A Promise Filled

Discussion for May 31:

Who or what is the Holy Spirit? I believe that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ presence with us (John 14:15-19). That is why Jesus said he had to leave before he sent the Holy Spirit. Last time we met, we talked about the Ascension of Jesus – when he returned to heaven after 40 days of showing himself to his disciples after his death and resurrection.

One of the Greek words for the Holy Spirit is paracletos. It translates in the world of the courthouse, as legal language, as “advocate” The Holy Spirit is our defense attorney. So in a court case, what does the defense attorney do? – They have our back. They represent us. They believe in us and in our story. The Holy Spirit is not the judge or prosecutor. He’s on our side. He wants what’s best for us. The Holy Spirit will advocate for you against those who accuse, against every obstacle, against the voice in your head that says you’re not good enough.

Another word used in the Bible for the Holy Spirit is the Hebrew word Ruach. It means spirit, wind, or breath. When someone makes the decision to become a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters that person as if he was breathed in. The air you breathe becomes a part of your system. It gives you life. God gives you life.

God’s very life, breath and energy lives in, with and among us. Christians experience this life through Jesus because they see the Spirit so fully manifest in him. The Holy Spirit is the Yes of God within us. As in: yes you are fully loved just the way you are, yes you matter, yes, you are beautiful, wonderful, and so very special.

When the decision to become a follower of Jesus is made, you don’t look out at reality anymore; you look out from reality. In other words, God is not “out there”: you are in God and God is in you.

Our problems, personal, relational, political and global, are so complex and multifaceted, and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. We need power from beyond ourselves to address challenges, and that power comes to us through the Holy Spirit. We also need love, perfect, Godly love. Love is more necessary than ever. Jesus’ love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is essential.

Maybe God is hinting to us that in the Spirit we can come together to be in community, to reverse division, hatred, and that sort of stuff . . . to bring about the kingdom of God.  That is what we ask for when we pray the Lord’s Prayer – “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” The Spirit within us teaches us how to live in community with each other and the world will be a better place as more people believe and learn to live in God’s way. God has designed the world as a very good place. He declared it so in the creation story. But people have made a big mess of it because they often chose their own ways instead of God’s ways.

Wait & Pray

The Ascension of Jesus

The Book of Acts 1:1-14 (The Bible verses are in bold, my comments in italics)

Dear Theophilus [this may be the name of a particular person, or it might be a general address to believers, since it means ‘Lover of God’], in  the first volume of this book [the Gospel according to Luke] I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days [plenty of appearances to validate the truth of his resurrection]. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together [eating was important to note – it shows that the resurrected Jesus was not a ‘ghost’ but had a real body], he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.” [baptism = immersion; having the Holy Spirit envelop them as the water in the Jordan River does. The Holy Spirit fills them, transforms them, gives them a new heart.]

When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?” [the disciples were still waiting for Jesus to save them from Roman occupation. They are still asking the wrong questions, same as we are tempted to today. They still did not understand fully that his mission was on a global and eternal scale.]

He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.” [this is a huge promise to simple, uneducated Galilean fishermen! It also suggests that we shouldn’t waste time speculating on when Jesus will come again, but rather, to get going and witness. Witnesses witness to the truth of the gospel: the truth of justice for the whole world, the love of enemies, and the care for the marginalized and outcast.]

These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? [as in: don’t just stand there, there is work to be done!] This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.” [and we are still waiting, thanks to the grace of God, so that Christian witness may indeed reach the ends of the earth and all people will understand that Jesus has overturned the old ways, that ultimately, God’s ways are the answer to our troubled world and lives. We live in the in-between-time, between the end of the age held by the powers of death and evil – because Jesus had overcome those – and the new age where there will be no more tears and suffering, which is not yet fully realized. We know, because of our messy world, that the old order has no yet fully passed away. At the same time, we know, that Jesus has taught us a new way of being. It is the poor and the marginalized who will be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.]

So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, son of James. They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers. [the men in white suggested they do something – and the thing they do first is wait and pray together. These are the two primary activities of faithful followers. Our waiting implies that the things that need doing are beyond our ability to do by our own effort. Some other empowerment is needed. The gift of the Holy Spirit, for which the disciples are waiting, is also our gift, and it empowers us to live as faithful followers of Jesus, waiting and praying and doing kingdom work.]

More thoughts:

Jesus has taught the disciples the basics over the three years of his ministry. They have watched him heal people, love people, berate the hypocritical ‘holier than thou’ religious leaders of his time. Jesus has shown them what it is like to live as if in heaven. Now it was time for the disciples to do the same. In the Gospel of John, John records Jesus saying, “So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend (Holy Spirit) won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.” (John 16:7)

We also know that living with Jesus, even for three years like his disciples did, doesn’t mean they know everything there is to know about the Kingdom of Heaven. To prove the point, even in today’s passage from Acts, after the resurrection, they still ask questions about Jesus restoring Israel from Roman rule. Just before Jesus died on the cross, he told his disciples, “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is.” (John 16:12)

The disciples respond by waiting and praying. They do not know the time. They trust God’s timing. In the meantime, they wait and pray. Wait and pray. When we don’t know the next step, it is good to wait and pray, and trust in God’s timing.

It is when we accept the Holy Spirit from God that we also will be guided into all truth. This is a journey. Our hearts are changed for sure, but our eyes only gradually learn the truth of God. We learn to see the world in a new way – through the eyes of faith. And we learn to share this Good News with those who don’t yet believe.

We accept the Holy Spirit in baptism. Jesus baptises people with the Holy Spirit to empower them to live according to his example. We will see, at the next Cornerstone meeting, the changes which the Holy Spirit caused in the disciples. Water baptism in the church is an outward indication of the changes that take place within us when we accept Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life in our own lives.

John 14:12 “The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing.”

Ladies Bible Study

10:00 am – 12:00 pm, May 30 – June 27 at the Haldimand Pregnancy Care & Family Centre. Study materials and childcare for children up to age 4 are provided free of charge. Please contact Nicole Reid to register by May 23, 2017. All are welcome, bring a friend!

discussion for Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In God’s design, death precedes resurrection. Always. Without death there is no new life. We see this in nature: decay leads to growth. Without a seed falling to the ground, there is no new growth. Without struggle, there is no victory. Without suffering, there is no overcoming. The disciples were hopeless and dejected before they rejoiced. As the truth about the risen Jesus begins to sink in, despair becomes delight. Without death, there is no resurrection. It is God’s design. This gives us hope while we muddle through our imperfect lives, where we experience struggle, suffering and death. We do see glimpses of joy, beauty, and love. We can know that this is true.

2017.05.03 Emmaus blog

The Cross

What exactly happened at the cross is theologically complex  and some of it remains a mystery. No one has all the answers and if they tell you that they do, they are misleading you. So our passage starts at 9:00 am. Jesus had been arrested and gone through mock trials before the government and the religious leaders, and he had been tortured. He had no sleep nor food.

Being a king when Caesar ruled from Rome was illegal. Rome had allowed Jews their religious practices, and the Jews didn’t want to further jeopardize their relations with Rome. The Jews were waiting for a powerful saviour. Jesus renounced the use of force. He came as a servant to show us the way of love.