May 15, 2016–Of Spirits and the Spirit

Posted on May 10, 2016 by faithlens

Jen Krausz, Bethlehem, PA

 

Warm-up Question

Why do you think people are so interested in the supernatural—including ghosts, demons, zombies, and superheroes?

Of Spirits and the Spirit

Some of today’s most popular television shows and movies are built around belief in the supernatural, which reflects what Americans say they believe about otherworldly occurrences. Shows like Supernatural, The Walking Dead, and The Flash, along with movies like the hugely popular Avengers and Star Wars franchises all feature characters with powers normal humans don’t possess.

shutterstock_49349431A LiveScience infographic states that 56% of Americans surveyed believe that ghosts are spirits of the dead, and 55% believe in psychic or spiritual healing. 42% believe that people on Earth are sometimes possessed by the devil, and a whopping 71% believe that they have had a paranormal experience in their lives.

Richard Wiseman, author of the book Paranormality, has studied people’s beliefs about paranormal activity as well as the science behind some of these occurrences. “These beliefs are very comforting,” Wiseman told LifeScience. “If you’re ill, then the idea of the psychic healer is a nice idea.”

Beliefs in ghosts and hauntings may not be nearly as comforting, but arise from fear and hyper-vigilance that sometimes makes us see things that may not be there. Surprisingly, those who are more educated often have more beliefs in the paranormal than others. And being religious doesn’t always mean you don’t believe in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. A 2009 Pew Research study showed that half of Catholics and black Protestants believed in or felt they had experienced at least two supernatural phenomena listed.

People want to believe in supernatural phenomena because it shows that there are bigger forces at work than just what the eye can see or science can quantify. Although beliefs in ghosts or zombies may be misplaced according to science, the world is a vast place that contains much more than one person could ever experience in a lifetime.

Discussion Questions

  • How have your beliefs about supernatural occurrences changed over time?
  • Has anything ever happened to you that you can’t quite explain logically? If so, what happened?
  • Do scientific explanations of paranormal happenings satisfy you, or disappoint you? Why?

Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21

Romans 8:14-17

John 14:8-17 [25-27]

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

 

Gospel Reflection

The entire Trinity appears in these verses, as Jesus explains to the disciples that the Father and he are one. Jesus then tells them about the Spirit of truth that will come to them when he has gone to the Father. Just as the Father lived in Jesus and did his work through Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in us and does God’s work through us.

Jesus promises in these verses that the Holy Spirit

–advocates for us (helps us),

–teaches us,

–lives in us,

–helps us remember the things Jesus said.

Jesus tells the disciples that they will do even greater things than the things Jesus did, and it is the Holy Spirit that enables them (and us) to do these things. What great things are you doing through the power of the Holy Spirit? I know, me neither. I think we often forget about the Holy Spirit and instead rely on our own strength to try to accomplish the things of God, but God gives us the Holy Spirit because he knows we aren’t strong enough to accomplish these things on our own strength.

God is supernatural, and the Holy Spirit is how that supernatural power is expressed to humanity. So many people are more than ready to believe in ghosts, zombies, vampires, and psychics, but as Jesus says in verse 17, the world cannot accept the Holy Spirit, who has real power and truth because he is from God.

As Christians, we need to think carefully about where we choose to place our faith. Yes, supernatural things are attractive, but let’s not settle for a counterfeit that is devoid of any real power. It is not a coincidence that these verses end with a promise of peace such as the world cannot give.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do ghosts, zombies, etc., often seem more attractive than the true supernatural beings (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit)?
  • Have you ever felt the power of the Holy Spirit? What was that like?
  • Why does Jesus say that the world can’t accept the Holy Spirit? (hint: it’s in verse 17) What do you think keeps people from accepting him?

Activity Suggestions

The Holy Spirit is commonly depicted as wind, fire, or a dove. Draw a picture or write a description of the Holy Spirit as you have experienced him or heard about him. Ask for permission to display your art somewhere in your church.

Closing Prayer

Father God, we thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us. We ask you to fill us with the Spirit’s power to do your work here on earth. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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