A Non-Exclusive Way of Seeing

Today in the cycle of the church’s year we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The calendar is a yearly reminder of the God’s work in the world. We begin with the promise of Messiah in Advent. God is revealed to the world in Christ at Christmas and Epiphany Then at Easter time God is shown in suffering love and life from death. At Pentecost we celebrate the ongoing work of God in Christ through the Spirit. In this telling, the cycle is thoroughly Trinitarian.

Today my question is: What does it mean for God in Christ to be present in the world through the Spirit?

My answer is that it means a non-exclusive seeing of God in all people, in all things, and in multifarious ways. The Spirit of God is present everywhere.

I have not always thought this. I was taught, and believed it to be true, that the Spirit of God was only present in a few. Let’s call them “the elect,” as we did in my Calvinist formation. The Spirit was not for the world but for a select remnant. One of the sad outcomes of such a view was a “them and us” mentality. Further, despite its connection with a belief in the sovereignty of God, in practice it is a very narrow vision of God in the world. Most of the world is outside the Spirit of God.

It’s all a question of seeing. It needs a new way of looking. What if the feast of Pentecost tells us that the Spirit of God is loosed in the world; loosed in the entire world; that God in the Spirit is present to all, and in all, if only we could see it?

Rephrasing it: To find the Spirit in all is to find Christ in all is to find God in all. All the goodness in the world comes from God. There is more goodness in the world than badness. Wherever we find goodness, there we find the Spirit of God.

This week I was reading a student’s paper. The student said something like this: “For every act of kindness in the world, I wager you could find 10 atrocities.” In a way, it is an empirical claim. Theoretically, we could count all the acts of kindness and all the atrocities and see how many there are. Practically, that is impossible. I also think that the student was not making such an empirical claim. She was asserting a way of seeing life. It is a way that sees life in a very pessimistic way. I did have opportunity to talk with her. My response was this. For every atrocity in the world, I wager there are thousands of acts of kindness and goodness—every kind word, every act of generosity, every fulfillment of duty, and every gentle and loving touch. Sadly the media, which is so pervasive in shaping thought, tells us mostly only the bad.

The Spirit of God is loosed in the world as goodness. In the multifarious acts of goodness, we find the Spirit.

Paul helps us in 1 Corinthians 12, where he says: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of service but the same Lord; there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” All these good gifts, services and activities present ion the world come from the same Spirit, Lord and God. (Notice Paul is here also very Trinitarian.)

So, to celebrate Pentecost is to celebrate the working of the Spirit of God in goodness in all. It is an expansive, non-exclusive way of seeing.

+Ab. Andy