Paul has asked me to talk briefly about how I experience the Holy Spirit in my life.  I suppose he’s asked me because I’m here at church so often, he figures it must be the Holy Spirit that keeps finding things for me to do to keep bringing me back!

Growing up in the rectory, it was a day to day occurrence to watch both my parents respond to requests for help from parishioners and strangers alike.  It could have been a phone call in the middle of the night, or a beggar at the door.  In addition to the outreach they did as professionals, they were both very involved in community service and served on several agency boards.   

So volunteering and reaching out to those in need feels very natural to me.   Sometimes that plays out by growing veggies for the food pantry, or it could be making connections to invite a local agency or church to join our congregation for a friendly meal.  It could also be reaching out to church or community friends, just to connect, and to let them know someone is thinking of them.  Is it my parents…standing behind me, whispering in my ear and encouraging me to reach out?  Or is it the Holy Spirit? I’d suggest it’s probably both.

A few years before I retired from my job in mental health, l joined several others to begin the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Project.  The more research I did, the more I was touched by the stories of those 2,000 state hospital patients who were buried and forgotten in two lost and neglected cemeteries in South Toledo. Buried anonymously, under markers with only a number, I now know all their names, I mourn for them all, and celebrate them all.  My hope is that telling their stories will help people understand the incredible advances in treatment that have taken place, and help them see mental illness as a treatable medical condition, rather than as a personal failure.  The volunteers who have joined since then, share the same passion and vision.  I’d say the Holy Spirit has been busy working within our entire group!      (on a side note, visit my state hospital facebook page by searching for TSH Cemeteries to read the most amazing stories about the history of psychiatric care!) 

There are two other things I do that are heavily influenced by the Holy Spirit.  Playing the organ was a natural fit for me as I grew up, combining my musical skills with my love of church.  But it’s more than that. Working on a challenging piece of music and playing it well is fulfilling, not in a prideful way, but as a joyous statement of the beauty of sound in God’s amazing world.  Each prelude and postlude is a statement of my faith, a sermonette, much like this one, but spoken with music instead of words.  And then there’s hymn playing, which is more than just playing notes from a page in the hymnal.  It’s about taking the lyrics and communicating their meaning through creative sound.  It’s about inspiring the congregation to hear the intention of the hymn as they sing. By allowing myself to be guided as I play, I hopefully send the Holy Spirit out to the congregation as well. 

And lastly, I wear the hat of a gardener.  Taking the beauty that God has created, I “rearrange” it into garden beds that honor God’s gift to us of flowers, bushes and trees.  It’s my way of saying thank you to God, whether those beds are at my home, at someone else’s home, or here at St. Paul’s.  But especially here, in the church grounds…creating a lovely garden space is a lot like saying a powerful prayer, or playing a powerful postlude.  It’s yet another way for me to express my faith, to gaze upon the beauty God has given us, and sometimes to say “Bam!”  And other times, it comes out, “Amen.”  

So I wear a lot of hats, both here at St. Paul’s and in my personal life.  I expect that each of you has a sizable millinery collection of your own too, no doubt. The shape and style of your hats may be different than mine, but we all wear them.  We put them on and change them up over time, wearing them as we serve the community in so many ways.  Why?  Because, as Christians, we are called to do so. 

After doing a little research, I found a quote from Colossians 3:12-17 that conveyed a message about “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” that I thought would make a nice ending to this message, but the Holy Spirit apparently wasn’t satisfied with my choice, and arranged for something else. 

Several of us met last week to discuss the upcoming music camp, with a possible last minute major change in its structure and final performance.  We glanced through a number of potential musical titles, but we were all mysteriously drawn to the same musical called “Table for 5…Thousand!”…., even though we knew next to nothing about it.  The music arrived earlier this week, and I took it home.  Now keep in mind, this was at the same time that I was trying to figure out what I was going to say to you today.  As I ran through the music, each and every song in this play seemed to carry a message worthy of sharing with you. I can’t imagine that it was anything but the Holy Spirit that helped us select a great play for the kids, and at the same time, provided me with a powerful message that helped me formulate today’s presentation. The last song said it best.  So it’s not scripture that I quote to you today, it’s a silly song that a group of children, filled with the Holy Spirit, will soon be singing at the Maumee Indoor Theater…and I think it sums up having the Holy Spirit in one’s life very nicely…

We are small, the world is wide, yet we stand tall with God inside.
Small things, done with great love, can change the world.
Those who seem to be the weakest are the greatest in God’s eyes. 
Little hands we lift in service can touch the skies.
When we give away our treasure, when we sacrifice our lives,
When we lose our hearts to Jesus, love multiplies.
We are small, the world is wide, yet we stand tall with God inside.
Small things done with great love, can change the world.