Inhabiting a New Reality

Sermon Series: Holy Spirit

By: Donnell Wyche – May 20, 2018

“When was the last time that you had an experience of joy?”

I mean a kid splashing in the puddles, joy. The delight that you experience during the first drop on your favorite roller coaster, joy. The warmth of the sun, joy. The sheer pleasure you experience after your invited guests take their first bites of the meal you have prepared for them, joy. The you-don’t-any-expectations or anything outstanding  or hanging over your head, joy.

Many of us are barely making it, just hoping that by putting one foot into front of the other, the routines of our lives will move us along. Some of us are just eking out quiet lives of desperation, where we are fearful, overwhelmed, disappointed. Where we are experiencing more of the fruit of the Empire (fear, judgment, anger, bitterness, lust, apathy, shame, greed, and envy) than we are of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).

Jesus says something about the Kingdom of God that I think is helpful…

44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

I love that the emotion Jesus uses is “joy” when describing someone discovering the goodness of God. I think we could use more joy; I know that I can.

I know that using joy as a barometer of how your relationship with God is going can feel like too much. A friend reminded me this week that joy is a tricky thing because it’s different from happiness: joy isn’t fleeting, joy can co-exist with hardship, “you can get fired, dumped, dumped on, and pulled through the eye of a needle” and still be able to experience and have joy.

A Promise Fulfilled
Before leaving, Jesus made a promise to his disciples – “I’m leaving, but I won’t leave you alone.”

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 15:16b-17)

And the One who comes after me, Jesus says, will be with you, will be in you, and give you life. The Holy Spirit will reveal the truth that this is a God-soaked universe, where God is enthroned, and is at work, inviting you deeper into life–transformed life, renewed life, life where love is enthroned.

But many of us aren’t experiencing the reality of this promise or this kind of life.

We just plow ahead through our day consumed with the details and tasks of the day allowing our lives to live us, instead of pausing and asking the Holy Spirit to help us discover beauty in our everyday, asking the Holy Spirit to help us reorient ourselves towards Jesus, and allowing the leadership of the Holy Spirit to reform us.

I think a key to our joy is an active engagement with the Holy Spirit.

Today is Pentecost.
Today is Pentecost. 50 days after the resurrection (Easter) and the day that God fulfilled a promised to pour out the Spirit on all people (John 15). If Jesus is alive, then our discipleship requires that we follow Jesus into life, which may mean revising our understanding of God, how God acts, behaves, and moves, including becoming open to the move of the Holy Spirit in our everyday.

One spiritual practice I tried during my trip to India that opened me up to the Holy Spirit was the Daily Examen. At the core of the Examen is a practice of gratitude. Every day no matter how the day went, I took time to note what I was grateful for.

“At the root of joy is gratefulness, it’s not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

One of the benefits of this kind of daily prayer is that you are retraining yourself to be in tune with the Holy Spirit. I want to be careful when I say that this trip was life changing because the proof is always in the pudding, but I certainly did learn some things about myself and about God. The more I prayed, the more I reflected, the more I became aware of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s move and activity in and around me. There was an added benefit too — as the trip progressed, I realized that I had stopped focusing on what was left behind: my cares, worries, fears, and anxieties and what went wrong during the day, or even what was difficult; I was starting to see, experience, and share joy. The team experienced this joy as laughter, jokes, generosity, care, and love.

Breathe: God’s Spirit Pulses in Every Breath We Take.
It was so refreshing. It was like a breath of fresh air. Friends, I think we need a breath of fresh air.

In Acts 2, in answer to the people about what happens on the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes the prophet Joel,

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. (Acts 2:17)

The miracle of Pentecost is not in the upper room, it’s not in the wind, it’s not in the fire, and it’s not in the tongues. The miracle of Pentecost is the outpouring of God’s spirit on all flesh; on you and me.

The word for Spirit is the same as the word for Breath.

“In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs. In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst. In fear we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down. When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.” When we pause and think about it, breathing looks a lot like a form of praying.

Each day we take about 26,000 breaths. We should breathe from our stomach (diaphragm), not our chest. But when we’re distracted, when we’re stressed, when we’re moving too fast, we tend to breathe from our chest. We should get 99% of our energy from our breathing. However, most of us take between 16 and 20 breaths a minute because we breathe from our chests.

When God created the first humans, God took the dirt from the ground, shaped it, formed it, and breathed into it, and it became a living being. We’re fragile and vulnerable. We came from the dust and Psalms say we will return to it.

“Each person’s life is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” Psalms 39:5

Life is fragile. And yet, at the same time, we’ve been breathed into by the Creator of the Universe. And this divine breath is in every single human being.

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; (Psalm 8:4-6b)

Like it’s written in the Psalms, God has crowned us with glory and honor. We’re these sacred, divine, bags of dirt, and yet we possess untold power and strength. 

What if our breaths revealed a deeper reality. What if, in every breath, we whisper the name of God? In Hebrew the name of God has four letters: Y, H, V, H.

In Hebrew, the letters are pronounced “Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey.”

Ancient Rabbis believed that these letters were essentially breathing sounds. They are unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing. Yod. Hey. Vav. Hey. Is it possible that the name of God is the sound of breathing?

For years, people have understood that this physical breath that we all possess is actually a picture of a deeper reality. And the first Christians took hold of this idea; they actually believed that the Spirit of God resides in or can literally dwell in a person.

One scripture in Romans 8 says that if the pneuma, the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then God will give you life.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)

Another scripture says that what the Spirit of God does, living in you, is it sanctifies.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

The word “sanctify” means “to purge” or to “clean out.” When you let God in, when you breathe in, what happens is you become aware of all the things you need to leave behind, everything you need to let go of. You welcome the Holy Spirit.

What if we aren’t experiencing joy because we haven’t been sanctified? What happens when we begin to understand that God’s breath in our bodies is the Holy Spirit animating us allowing us to enter into new life. Remember God promised to pour out the Spirit on all flesh. Think of it this way, “As God’s Spirit sanctifies us, we can enter into deeper joy by letting go of the things that would inhibit that joy in the first place.”

Are you in pain this morning, maybe you need to breathe in healing?

Are you in a conflict and need help, maybe you need to breathe in peace?

Do you hate someone this morning, maybe you need to breathe in love?

Do you need to know that you are good enough, that you are love, that there is space for you, then breathe in love, breathe in acceptance, breathe in welcome?

Do you need a fresh word from the Lord this morning, breath in and let the Holy Spirit speak to you this morning?

The scriptures say that God gives the Spirit without limit.

There’s an invitation before us. An invitation to come to see that God is here right now, with us all the time.

I’ve focused on our breathing because we all already know how to breathe, which means we can all experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s try it.
Place your hand on your chest and on your stomach. Breathe.

We are going breathe then invite the Holy Spirit to fill us.

God, allow me to find space to breathe in hope, peace, joy, purpose, and love; and space to breathe out sin, frustration, judgment, anger, bitterness, lust, apathy, shame, and guilt.