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Pentecost Episcopalian: Why Responding to the Holy Spirit is Central to Christian Spirituality

Today - as we continue today with our theme of exploring the Holy Spirit - I'd like to share some insights from a brilliant little book titled Moving in the Spirit: Becoming a Contemplative in Action by Richard Hauser, S.J. All the thoughts below are indebted to, or quotes from that book.

Hauser points out that the person of Holy Spirit is not something "extra" about God, or some "aspect" of God that is optional...but as one person of the Trinity, the Spirit is the power of God at work in our lives and the way we experience God here in our day.

It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to faith in Jesus.

It is the Holy Spirit who allows us to live an authentic (loving) Christian life.

The best news is, "It is the Holy Spirit who leads us from seeing Christianity as the conscientious performance of external actions - living in conformity with external laws and rules - to being faithful to the law of love that arises within us."

In fact, "responding to the spirit in our lives" can be seen as the primary goal of Christian Spirituality.

As Hauser points out, there are many (quite valid and Biblical!) primary goals of Christian spirituality:

1.     Imitating Jesus. Here the focus of the spiritual life is to get to know Christ through studying the Bible and then imitating the example of Jesus in our personal life. See, for example, Mark 8:34 - "Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" or Luke 6:46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"

2.     Being faithful in doing God's will. Here the focus of the spiritual life is to make every effort possible to discover what God is asking us to do and then trying to do it - to fulfill God's will for our life. And for sure, Jesus taught this "thy kingdom come, thy will be done. This also seemed to be focus of Jesus' own spiritual goal: see for example John 6:38 - "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me."

3.     Loving and serving others. Here the focus of the spiritual life is in being faithful in helping other people, especially those who are most in need. See for example Matthew 25:34-36: "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"

4.     Responding to the movement of the Spirit. Here the focus of the spiritual life is our cooperation (with God's grace) with the movement of the Spirit within ourselves. (This of course assumes that the Holy Spirit was not only sent to the Christian community back in Biblical days, but is still quite active and still lives in the church collectively and in us individually today.)

But here are the reasons Hauser (and I) believe responding to the Holy Spirit is central to Christian Spirituality:    

The Holy Spirit is central to any effort to imitate Jesus; the more open we are to the Spirit, the more we will be like, or apprentice ourselves to, Jesus; and 
Because Holy Spirit is sent from God the Father (see Romans 8:15-16 - "those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.And by him we cry, "Abba,Father."), it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to be faithful to doing the Father's will; and 

When we receive the Holy Spirit, by definition, we receive the Spirit of God, and since God is love, the primary effect of the Spirit in our day-to-day life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22).

So, "to the extent that I am open to the movement of the Spirit in me, I will

1.     Imitate Jesus,
2.     Love and do the Father's will, and
3.     Love and serve my neighbor."

Again: "It is the Holy Spirit who leads us from seeing Christianity as the conscientious performance of external actions - living in conformity with external laws and rules - to being faithful to the law of love that arises within us."

And THAT is nothing short of a reformation...a re-forming of our entire attitude about, and our entire approach to, the Christian faith.


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