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Spirited People, Surprising God

(a sermon for June 4, 2017, Pentecost Sunday, based on Acts 2:1-21)

The story goes that in a small village located along a South American border there lived a little boy whose name was Angelo.  And it seems that every morning Angelo crossed the border to the neighboring country and that later on that day, just as regularly, crossed back; but this time always carrying a wheelbarrow full of sand.

Now, Angelo was never questioned as to why he always crossed over in the morning; but as you might imagine, upon his return there was always some level of suspicion on the part of the customs inspector.  “Young man, what are you smuggling in that sand?” he’d always ask, and Angelo’s answer was always the same:  “Nothing… it’s just sand.”  But the inspector was never convinced; so every evening, all of the sand would be poured out of the wheelbarrow and sifted through a screen before Angelo was permitted to go on.

Believe it or not, this went on, pretty much day in and day out, for the better part of five years (!); every time the same: the customs inspector interrogating young Angelo before sifting through the sand in his wheelbarrow.  And they never, ever found anything!  But the inspector would always explain himself by saying, “I know that someday if we’re careless, that’s when he’ll smuggle something across.”  And that’s how it went; every day Angelo appearing at the border crossing with a wheelbarrow full of sand and every day the customs people pouring and sifting through the sand before letting him pass… until finally, one day it just stopped.

Well, as the story goes, years later the inspector, now long since retired, met Angelo – now long since grown up – on the street.  Angelo was now well known in the village as one who had prospered; he’d opened a thriving business and bought a big home in the tiny village. And so of course, the inspector was still more than a little suspicious; and so he asked him point blank: “Look, I have to know; how could you have possibly become so wealthy when you spent so much of your time as a youth hauling worthless sand across the border?”   Angelo just smiled and replied, “You see, my friend, during all those times when you paying so much attention to the sand, I was smuggling 1,593 wheelbarrows into the country!”

Now, I’ve heard that story told in a variety of ways so I can’t vouch for the veracity of it; but I do know that as a parable it points up an important truth of human life: namely, that we are often so accustomed to seeing things in a certain way that we fail to see what’s really there before us!   The fact is, life is full of easy misconceptions and surprising revelations; it’s only as we go along – or at least hopefully so (!) – that we are apt to discover that there are a whole lot of things in this life that are much more than what they seem!

How many of us, for instance, have encountered someone in our lives who we more or less “wrote off” as being somehow less than what they eventually turned out to be?  I’ve been thinking about this lately as the 40th anniversary of my high school graduation approaches: thanks to the miracle of social media and the planning of a  class reunion, I’ve been getting little bits and pieces of what’s become of some of my classmates, and it’s been fascinating; in the sense that all these people that back then we (myself included!) so blithely pigeon-holed as perennial athletes and cheerleaders, popular and outcast, winners and losers (!) have gone on to have these full, rich and meaningful lives that tell stories that I couldn’t even have imagined back in the day!  It’s been interesting (and a bit humbling!) finding these things out, and a wonderful reminder of how if we get beyond all of our surface impressions of one another, we might just discover something far deeper and greater that we could ever have possibly seen before.  The point is by only seeing people, things or events in a limited way we end up missing the whole, glorious picture!

And isn’t it true that this is so often how we approach God as well?

Ask a child, for instance, to draw a picture of God sometime and odds are good that he or she will create some kind of image of a saintly Santa Claus without the red trim or the reindeer; a long white beard to match a long white robe.   And even as adults, in what I pray is a more inclusive time, when we think about God we still tend to fall back on those familiar images of “the man upstairs,” of a father in heaven with the face of, depending on our generation, a Charlton Heston, George Burns or Morgan Freeman!  Ours is the God of the booming voice, the roaring thunder and crashing sea; ours is the God of star-filled skies and dew-drenched mornings; God for us is what’s out there and what’s inside here… all of which is true, but none of which tells the whole story.  There’s always more to God, you see, than what there seems!

The truth is that we grow so accustomed to thinking of God in a certain way or to looking for God in a certain form that we risk being caught off guard when God in all of God’s creativity and power is revealed!  And this is what lay at the heart of this day of Pentecost: the proclamation that God is ever and always “doing a new thing;” that God will come to us unexpectedly and in ways that may not always be recognized as coming from God!

One of the first things that’s clear from our text this morning is that as the disciples were gathered together “in one place” on that morning of Pentecost they still had no idea that God was coming to them in the way that God did.  Certainly, they knew something was going to happen; after all, as we’ve been talking about here over the past couple of weeks, Jesus himself had promised them a Spirit to guide them: an Advocate to teach them, bring them comfort and to empower them for the way ahead.  But you see, like all of us they too had their preconceptions; ways of relating to God that were familiar and patterned (which is actually pretty amazing when you think about it, especially given all they’d been through with Jesus!).

So even now there was no way for their being fully prepared for the Spirit’s coming to be like the rush of a mighty wind [that] filled the house where they were sitting,” nor could they have anticipated “tongues, as of fire,” appearing among them and resting on each one of them; indeed, in their wildest imagination they could not have possibly conceived the idea that everyone on the streets of Jerusalem would be hearing good news of “God’s deeds of power” each in their own language.  Understand that these were people for whom dreams and visions were little more than the faded, hopeful memories of generations long past; and yet now, here was Peter speaking boldly the words of the prophet Joel:  “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

Even some 2,000 years later, we who are the church still wrestle with the wonder and the mystery of what happened that day on the streets of Jerusalem.  But whatever else we still can’t comprehend, one thing is for certain: this was not the act of a predictable, categorical God, but rather a surprising God who refuses to be limited by the human mind and heart.

In the words of John Macintyre, the day of Pentecost is “the wholehearted expression of the almost unlimited imagination of God.”  Isn’t that great?  Today, as the church we celebrate no less than the triumph of God’s Holy Spirit over all the vast differences of language, race, gender, class and culture that exist in our world, but moreover the triumph over all the limitations that we of this world have placed on who God is and who we are in relationship to God.   Our God is the God who speaks all the languages of the human heart; who comes to us in the midst of the pains of life as well as its pleasures; who exists in the mighty winds that occasionally rush through our lives and living, but who also is palpable in the gentle breezes that whisper in and through each day.  The miracle of Pentecost is that when God’s Spirit moves, each one of us will hear God speak in our own language, be that language one of love and joy and laughter, or one that offers comfort in the midst of grief and pain.

And it’s a miracle that continues to be revealed… as God’s Spirit is still poured out on us in unique and powerful ways; we are, by definition and by the grace of God, a “spirited people,” a covenant community of faith.  This is one reason that the day of Pentecost is often referred to as the “birthday” of the church, because we are the recipients of God’s Spirit, and as such the carriers of God’s good news, as well as the purveyors of dreams and visions for a world in need of both.  As the church, we are literally and spiritually “moved” to participate in the promised kingdom that’s to come, working in love, faith and stewardship unto the ever-widening purposes of God in our life and living.

I guess the question before us today is whether or not we truly believe that.

I suppose our answer to that question comes down to whether dreaming dreams and having visions is something that for us was “once upon a time” when our idealism matched up with our hope, but which has now faded away with age and the disillusionment that life sometimes brings; or whether we can still say today that what we’re doing for ourselves, our families, our communities and our world is what we know in faith God will someday bring in fullness, just as He has promised.  The answer comes down to whether we set ourselves forth as a church that is wholly “spirited,” enthusiastically alive and well, serving people and being witnesses to the risen Christ in everything we say and do, truly living out of  our prayer, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)

Do we believe this, friends?   Are we ready to embrace a surprising, unpredictable and limitless God for our own lives and living?  Are we ready to dream dreams and have visions for the future; for God’s future?

If we are, then we should also know that we have placed ourselves in the midst of a life where amazing things can and do happen in and through our lives and the life of the church in which we are gathered together!  Of course, such a life tends to be unpredictable, shaking up regular routines and more than occasionally challenging valued traditions along the way; but then again, that’s also the incredible wonder and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit; and why wouldn’t we want to be a part of that?

After all, what is it that Ralph Waldo Emerson said?  “The power of the Gulf Stream will flow through a straw if the straw be placed parallel to the Gulf Stream.”   Such is the power that works through us as we open ourselves to God’s own leading.

Oh, come Holy Spirit, come!  Come and blow your mighty winds through us today.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Church, Holy Spirit, Pentecost, Sermon

 

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A Fresh Capacity to Listen

holy spirit image(a sermon for May 22, 2016, the 1st Sunday after Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, based on  Genesis 11:1-9 and Acts 2:1-21)

It occurs to me that in this age of sweeping technology, “Google Searches” and the computerized guidance of someone named “Siri,” this might seem like ancient history, but those of us of a certain age (!) will remember that there was once a time that in order to get a phone number we simply had to dial (that’s right… dial!) “0” on the telephone to speak to an operator for information!

Not that this was without its problems:  in fact, the story goes that a woman once called information because she wanted the phone number for Theater Arts Magazine.  And after a long pause on the other end of the line, the operator replied, “I’m sorry, but there is no one listed under the name Theodore Arts.”   “No, no,” the woman answered back.  “It’s not a person, it’s a magazine.  Theater Arts.”  But the operator said again, “I told you, ma’am, we have no one listed under the name Theodore Arts!”  Now, by this time the woman was becoming quite exasperated, and with the tone of voice to match she said, “THEATER!   I said Theater!   T-H-E-A-T-E-R!” To which the operator coolly replied, “Madam, that is not how you spell Theodore!”

It’s true, no matter what the technology happens to be – or, for that matter, what the situation happens to be – so often in this life, it all comes down to that line from the old movie: what we have here is a failure to communicate!

Would you not agree that at the heart of most of our problems lay issues regarding communication, or the lack thereof?  As a pastor, I’ve seen this countless times; when the core issue of some disagreement or conflict between couples, amongst families or even church members comes down to miscommunication and misunderstanding; you know, the old story of “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize what you heard is not what I meant.”

In truth, there is much that confounds our hearing and speaking and thus our understanding of one another: the tone of voice we use, our body language, the underlying emotion that shows forth the words we choose, not to mention our own preconceived notions of what’s being said to us!  All of this contributes to an occasional failure to communicate; and when you combine this with the fact along with the fact that because we’re all different kinds of people who approach things in different ways, it’s no wonder that sometimes it seems as though we’re speaking totally different languages!

I remember years ago when our son Zachary was little going with his class on a field trip to a farm where maple syrup was being made.  Now this farm was owned and operated by a couple who’d been tapping trees on that land for years, and the first thing that happens is that the wife leads us all down a pathway to one of the big maples and shows the children how the sap is collected; she tells them about how native American children used to drink the sap like it was Kool-Aid; and then she pours some of the sap from that tree into paper cups so they could all taste it for themselves!  And I remember that the kids were enthralled by what she was teaching them.

Well, from there we walk up to the sugar shack where her husband is waiting to tell us all about how the sap becomes maple syrup; and he proceeds to tell these 2nd grade children about the relative yield of syrup in relation to the sap collected, about the boiling point of sap and the type of firewood necessary to provide optimum and consistent heat, and even about the gauge of the stainless steel used in building the sap storage tanks!  The man went on and on with this litany of technical data related to maple syrup production, even as the children’s eyes just sort of glazed over!  In fact, I’ll never forget it; when it was finally done, and the man asked if there were any questions, one little boy just raised his hand and said, “You know, that’s a really big fire in there.”

Now the great irony here is that now, as an adult, my son lives for that kind of information (!); but back then, though I know he meant well, that man might as well have been speaking Greek to those kids: they just didn’t understand!  It goes to show how easily it can happen that we fail to understand what’s being said to us; and moreover, how it is that so often, we fail to be understood!  It happens in the ways we communicate with one another; so often it’s what can make or break any semblance of community we might have together; and let’s not even talk about the effect this has on the level of political discourse, especially during this particular election cycle!

But it’s especially true, I think, as regards the church.  We talked about this a couple of weeks ago; that given all the diversity of thought and emotion and experience that exists amongst God’s people, it’s a wonder we even understand each other, much less have the kind of unity we seek!  The question is, how can we truly be a community of faith if we don’t communicate with each other, and how are we to communicate with each other if we can’t hear and understand each other?

That’s why it’s good news indeed that God has given us that which we need to understand; what Walter Bruggemann refers to as “a fresh capacity to listen,” that is, a new ability to truly hear and to respond.  It comes in God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, the miracle of Pentecost, that day which Bruggemann describes as “a veritable festival of listening,” involving people from the four corners of the world and every walk of life, each of whom hear in a clear and unalloyed fashion the good news of God’s love.

What’s interesting about our two readings of scripture this morning is that they are pretty much mirror images of each other; the same story but with opposite conclusions.  First, there’s the story of the Tower of Babel from Genesis, in which human arrogance and sin leads to a judgment of separation and confusion.  Simply put, “in the beginning” God had given his people a common sense of understanding and the ability to speak the same language; it was ever and always God’s intent, you see, that we truly understand one another and that our lives be built from that understanding.  But when those same people became wholly attuned to the sound of their own voices rather than to listening to each other and most especially to God (as evidenced by the building of “a tower with its top in the heavens,” which was built solely as a monument to themselves), God rightly determined that this “speaking the same language” thing could never end well.  And so God “confuse[d] their language… so that they [would] not understand one another’s speech,” and then divided and scattered the people “over the face of the earth,” making it all the more difficult to understand and be understood! So what we have here is the judgment of God upon our own human tendency toward self-centeredness, isolation and alienation!

But then, you see, in the Book of Acts we have God’s reversal of that judgment, when the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven with “a sound like the rush of a mighty wind,” through the streets of Jerusalem that were filled with “devout Jews from every nation under heaven,”  all speaking all their varied languages unknown to each other.  Except that now, by this miracle of the Holy Spirit, they heard… and they understood.  All of them – no matter their background or experience or prejudice – had that “fresh capacity to listen” to the good news told by the disciples, to hear “in [their] own native language… about God’s deeds of power;” about God’s intention that his Spirit be poured upon all flesh.  It was truly a miraculous day and a vibrant new beginning for God’s people!

One of the central gifts of the Holy Spirit is that because it is the real and living presence of God – one part of that “blessed Trinity” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – it enables us to truly hear and understand God’s Word with a spiritual clarity unlike ever before; I dare say that in many ways, it is that “fresh capacity to listen” that makes us the church, in that we are called together to attune our ears and our hearts to that Word.  But what I want to tell you this morning is that there’s another part of that gift, one that we don’t always recognize: that in hearing and understanding God, by extension the Spirit also enables us to hear each other more clearly.

Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of “active listening.” It’s an essential component of all manner of caregiving, and what it means is that if we are truly listening to someone, then we need more than just our ears; it takes careful and special effort to be attentive and sensitive to the person speaking.  In other words, active listening requires a “third ear;” one that listens with love in order to sense what’s really going on with that person; to go beyond the words spoken to get to the heart of what’s being said!  To put this another way, and I suspect that most of us can vouch for this, when somebody truly listens to us, not just with the ears but with the heart, we are given a message that we matter; that we’re not alone in whatever it is we’re facing; and that we’re loved.

That’s what the Holy Spirit gives us; that third ear, that fresh capacity and great ability to listen to those around us with love. For you see, as our hearts are opened to hear God’s voice through his Spirit, we begin to listen to each other with a spiritual sensitivity; we begin to understand the language of the heart; a language much deeper than words as it proclaims the truth of the gospel even as we show forth our love for one another.

Friends, how many times in our relationships with each other when we’ve come away from some kind of conversation or conflict thinking  that we totally understand each other, but in fact we’ve only heard a small part of what’s been said; how often does it happen that we’ve heard only what we want to hear and little more?  And how often have we been guilty of “turning a deaf ear” to those who stand in the need of love and healing, even and especially those who are the closest to us? And why is it that all too often we’re far more set on what we think we have to say than what we need to listen to?  It’s that “failure to communicate;” but the good news is that God is not content to allow us to “babble” on without any understanding; and sends us his Holy Spirit that we might truly listen, with understanding, and respond in love.

On the day of Pentecost, the people of God were made to truly hear and understand, and in doing so became the church of Jesus Christ.  And in this time and place, you and I continue to be the Church as we seek to be attentive to that same Spirit in our lives: actively listening for the many ways we can reach out in love and ease one another’s burdens, striving to dwell in unity as we are about the work of God’s kingdom; on earth as it is in heaven!

But friends, our actually being the Church and our living as true Christian disciples… all this starts with listening for, and then listening to the voice of the Spirit.  And the beauty part is that despite all the other noise in this world that threatens to block it out God has given us what need – our ears and our hearts – to truly hear and understand what matters.

So who knows what the voice of the Spirit will be saying next!

For whatever it might be, thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2016  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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Lives That Catch Fire

spirit(a sermon for May 24, 2015, Pentecost Sunday, based on Acts 2:1-21, 42-47)

In a word, Pentecost is anarchy.

Truly, of all the Christian celebrations we observe throughout the year, the Day of Pentecost has been the hardest for us to tame.  Think about this: at Christmas we supplement and soften the news of God’s coming into the world with the exchange of gifts and a barrage of holiday sentiment.  At Easter, we respond to resurrection glory by decking the church with lilies and spring flowers, and ourselves with new clothes.  Even during the seasons of Advent and Lent, we have our regular traditions:  we do pageants, we plan holiday fairs, we light candles and we decorate, all of which is very good and holds great meaning; but do you see what can happen in the process?  All too often we end up taking these great “festival days” of the faith and create a normal, comfortable routine out of something that is meant to be a celebration of God doing something radically new and different in the world!

Pentecost, however, which is our celebration of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t seem to lend itself to that kind of taming!  When was the last time, for instance, that we hung a Pentecost wreath on the front door; or gathered the children for their annual Sunday School Pentecostal Pageant?  For that matter, I don’t recall seeing any commercials or flyers in the paper this week for pre-Pentecost or “Red Friday” sales at Target!  Alas, the Day of Pentecost just doesn’t seem to fit easily into the way we like to do things in this world or in the church; and truth be told, historically speaking we really don’t have that much to go on!

There was a tradition from years ago in central Europe, where it was often the custom on the Day of Pentecost to drop burning pieces of wick or straw through an open hole in the ceiling of the church; this to represent the “tongues, as of fire” spoken of in our scripture today, the Spirit of God descending upon believers.  That practice, however, never stood the test of time; because as you might have guessed, what happened is that as these tongues of fire “came to rest,” fixtures, church buildings and sometimes even people tended to go up in flame, and not as a result of the Holy Spirit!

No, aside from the red vestments that symbolize those tongues of fire and perhaps a shift in the liturgy we use, there really isn’t much that’s all that different about our worship today.  And really, friends,  that’s a shame; because Pentecost is in fact one of the quintessential spiritual moments of the church’s life, and I dare say a pivotal point in the history of the world; it is that time in which God’s own Spirit came down to create something new, radical and different amongst his people, doing that which by any estimation would seem impossible: bringing the good news of Christ to a city filled with diverse people from “every nation under heaven;” what’s more, making that good news understood to each in their own language; and further, uniting those people in a common faith, a common vision, and a common purpose!

Pentecost, you see, is no less than the reality of the living and vital presence of the divine blowing into the midst of history; our history, yours and mine.  This is about God stepping right into the middle of our lives with mystery and wonder; shaking us up and transforming the world by the rush of a mighty wind.  So Pentecost cannot ever be tamed by our traditions and routine, because God won’t be contained within the usual standards of human life and living!

What we remember this morning, friends, is a truly “super-natural” event that took place on the streets of Jerusalem on a day much like this one nearly two millennia ago; a “happening” that set in motion the growth of a Spirit-led and Christ-centered church.  But what we celebrate on this day of Pentecost is that it’s an event still happening, time and time again, in the lives of all those have been touched and healed and pushed by the rush of that divine Spirit.  We rejoice in the many times and ways God’s Spirit has come to us in such a way that our lives catch fire; how suddenly with that flame burning within us there was for us clarity of vision and purpose, a reason for being and living.  We give thanks in our worship that God has not stopped speaking, either to the church or to the world, but is indeed a living God; a God of power and grace and, yes, anarchy who even at this very moment is moving in and through our lives, filling the hearts of the faithful and kindling in them the fire of his love.

I’m reminded of a book we used to read to our children – quite literally hundreds of times (!) – when they were very, very young.  It was entitled, “More, More,” Said the Baby, written by a woman named Vera B. Williams; and it was this beautiful and simple little evocation of the affection shared between children and the adults who love them.  Actually, as I recall, the story was three little vignettes about these toddlers nicknamed “Little Guy,” “Little Pumpkin,” and “Little Bird;” and each vignette was a variation on the same theme:  “Little Pumpkin scoots away so fast, Little Pumpkin’s Grandma has to run like anything to catch that baby up!”  But that’s just what Grandma does.

I used to love reading that to our kids; and all these years later I’m realizing that this describes God to a T!  Here we have this wonderful image of the Divine running like anything into the regular routine of our lives just to “catch us up” in love along a new and directed pathway; setting us afire with faith and a new purpose for living, even as those around us react to what’s happening with bewilderment, skepticism and perhaps even some cynicism.

We certainly see that reflected in our second reading from the Book of Acts this morning, which is in effect an “afterward” of sorts to the story of God’s coming in the Holy Spirit; but which also serves as the beginning of this ongoing story we have of the growth of the early church, this gathered group of apostles who were doing “many wonders and signs” in the name of the Risen Christ. You know, as many times as I return to these passages of scripture I still stand amazed that not two months before the events depicted in our readings today, these very same disciples were… scattered; hiding out for fear of their very lives and doing anything but proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ (!); and this is to say nothing of the fact that three years before that,  before Jesus called them to follow, this bunch was little more than this rather motley assortment of fishermen and tax collectors.  But now, here they were; preaching the word, healing the sick, “devoting themselves to… teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and… prayers… praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.”  And, wonder of wonders, “day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

So what was the difference between what they were “before” and what they were “after?”  Well, certainly, they’d been witnesses to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection; that had certainly changed them forever, and they’d heard their risen Lord’s “great commission” to them to spread the good news and to “make disciples of all nations;” (Matthew 28:20) and so they understood their calling and purpose of life.  But even with all of this, it took something more to give them the courage and the utter boldness it would take to bring an often resistant world into the circle of faith; and that came in the miraculous gift of God’s Holy Spirit.  It was in how, from the very moment that Spirit came into their house, each one of these disciples were “caught up” by God’s presence, his power and his love in everything that was to come.

That’s is how the church of which you and I are a part began; it’s how it has continued to grow, to thrive, to endure and to adapt over the centuries; and it is what will carry it even through these uncertain times in which we live.  For this is what happens as our Lord is relentless in pursuing those he loves; this is what happens when God’s own spirit moves and acts and welcomes and pushes and prods and encourages and comforts;  this is what happens when, because of all that, a spark ignites… and lives catch fire!

And so it is for you and me today.  The gift of Pentecost, friends, is that we also are infused with the power and presence of God that will transform our lives and the world along with it; and indeed, our prayer for this day is that each one of us will know beyond any shadow of a doubt the reality of that presence and power in our lives; to know and feel the Holy Spirit alive and moving within us.  For it’s that awareness that makes today, the future and all of life a true adventure!

There’s a Garfield cartoon from a few years back in which Odie the dog chases Garfield the cat up into a tree.  The two of them are resting side by side on a tree limb when Jon, their owner, comes by, sees them up there together, and says, “Odie, dogs can’t climb trees!”  Whereupon Garfield thinks, “It’s amazing what one can accomplish when one doesn’t know what one can’t do.”

Friends, there’s great wisdom for us there!  Especially in these days when the conventional wisdom would deem to dismiss Christianity as something on the decline, now more than ever we Christians need to be “out on a limb,” so to speak; ever and always seeking those right and ripe moments when those incredible “possibilities” that God sets before us can come to pass, when what we say and do by faith makes a real difference in the world.  You and I need to be ready and willing to be “caught up” by the Spirit of God, letting our lives catch fire so that we might accomplish that which previously we didn’t know we weren’t supposed to be able to do (!), but then did so anyway, because we were moved by faith and joy and love, and the desire to live as Christ would have us!

You see, you never know how the Spirit will move; sometimes it is like rush of a mighty wind; other times it blows as gently and almost imperceptivity as a quiet summer breeze.  Likewise, there are moments when God catches us up in the manner of a loving, protective parent; but then there will be also be times when God  will give us a kick in the pants, spiritually speaking, so to get us moving out of our own sense of complacency or fear.  Sometimes the Spirit will come to us in ways that are intensely personal, with a clarity and purpose that only we can truly comprehend; but at other times it becomes just as clear that the Spirit intends for us to be led as a community; for after all, what’s a church for if not to walk, together, by faith?

And truth be told, friends, sometimes the Spirit moves, and we won’t have a clue as to what’s happening, or why (!), at least not at that moment; sometimes all we’ll have to go on is that God’s leading us somewhere, and that we need to go!  Because after all, ultimately it’s not up to us how the Spirit moves, it’s up to God; as Jesus was quick to point out to Nicodemus in John’s gospel, the wind blows where it chooses, and so it is with the Spirit.  But the point is when God’s Spirit moves – wherever it moves – incredible, glorious, life-changing and life-giving things can happen: to you and to me, to the world around us, and with the church, the Body of Christ, of which we’re a part.  The only real question is what we’ll be doing about that.

Where do you suppose the wind is going to blow next, beloved?  How will God’s Spirit seek to move us as persons and as a people in the days and weeks to come?  What does that mean for us, for our families, for this church?  Who knows for sure; understand me when I say that that’s all part of the mystery, wonder, and the joy of our discipleship.  I just hope and pray that as the Spirit moves, we’ll let ourselves be moved along with it; perchance to have our lives catch fire for the sake of Jesus Christ… and won’t that be a thing to experience!

Come, Holy Spirit, Come… and may our thanks be to God.

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2015  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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