Tag Archives: direction

Vital spark

Does the Holy Spirit work in you? That’s a dangerous question. An extravert will tend to answer YES, and introvert will be less sure, and an Anglican like me may be more hesitant. What if we ask: “Would your friends recognise something of God in you?” – it is still difficult, clouded by personality. But it matters as we see in Acts 19:1-7. Paul, arriving in Ephesus, asks a group he finds there. They are disciples, but of John the Baptist; they have commitment and some understanding, but like Apollos (see the end of end Acts 18), not full understanding or attachment to Christ.

The confusion is still with us. The title of “Christian” can mean “a nice person”, or “caring” – not always a disciple of Jesus. These men in Ephesus had repented – turned away from evil and wrong, as John the Baptist had taught. Repentance, a change of direction and focus, away from evil and self, is still basic to conversion and Christian life.

But with turning away from is turning to – do you remember the question asked in Baptism? “Do you turn to ___ ?”
Yes, Christ. Jesus, as showing us God, and the right way. [If you read Genesis 1, did you notice God separating darkness and light at the very beginning?]

Today’s gospel tells of Jesus, baptised by John at the very start of his ministry. It is then that the Holy Spirit comes on him, and from that time that he heals, performs miracles and teaches. This, the time of Baptism and the coming of the HS, is the start.

For us, too, Christian baptism is important, and the Holy Spirit who gives gifts. There are all sorts of gifts; the spectacular are not necessarily the most important. But Does the Holy Spirit work in you?

If you are a baptised Christian, looking to live as a follower of Jesus, then the possibility is there. It would be good to look for the Spirit, welcome signs of his activity, ask for his presence, guidance and strength. The Spirit makes the difference between the well-meaning and those who share in God’s work in God’s way.

Try it out

Why do we start this story after the angels have left? (Luke 2:15-21).  It might seem we are missing the point, but perhaps there is a point to make this way, too.

For the shepherds, it was one thing to be told; quite another to go and see for themselves. There’s effort and risk involved, but it makes the whole experience their own. The walk into Bethlehem may have been less fun than the angel choir, but doing it made it part of their own experience, not just an “entertainment”, however heavenly.

The shepherds prove what was said – they find a baby in a manger, and are able to tell what has happened to them, before they go home “singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them” verse 20

For Joseph and Mary, the shepherds visit may have been a shock, but their story provided confirmation that God was at work. We might wonder how they could forget, but it had been a long time since the angel’s appearance to Mary, and Joseph’s dream. We all need reassurance, and this is a confirmation they share, to make them more sure – and ready for the next difficulty.

So, if the end of the story, the shepherds visit to the Bethlehem babe, was important for them and for Joseph and Mary, what about us? We continue the celebration of Christmas, while many have finished with it for another year. Like the shepherds, we need not only to hear about it, but to see it, and make it our own. It needs trying out, as well as hearing.  When we have made sense of it, we then need to share it as well, passing it on, whatever reception it gets. (Nobody recorded the impact of the shepherds on Bethlehem.  I like to think they may have made quite a stir!).

We may worship with many people vaguely aware of God, but with no idea that he might be involved in their lives. That was the temptation for Joseph and Mary; but they were reminded of how God was using them, and it strengthened and prepared them for the next steps.

It’s no use just sitting back and enjoying it – even if “it” is a choir of angels. We have to take action on what we are told, and when we have found out for ourselves, we need to share that, and to build on our experience of God at work, so that we know we have a place in his work, and are ready to take on the next challenge.

Direction

It helps to know where you are going – whether on a walk, or a career or retirement plan. Stephen as he dies ( Acts 7:55-60 ) has a vision of Jesus in heaven, and knows that he is going to join him (which infuriates his opponents and seals his fate).

In John 14:1-14, Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for his followers, but Thomas seems confused – and I imagine he is not the only one.  Do you ever think of a door in heaven with your name on it? Think about it for a moment. Your place, ready and waiting. What do you think about that, what do you want to do as a result?

Thomas hasn’t yet understood what is going to happen to Jesus – why he must die and rise from the dead. Jesus will not push him faster than he can absorb it, but makes clear that he is central to everything, and Thomas needs to keep following.  (We know that he does, and gets there in the end – see John 20:24-29 ).

Phillip is is danger of going off at a tangent. He would like to see God. Perhaps he has some idea of being like Moses on Mt Sinai, glimpsing God passing by.  But Jesus is more important than Phillip has realised – Jesus shows God to us. Father and Son (and Spirit) work so closely together that to know one is to know the other.  Not only do you have your room in heaven, you work for God!

“those who believe in me will do what I do – yes, they will do even greater things” John 14:12. We are invited to see where we are going – how Jesus, at the centre of everything, not only gives us a place in heaven, but also involves us in his work on earth. We are told to ask. What are we meant to be doing, what is most important, what comes first?

Alongside that, What is God’s purpose for me, individually, – or for you? How does that fit in with the aim for my congregation and wider Church?  Perhaps we should be asking for particular gifts to use there in His service, or for openings to use the ones we know we already have. Perhaps we need the courage to offer them, or the energy to do it!

It helps to know where you are going – and heaven can’t be bad, and you won’t get lost by accident. Stephen knows where he’s going, but Thomas and Phillip are finding out – perhaps like us. Let’s make sure that we keep Jesus at the centre of everything, and work on realising his aims for us as individuals, and our church as his working group.