“His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”
Pentecost marks the birthday of the Christian Church. It inaugurates a new and ever-renewing spiritual community that is born out of the witness of the Scriptures in their fullness. There is the gathering up of the Old Israel into the meaning and reality of the New Israel, the Christian Church.
But what is the meaning of this new creation, this spiritual community? Formed by the coming down of the Holy Spirit, it is guided and directed by the Spirit of God and reminds us of the spiritual nature of all reality, and of ourselves as spiritual creatures who live in a spiritual community and, importantly, of the qualities of our participation in that spiritual community. But what does that mean? It means our active participation in the life of God in the power of God’s spirit.
Our second lesson this evening was once very familiar to everyone because of its being read at times in the Burial Office. Our first lesson, however, may be a little less known and yet is quite profound about the meaning of our lives in the Spirit. Isaiah’s text is the source of the concept of the seven gifts of the Spirit, gifts which have a strong and close connection to the Incarnation, to “the shoot which comes forth from the stump of Jesse,” an image of Christ in the Christian understanding of things, since Jesse is the grand-father of King David, the human lineage from which Jesus’s humanity is understood to be derived. The Spirit of the Lord was anticipated as descending upon the Messiah, the promised one of God.
But what are those gifts of the spirit? Those who were listening carefully and are especially enumerate might have counted only six gifts, there being, it seems, a repetition of “the fear of the Lord.” The Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate traditions use “piety” along with “the fear of the Lord”. The seven gifts of the Spirit are wisdom and understanding, counsel and might (or fortitude), knowledge and piety, and the fear of the Lord.