Lesson 9: Alive In The Spirit

I believe in the Holy SpiritChristians believe the Risen Christ is still among us. The Creed lists several ways this takes place in its third article that describes the work of the Holy Spirit. Whereas the Old Testament claims that Spirit filled certain leaders, the New Testament proclaims Pentecost made Christ available to all believers.

Significantly, the article first mentions Christ’s presence in the community. “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints.” For a Lutheran, these last two are the same thing. Our radical concept of salvation by grace means that all believers are saints by virtue of Christ’s election.

However, far more important is the biblical assertion that the Church is the Body of Christ given life by his Holy Spirit. In our time and place, at least one way Christ comes among us is in the life of the Church community.

If that is the case, then the Church should be alive in the Spirit. A large number of people who have stopped worshiping regularly report the reason they do not attend is because they do not find anything happening there. The Church is dead. I have to agree I feel closest to God in congregations where people are excited about what is taking place.

Admittedly, you have to be careful talking this way, because excitement by itself surely is not the goal we seek. However, if it is the Holy Spirit that enlivens the Body of Christ, then there should be some energy and enthusiasm.

If the Church is speaking the Words of the Resurrected Jesus, then the community that hears that Gospel together should be invigorated. Christ then and now speaks to the situations in which people live. Those who hear that they are loved, forgiven, healed, or rescued are filled with joy.

If Christ really is present in the meal that the community shares, there should an exhilarating sense of camaraderie and solidarity with those gathered around the table. We have pretty much turned a meal of fellowship with friends and the Risen Christ into a magic act in which privileged clergy dispense pieces of supernatural food to those they deem worthy of receiving it.

Again, if the church is truly a place where Christ’s love is still shared, then baptisms should be far more than rites of passage. They should be filled with comfort and rejoicing at finding and being welcomed into a truly caring community in our dangerous and increasingly violent society. And there should be signs that this community can be found wherever you go around the world

It goes without saying this means that the Body of Christ’s agenda now should be the same as that proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth 200 years ago: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Luke 4) and that this is implemented by giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting prisoners (Matthew 25).

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