Stepping Up Our Understanding of the Holy Spirit
a reflection by the Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
In the Age of the Holy Spirit, we no longer have the luxury of dumbing down God. “Jesus, my best friend” doesn’t really make sense any more (if it ever did). Even if it makes sense personally, it is a rather hard concept to share with a friend: “Hey, come to church with me, and I’ll introduce you to Jesus my best friend, and he’ll be your best friend too.” Why don’t you give that a try? Maybe we need to go back to God as “Oz” who made all things, does all things, sees all things, and is everywhere: “If you’re good, you’ll go to heaven, and if you’re bad you’ll go to hell. And if something bad happens to you, it is because Oz was mad.” That is a winning invitation if I’ve ever heard one. Or how about God as Santa Claus? “I’ll be good, Santa, if you bring me the things I want.” Frankly, that is a little more appealing—if only it worked. Then there is God the clock-maker, who made this ticking earth, and went on vacation. That is a convenient God if you want to acknowledge a “higher power” without having to have any accountability to THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS. To the non-believer, this far-away God is a shrug with no particular point, other than explaining the thing behind the big bang. And really, who cares about that? It certainly isn’t a compelling reason to go to church.
Best friend, Oz, Santa Claus, and clock-maker are all ways of knowing God or thinking about God. They are answers to questions about who God is, what God does, and how God works, but inadequate. So, when it comes to God, we believers generally tend to keep our mouths shut for fear of not having answers for the seekers asking questions. There is nothing worse, after all, than running across that cynical inquisitor who takes great pleasure in our not being able to answer the questions they ask. There is nothing more annoying than a supercilious atheist (whom you know to be rather thick about most things, or at least arrogant unto themselves) that can corner you over and over again about God.
I ran into one the other day. He said he was an atheist and had been for 85 years. “Wow,” I responded, “what a exhausting way to live.” He didn’t really have anything else to say. He looked drained. I ran into another atheist two weeks ago. He had gone to Jesuit schools through college and claimed a great respect for their learning and way of life. Episcopalians were also OK it turns out (probably because he was talking to one), but the Mars Hill guy—“He and guys like him are the reason not to believe in God.” And I thought, “Really? That means the Mars Hill guy probably has more control over your life than he had [read past tense here] over his parishioners when the church existed.”
So back to my point. In the Age of the Holy Spirit, we no longer have the luxury of dumbing down God. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The ideas and symbols for God should never be taken as synonymous with God.
- The truth of Christianity is not descriptive, but rather experiential.
- God is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be participated in.
- Good action is more important than objective truth.
Why do we go to church? It is an experiential symbol of our participation in the mystery of God. It is a reminder that God is a present, ongoing, unfolding experience, and church invites us, at least every seventh day, to remember the mystery.
We are going to keep talking and thinking about the Holy Spirit as a community, because I believe the Holy Spirit infuses us with the capacity to navigate and flourish in this networked, interconnected, yet highly decentralized and morally uncertain world. We are capable of opening up the mystery of God to those we meet. It isn’t simple, but it is worth it, not because we will then resolve our interlocutor’s spiritual inquiries, but because it draws us more deeply into the divine life of God. It opens in us the rivers of living water drawn from us by the Holy Spirit and this is a beautiful, worthy way to live.
The Launch Concert of the Epiphany Seattle Music Guild
The opening concert of a long series of music organized by the Music Guild will take place on May 22. Named “To Music,” the concert is inspired by Saint Cecilia, the ancient patron saint of music.
Epiphany Choir and staff singers
Erika Chang (soprano)
Zachary Finkelstein (tenor)
Gregory Lewis (baritone)
Tyler Morse (countertenor)
Linda Tsatsanis (soprano)
will be joined by noted Seattle performers
Naomi Kato (harp)
Henry Lebedinsky (harpsichord)
Ingrid Matthews (violin)
Nathan Whittaker (cello)
The concert will be followed by a reception in the Great Hall. Please join us and bring friends!
Free admission. Free-will offering at the door.
- “Jubilate Deo” by Henry Purcell, composed for Westminster Abbey’s 1694 St. Cecilia’s Day celebration.
- “Nine German Arias” by George Friderick Handel, composed during Handel’s stay in Italy, 1724–7.
- “Phoenix” by Peter Hallock, the Seattle composer’s story of the mythological bird that is cyclically regenerated from the ashes of its predecessor.
- “To Saint Cecilia” was composed in 1958 by the noted Pulitzer and Emmy award winner Norman Dello Joio.
New Service and Outreach Leadership
Since Holly Boone stepped down from leadership on the Service & Outreach team last fall, Eileen Riley and Mike Evans have stepped up to fill her shoes. Their first goal is to promote awareness of all the different ways Epiphany Parish is serving the community and the world and to invite parishioners to participate. Below Eileen and Mike introduce themselves. You can ask them questions any time, by email or at church on Sundays.
I am a life long Episcopalian, although I was more attendee than participant until joining Epiphany seven years ago. My introduction to ministry was helping to clean YWCA apartments with Ann Beck and her industrious volunteers. That led to my attending a meeting of the Social Action Committee at Charley and Linda Bush’s home for fellowship, planning, and the best coffee in Seattle. Then came my first Have a Heart dinner, and here I have landed, somewhat surprised.
Homelessness, hunger, and displacement are issues that have touched me ever since I moved to Seattle as a college student in 1979. The current ministries of Service and Outreach recognize and respond to these issues in various ways for various groups. I am looking forward to expanding the congregation’s knowledge of our activities and building on the theme of “Open Windows, Open Doors with Open Hearts,” as we grow beyond the Epiphany campus and strive to align our actions with God’s Kingdom.
Mike Evans is a Seattle native and grew up at Green Lake Methodist Church. Shortly after he married Barbara, they began attending Epiphany in the summer of 1968, and over the years, he has been involved with music and outreach projects on a regular basis.
The most notable and gratifying activity he has participated in recently was serving on the leadership team for a six-year (2006–2012) village development project in Guatemala with Agros International. Currently he serves on the board of Operation Nightwatch and is involved with issues around Israel/Palestine. In particular, Mike has made connections between Epiphany and Kids4Peace, an interfaith organization promoting dialogue between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim teens in Israel and around the world.
Still Looking for Hosts for Organ Students
There are only a couple students left who need housing for a few days at the end of May.
A group of music students specializing in organ performance from St. Olaf College in Minnesota are coming to the West Coast on an organ tour. They will be performing at St. Mark’s Cathedral after Compline on Sunday night and will visit some of the other instruments in the region. They may even do an informal recital on Epiphany’s two organs as well.
The group is looking for homestay housing in Seattle for two or three nights from May 29 to June 1. They would like to stay in groups of two or more. If you are willing and able to host a couple organ students, contact Mike Evans.
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
May 8, 2016
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
May 6: Celebration of Life for Earl Cahail
Please join us at 3:30 pm in the church for a service of celebration for the life of Earl Cahail, beloved parishioner and husband to Bobbie Spaeth.
May 7: Monthly Women’s Mini-Retreat
Carve out some time for prayer and community, questions, and conversation. Join the women of Epiphany on the first Saturday morning of the month at 9-11 am in the Fireside Room as we use Forward Day by Day to guide our exploration of Bible readings and prayer. Women of all ages and stages are invited! We enjoy some morning treats, share our faith and doubts, and support each other in our spiritual and temporal lives.
May 8: Adult Forum – Reconciliation in Ireland
During Formation Hour, 10–10:45 am in the Great Hall, Ben and Charissa Bradstreet visited Ireland last year and would like to share what they learned about reconciliation processes happening there.
May 15: Adult Forum – The Book of Revelation with Dr. Rob Wall
Dr. Wall is a Professor of New Testament at Seattle Pacific University who recently wrote a study series on the book of Revelation. During Formation Hour, 10-10:45 am in the Great Hall, hear Dr. Wall give an introduction to this apocalyptic book.
May 22: Adult Forum – The Book of Revelation with Dr. Leticia Guardiola-Saenz
Dr. Guardiola-Saenz is a Professor of Christian Scriptures at Seattle University who specializes in the writings of John the Apostle whom tradition says wrote the apocalyptic book or Revelation. Join us at 10-10:45 am in the Great Hall.
May 22: Concert – To Music!
The opening concert of a long series of music organized by the Music Guild will take place on May 22. Named “To Music,” the concert is inspired by Saint Cecilia, the ancient patron saint of music. Epiphany Choir and staff singers Erika Chang (soprano), Zachary Finkelstein (tenor), Gregory Lewis (baritone), Tyler Morse (countertenor), and Linda Tsatsanis (soprano) will be joined by noted Seattle instrumentalists. Free admission. Free-will offering at the door.
May 29: Farewell BBQ for Emily Linderman
As a way to appreciate Emily for her years of hard work, dedication, and all-around awesomeness, we’ll be having a cookout after the morning services, beginning around 12:15 pm. Emily will be preaching at all four services. If you would like to contribute to a “purse” for Emily, contact Chinn.