I have often heard well-meaning persons say something like this, “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. This is a safe place for you.” I think I know what the speaker intends when using such language. I think that the one saying these words actually desires the presence of the Spirit. Still, these words sound strange to me.
Anyone who has read the New Testament, the source where we learn most about the Spirit, may wonder where anyone gets the idea that the Spirit is waiting for us to extend an invitation. However, we do find that Jesus tells his followers to wait on the Spirit. And there is no suggestion that the Spirit requests a safe place, though we might find that the Spirit can be somewhat dangerous. (Check with Ananias and Saphira about this). As Jesus told Nicodemus, you “do not know where it comes from and where it is going.” Predictability is not something we find with the Holy Spirit.
While we cannot define the Spirit in ways that sound like we have figured out all the Spirit is up to and where the Spirit will show up next, we can read the book of Acts and observe the Spirit showing up unexpectedly and recklessly and on its own terms. We will not be able to make the Spirit into something it is not, but when praying for the Spirit we can agree with the wise words of Todd Hunter who said “Whatever God meant by sending the Spirit – give us that.”
“Trinity confronts us with something we cannot manage. We do not meet this God on our terms. We cannot reduce the mystery of God to something we can use or understand. Instead, we discover a lively, revealing, demanding presence. In the Trinity we are faced with the reality that we are not in control.”
from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now
We know the church was created by a holy hand. Yet we look around on any given Sunday and it is easy to overlook the holiness. Can we say this gathering is better behaved than those outside? Are they better looking? Do they possess more skills? Are they more likely to succeed? How then, are we to ever remember this is a holy people?
This collection of people may not look like much. They may not be thinking they shake holy hands on the way through the door, or that their own hands are holy. They may need reminded again of the sacrifice that gives them life. They may not remember they are dripping grace into their bodies when they eat the bread and drink the cup. They may not recognize the image of God shining from the faces of others or be aware it shines from their own.
Yet here we are again, gathering to be in the presence of a God who hides in the bush until He sets it afire so that we may find Him. We are gathering in the presence of a gusty God who blows where He wills. We are gathering in the presence of a God who hides swaddled in a stable to catch us unaware. We are gathering in the presence of a holy God who knows what it is to hide in flesh, the place we try to hide each day.