Friday, August 20, 2004

Voice of the Holy Spirit again

Anita Van Ingen posted on "Moving Godward":
When in pursuit of God, we need a method for identifying the voice of his Holy Spirit. What makes His voice different from whatever voices may be in our heads?

...When the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke, the words did not race, in fact, they sort of stepped out where I could "see" them, slowly persistently, never changing.

That's NOT a solid teaching, now is it?

...When I pray, I connect with that wholesome place of my psyche and the voice of God is just there. He sounds like words that I already know, or words that I have at least heard before. In a way, he doesn't sound like words at all. He sounds like an "attitude" of compassion that I can associate with a word. As the attitudes flow from compassion to love to holiness to whatever, different words leap into my memory and line up to become sentences. ...

The voice of the Holy Spirit: real... or a symptom of illness?


I answered Anita on her comments link, and I'll include my reply here as well as some additional thoughts:

"What makes [the HS's] voice different from whatever..."

Well, I'm not sure the voice of the HS necessarily is all that "different from!" Let's look at the biblical record of God's manifestation in a myriad of various and *differing* forms or modalities: light, fire, water, rock, cloud, tree, Christ Jesus, the lively presence of the Risen Christ in the humanity of the gathered church: every single one of those is a form we're familiar with from our common, ordinary everyday lives. Think of God's sacramental self-revelation (realizing I'm from a tradition with strong sacramental theology, and, over these recent years, my own theology has become highly sacramental): God self-reveals in water, in grain, in the fruit of the vine, all of which are highly charged and polyvalent biblical images and all of which have meaning and currency and respond to a need of everyone in every culture that's ever lived on this world of the earth of God's creation (at least in some form, though different cultures grow and eat an assortment of basic starchy food, with some, like our contemporary American, claiming wheat, rice, corn, oat and a bunch of others—you get the idea!). I'll draw out those ideas a little more.

Indeed the Bible does include many instances of the supra-normal, of the Divine exploitation and transformation of the mundane and of the spectacular, but in assessing the broad sweep of the biblical witness, it's clear God's preferred manner of acting, God's most common way of revealing Godself is in the super-ordinary, the anything but sensational and above all in the paradoxical, like the hiddenness of Divinity manifested in the infant human babe in the Bethlehem manger, in the vulnerability of the human one dying forsaken on the cross on Calvary Hill.

Water, bread, vineyard fruit: sacramental elements, basics, fundamentals and essentials of earthbound existence. For you, Anita, for all of us, affirming the voice we hear *belongs* to God also is a life-necessity?
Responding to my comments, Anita observed: "one more significant 'form' of the presence of God... silence 1 Kings... mmmm 19? Elijah, the caveman prophet, senses God in the silence."
Yes, I absolutely agree! Then, Anita, you said something really really interesting:
...When the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke, the words did not race, in fact, they sort of stepped out where I could "see" them, slowly persistently, never changing.

That's NOT a solid teaching, now is it?
I believe according to Scripture, your experience does reflect a pure, a solid teaching! Your experience of envisioning the words accords with what I call God's persistently sacramental action... you probably know the convention of calling the sacraments *visible words*? (Though I don't remember who began it, maybe Augustine?!) In interpreting scripture, Calvin and Luther both affirmed a God Who reveals his glory and majesty by pouring-out Himself onto all creation: do you know Luther's Eucharistic formula describing the real Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ as "in, with and under" the elements of bread and cup? God's self-revelation in, with and under all creation is a model for the way God most often self-reveals, which is one of the many reasons we, the people of God, regularly need to gather around Word and Sacrament.

You began your Saturday, August 14 post with, "When in pursuit of God..." pursuing God? That's something we always need to do while still knowing God first searches for us (but you already knew that!); I trust when visions, sounds, relational events and history cause us to pause and ask how God was there and sometimes even if God was there is one of the multitude of manners in which God seeks us out!? Amen?!

Sometimes it's about signs and wonders, but more often it's about the presence our senses can attune to or occasionally the being-there-in-silence of the One Who in passionate risk has come to dwell with us and among us, to make us the People of God, the Holy Other yet Immanent One Who still lives with and among us!

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