Despite some technical juggling the NuDunkers just wrapped up a hangout. We had a great time thinking together about the Holy Spirit. If you caught the first introductory hangout, you might know that pneumatology (theology of the Holy Spirit) was the impetus behind getting Dana, Brian, Andy, and myself talking and eventually starting NuDunkers.
In my travels over the last year I have been struck by just how many communities within the Church of the Brethren were gathering together around the theme of the Holy Spirit. In each of these settings, I noticed that Spirit language was common, but there was clearly a range of understandings about just what the Spirit does within out midst. As Dana said in our hangout, there is a clear drive to systematize just about everything in theology, and I want to avoid too rigid of a box. But still, it is interesting that a group of Non-Creedal Christians like the Brethren still maintain a Trinitarian frame to understanding God.
So just what is it that we are talking about with all this Holy Spirit language?
From our conversation I noticed two themes– the organizing and connecting nature of the Holy Spirit on one hand, and its unpredictable or beautiful chaos on the other.
Just as the Spirit of God blew across the water in the first days of creation, the Spirit works among us today bringing order out of the chaos of our own making. We often think that it is our institutional structures that keep us together. Yet it doesn’t take long in church life to see just how little boards and by-laws actually do. There is much in our shared life that is defined by and impacted by our relationship, conflicts, desires, and previous commitments. Or as some have said, their isn’t good rule that isn’t made to be broken.
So what keeps these people coming back together week after week despite differences? Anthropologists would tell us it is the impulse to community or the familiar, but I think theologians point to ways the Holy Spirit keeps us connected. In our shared baptism, the minister lays hands on us after immersion in the water to pray for the Spirit’s gracious presence to confirm the confession of faith. It is that shared access to God that links us together. Thus, by praying together, offering our supplications to God through the intercessions of the Spirit (Romans 8) we are brought together in ways that legislation simply cannot.
At the same time, though, the Holy Spirit “troubles the waters,” as the old spiritual reminds us. With all of our planning and organizing, working to sustain our faith through institutions the Spirit leads us beyond our plans. Supporting and connecting then, are not produced by our efforts, but by the Spirit. And that same Spirit has ways of going and coming that challenge our own attempts to nail it down. To us, that aspect of the Spirit’s movement appears as pure chaos compared to our attempts to order our shared life.
That is where the hangout conversation most struck me. In the conversation that took place on the event page, the term came up that best describes the Holy Spirit’s work- Beautiful Chaos. Beauty has a logic all its own and in many ways, what is deemed beautiful defies linear explanation. Chaos, even the grotesque, can have a kind of beauty to the eye. In those cases, logic and systematization cannot prevail. Rather, it is the sense of awe in the midst of lines, colors, shapes, textures, and perspective.
In the midst of the Spirit’s chaos we cannot help but stand in awe. It confounds even the wisest of persons. It reaches beyond our minds’ attempt to understand and to order. And yet, it comforts and convicts still the same. It is our link to God, by as individuals and a community or faith. It sustains. It empowers. And it guides us into the ways of God- here and now. That is beautiful chaos.