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The imagery for the Holy Spirit, sometimes known as the third person of the Trinity isn’t in the form of a human, in fact it is pretty wild, isn’t it? It certainly isn’t an old white man sitting on a cloud.  We can’t domesticate the Spirit to fit our human attributes; like compassion or serenity, or even kindness, can we? The metaphors for the Spirit are much more imaginative and untamed. Like the tongues of fire in today’s beautiful passage from Acts, Pentecost is a dynamic event in the church offering us a new way to imagine the Divine and even to experience God with us.  


Today we are reminded that the Spirit can indeed comfort us, but also disturb us – that The Holy Spirit sometimes comes to us in a gentle whisper and other times like a rushing wind that makes us shiver or a tongue of fire that sets our heart ablaze.


It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is more about how we feel or experience God instead of how we think about or believe in God. Maybe the Spirit is the medium that allows us to merge with God or be in union with God. It seems a bit abstract to me to say I am the Body of Christ, even though I love when we say these words after Holy Eucharist, “Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.”  But do we really feel this? Do we feel like we are living members of the body of Jesus? Do we walk around recognizing each other as the body of Christ?


But the actual love we feel in our hearts when we break bread with each other, that’s Spirit. We are instantly a part of Divine Nature – when we feel that wonderful sensation of love flowing in and flowing out. In fact, by participating in the love that lives in us and exists everywhere, we light up our inner chemistry with Oxytocin. We now know that we can change our internal chemistry by petting our dog or cat, even by faking a smile! Honestly! Whenever we feel that lovely warmth of love we are participating in the Spirit and intermingling with the Divine.


I went through some dark times in my younger years and certainly didn’t feel this divine connection. I felt very much alone in my suffering and struggled to cope with an abusive husband. I stayed too long and by the end of 10 hard years I remember saying to a kind healer that was trying to help me, “I feel dead inside.” I told her that I never understood cynics but now I was one. I said that you could show me the most beautiful sunset in the world, and it would mean nothing to me. It took years but by naming this despair I began a road towards healing.


Interestingly, many years later I had a grant to facilitate a program with girls in juvenile hall. One day the superintendent asked me to see a girl who would not talk to anyone. He told me that she was there for her own protection and safety, as she was going to testify against a dangerously bad dude.


Jalila was a tiny girl of 14. She sat across from me looking down at the floor. I did my best to synchronize my breath with hers and quietly told her that she didn’t have to talk to me, we could just sit together. After some time, she leaned forward and whispered, “I feel dead inside.” Ah, maybe my past suffering had prepared me for such a moment.


Slowly over the weeks Jalila opened up and told me her story. At the age of 12 some older girls had turned her out into prostitution with promises of hair extensions and pretty nails. Her pimp said he loved her and that he would keep her safe. But one night when Jalila was in a car with a man, he went around the corner out of sight and started to strangle her. She fought with all her strength and managed to kick a window out and get away, She ran back to her pimp’s car. She was hysterical and couldn’t stop crying. He showed little interest in her drama and told her to go back to work.  That was it. She told me that she realized in that moment that in fact he didn’t love her, and so she ran away and went to the police.


One day in juvenile hall, Jalila ran up to me with a giant grin on her face and said, “Sister Greta, I have been reading the bible.”

“Oh really?” I said, “And what is it saying to you?”

“Well, Jesus keeps telling his disciples what is going to happen, and they just don’t get it!”

We both laughed and I realized how bright this girl was. I said to her, “That is so right Jalila. Maybe someday you’ll be a minister.” And just like that, she lit up like a sunbeam and said, “Oh yes! I want to help other people fall in love with God like I have.”


This is a miracle of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Truth crashed in - first of all to inspire her to see that she needed to get free of a bad situation, and then to reach her through my love, and then through the holy scripture. I knew I was witnessing a miracle of resurrection. I can’t tell you what happened with Jalila or where she is now, but I trust that this awakening will live in her and come to fruition at some point, even if it is many years down the road.


For me the fire and the wind touched my life when I was 22 years old at the end of my first yoga class. It felt like profound peace. I was immersed in the feeling of interconnectedness, it felt like everything, and everyone was connected. A sense of oneness. It set me off on a spiritual journey that has led to this very moment. This moment where I am wearing vestments and the symbols of my commitment to God the One. It led me to live in a house of prayer dedicated to service with the least. It led me on the path to my True Self and to living into my fullest potential – and it isn’t over yet.


The Holy Spirit can awaken us to our belovedness. To our interconnectedness. To our capacity to live love. We might need to do a bit of inner decluttering, a bit of letting go, a bit of healing, but it is an invitation to everyone everywhere. No matter what the Spirit is called or how it is imagined.   


Let us all become more aware of the power of the Spirit of Love which exists everywhere all the time and find ways to live in participation with this life-giving wind or fire.


Sister Greta

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