Those words don’t fit together. Subtle is almost unnoticeable. Awesome is huge.
Imagine. I’m walking down the hall of the ICU, just down the hall from the chapel. As I’m getting to the end of the hall, I can turn left. I can go back to my office. I can catch up on my paperwork. I can turn right. And walk into the middle of whoever is standing there, of whatever struggles are happening.
If I turn left, I can be ready to leave on time, I can be ready to face whatever the pager sends me. There is the vaguest nudge to turn right.
When I walk through the door to the right, I talk to the coworker at the desk.
A man walks up, someone I’ve not seen for 14 years, someone to catch up with, to encourage. I go down the hall. I catch up with a man who I met two days before, a man whose wife is struggling with life, who will be gone within a week. He hugs me. We talk to each other and to God.
And I go back to my office to catch up on paperwork.
Isn’t that awesome? To have those perfect and unexpected conversations?
But the reason for turning right instead of turning left was the tiniest nudge, so subtle as to be almost imperceptible.
That’s what I mean by subtly awesome.
And that’s what best describes the work of the Holy Spirit.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost isn’t the beginning of the Spirit. The spirit of God was present before creation, the spirit of God was present every time we read about God, Father, Son, and Spirit.
But the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, with a terrific wind and with what looked like flames above the head of everyone in the room, and with people speaking languages that they didn’t know but other people did — that was the beginning of a permanent presence of God with his people. It was massively awesome. God has always been present. Jesus was touchably present. And now the Spirit arrived to be power-givingly present.
But usually, that presence is not massively awesome, with wind and fire and speech.
Because the presence is, as Jesus says, to teach us and remind us of everything that Jesus said. To provide nudges and reminders and direction and peace. To be the voice that informs our conscience as we think through what we’ve done and not done. To be with us everywhere when Jesus ascended to the Father because, after all, he was with us not everywhere.
In the resurrected body that the disciples all saw, that many individuals and groups all saw, there was only one Jesus. But Jesus said, “When I have ascended and sent my spirit, you will do greater things that you have been able to do up until now.”
So we are now accompanied by, filled with, the Holy Spirit.