We are finishing up our study of the Apostles' Creed today, and we may think, "there are several lines left!" And they all seem to be unrelated parts in a laundry list of leftovers. Shouldn't we be spending a week on each of these items? Also, the line on the Holy Spirit just seems to be sitting out there all isolated. That's a third of the Trinity! Shouldn't he get at least as much face time as God the Father? Here are the lines in question:
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
See, it looks like a laundry list of catch-alls. And the Holy Spirit is just given a mention, as if we are supposed to believe in Him without really understanding who He is. Well, it just so happens that these six items are not a laundry list but are all about the Holy Spirit. The five lines beneath the Holy Spirit line are the attributes of the Spirit in how He relates to us. All of these items are about us, and our relationship with God--things that happen directly to us. When we say we are filled with the Holy Spirit, or we have the Holy Spirit, we are not saying that God has blown us up like a balloon or that we have have gotten a jolt of electricity from God. We are saying that our souls, which never diminishes in us (because our soul is our true self), has been knitted together with God's Spirit, which communicates directly with our souls. As Christians, we are in direct communion with the creator of the universe. Our souls have been knitted with His soul, and the five attributes that are listed here are directly related to us, because they are directly related to our souls interacting with God's soul--His Holy Spirit.
The holy catholic church. Note the small "c". We are not claiming to be Roman Catholics here. When something is catholic it is "correct." We are saying that we believe in the correct church, God's church, the members of which he can see. The universal church, which transcends denominations and self-professing Christians everywhere, and is the actual church. Somewhere there is a tribal native hearing the gospel from a missionary for the first time. This individual is looking to the Lord now, instead of his ancestors, or whatever he worshiped instead. As Isaiah writes, "Look to me and be saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other." Anyone who looks to God for salvation is now a part of this universal, catholic church. The problem is our natural proclivity is to not WANT to be a part of this church. Only the Holy Spirit informing our sols of the truth draws us into the holy catholic church.
Likewise with the communion of saints. Whereas the holy catholic church is the universal church here on earth, the communion of the saints is the holy catholic church throughout TIME. And communion means exactly what we do here each Sunday. We're not just "in a relationship" with the saints throughout history. Saints are Christians, believing members of the holy catholic church, and when we have communion here each Sunday, our table is transported up to heaven, and the heavenly feast table is transported down, and we meet, and the saints are there, and they are watching, and they are communing with us. When I say the Eucharistic prayer later, note that what I'm asking for is the work of the Holy Spirit to happen in this room, to take this communion with the saints into the heavenly realm.
The forgiveness of sins. We can turn to the Lord's Prayer for help here. We forgive others' sins, not because we want God to forgive us, or because God refuses to forgive us, if we don't forgive others first. However, if the concept of forgiveness is alien to us, and that may sound weird, but I think it is an epidemic today that we really don't know what forgiveness means. People ask me all the time how I am able to act normally around certain people. They are baffled, and that is because forgiveness is an alien concept. If we don't know what it means, we will not accept it when it is offered to us by other people, and from God. Once again, without the Holy Spirit, we are not only unable to forgive, but we have complete ignorance of the concept of forgiveness, no matter how often pop psychology tries to define it for us. Real forgiveness is biblical, and it is a gift from the Holy Spirit.
The resurrection of the body. This concept separates Christianity from every other religion on the planet. No other religion believes in the resurrection of a physical body. When Jesus rose on the third day, the disciples though he was a ghost. They had to touch him and watch him eat in order to believe that he had a physical body. Our own bodies are going to decompose, and when they are restored, the Holy Spirit is there to put us back in place. Once again, God is connected to us--his spirit to ours--and just as he created all things, he sustains all things, and he restores all things, keeping track of the details through the Holy Spirit. Every hair on our heads is numbered: this isn't just a statement of love and intimacy. God keeps track of our physical bodies in just that amount of detail, so he can restore it perfectly, with the addition of our new bodies being imperishable and everlasting.
Finally, the life everlasting. Not much needs to be said about this, because it is self-explanatory. However, this needs to be said. Jesus punched a hole in the wall of death that we all hit. This hole he punched through leads to the other side, where a whole new existence awaits us. This is the life everlasting, but the way Jesus punched is narrow, too narrow for us to find. The Holy Spirit, that life line that is knitted to our souls, is the connection through that little hole. We will always be able to find the hole as long as we are connected to the Holy Spirit, as long as God's spirit and ours are one. That knitted bond is everlasting, too. It will never corrupt or break. And God draws us through that narrow way using the lifeline of his Holy Spirit.
All of these things--the church on earth, the church throughout time, reconciliation, our bodies, our souls, our lives--all are dependent on the Holy Spirit working in us, knitted with our souls, connecting us to the Father through the Son. Let us say this Apostles' Creed with confidence that we know what it means.