Waldo, Oz, and the Holy Spirit

Inspired by Acts 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

Do you remember Where’s Waldo? For those of you who don’t, it was a children’s puzzle book series that exploded in the late 80’s. Each book was filled with these great big pictures that had hundred’s of people in it, and the viewer then had to find Waldo, a funny little bespectacled guy in blue pants and a red and white striped shirt and hat. Some of those puzzles were really hard as the pictures included all the same colors and patters that were on Waldo himself! You could also get him in posters, t-shirts, he was everywhere! I remember having a blast trying to find Waldo. You know what’s not a blast! Trying to find the Holy Spirit! Ok, that could used a better segue. But these days, it kinda feels like we’re in this big puzzle book, that’s not nearly as fun as those old Where’s Waldo books, but instead of trying to find Waldo, we’ve been tasked with trying to find the Holy Spirit in this pandemic world of ours. Instead of a fun children’s puzzle book this feels more like a Halloween house of mirrors nightmare! Too dramatic? Maybe, I don’t know.

Finding the Holy Spirit can be a tough job on a normal day. But these days, it sometimes seems impossible. On this day each year, The Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on those first disciples with tongues of fire dancing on their heads. Over the centuries it has come to be known as the birthday of the church. So, happy birthday! This day concludes a few things for us. It marks the end of the Easter season, after this we head into the long green season of the Time after Pentecost. That’s literally what it’s called, the Time after Pentecost. Not very creative, I know. And for us here at Bethlehem, as well as all the churches that use the Narrative Lectionary, today marks the last day of year two of the Narrative Lectionary. The next collection of readings will begin in the Fall, when we will read through a different set of stories from the Hebrew scriptures beginning with Genesis, and then read through the Gospel of Luke, finishing with stories of the early church from Acts and Paul’s letters like we just did. Before that though, this summer we will get the opportunity to have three different series, one on Job, one on 2 Corinthians, and one on the Lord’s Prayer, just to give you a preview of what’s headed your way for the next year.

But back to the elusive Holy Spirit. Of all the persons of the Trinity, she is by far the most difficult to talk about. Maybe that’s because we don’t know much about her. We don’t have all those stories like the creator does in the Hebrew scriptures, or Jesus does in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit gets a few here in there in Acts and is referred to in Paul’s letters but that’s about it. She does appear in the Gospel once in the form of a dove but we’re really left on our own to try and figure out who the Holy Spirit is, what she does, where she is, and how she works. And so, for nearly two thousand years the church has spent a great deal of time and energy, debating, writing, pondering, all things Holy Spirit related. We search and we search for answers, and we always seem to come up short. It never really feels like we’ve figured it out completely. She’s like a crossword puzzle that you just can’t finish, or a jigsaw puzzle that’s missing a couple pieces, or a Where’s Waldo picture that is making you go cross-eyed!

Then, in walks Paul, like a nerd at a Rubik’s Cube convention, to help us with this puzzle. But instead of Paul the great theologian, missionary, scholar, and founder of the institutional church, he’s more like the Wizard of Oz here. In that story, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion, are all in search of a gift that they long for: home, intelligence, love, and courage. They go to great lengths in search for these things, they even risk their lives to find them. However, in the end, they discover that they had these gifts all along, or the means to get them. They in fact didn’t need any help at all to find what they longed for. It was there the whole time, they just didn’t recognize it. In this passage from First Corinthians that we have today, Paul explains where the Holy Spirit can be found, by describing some of the gifts that the Spirit gives to people, to us. He mentions the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, interpretation, just to name a few, as this is not an exhaustive list. In other words, if you’re looking for the Holy Spirit Paul says, this is what you will find her doing. But even more important than that, this is where you will find her doing those things, in you. And she’s been there the whole time! And it gets better than that, as if that wasn’t amazing enough, this is how the Holy Spirit will make us one body, together, by giving us all different gifts, so that we are dependent on one another to fulfill God’s work in the world.

How about them apples! I don’t even know that that phrase means, anyway. This would be the most amazing news on a good day, during normal times, whatever normal means. But in these days, these days of pandemic and social distancing and sheltering in place, and quarantine, and facemasks, and hand sanitizer, and no in-person school, and no in-person worship, while we’re all left wondering, “Where’s God in all of this?” Paul makes it clear that the answer to that question is, God is right here! Right there! With you and I. Where God has been the whole time! In the form of the Holy Spirit. It turns out that her whereabouts were not an unsolvable puzzle after all, nor was it as scary as a haunted house of mirrors.

My friends, my siblings, my family, we are living in days that are filled with fear, anxiety, sadness, confusion, and all the other emotions that we experience; but thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, through the many and various gifts imparted to you, there is also an abundance of joy, and adventure, and hopefulness, and peace, and assurance, and love out there. I know this because I have the privilege of being your pastor, and as such, I have the privilege of being a hub that information passes through, that your stories pass through, that your experiences pass through. And so, from my perspective, the Holy Spirit is just as active and vibrant and beautiful as ever, maybe even more so, if that’s even possible. All that is to say this, know most assuredly that God is with you and this world, and as it turns out, is quite easy to find these days. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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