“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)
The one whom Jesus calls “the Helper” is the Holy Spirit. As we say in the Nicene Creed, he is the Lord, the giver of life. The Holy Spirit is the personal, moral, active, powerful Lord God present in the world and present within the Christian.
Some think the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force, like “The Force” in Star Wars. But the Holy Spirit is personal: we can know the Holy Spirit, we can grieve the Holy Spirit, we can experience intimacy with God through the Holy Spirit.
So rather than saying that the Holy Spirit is God’s presence, it’s better to say that the Holy Spirit is God, who is present. Not God’s presence—but God, present.
Jesus tells his disciples that they would be better off without him and with the Holy Spirit.
When God became human in Jesus Christ, he was limited to being in one place at a time. When Jesus was in Bethlehem, he wasn’t in Nazareth; when he was on the Sea of Galilee, he wasn’t in Jerusalem. When Jesus was on earth, only a few people at a time could encounter him. But the Holy Spirit can be everywhere at once, working through each and every Christian.
With all the churches in our diocese, I only get to worship with you all one Sunday a year. Given the number of churches on planet Earth, if Jesus were still with us physically and had not given us the Holy Spirit, how often do you think he’d come to your church?
But the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian believer and that’s why Jesus said we’re better off having the Holy Spirit.
Sunday is the Day of Pentecost, when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples and upon us. It’s a great day to pray to be filled (again!) with the Holy Spirit. And it’s a great day to refocus on the Holy Spirit’s mission through us, as he empowers us to reach the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ.Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey