Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Church and the Holy Spirit

One topic that is always difficult to explain in the church is the Trinity.  It isn’t always the easiest concept to grasp.   

Three in one and one in three. 

How is that not the least bit confusing?

The joke about Trinity Sunday is that you make the young fresh out of seminary priest preach on that Sunday because the more experienced priests know how difficult it is to write those sermons.

When it comes to the Trinity, I think it is the Holy Spirit that is the most difficult to explain.  Historically, this is one of the hot topic issues of the church.  The concept of the Holy Spirit was one of the big reasons that the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Churches split!

Well, now I am going to take a stab at speaking about the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I am a good one to do so because of one very good reason.

I have seen the Holy Spirit.

This past weekend I was one of 58 youth and adults who act like youth that attended the yearly Diocesan Youth retreat known as Bishop’s Bash.  Talk about an amazing time!

Over the years, this has not been the strongest program offered dropping down to as little as 23 people present at the event last year. This year…58.

When I look back at my experiences in youth group, it is very difficult to put my finger on exactly what it was that kept me coming back.  There was never really one amazing outstanding moment or epiphany that I had that opened my eyes to what the church was or helped me continually try to strengthen my faith.  There wasn’t one single moment because I believe that all the moments did that. 

I will admit that in high school, sitting in a pew for church did not mean much to me.  Again, I will be honest and say that even to this day, sometimes I struggle with that same thing.  Finding church in the church.

One lesson I learned was that you don’t have to be in church to learn about the church or to find the church.  A church is much more than a building with a cross on it.  Yes, that is the physical place that we call a church.  However, the church is so much more.

It is the people that make the church.  If you love running and you find peace while out on a run and experience something special, then why can’t that be the church for you?  If you love playing sports and you truly enjoy it! Why can’t that be worship if you are celebrating the gifts that God has blessed you with!

A few years ago, Bishop Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina came to the Calvary Lenten Preaching series.  In his sermon he spoke on the subject of why the numbers of people going to church or steadily declining.  His answer, the church as we know it is dying. 

Well, what can we do about that? 

Simple, take the church to them!

If it is a struggle to get someone to church to worship, go to them and show them that the church is so much more than simply a building.

I have seen the church at work in so many wonderful places this past year.  On the soccer field watching the team I coach celebrate after scoring their first goal of the season that they forgot they had to line up for a kick off.

At the Corn Maze at the agricenter when I watched 75 youth come out and play and explore and work together to find their way through the brain shaped maze cut into the corn.

In the youth room when one youth offers to tutor another who is struggling in a certain subject.

If you take the church to the people and show them what it really means to be a Christian then you will accomplish so much more than if you just invite them to church.

Live the life, take the church to the people, and see what happens.

Want an example?

So as I said, this past weekend was Bishop’s Bash.  After the weekend was over, we send everyone home.  Do they leave?


We look out on the porch and see everyone one of them outside playing a game called “Couches”.  No one wanted to leave. 

Finally, after getting them to leave one question was asked, “Matt, what’s EYC tonight!?”

Really?  We just spent the past 45 hours together on this retreat.  The one thing they wanted to do was spend more time together.

About 3 hours later as we gathered in the youth room, about 15 youth just sat and hung out for over 2 hours. 

When you take the church to others, the response can be amazing.  Show them what the church really is, what it can really mean, and then they will choose to go on their own.

Now what does this have anything to do with the Holy Spirit?

You know that feeling you get when you should leave but don’t want to.

When you try to leave church but stop in the Parish Hall to talk to one person.  Then another.  And another…before you know it another hour has passed.

That is the same feeling I experienced when I was a youth.  I never wanted to leave the church.  Not because I was at the church, but because the people I was with was the church for me.  That is what happened this weekend.  This group of youth, that just wants to spend time together.  They are the church for each other.  That feeling you get when you start to walk away to go home but hesitate….stop and keep talking…

That, my friend, is the Holy Spirit.  That is the church.

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