On Christmas morning we celebrated the one who according to the Biblical story was born of a virgin. It seemed to me that an aspect of the birth was not told. I did not hear of the Holy Spirit over-shadowing the young womn to impregnate her, thus preparing her to give birth without knowing a man. The young woman was so unaware of the miracle within her that an angel had to inform her.
At age thirty the Holy Spirit came on Jesus at the time of his baptism. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. Returning to his home synagogue in Nazareth Jesus proclaimed the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
A teacher came to Jesus to learn. Jesus taught him that any one who sees and enters the Kingdom must first be impregnated by the Spirit and born again. A teacher should have known that the Spirit cannot be seen. Like the wind, God’s Spirit blows as it chooses. Like wind, Spirit is mysterious. Spirit and Wind are translations of the same Greek word and are alike.
On the way to Gethsemane Jesus promised the disciples that when the Spirit of truth comes he will bring him to their remembrance, guide them into all the truth and will tell them what is yet to come.
This morning I delved into the 10 most influential articles in The Mennonite in 2016 as determined by its staff. This led me to Isaac Villegas’s reasons of his actions that led to the revoking of his ministerial credentials. He said that he would be denying God’s call in his life if he were to reject the communities discernment of the Spirit’s leading. He quoted St. Paul, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21). Villegas reported that he and the community discerned that lives of LGBTQI Christians were good, and should be held fast, bound as they were in the same body through Jesus Christ.
Villegas noted that he was not discovering something new. Others guided by the same Spirit had already officiated same-sex weddings: Loris Habegger, Joanna Harader, Sheri Hostetler, Cynthia Lapp, Weldon Nisly, Megan Ramer, Vernon Rempel, Karl Shelly, Tim Stair, Kathleen Temple, Helen Wells O’Brian, Chester Wenger, Amy Yoder McGloughlin, and other ministers not named in public.
Valligas believes a tradition begun with our original denominational conversations about sexuality makes space for LGBTQI Mennonites. In the 1986 (Saskatoon) and 1987 (Purdue) statements delegates covenanted with each other to mutually bear the burden of remaining in loving dialogue (while) expecting the Holy Spirit to lead them to further truth and repentance.
In Denver, on December 11, Theda Good was ordained to a pastoral role in her congregation. She is the first LGBTQ member of the church to be ordained. Villegas assisted local conference leaders in the ordination. He said he wanted to be involved in Theda’s ordination to celebrate her ministry because he realized that ordination is a way of recognizing that the Holy Spirit is at work in somebody’s life and ministry. He said he was grateful for the recognition of what the “Spirit has done, is doing and will do in her life.”
Without a vote, Villegas continues to have a powerful voice. He preached the ordination sermon based on the lectionary text for the day, Mary’s Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55. Villegas used Mary’s statement “My soul magnifies the Lord” to explore the role of a minister.
This blog magnifies the mysterious way the Holy Spirit continues to over-shadow and impregnate, to teach today’s church, to guide it into the future and to remember Jesus. That is part of what the Spirit was up to in 2016.