At the Festival of Pentecost Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans believe the Spirit is given in baptism. The Holy Spirit is not God in a different appearance, a different aspect of God, an alternate mode of appearing. What we are really saying is that the indivisible God is within us, is given to us.
Two points here are worth exploring. First, since the Holy Spirit is within us it is difficult to distinguish the presence of the Spirit from ourselves. I still experience myself as the principal subject. From here it is an easy step to interpret my thoughts, words and actions as those of the Holy Spirit. It is what lead Martin Luther to say of the radical reformers of the 16th century, “They have swallowed the Holy Spirit feathers and all!” The radicals believed that the Spirit was in them but they could not experience God as Someone apart from them.
This brings me to my second point. Does God want us to experience Him or encounter Him? It may seem like an odd question but bear with me. The experience of the inner life and its’ emotions may be interpreted wildly and often are. If I equate the Holy Spirit with these feelings, emotions, etc. I collapse God utterly into myself and anything goes.
But when I encounter the Spirit through Christ (and to make Christ known is the principle work of the Holy Spirit) I am drawn outward to the Word and the sacraments and to the neighbor as events, promises of God outside myself that I may rely upon and live for. Then the presence of the Spirit, which the Word and the sacraments guarantee and bring on God’s terms, become indistinguishable from faith’s power. And that power, which is really just another way saying God’s power, turns us back into life so that we encounter the ordinary business of living for its’ own sake and not as the occasion for experiencing the God who, for now, is hidden from us.