Holy Spirit in the Chaos

Jordan River from visit in January 2020

January 10, 2021

Mark 1:4-11

The Holy Spirit is a mystery we quite often relegate to just a few Sundays a year because she does not take human form and thus makes it difficult to relate. Because of this, it is easy to ignore the Holy Spirit and simply focus on Jesus. However, the Holy Spirit amazes and surprises when we least expect it. The Holy Spirit can guide our everyday actions if we open ourselves to her mystery.

                I am not sure if the people of first century Israel fully knew what was in store for them in the hoped-for Messiah. It is the Holy Spirit John the Baptist pointed to over three different Sundays since the beginning of Advent. It is the Holy Spirit that makes a difference between his baptism of the people for repentance and the baptism that begins with Jesus and the descending of the Holy Spirit onto the scene as heaven is tore open and the promise of God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit instills and reveals our deep seeded faith in the Lord, our God. The Holy Spirit cheers us on and directs us to follow in the way of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is present at all times in our struggles and successes, challenges and achievements, sorrows and joys, heartbreak and jubilation. The mystery of the Holy Spirit is challenging and miraculous all at the same time.

                I would be remiss if I were not to address the events of this past week in light of our gospel lesson for this week. I do not recall another time in recent history when so many were sitting in front of the news in utter disgust and disbelief since September 11. What we witnessed on television Wednesday is not a true representation of the United States, but a highlight of the racism and personal desires that are prevalent in our nation. It was nothing less than domestic terrorism. The resolve shown by the majority of our elected leaders to move forward with their duty was a true representation of democracy at work and a step in the right direction of healing a divided and battered nation. I will admit I found it hard to accomplish anything Wednesday afternoon as I filled with anger and teetered on the brink of tears for what was taking place in our nation’s capital.  

                Where was the Holy Spirit at work this past week as we all had front row seats to what was happening in our nation’s capital? The Holy Spirit was with each one of you as you watched in stunned awe. The Holy Spirit was looking over our nation’s capital with her own tears and providing a presence of comfort and restored peace. The Holy Spirit was with our elected leaders as they sought safety from the chaos only to return later in the evening to finish the job that has happened regularly every four years for centuries.

                The actions of those gathered to lay siege to our democracy lead us further away from the good news of Jesus Christ and clouds the view of the work of the Holy Spirit. When we follow our own way and dig our heels in, we get buried in the muck and grime of the world and that muck and grime will often times block out the light of Christ. We can be led astray by misleading and false facts, which distorts and can lead us further away from the Truth that is Jesus Christ. And there are times when we simply refuse to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. As mysterious as the Holy Spirit is, we are invited to follow its lead with open hearts and minds. In the Holy Spirit our faith is fostered for the challenges that ensue when following Jesus Christ. The promise of the Holy Spirit begins with our ancestors and it written in the Hebrew scriptures:

  • For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
    I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
    and my blessing on your offspring. Isaiah 44:3
  • The days are surely coming. . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 . . . for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:31-34
  • A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Ezekiel 36:26-27
  • Then afterward
    I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
    your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
    29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my spirit in those days. Joel 2:28-29

The Holy Spirit is the power of God coming to reside within us. In Jesus’ baptism, he is revealed as the Son of God, whom God loves dearly. This is the very sign and promise that is made to us when we are baptized. The Holy Spirit comes to reside in our own very beings to wash over us and lead us. Are there times where we ignore the Holy Spirit and stash it in the closet or attempt to bury it under the rug? Most definitely! 

Yet, the purpose of our community in Christ is to live out the calling of the Holy Spirit and be guided in the way of Christ. God invites us to be open to the mysteries of the Holy Spirit. We open ourselves up through prayer, contemplation, and the constant reminder of our own baptisms. Every time you are in the shower, take the water and make the sign of a cross on your forehead. Every time you are doing dishes, take the water and make the sign of a cross on your forehead. If you have young children and you are giving them a bath, make sure that they are reminded that they too are a blessed child of God and make the sign of a cross on their forehead with the bath water.

We have been challenged this past week in many of our thoughts and beliefs.  We have struggled with what to make of the actions that have happened in our nation’s capital. No matter what, may you know, that whatever comes to you, the Holy Spirit is present to lead you in the way of Jesus Christ our Lord.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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