Ruach of God
Based on Psalm 104:24-34, Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26 – 16:13
Most of us take breathing for granted – like we do our heart beating. These are physiologic realities that are controlled deep within our brain and require no conscious thought to operate. Our number of breaths per minute at rest is somewhere around 8 to 10 on average – far more when we are active and moving. Breathing in supplies our cells with necessary oxygen to carry out their usual functions. Breathing out removes waste carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere where trees and plants convert it back to oxygen. The cycle of the breath of God at work.
Spiritually we believe that when we are born, God breathes into us the breath of life as told in the Book of Genesis. This breath or “ruach” in Hebrew, also confers on us the divine image of God into which we attempt to grow. Likewise, when we die, we return our last breath to God as a final offering of thanks for the life we were able to live. This is the Ruach of God – the life-giving breath of Adonai. But there is also the Spirit of God that we encounter in the opening verses of the Bible, the Ruach Elohim, the creative force of God. The Ruach Elohim is what we read about when the Hebrew Bible speaks of “the spirit of God came upon me…that is, when someone receives the task of prophesying for God. As Christians, we believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit. Distinct as each divine person is, yet made from the same essence, the same agape love as the others and uniquely bound together in the divine dance (perichoresis).
Without God’s Spirit intervening on our behalf, moving us and molding us, we would not be all that we are in God. The Holy Spirit allows us to grow into the image of God that is in each one of us. There is nothing else like it, and today on Pentecost we celebrate the Holy Spirit’s power and purpose in our lives. Please join me in prayer…
Psalm 104 sings a song of wonder to God. In it, the author pens in verses 29 and 30 what happens to all of creation when the breath of God is given or withheld. The whole of the song is about God’s great and creative Spirit which continues to live and move in our world. In wonderment and awe the psalmist sings, “…I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises while I have being….” (verse 33)
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of the “Spirit of truth”, the “Advocate”, that He will send to the Disciples once He gets back to his heavenly Father Not only does Jesus say that HE is going to have the Holy Spirit come, but that it will be active in guiding them to the truth.
The Book of Acts brings us around to the Spirit we are most familiar with, however. Hear the rushing wind and tongues of fire are resting on each of the Disciples and they are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and gifted with speaking in other languages. All of the Jews who were in town for the festival were amazed at how these Galileans could speak their languages fluently. Then, Peter gets up and gives a masterful sermon based on Joel. There could be no more powerful witness to what the Spirit can achieve when it is unleashed on believers.
Why is it then that the ruach of God has fallen on hard times in the last 2 millennia? It has been relegated to last place among the Trinity and has been called Holy Ghost as if it were a mere phantasm to be disregarded. It is unfortunate that the early translations used the term “ghost” instead of the more robust terms we now have. The populace is more enlightened as well, so we can discern a greater role in the current world for an Advocating, Counseling, truth-telling, life giving, power that comes straight from our creator God and is given to us through God’s grace – rather than a helpless apparition.
The Holy Spirit was important to our Methodist ancestors as well. That is why we have both cross and flame. The flame of the Holy Spirit was much sought after and before our more sedate times, we Methodists had strong revivals and converted many persons to belief in Jesus. It is time we rediscovered the power of the ruach of God. It is what we need to take us from where we are to where God wants us to be. It is what keeps young people coming forward to accept vows of membership. It is what teaches them to sing new songs of faith so that the Church can keep growing and adapting to the times that they live in. It is what empowers them to look ahead and to plan for their own children and the role that they will play in the life of this church.
Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit, the Ruach of God. A living breath that creates and empowers all people in all times. May we always look to the symbol of our Methodist church – the cross of Jesus and the flame of the Holy Spirit and remember that it is through the actions of both that we grow into the image of God that was planted in us at our birth by God’s great breath, and made operational through our baptisms. The first Pentecost began the Church of Jesus Christ. This Pentecost, we celebrate the continuance of the Church as six persons confirm the vows that were made at their baptism. All this made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God, amen!