It Takes More!

May 31, 2020

Political and religious unrest.  Heavy taxes. Wide disparity between rich and poor. Homelessness. Unemployment. Disease. Struggles between local and national authorities. Oppression of minority groups.

This is a small descriptor of life in the first century Roman Empire – a descriptor of life in Jerusalem and its surrounding towns and villages.  A rough sketch of what the world was like when a small group of tradespeople, outcasts, and non-descript, powerless individuals – the Christ followers – were gathered together waiting for what was next for them.

These individuals had experienced more ups and downs than most people experience in a lifetime during their time with Jesus before the crucifixion. Now, they were overwhelmed by the startling reality of Christ’s true identity – Son of God! Then, after only 40 days of living into this truth, Christ ascended…

But they were not abandoned to return to their non-descript past into a world spiraling into ever increasing chaos – Christ had promised the coming of power from on high – the coming of the divine comforter, mentor, empowerer, encourager – God the Spirit – Who would come – and teach them all things! They would be the ones to carry Christ’s message of unconditional love, forgiveness, and new life in Christ throughout the world!

These words were spoken to people who had never left Galilee. They weren’t public speakers; weren’t educated beyond their own particular skill sets; weren’t brave; had no social standing whatsoever. There was no reason that anyone should ever listen to anything they had to say.

Besides, there were so few of them; the world was so big with problems WAY beyond their ability to solve.

How would they navigate the political waters?  How would they live so differently from how they had lived in the past?  Where was their guide? Their leader? Their mentor?  And how would they know the power had come? Read all about it in Acts 2!

The Spirit came and empowered a small ragtag group – 120 folks – with a power and a boldness beyond all imagining. 

  • They would be emboldened to go to far away places, among unfamiliar people, customs, and beliefs in order to make connections for Christ in the world – not just through words shared but through lives lived together.
  • They would speak truth to power even at the expense of their own lives if they thought doing so would offer new life in Christ to another.
  • They embraced and affirmed outcasts and offering healing of body, soul, and spirit to those in need – all in the name of the Lord.

These were not first century giants in industry – not great orators and theologians – they had no degrees – they were just simple people empowered by God the Spirit to accomplish more than they could possibly have imagined – and in reality, never could have done on their own! 

That’s it – the presence and power of God working in and through ordinary people and God’s truth has gone into all the world beginning in a backwater region called Galilee.

+++

What does any of that matter to us?

Well…

We, too, have:

Political and religious unrest.  Heavy taxes. Wide disparity between rich and poor. Homelessness. Unemployment. Disease. Struggles between local and national authorities. Oppression of minority groups.

And in the midst of all of this, it is hard to feel anything other than powerless – small – unable to do anything about the chaotic problems that overwhelm us! If anything, this last week – these last several months – these last several years – have really uncovered the magnitude of the world’s problems – problems we can’t solve on our own – no matter what human leaders are in power.  So… reality check…

We may be small – but God isn’t! 

We have tried our best to ‘fix’ things, but what about God’s best?

Have we forgotten Whom we worship?

The living God – once present on earth in the person of Jesus is STILL among all of us in the person of the Holy Spirit.

We haven’t been left the on our own – the Spirit is here – the same powerful God Who came in like a wind that first Pentecost giving new life to the disciples – is the same Spirit Who hovered over the chaos of Genesis – and is the same Spirit that hovers over us today – seeking to change us into authentic vessels of the divine that brings order to chaos, forgiveness to transform bitterness, love to conquer hate.

So often we forget that the Holy Spirit isn’t just some holy glow, but actually God!  And through the power of God the Spirit, all things are possible for the common good and the glory of God! (1 Corinthians 12:7)

But, how are we to know what the Spirit is leading us to do? The world seems to be falling apart – how can we stop it?!

If our hearts are distressed over certain conditions in the world – have we ever considered that perhaps this is how God is calling us to do something about it?  Not in our own power, but through the power of the Spirit waiting to use us? 

God the Spirit will make us restless and unable to ignore particular conditions, events, and needs in our world and use that unrest as a catalyst to action. 

So, what disturbs you?  What is God calling you to do about it?

God isn’t shy. God has created us each with natural talents not to be kept for ourselves but to be expanded by the power of the Spirit for divine purpose (1 Corinthians 12:8-31) – at home, at work, in the community – in our professional and personal lives – whether employed or retired – in good health or a bit frail and worn out – if we are alive it is because God has plans. 

But how are we to know what that plan is?

When I haven’t got a clue what God is calling me to do, I remember an amazing verse of Scripture:

 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

Rather than just plowing ahead without understanding – a response that typically just makes things worse – I need to wait on the Spirit as the prayer of the Spirit and our prayer to the Spirit intersect into a plan of action in keeping with God’s will for the world. 

How will we know ‘our plan’ is from God?

Any action we are called to in the name of Christ will be governed by love of God and for the common good of all. 

So… how is the Spirit leading you to work in the world?  No one is too small or under-equipped to make a difference in the world for God. Let God the Spirit lead you and empower you for the common good – and the glory of God!  It’s part of the plan!

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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