>The following was preached at Veedersburg and Hillsboro UMC on Sunday, May 9, 2010. The text for this week’s message is John 14:23-26.

There is a cable channel called the E! Network, which focuses on the entertainment industry. Every once in a while E! will show something called True Hollywood Story, or THS, featuring the biography of celebrities. And typically, this show will tell the audience three things: 1) who is the celebrity – where did they come from, what was their early life like; 2) why they are a celebrity – how did they break into the business, what did they do to become so well known; and 3) what they are doing today. And as I was approaching these next few weeks on the Holy Spirit, I couldn’t help but think that maybe we could all use a THS on The Holy Spirit. So, that is what I would like to do over the next few weeks.
We are going to take the same approach that E! takes with celebrities and look at 3 questions: 1) Who is the Holy Spirit, which we will focus on this week; 2) What does the Holy Spirit do, which is next week; and 3) in two weeks, on Pentecost Sunday, we will look at what the Holy Spirit is doing today. It will be a different approach on Scripture than we usually take because we won’t necessarily be going as in-depth on the individual passages, but we are looking at a more bird’s-eye view, a more theological perspective. I’m excited about this series, and I hope that by the end of it, you’ll be able to better see how God is working through the Holy Spirit in your life and in our congregation.
To start off this morning, I want to do something a little different than normal. This will be one of those times when it’s okay to talk during a portion of the sermon. In fact, we might sit here all morning unless somebody does say something – you’ve been warned.
Now, have you ever heard of Mad Libs? Mad Libs is one of those books that you can find where you have somebody fill in the blanks with a particular part of speech. It’s a lot fun because you can get all sorts of crazy, nonsensical things going on. We are going to do a Mad Libs this morning.
I’ve written a paragraph, and then I’ve taken out a few key words. I’m going to let you tell me what words to replace them with. This is what happens when I have three weeks to work on a sermon. The title of this Mad Libs is News Report… because it is in the form of a news report. Original, I know. Okay, let’s start.
[If you’re interested in what the Mad Libs was all about… well, you missed. You’re just going to have to make sure you don’t miss another Sunday in case we ever do another one again!]
Here’s what they paragraph that I wrote says: This just in – The Holy Spirit has descended upon the disciples in the greater Jerusalem area. Reports are saying that disciples are speaking in tongues and people are putting their faith in Christ by the hundreds. We aren’t quite clear on what the Holy Spirit is, but we’ll keep an eye on this story for you.
Okay, enough of the fun stuff. Let’s dig in.
If I were to ask you to explain to me the Holy Spirit, could you? Let’s face it, we don’t know a lot about the Holy Spirit. Think about the Apostles Creed that we recited at the beginning of worship today. You start off by saying, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” And there’s quite a bit about the Father in that statement.
We know that the Father is almighty, which means his has authority and is sovereign over all things. We know that He is also the creator, the one who made everything around us. We learn quite a bit about the father in that first statement. We learn even more about the Son in the second clause.
As we recite the second clause of the Apostles Creed, we retell the story of Jesus – conception by the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth, his suffering, death and resurrection, and the promise of his return. Those are some key things that we have to know about Jesus. But then we get to the third clause, and it’s really vague. We don’t get a lot of information about the Holy Spirit.
What’s the third clause? “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” That’s all we get about the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, and we believe in the Holy Spirit. It’s no wonder why we can give a good explanation of who the Holy Spirit is – in the most ancient and basic of creeds, we don’t get a whole lot of explanation on who the Spirit is. It’s never really been explained to us.
I’m not saying that today you are going to walk out of here with a definitive understanding of the Holy Spirit, but, hopefully, you do walk out of here this morning knowing at least a little bit more about who the Holy Spirit is. And by the end of the series, I want you to be able to talk about the Holy Spirit without having to stumble through a vague explanation that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
To begin, let’s make something very clear. The Holy Spirit is not the Force. It’s not some mysterious thing out of a Star Wars movie that is going to help you see the future, or, more importantly, help you move things without having to get up. The Force is science fiction. The Holy Spirit is non-fiction. The Holy Spirit is not some sort of impersonal, generic, “life force,” or energy, that connects all things together in some kind of mystical union, either. That’s New Age philosophy, which has no place in the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit is a personal being.
The Holy Spirit is never referred to in Scripture as “It.” Personal pronouns are regularly used in reference to the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7, Jesus says, “I will send him to you.” The Spirit prompts individuals to do things throughout the Book of Acts. The disciples consult with the Holy Spirit, as though talking to an individual.
The Holy Spirit acts in ways that a person acts. In today’s passage, we are told that the Holy Spirit will teach and remind. Throughout the New Testament, the Spirit guides, convicts, intercedes, calls and commissions. These are not things that impersonal, generic “energies” do. These are things that people do when they are in relationship with other people.
At our baptism, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We aren’t baptized into an idea, but into a relationship with the Triune God – Father, Son and Spirit. You cannot be in relationship with objects. You can be obsessed with objects in your life, but you can’t be in relationship with them.
Why is that? Because a relationship is a two-way street. I hate to break it to you, but your car doesn’t really care about you. Your television doesn’t really care about you. Anything that you can think of that is an object doesn’t really care about you. You can be in a relationship with a Father. You can have a relationship with a Son. Likewise, you can have a relationship with the Holy Spirit
And while we are on that subject, the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity. While the Trinity itself is sometimes a complicated subject, and we don’t really understand how it works, this is what we do know from Scripture: the Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and in the Trinity, each member is a personal being that has a role in our life of faith. While they are three distinct individuals, they are also united as one in the Godhead.
Now, I know I may be using some unusual terms here – Trinity and Godhead for example – and if you aren’t familiar with them, that’s all right. You don’t have to be able to explain them in detailed, theological terms. Some things in our faith are mysteries that we don’t have to be able to understand 100%, and the Trinity is certainly one of those things.
And let’s face it, there are a lot of things in life that we simply don’t understand as well. I’m willing to bet that only a handful of people here understand in complete and exact detail how their car works. I don’t. Here’s what I know about my car. I put gas in, I start the ignition and it works… most of the time. I don’t understand how the gasoline makes the car run, but I do know that if my car runs out of gas, it doesn’t run. And at this point in my life, that’s all I really need to know.
So many times, we want to know everything 100% before we buy into it, but we fail to realize that there are things that we take for granted each and every day. We don’t understand them, but that doesn’t make them any less real for us. We know that we need food in our bodies. We know that when we hit the power button on the remote the television turns on. We know that our bodies need rest. Why do all of these things happen the way they do? I don’t know. I don’t care. I know that certain things in life are true, even if I can’t fully explain them. That is how it is for us and our approach to the Holy Spirit.
Here’s what I know about the Holy Spirit, and I hope you walk away knowing at the end of the day. The Holy Spirit is real. The Holy Spirit is a personal being that cares for us as individuals. And the Holy Spirit longs to be in relationship with us so that we can be truly alive.