When I was a young boy growing up, we still used the name “Holy Ghost”. Of course, most of us at that age are fascinated by ghosts to begin with, and popular at the time was the cartoon “Caspar the Friendly Ghost”. Beyond that, all of us are afraid of the dark, a place ghosts and goblins seem to inhabit in our young minds. I can remember not being able to sleep one night after seeing the Disney cartoon “The Headless Horseman” from the legend of Sleepy Hollow.
So, here we are. I am no longer a child, and neither are you, and we now say “Holy Spirit” instead of “Holy Ghost”. Actually, “spirit” is more accurate and captures what we mean better. It comes from the Hebrew noun “rauch”, translated into English as “spirit, breath, or wind”. It’s an amorphous term that cannot be described as much as it can be experienced.
When I came to New York many years ago, I was astounded by everything that was happening in this city. As J.C. Chesterton once said upon viewing a hippopotamus, “It isn’t so.” Yet, it was so. We have many sports teams in this town getting paid lots of money. Yet, we fail to win – some other franchise from out of town with a smaller payroll beats us. Could it be that they have what is called “team spirit”? It’s something you can’t totally define, but you know it is part of a winning equation.
I believe you can find people with great spirit in life. I also believe that there is something called “the spiritual dimension” that all of us have as part of our human make-up. However, sometimes our spirits are flat or deflated. Sometimes we have lost an essential part of ourself when we lose our spirit.
The church was born on the Day of Pentecost. However you want to describe it, you have to say, it was a happening of the Holy Spirit. New life was breathed into the early apostles. Life that was transforming and empowering. It has been described as a wind, as tongues of fire, but in the end it was the inspiration of the risen Christ, who gives us the spirit of service, the spirit of love, and the spirit of new life.
While the church at times looks like it’s lacking any spirit, dragging its way from one boring thing to another, it is my hope that, as we gather this Sunday, we pray for God’s Holy Spirit to enter into our life and empower us to continue to do great things.