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of Concord, page 439; Fortress Press, 2000).

Rivera: Word and sacrament aren’t two separate ways to God but two means of experi- encing the pres- ence of the Living Christ, as Living Spirit, with us and in us. The sacra- ments have their origin and reason in Jesus Christ. The sacraments are “means of grace.”

It is the gospel that lies behind them and works through them. They convey to us the promise of

ple tend to speak in generalities when it comes to the Spirit’s presence and activity. However, in Scripture, God the Spirit seems to be, or chooses to be, in very specific places and times, relating to very specific people, and doing very specific things—for God’s own reasons—in order to make that presence concrete and real, believed as well as celebrated.

Stjerna: Luther points to the Spirit’s creative working for our benefit through the communion of Chris- tians, a.k.a. church, and particularly in the personal experience of forgive- ness, before eventually leading us through the resurrection to the life everlasting.

“All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, to begin and daily increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Chris- tian church and the forgiveness of sins” (Large Catechism in The Book

the gospel. That promise, understood primarily as the forgiveness of sins, is also and at the same time the promise of the presence, comfort and guid- ance of the Spirit for life. We could say that this promise of the Spirit’s presence is given and renewed for us, time and again, as we participate in the sacraments.

Stjerna: When we talk about the Spirit, then, we can acknowledge God’s gracious presence— there can be no negative experience of the Spirit.

In that, we recognize God the Spirit coming to us personally, in the word and sacrament, and creating in us faith that we need. With the Spirit we also believe in God’s full presence in our lives. With the all-present and all-powerful Spirit in the equation, we can appreciate God’s presence possible for me and for you, equally, in every aspect of our lives, without

our doing.

Furthermore, with the Spirit, all that God has in store for us becomes ours—because the Spirit is God, not just part of God.

Rivera: Your reference to God’s “full presence” reminds me of Paul’s use of “fullness” in Colossians, speaking of God’s fullness in a body, in Jesus’ humanity. How do we speak of that fullness in us through the Spirit? First, through faith—the faith that puts all trust in this loving God who truly cares for us and dwells with us. Faith believes in God’s gracious presence, in the God who, purely out of love, gives attention to those who are most in need, whatever the need, without invalidating the expression of that love for all. To speak of God’s particularity toward sinners, to those in need, shows God to be attentive to real people with real needs and in real time. God, with gracious presence, purely out of love, comes to the help of all who need God, showing care for those who need it most, to the ones who can least do anything for themselves.

This is the God who chooses to be in the least expected places, show- ing favor to undeserving sinners and those who can’t help themselves. In all of this, we see the surprising activ- ity of the Spirit in the world.

Stjerna: So instead of worrying “if” the Spirit is present in our lives and how we might “experience” it at different times, our concern should rather be “then what?” Recognizing our baptism as the tangible moment when the Spirit arrives into our per- sonal lives and awareness, never to be absent from our comings and goings, how can we make a difference where we dwell and travel? After all, life with the Spirit involves us intimately in God’s work in the world—love. 

May 2012 19


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