Of Western-ness and Burning Bushes

I recently stumbled upon something – a letter about a part of the Creed – I wrote in January 2007. I liked it and thought to share it:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy, catholic church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting. Amen

I believe in the Holy Spirit…
Why does Jesus get so many lines in the creed and the Holy Spirit just one?
The Holy Spirit always seems to get the short end of the stick in discussions involving the Trinity. The academic part of me knows this may be because Jesus was the “hot topic” of the day when the creed was written; with all the heresies abounding to claim him as one thing or another there was a need for a unifying statement of faith. But the other part of me thinks that surely the Holy Spirit deserves more than just an “I believe in the Holy Spirit”. Is not the Holy Spirit one of the more real aspects of the Trinity for us today? We can’t see God the Father or Jesus directly (although I suppose we don’t actually see the Holy Spirit either), but in terms of the Holy Spirit, we often speak of experiencing him in a real way in our daily lives. Jesus told his disciples when he left that he would send his Holy Spirit to them, and, by extension, to us. So if the Holy Spirit is with us on a daily basis, it should merit much more in the way of discussion than just a single line!
Frequently the Holy Spirit misses out in discussions and the like because we don’t really understand him. However, do we understand God either? Or Jesus? I suppose if faith depended on understanding, I would be out of luck. I do know, however, that we would be lost but for the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The holy, catholic church
One of the things I have loved when travelling is visiting other churches. I love the catholic-ness, the worldwide-ness of the church and family of God; I love how the same God may be encountered worldwide by people of different nationalities and traditions. It was this catholic-ness of the church that really opened my Chinese language partner’s eyes this summer when she realised that Christianity was not exclusively a Western religion, but was and is worldwide. It is this catholic-ness that I experienced this year when I was communing in a multinational missionary church service in Xining, China; a Danish service in Copenhagen; a German service in Wolfsburg; a Dutch service in Amsterdam; an English-German service in Freiburg; an English service in London; a French service in Montreal; and the fellowship of my own part of the body in Victoria. Wow! We were all reading from the same Bible and speaking of the same God – sometimes even singing the same songs tho in different languages. This is truly The Communion of saints in a world-wide manner. The ideal, which, sadly, is often not realised, is a worldwide church; not divided or segregated from itself but set apart for God as holy.

The forgiveness of sins
Where would I be if this was not so?!? I do not want to contemplate.

The resurrection of the body, And the life everlasting.
I look forward to it.
I have been rereading one of my favourite trilogies this week and it has been like sitting down with an old friend. It is one that belonged to my mum and that is probably part of the value of it to me – her notes are on many of the pages and reading it is a glimpse into her thoughts which I don’t otherwise get anymore. In it, the author talks of our oneness, not as a group of people, but as a self. The oneness of ourself and our being. What she speaks of is what I look forward to at the resurrection of the
body.

The burning bush: somehow I visualize it as much like one of these blueberry bushes. The bush burned, was alive with flame and was not consumed. Why? Isn’t it because, as a bush, it was perfect? It was exactly as a bush is meant to be. A bush doesn’t have the opportunity for prideful and selfish choices, for self-destruction, that we human beings do. It is. It is a pure example of ontolgy. Ecology — ontology — the words fascinate me. Ontology is one of my son-in-law’s favourite words, and I’m apt to get drunk on words, to go on jags; ontology is my jag for this summer, and I’m grateful to Alan for it — as for so much else. Ontology: the word about the essence of things; the word about being.
I go into the brook because I get out of being, out of the essential. So I’m not like the bush, then. I put all my prickliness, selfishness, in-turnness, onto my isness; we all tend to, and when we burn, this part of us is consumed. When I go past the tallest blueberry bush, where my twine is tied to one of the branches, I think that the part of us that has to be burned away is something like the deadwood on the bush; it has to go, to be burned in the terrible fire of reality, until there is nothing left but our ontological selves; what we are meant to be. (A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle)

Nothing left but our ontological selves. What we are meant to be.

Amen. So be it.

Grace and peace,
Gillian

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