as I don’t remember his name. Somehow, we found out that Sam wanted to be baptized…probably a family member called the church. Here we are all standing around his bed, I slipped into the bathroom to fill a bowl with water and through liturgy, prayers and songs, Sam was baptized right before me. The pastor told Sam this, “you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” It was a holy, holy moment. I witnessed the Spirit at work in the water of baptism! The working of the Spirit has always been a part of God’s presence in the world from the beginning. In Genesis 1 scripture says, “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters,” or in Deuteronomy 34, “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom.” The Spirit talked to David, the Spirit talked through Isaiah and through and many other faithful people throughout time. The Spirit has always been at work.

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And now the Spirit was at work in Sam.

Later in the week, I heard that Sam had died. He died the very next day after he was baptized. When I was on the floor of Presbytery being questioned to move from “candidate” to “certified ready to seek a call”, I was asked a question about that very bedside baptism. “Did it make a difference in Sam’s life that he was baptized and then lived only one day? The answer was easy for me…In his last moments here on earth, with the last breath that he took Sam knew he was not alone, that the Holy Spirit was now a present companion who would travel with him into the new life ahead. My only sadness for Sam was that he waited so long, he was not able to experience more fully what the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life can mean every day in his walk of faith.

Jesus was baptized in the beginning of his ministry work here on earth, he was prepared  and strengthened for what was to come, reminding him always of his connection to God. Sam was baptized at the very end of his life, connecting him to the living Christ and preparing him and comforting him for his transition into the new life that is to come after death. (You who have been baptized, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.) And now I invite Sungmin Kim to come forward along with his family, to be baptized to join the household of God and to share with us in the ministry of Christ. The Spirit at work in the waters of baptism continues! Amen

The Spirit at Work – Breath

The Spirit at Work – Breath. The Spirit is at work in water and especially in baptism that we just witnessed. There is another understanding of how the Holy Spirit is present to us and this is in the very air we take in…our breath! Every breath we take in is an affirmation of God’s Spirit in us! Like with water and baptism, there is a history connected to this understanding of breath from the very beginning. In Genesis 2:7,”then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” On in Job 33:4, “The spirit of God has made me, and  the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” In Ignatian spirituality, breath symbolized both God’s Spirit and the continuous gift of life.

The breath embodies our ability to connect body and spirit. Breathing testifies to the Divine Presence within each human. The gospel of John is revealing a transformation that happens in this divine presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit becomes a means to which the truth of Christ is revealed. And this awareness of the truth, this divine insight, changes us, all of us.

Now let’s pause…everyone take in a deep breath.

As you continue through this day, every time you take a breath, know that God is with you through and in the spirit. It is that same Spirit that connects us to each other and connects us in every time and place. It is the Spirit that always, always gives us life. Today we welcome new members into our family through the Spirit and in and through them we receive new life in what they bring us, and they receive new life in what we will give to them.
The Spirit is at work in our breath! Amen

The Spirit at Work- Fire

The Spirit at Work-Fire! Up to now we have talked about the Holy Spirit as water and then as our very breath giving life and now, we will explore the Holy Spirit as fire…as it is described in the book of Acts. The Spirit appeared as a violent wind of fire that has the manifestation of “divided tongues” that are resting on each person. This is quite a change from the Spirit as water or air. There is an energy here, a movement of strength with purpose with direction. The Spirit is putting hearts on fire, equipping the people to be the hands and feet of Christ. The people are on fire and charged to change the world.

It is no mistake that the Holy Spirit presents herself in many different ways. Have you ever wondered why? Putting all three parts together helps us to answer this question. Jesus in his baptism received the Holy Spirit to prepare him for the work he was to do, to strengthen him and to remind him of his connection to God, his Father. Sam, remember Sam, the Spirit was with him as he faced his own death and then journeyed with him into his new life. The Spirit of breath, gives life and we see this new life always for our church with the welcoming of new members. And finally, the Spirit of Fire that will rest upon our graduates as they embark on this new journey in life, each will follow a different path but each is equally prepared them for whatever is ahead.  Graduates God’s Spirit is with you…with the Spirit of Fire you are going to change the world. And we celebrate you and the possibilities that are ahead.

This morning we have talked about 3 ways the Spirit is present, but we have only touched the surface. The Holy Spirit is also an advocate, the Spirit of Christ, a guide, a counselor, an aid, a witness, a spirit of truth, a wind, a sanctifier, a teacher, a comforter, a strengthener and even more…You see the Spirit will be for you exactly what you need at any specific time and place. Think about the words I just read for the Holy Spirit, they are also on the slide. Look at the descriptions. What word speaks to you? How do you need the Spirit to be present to you right now?

Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit…and you can trust the Holy Spirit will be for you whatever you need at every juncture in your life of faith.  Loving God thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen