The Bible isn’t so much a book as a small library, written and compiled over centuries by people who simply wanted to pass on their experience of faith. It is helpful to remember this when considering the Spirit in the Scriptures because in the different books, written at different times and in different styles the authors were not all simply repeating the same thing about God or the Spirit. Sometimes, they spoke to God (as in the Psalms) but often they were sharing with each other a word of hope or encouragement (as in the prophets). In this quotation from the Prophet Haggai, writing around the year 520 BC, a despondent people who have been through the ravages of war and exile are being encouraged not to be afraid to start over, to make a new beginning and to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. In their history as the people of God they found different ways to acknowledge that the God of Hosts, the Creator of all, Yahweh their Lord was with them. A primary focus was the Temple, but he was also with them through their anointed king and bound to them through covenant. Now on their return from exile there is no temple, they have no king and they fear the covenant is in tatters. Yet among them is a prophet who feels compelled to remind them of the core of their identity: trust in the faithfulness of God. His presence is not limited to places or institutions, however holy. It is the breath or Spirit of God that gives them life – this is their reason for being, this is their hope for the future so there is no need for fear.
Can this prophetic word speak to us in 2020, and to a world on its knees because of an epidemic that has brought death, fear and uncertainty? Yes, we believe that the breath of God is the reason why something, rather than nothing, exists. God is the source of all and abides in creation through his Spirit. This is the same Spirit that compelled Jesus to proclaim God’s reign and that raised him from death to new life in the resurrection. This is the Spirit we invoke this Pentecost, a Spirit to heal us and raise us up.
Our hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5)
God of Presence, with us here and now,through your abiding Spirit, open our minds and hearts to learn from the times we are living through. May the hard lessons of these days teach us how to prepare for a better tomorrow in which the peoples of the earth share their gifts for the well-being of all. Take away our fear of the future and gives us courage to rebuild our world as the temple of your Presence. Amen