The manifestations of the spirit are truly wondrous and as varied as creation itself. The living spirit grows and even outgrows its earlier expressions. It freely chooses men and women in whom it lives and who proclaim it. This living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of humankind. Measured against it the names and forms given it mean little enough. They are only the changing leaves that blossom on the stem of the eternal tree.
Paul speaks often of the gifts given to those who follow Christ. He says there are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit. Our gifts are given by and are the gifts of the Spirit, the Spirit of God in Christ. This Spirit pervades all of Paul’s writing as a life-changing experience, as his in-spiration and as the thread that weaves it way through his thoughts. You could say it is the underpinning of his theology. For surely it is the source of his new way of understanding faith. It is this same Spirit that is the source of our new life in Christ as well. Just as the breath of God was the source of life in the beginning. It is this same breath of God, the Spirit of Christ Jesus that has brought a new way, an enlarged way, of life, the life of Christ that breathes within us.
But what is this Spirit? A bird hovering around in the sky? Some unseen nebulous being? Can we see it? Touch it? Paul likens this Spirit to a wind that blows, blows where it will. So the first quality of the Spirit is freedom. And to the extent it lives in us we have a freedom unbounded in Jesus the Christ. A freedom for life, a freedom for living.
I recently heard someone speak of the Spirit as an entity. Apparently there is a theological discipline dedicated to this inquiry. My day job is in Corporate America, in what is called corporate governance. In that realm an entity is how a company or corporation is categorized. The church also defines the Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity. A Person with a wholly singular way of being in the one triune deity.
Paul speaks in another way when he refers to the Spirit. We’ve just read him talking about becoming perfect. Perfect as God is perfect. I take the meaning of perfect here not as a striving or attaining perfection, but of coming to wholeness. The way in which God is whole is the way God is perfect. In the gospels Jesus’ healing of the physical ailments created in that person well-being, freedom from dis-ease, freed to the possibility of the wholeness that is the mark of the Spirit. It was a symbolic gesture that signified in the touch of Jesus the outer healing as it made way for inner healing and wholeness. A wholeness as the well-being that freed the life of the Spirit within that person.
Carl Jung, the son of a minister, in his psychology describes the living spirit as the energies that bring us to wholeness. It is this living Spirit that is the energies itself that make life possible. It is this Spirit that we see in Paul as his enthusiasm, (his en-theos, being in God) for the new way of being, the experience of God in Christ that he experienced in the risen Christ. As one Jungian put it God is our experience of the energies that make us whole. The Spirit then Paul talks about is this same energy that not only makes life possible in the new faith in Christ but is also the abiding Spirit that sustains and impels us onward towards the source and origins of our lives. In Christ this Spirit is available to us in each moment of our lives. As temples we carry this Spirit in our hidden selves, in the unseen holy precincts of our being. The new life Paul says we are called to is this new way of being in Christ, funded by his Spirit. It is the energies of the Spirit at work in us to incarnate, to realize, in humanity, the depths of God, the fullness of our being, as the religious endeavor to which we are all called.
Paul life’s purpose was to incarnate the Christ-self within the people of the Way and to extend it out into the world. Jesus said it himself: I am the Way that brings the Truth that gives Life. In each moment of our lives this living Spirit is manifest in creation, in ourselves, in others; the real work, the real Way, of our lives then is to come to this awareness so that we are available to the living Spirit moving in our lives, however it reveals itself, and like Paul, to use our gifts to incarnate the experience of the living God in image and likeness, the real image and likeness that of Jesus the Christ.