This series is intended to be a public conversation among teaching theologians of the ELCA on various themes of our faith and the challenging issues of our day. It invites readers to engage and dialogue with the ELCA's teaching theologians. The series is edited by Philip D.W. Krey, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, on behalf of the presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries.
Kirsi Stjerna: When I think of the words "Holy Spirit," I remember being told as a (Lutheran) teen that it isn't enough for a Christian to be baptized with water, or even to "say yes to Jesus," but that I needed also to be baptized by the Spirit to be holy and saved. What kind of experience would that be exactly?
In my search for a personal and unmistakable experience of the Spirit, I witnessed some people so struck by God's Spirit that it made them cry, sing, speak in tongues, prophesy, repent and fall on their knees. Some spoke of the Spirit with fondness and passion, as someone they knew. I wondered whether we could invoke the Spirit to enter our lives — and how we would know when it happened.
Nelson Rivera: Like you, I was told of the need to experience the Spirit personally, whether through a new "baptism" or through a life of sanctity, performing many good works and doing lots of prayer.
I began to think differently about the Spirit only after listening to Lutheran preaching and then reading Martin Luther by myself. It was primarily the emphasis on the basic inseparability of the word of God and the Spirit of God that did it for me. The Spirit makes the word effective or truly present in one's mind and heart. Therefore, thinking of the Spirit as the power of the word (as gospel, as proclamation) to convince, to change minds and hearts, was among my earliest convictions as a (new) Lutheran.
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