The third article of the creed begins with the words “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” This is the same Spirit who, before time began, moved over the face of the formless, chaotic deep, and when God spoke, acted to bring forth life—bringing into reality the very Word of God, Jesus Christ himself, the light and life of all things. We don’t know how the Spirit does all that she does, but we know that she does them because we experience them. The Spirit is the giver of life, the bringer of peace, the protector of good, and the counsel of wisdom. She is both meek yet mighty, quiet yet deafening, a fire and a wind. The Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate—these are names we use to describe her, yet even they are approximations to the mystery that is God’s very action in the life of creation. As we consider the Spirit, we consider not only what God is doing, but how God is doing it…and of course why, and perhaps for us, most importantly, for whom.
When we confess we believe in the Holy Spirit, we confess that we believe that God is the one who makes all these things possible—everything. It’s not our choosing, not some random happenstance, or some other cosmic coincidence that makes and sustains life. Belief in the Holy Spirit might be summed up in a nice simple expression, “God is God.” Nothing else occupies the place of God in all creation, known or unknown, and it’s only through God’s mercy, grace, and love that we come to understand more fully what that means—not only for the life of the world, but also for our very own selves.
Let us pray. May only God’s Word be spoken and may only God’s Word be heard; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
The words that we use every day, whether we’re talking or reading them, are more than merely shapes and sounds. They didn’t just come to us today out of the blue. Just like you, words have their own histories. We call the history of words “etymology,” which means “the study of truth.” The idea being that if you understand the meaning of the words you’re using, you’re in touch with the truth of things, in touch with reality. This isn’t to be confused with entomology, which is the study of bugs. When we study a word’s etymology, we’re looking at its history, how it’s been used down the ages, how maybe it’s changed in form and meaning, and how ultimately it came to us today. Looking at the etymology of a word can help us to use words with better precision and to say what we mean and mean what we say…
The English word “weird” comes to us from the Old English wyrd, which meant “destiny,” and itself was of Germanic origin. In Middle English, the adjective “weird” originally meant to have control over destiny, and was used especially in the Weird Sisters, originally referring to the Fates of Ancient Greece, and later the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was Shakespeare’s usage who gave rise to the sense of something weird being something unearthly, strange, bizarre, or quirky.
Kids can be cruel—especially elementary age kids. When I was in elementary school, there were the weird kids. They were the ones that weren’t included in things by the other kids. At recess, they’d be left to play by themselves, or with the other weird kids, the ones who the rest of the school deemed strange, wacky, or freaky. And you didn’t want to be associated with the weird kids, for fear that you’d be considered weird yourself.
Oftentimes, the weird kids were the butt of jokes or pranks, got picked on, or were simply the target of meanness. Something about them made everyone behave like they shouldn’t be part of the “normal” crowd. Sadly, some of that holds over into adulthood, but often the weird kids are vindicated because they learn from little on up from the School of Hard Knocks how to get by and ultimately, how to succeed. What’s more, they also learn the importance of relying on others to help them, particularly making friends with teachers and other adults, and that turns out down the road to be advantageous when it comes time to fill out college applications or ask for job references. Either way, the weird kids were different. They were off to the side, set apart from the rest of the kids.
The Holy Spirit is weird. Often when we don’t know how to describe what God is doing today in our lives, how exactly to explain what’s going on, but we know that God is active in our lives, we’ll say that it’s the Holy Spirit who’s at work. The Holy Spirit gets the credit for everything that happens that seems quirky, bizarre, strange, or different.
The reason for this is because the Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation, the one who imparts to us the benefits of Jesus’ saving work for us—his becoming flesh, his living among, his suffering and dying, his rising, and his ascending to heaven again. The Holy Spirit inspires us, fills us with herself, with the breath of life, and everything that God does in creation in, with, and through Jesus becomes true for us. And sometimes that’s going to look pretty strange, the way that it manifests itself—because God doesn’t choose to operate in ways that the wisdom of this world would say are “normal.” God chooses to act in the very opposite of the ways we’d expect. And that’s weird.
When we think of something that is holy or sacred, it’s something that is set apart. Bread and wine at communion isn’t your run-of-the-mill bread and wine. It’s the body and blood of Jesus—by the action of the Holy Spirit. It’s set apart, holy, sacred, special—weird. Water in baptism isn’t your run-of-the-mill water. It’s the womb of new birth into Christ’s death and resurrection—by the action of the Holy Spirit. It’s set apart, holy, sacred, special—weird. Words spoken in absolution, in the reading of Scripture, in preaching aren’t your run-of-the-mill words. They’re the Word of God, speaking life to death and hope to despair—by the action of the Holy Spirit. They’re set apart, holy, sacred, special—weird. And those whom the Holy Spirit has called by love and filled with all good things from God in Jesus aren’t your run-of-the-mill people. They’re the body of Christ, the church of God—by the action of the Holy Spirit. They’re set apart, holy, sacred, special—weird.
You’re set apart, holy, sacred, special—weird.
You are the body of Christ, the church of God—called by love, fed by the Word, and sent to love and care for all things the way he did, in a way that doesn’t put yourself first but reflects the self-giving love of God in Jesus. And that sacrifice, that willingness to put yourself second—that’s weird. It’s not what popular wisdom says is what you’re supposed to do. In fact, it’s the very opposite. Yet it’s precisely the way that God chooses to work the peace that passes all understanding, God’s own peace. The striving, the conniving, the backchanneling, the gossiping, the jockeying, the showboating, the backbiting—none of these things will in the end produce faith, hope, or love. These earthly concerns lead us only to despair and death.
But the unearthly things—the way of God in patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—they show us a still better way, show us an unearthly way. They show us the weird way. They show us the way set apart, holy and sacred, and the Holy Spirit, the Weird One, leads us daily along this way, giving us what we need to trust that although this world is against us, God is with us. God has made you in his imaged, reached out in your need, and set you apart in ways that can only be described as strange and unexpected. You’re one of the weird kids, holy and sacred before God, precious in his sight, and thanks be to God for that.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.