Grace and peace!
What a whirlwind of a month! I have shared with you for the past two months about my continuing education in Marquette about discerning the Holy Spirit with Dr. Malcolm. I have shared with you her three questions: How is the Holy Spirit working in my life at this time? How is the Holy Spirit working in my congregation at this time? And how is the Holy Spirit working in my community, nation, and world at this time? When we met for the weekend back in February, we felt that the changes in the church had drawn us deeper into relying on the Holy Spirit because we were being pulled out of our own comfort zones. That we were being forced to rely more and more on the guidance and prodding of the Holy Spirit in our lives, congregations, and communities. And that relying on the Holy Spirit is certainly not easy and it is often quite disconcerting to find out that the Spirit is leading us in directions we had never imagined.
And indeed, we had never imagined that the next two months would look like this. I chuckle a little bit thinking about myself in February, thinking that I was for sure ready to spend more of my time inviting us all to discern together the Holy Spirit. Indeed we have, but not in the way I had thought we would! My own expectations of the seasons of Lent and Easter have been shaken, and we have all been pulled into a time of wandering and waiting. But these times of wandering and waiting are when the Holy Spirit does amazing things in the Bible.
At the end of this month, we will be celebrating the Ascension of our Lord and Pentecost. And these two celebrations have a fascinating relationship. The book of Acts, the sequel to the gospel of Luke, begins with Jesus telling the disciples to wait. He tells them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Holy Spirit. And then Jesus ascends out of their sight, and they do what Jesus has told them to do: they stay and they wait. Something about this feels a little too familiar right now. But then, while they are waiting and praying, the Holy Spirit comes and flips everything upside down.
And the Holy Spirit shakes things up on Pentecost not just for the benefit of these disciples who have been waiting, but for the good of the whole community; there was a whole assembly of Jews gathered to celebrate. And as we continue through the book of Acts, it becomes increasingly clear that the gift of the Holy Spirit is not poured out for a select few, but for the healing of the world. The Holy Spirit, the giver and sustainer of our faith, just does not tend to stay in the small circle we are most comfortable with. It is on the move, but it also calls us to wait and pray.
Like I said, there’s something about this story that just feels a little bit too familiar at this point. We, too, have been called into a period of waiting and praying. And we eagerly await the time when the Spirit will send us out again. But at this point, we hear the Spirit’s calling to love the neighbor. To especially love our more vulnerable neighbors and stay in place. I wonder what the Spirit is doing in our community, nation, and world. I wonder if we are learning better how to love our neighbor through a time of stillness. I wonder if we are being taught how to take a sabbath as we are being forced to live the words of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” I trust that the Holy Spirit is moving and shaping us, that the Spirit has provided everything we need, if not in the places we are used to looking. I trust that the Holy Spirit is doing something in this time of waiting. So let us pray and wait eagerly. Let us trust together that the Spirit is moving even when we cannot figure out what the Spirit is up to. Let us love our neighbors, offering forgiveness in misunderstandings and finding new ways to share the love of Christ. Because the tomb is still empty. The good news is still true in the time of waiting. Christ has arisen. Alleluia!