The Message, July 24, 2022, "Spirit Stories"

The Message, July 24, 2022, "Spirit Stories"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
July 26, 2022


“Spirit Stories”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Genesis 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Children’s Message:
            Glass cylinder
            God Box
            Easter Egg

            “What is in the cylinder? Can you see it? Can you tell what it is?”
            “What if I told you that it was the Holy Spirit? Would you believe me?”
            “You cannot see the Holy Spirit. You cannot taste the Holy Spirit. Or can you?”
            “But you can SEE how it works. You can FEEL it.”

            “What if I told you that the Holy Spirit was in YOU?! Would you believe that?!”

“That is what we just heard in our scripture reading. The Holy Spirit dwells in US. We are God’s holy Temple, and the Spirit is in us!”

Prayer: “Come Holy Spirit, come. Come as the wind and blow. Come as the fire and burn. Convict, convert, consecrate. Make us wholly thine. Amen.”

            When it comes to the three persons of the Trinity, it can be a challenge to wrap our heads around their nature. As we talked about two weeks ago, their magnificence is far beyond our comprehension and our ability to describe them.

            We are surrounded by the images or expressions of God that you created two Sundays ago. If you have not had a chance to walk around and look at them, I encourage you to do so. What is striking is the diversity of the expressions of God that you captured in those images. There are some similarities, some common themes, but no two are alike. And you may also notice that there is not a single image that looks like a white-haired old man sitting on a golden throne.

            We have a similar challenge when it comes to the Holy Spirit, perhaps a greater challenge! Just as it was the case with God, there are numerous words or images that are used in scripture to capture or communicate the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

            Wind                          Refiner                       Comforter                  Giver of Gifts
            Fire                             Inspiration                 Guide                         Breath of God
            Dove                           Advocate                   Creator                       Presence of God

            And so on. And each expression, each manifestation can be and will be experienced differently by each individual.
            When we are heartbroken … we need a Comforter.
            When we are lost … we need a Guide.
            When we are feeling empty … we need to be filled.

            In my previous church, we used a particular curriculum for our Confirmation Class. The curriculum guide dedicated one whole lesson to the Holy Spirit. The youth and their mentors worked through lessons about God and Jesus Christ, Scripture and the church, but when they got to that lesson about the Holy Spirit … the wheels ground to a halt.

            “Pastor Scott … could you meet with us and help us with this session?!”

            And I always told them that it is tricky. Teachers and preachers, interpreters and commentators, rabbis and scholars have written volumes about the Holy Spirit. There is no one monolithic school of thought when it comes to the Holy Spirit. It is very hard to get a grasp of. We preach about the power of the Spirit on Pentecost and about the gifts of the Spirit. Just this morning we have heard words of scripture and prayer that have expressed several of the most familiar and common manifestations of the Holy Spirit. But as with our discussion about the nature of God, the intimacy of the Spirit allows us to experience the Spirit in a variety of ways.

            More often than not, the youth struggle trying to grasp the concept of the Holy Spirit. I tell them that that is perfectly okay. Most ADULTS struggle with the concept as well.

            More often than not, the youth have not yet had an experience in which they felt the Presence of the Spirit. I tell them that that is okay too. Many, if not most, adults have not had the experience either.

            To be honest, I THINK that I have had experiences of the Holy Spirit. I know that I have had some very powerful moments in my life and ministry that I attribute to the Holy Spirit, because I have no other way to describe them.

            One Sunday morning when I was serving the church in New London, New Hampshire, I stood at the pulpit during our Sunday morning worship service, and I had an experience of the Holy Spirit. Let me say that I do not consider myself a visionary, or a mystic of any sort, but as I stood in the pulpit, I had a vision. I wrote about this in my Weekly Update on Friday.

            The vision only lasted for a few moments, but I remember it vividly. I saw, or I felt, the power of the Holy Spirit flowing forth like a river. The “river” enveloped the congregation in a powerful way, but not in a destructive fashion. I saw that river of the Holy Spirit moving through us and among us. And then it was gone. But that image has helped shape my ministry through the years. The Spirit of God is fluid, alive, powerful. It lifts us, carries us, nurtures us, nourishes us, heals us. It baptizes us into the life and faith of the church. It IS life.

            In my Weekly Greeting, I invited you to consider sharing your experiences of the Holy Spirit.

            Is there anyone that would feel comfortable coming forward and sharing a “Spirit Story”?

            Throughout Scripture, we read about the work and the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps in our own lives we have experienced the power, or the gentleness, or the care, or the comfort of the Spirit.

            Our faith assures us that God is with us, no matter where we are or where we go. Even in the depths of Sheol, the Spirit and the Presence of God is with us.
Even when we try to run from God, God pursues us.
Even when we do not recognize the Presence, God is there.

            Our faith tells us that the Holy Spirit is IN us, that we are God’s holy Temple. We received that assurance just this morning. Those words from the Apostle Paul were taken from a passage in which he was describing the building, the construction, of the Temple. And in that passage, he tells us that there are responsibilities associated with being God’s Temple.

            The passage is addressed to a community of people. He tells us that the community is the “building” that we are called to construct. And just as one uses certain building materials to construct a physical structure, we too must use specific materials to build this Temple … this community. If we build our homes, or our church structures with inferior materials, the building will fail, it will rot, crumble and fall. It is the same with this “structure” … this “building.” If we do not build this community properly, it too will crumble and fail.

            The point that Paul is making is that we must take care to build a community that will hold up, that will last. The primary building material, the foundation upon which everything is built is love. Because where there is love, God is.

            It is love that keeps us humble. Love allows us to be humble enough to be open to learning and growing. Love allows us to see that we do not know everything, that we have much to learn from one another.

            The opposite of humility is arrogance. Arrogance allows us to believe that we cannot possibly be wrong. Arrogance allows us to belittle or dismiss those who do not agree with us. Arrogance allows us to become critical of the “other” and legalistic in our behavior. Arrogance allows us to become exclusive. We look down upon others rather than being willing to sit down beside them.

            The community, the Temple, that fails to practice love, welcome and humility bars the door to God. Dissention and bitterness destroy the Temple of God. Division makes it impossible for the Holy Spirit to operate. The Truth cannot be spoken or heard in that atmosphere because of the corrosive lack of trust.

            We are the most open … we are closest to being the Temple of God … when we prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit. We prepare ourselves by building a community based upon the foundation of love.

            Can we begin to imagine that we are the dwelling place of God?

            We talk about being created in image of God,
            We talk about having the Divine spark within us … in our hearts and in our souls.
            We talk about God’s Breath being our animating force.

            But what does it mean for us to consider being the dwelling place of God? To be the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit, God’s Presence?

            Does it change our perspective? Does it impact how we move through the world?

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” Amen.


Congregational Church