For those of you over forty-something have you ever listened to a rapper? To include the younger set , have you travelled to an area where people all spoke a different language or with an accent that was very difficult for you to understand?
If you were immersed in that sort of situation for days on end, then imagine the joy you would feel just hearing someone speaking so that you could understand. Then, imagine if they were telling you that God had loved you so much that he gave his son’s life to atone for your sins. Then they told you that through Him you would have eternal life.
Imagine the feeling that would give you! Imagine the questions it would raise. Are these guys drunk? In Acts we see Pentecost play out. The wind blows, the tongues of flame descend and then people begin to speak in languages they don’t even know. Peter interprets these things for those who are present. In order to make sense of this he quotes scripture.
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that 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 on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
Wait a minute…did Joel say prophesy? Was Peter saying we should prophesy? I’m all for God pouring out His Spirit on me, but I’m not Isaiah, Jonah, or Ezekiel…how am I supposed to prophesy?
In his book New Proclamation Matthew L. Skinner says, “Peter’s brand of “prophecy” is …the task of identifying our own circumstances as somehow in line with testimony about God from the past and in line with the promises of what God is yet to do.” He goes on to explain that the art of prophecy is in truly believing that the Bible is a message to us in our own time.
We need to be open to a dialogue with the scripture. We need to let the Bible shape and effect all that we see, say and do. We need to stop reading the Bible as if it was just another book of information.
In a course I took on Reformed Spirituality we looked at the practice of spiritual reading. In the introduction to this section of her book Soul Feast, Marjorie J. Thompson asks the reader to consider the different way we would approach reading a letter from a dear friend and a newspaper.
Spiritual reading of the Bible is not going to come from reading to get through a section of text. It is not about how much you read, or how quickly you read. Our intention should be, in the words of Thompson, “simply to sink into the words and open ourselves to their meaning in our lives. How do we go about this?
There are four phases to spiritual reading. The first to read in a reflective way, slowly, pausing over words which seem to catch our attention. The second phase is meditation, in other words, when we find those words which really catch our attention, then give some thought to why this seems important to us…what is the connection between this text and our lives?
The third phase is speaking. We respond to our reading with our emotion in prayer. If the reading has highlighted our current struggles we will call out, perhaps in pain, if it speaks of our joy we will lift our hearts in praise. If you want some excellent examples of this phase, read through some of the Psalms.
Finally we contemplate. After pouring out in words all that we need to, we sit quietly and give time for God’s response to us. We rest in God’s presence and listen. These steps may go back and forth as we move through a text but the process is not complete without all four.
As you can tell from the steps listed, this is not the kind of
reading we can fit into the 20 minutes between activities and is best not left to the end of the day. When we make a space available in our day for this kind of reading, the Spirit will lead us in finding the meaning of the text for our lives.
God sent His Spirit to us for a reason. The Spirit is a gift to us which comforts us in our pain, helps us when we most need help, exhorts people to be present with God in answering the call to serve others in the world who are in need, advocates for us and provides the link for us to stay in touch with Jesus and through him with God, and, if we let it, reveals the truth in Jesus.
When God sends out His Spirit, plants spring to life– the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.
This is the glory of GOD–let it last forever!
New Testament:Acts 2:1-21
Epistle: Romans 8:22-27
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Posted in Bible Study, Faith, Lectionary, Reflections
Tagged Bible, Christianity, church, cross, dreamers, evangelism, faith, forgiveness, God, Holy Spirit, improvement, Jesus, leadership, love, New Proclamation, promise, prophets, reflection, reformed spirituality, seers. Pentecost, Soul Fest, spiritual reading, spirituality
I want you to think of the happiest, most joyful event in your
life. Think about where you were. Who was there with you?Imagine that you are right there now and let the feeling of joy fill you up.
Do you feel your spirits rising? You may even feel that if you don’t tell someone about it you may burst! The Spirit of God is just like that. When the Spirit descended on the Apostles they couldn’t help themselves, they just had to share the Gospel!
We don’t like to talk about spirits very much. It brings to mind ghost stories, séances and Ouija boards. Because of this, Pentecost is an event in our church year which gets mixed reviews. It makes us vaguely uncomfortable, but on Pentecost Sunday the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the believers. It is the birthday of the church!
The Spirit is not a ghost. The Spirit is the Advocate sent to
continue the work of Jesus. It could not come to us until Jesus departed. The Spirit is the final sign that we have been adopted into the family of God. Can you believe it?
If we are adopted that means that we are all part of the same
family and we will be there to look after each other and come together in a crisis and God, the head of our household, will be there suffering right along with us and being our guide for getting through the tough times.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of the groaning of
creation as if in labour pains. Here he too makes the assumption that the church will be present in the world and active at times of deepest need and that God is present in the midst of the church. God shares our suffering and shares in our work of healing.
The current newsletter of the Presbyterian World Service and Development you can read;
“Three months following Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives. The disaster claimed over 15,000 lives and over 8,000 people remain missing, according to the National Police Agency of Japan.
Despite the immense challenges evacuees continue to face, PWS&D partners are working hard to provide daily hot meals, medical care, emergency supplies and psychosocial assistance. To date, PWS&D has received over $360,000 for emergency relief in Japan.
PWS&D partner, Church World Service (Asia-Pacific) has organized more than 2,000 volunteers to help distribute food and help clear debris. Cash-for-work programs are providing necessary funds to people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to provide food for their families. CWS is also trying to regenerate local businesses by refitting destroyed kitchens of local restaurants, in order to provide food and jobs for the surrounding communities.
The mental wellbeing of people is one of the biggest concerns as people struggle to deal with enormous loss, survivors’ guilt and other issues. Daycare centres and a single parent hotline are two new initiatives to help traumatized children and parents cope with their circumstances.”
You can see clearly that the church is present in this situation, and you can be sure that God is present with the church. The Spirit does not shy away from the hard times in our lives, and in our world. The Spirit offers help for the present and hope for the future. If we are to lead a Spirit filled life we need to hope
and remain patient.
Please remember the people of Japan in your prayers. You can make a donation to PWS&D’s work in Japan by contributing through your church, mailing a cheque to the office, donating online or calling 1-800-619-7301 ext. 291. Please mark all donations as “Japan Relief. www.presbyterian.ca/pwsd/japan
New Testament:Acts 2:1-21
Epistle: Romans 8:22-27
Responsive Psalm: Psalm
Posted in Bible Study, Faith, Lectionary, Prayers, Reflections
Tagged Bible, birthday of church, Christianity, church, faith, forgiveness, God, help, Holy Spirit, Jesus, justice, kindness, leadership, love, Pentecost, prayer, problems, reflection, stress, survival