Acts 2:2-4…When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
At St. David’s in the Pines Episcopal Church in Wellington, FL, Fr. Thomas always publishes in the worship folder the scripture for the day, and a series of “Challenge Questions”, followed by the scripture readings for the following Sunday.
So, having seen these questions each week, and just pondering them for a few minutes before the start of the service, I have decided this week to be more intentional about thinking about them, and waiting on God to see if there is some action, or response that I am to make in light of the scriptures. In other words, these “Challenge Questions” will, at least for this week, become part of my mediation and prayer life.
1) What was the impact on the apostles and community?
It was a “WOW” day in the life of the Church and those early disciples. These men and women went from hiding behind locked doors out into the world, carrying with them the life changing message of Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, and risen to glory. Their message was filled with excitement, love, joy, power, persuasion. Death held no fear for them and they were free to live, and love, as Jesus had taught them. And 5000 came to believe, on THAT day alone.
2) Why did Jesus send the Spirit?
What specific works did the advocate come to do? The Holy Sprit came form the Father, sent by Jesus, to fill all of the followers of Jesus with a boldness and power to proclaim the truth of God’s life for each of them. The Holy Spirit is the bearer of truth from the Father. The Holy Spirit is the advocate, interceding for us when we do not have the words to express what we really need. The Holy Spirit comes to show us what it is God wants to do because of the Son. The Holy Spirit comes to show us how to live, love, celebrate, and draw nearer and nearer to God through Jesus.
3) In what ways do you feel the Holy Spirit in your life, in the Church, in the world?
I feel the presence of God’s Holy Spirit when I am prompted by the inner sense to do something I might otherwise not do, such as speaking words of encouragement or comfort to a stranger. Or giving money to a homeless person without wondering what it would be spent on. Or engaging in a ministry or work I would never feel adequate to do on my own. In the Church I see the working of the Holy Spirit as lives are changed, encouraged, and strengthened for the good of God and His community. And in the world I see the Holy Spirit working in the many lives that suffer with dignity and grace, and in those who reach out with compassion and resources to relieve the suffering of others.
4) How and when are you aware of God’s Spirit and how does it work in you?
See number 3
5) As receivers of the Spirit, how can these gifts/powers be used in the modern day?
We can be empowered to love those we might not otherwise love, and to reach out to those who might normally be beyond our circle of friends and family. We can welcome the stranger, and the strange one into the fellowship of Christ and His Church. We can teach, and proclaim the love of God, the forgiveness of sins, wholeness in Christ, and life everlasting to those who have no hope, no peace, no comfort, no sense of connectedness to God. We can proclaim, along with Jesus, sight to the blind, freedom for the captive, good news to the poor.
6) What gifts do you possess that can be used for God’s purpose/plan on earth?
This is a difficult question to answer. Sometimes it is easier to see the gifts of another while missing your own, feeling inadequate, or unworthy. When I think of my own gifts, I wonder if I am being too modest, or too boastful. Am I realistic regarding my gifts, or abilities?
I have been told, and I believe, that I am a good communicator, a proclaimer of God’s word, a persuasive preacher. I love to preach and teach, but usually come away from the experience feeling as if I failed in the endeavor.
I love celebrating, and sharing the Sacraments of the Church. I love to create worship. But does that mean they are my “gifts”? I would like to believe they are, but how do I know for sure? Again, I have been told that I am “good” at these expressions of faith.
I am NOT gifted in leading meetings, and Church boards, and administration of the daily life of Church business. I have been told that as well.
I can listen, and pray, and comfort those who are hurting, sick, and dying. But I have little tolerance for social club politics.
So where are my gifts that can be used for God’s purpose? I am not sure, because they are easily confused with God’s purpose and the work of the organized Church.
These are great questions raised by Father Thomas at St. David’s. And they have been a source of contemplation this week, and will continue to prod me along in the weeks ahead. Thanks, FT, for the prodding.