Sunday, June 12, 2011

It Is What It Is, And It Is Sweet.

Today we celebrated Pentecost and our rector's retirement. It was a day that was blessedly free of controversy with the only surprise coming when the rector, in trying to explain a gender neutral Holy Spirit, stated that not only did conservatives get it wrong in trying to make the Spirit masculine, but the feminists got it wrong in trying to make the Spirit feminine. A jab at feminists from the pulpit! Now that was a first.

Today's readings also support the gender neutral or maybe a non-gender vision of the Holy Spirit since when Christians talk about the Spirit we usually are dealing with the New Testament greek translation which is more in keeping with the Spirit as "It."

1 Corinthians 12:3-13
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Acts 2:1-21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

John 20:19-23
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
After 14 years, we can agree on something.



  1. Parakletos is a masculine pronoun, referring to the Holy Spirit in His function on behalf of believers. Pneuma is neutral because it can is less specific.

    This might be helpful.

  2. Thanks Chuck,

    I'm waiting to hear from the feminine spirit side.

  3. Anonymous1:49 PM

    The only problem with rendering something/someone gender neutral is the loss of personality. How does one have a (personal) relationship with "it"?

    Robert+ (can't remember "secret" code)

  4. Robert+,

    Perhaps that is why other languages such as French apply gender to inaminate objects. For example, why is "table," "la table?"

    On second thought, don't answer that question, but I will think twice before setting anything down on my table.

  5. Pneuma is neutral in the same sense as "child." There is very definitely a personality involved; it just isn't gender specific where the particular word pneuma is used.

  6. Anonymous1:36 AM

    agree with Chuck. Neutral does not depersonalize. There is no place in the NT where the Spirit is characterized as a depersonalized force.

  7. It appears that "It" can be personal, genderless, or gendered.