We are fast approaching the Day of Pentecost, in just one week, which will end the Season of Eastertide. And I find myself reflecting upon the texts from our readings from Ascension day, including tomorrow’s readings.
For many, the lockdown has been a trying time for many reasons, and there is no end in sight. People are hungry, cold, sick, dying, lonely, depressed, losing jobs, struggling financially and this all includes the church communities. The pastors are working harder than ever, to keep everything and everyone together and a sinking ship afloat.
In last weeks reflections I spoke about how Christ did not abandon us, that he would send someone to be with us always, That We Are Not Alone! In the readings for Ascension day, the following verses popped out at me.
In Acts 1:5 “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” & vs 8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, he visited with the disciples, to reassure them again. They had locked themselves inside the upper room, away from the soldiers and enemies. They were worried and scared of the future and of what would happen with them now. Jesus came and reassured them and spoke again of the Holy Spirit, who would be arriving soon and be their companion.
As we should be reassured.
We are closed away in our homes, and while from behind the closed doors, we try to carry on with work, with ministry, with outreach, keeping in contact with friends and family. We worry about how we are going to pay the bills, with salaries being cut, or being retrenched. We worry about getting sick, when going out to get necessities. We worry about getting arrested for being out on the road. We worry about the children all going back to school in a few days time.
Although it is difficult, we should be reassured, because Jesus prayed for us!
John 17:9-11 “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Jesus prayed for our protection! He wanted us to be united and one with God! He wants us to be protected in the Power of God’s name!
Jesus has reassured us, he has promised us a companion, the Holy Spirit and he has prayed protection over us. Then, why are we so worried, concerned and stressed? Where is our faith in God? And how can we keep our faith unwavering in our Lord God?
What is faith?
Faith is not trying to obey and fulfill some kind of law. It is not working ourselves up to a certain emotional level. It is not doing our best to try to live up to some religious or moral standard. Trying to live up to someone’s law, no matter where it comes from, is not faith. That is living by works. Faith is not expecting God to accept you because you have tried your very best to live a certain way. God does not love and accept you because you have tried hard to do what you think was right.
God’s righteousness comes to all who exercise faith in Jesus Christ. The object of our faith is Jesus Christ.
Yes, there are times you will question your faith, where you will feel that you are losing faith. Don’t worry, that is normal! We go through cycles of feeling fantastic in the Power of the Holy Spirit, and other times you feel like your have obstacles the size of mount Everest blocking your way. You either feel on top of the world, or you feel as though something has been taken away from you by either God or man.
When you are feeling like you are on the wrong side of faith, try remembering this. “In EVERYTHING, I have faith in God!” This has helped rebuild my own trust, restrengthen my conviction, and restore my growing awareness of oneness with the Father.
Jesus Christ showed in a powerful way, through his own manner of response, the vital importance of right reaction to every circumstance of life. Confronted by the negative attitudes of the Pharisees and other religious leaders, he persistently moved forward in having faith in God.
In Acts 1:14 it says: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.”
As a community, we need to keep encouraging and loving one another. We need to continue being disciples of Christ. We are a community, we are all in the same boat. One person cannot steer the boat, and man the rudder and man the oars and set the sails and man the lookout and you get my point. We are all in the boat together, and each person needs to do a portion of the work, to make the boat sail under the direction of a captain. Without all hands on deck, the boat will run aground on some rocks and the boat will sink.
As a community, we need to pray together, as the disciples did. While they waited for the Holy Spirit to arrive, they sat together in the upper room, and they prayed together constantly. As we should be praying. We should be praying for each other, for our leaders, in our community, and in the Diocese, and for our country.
In conclusion I want to share 3 different translations of 1 Peter 4:12-13, before ending off. This is from one of the readings for tomorrow.
1 Peter 4:12-13 Good News Translation
12 My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. 13 Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed.
New International Version
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
12-13 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
I don’t normally read from the Message Bible, I prefer the NIV or NLT, but oh my goodness, does the Message make what I wanted to say so loud and clear. And doesn’t it ring true for what we are all going through right now!
This text, is exactly what my Spiritual Companion has said to me on way to many occasions to mention. Yes! Life is particularly difficult at the moment, but this experience is refining us for what lays ahead, it is refining us for work to be done later on. We need to have faith RIGHT NOW! that God is with us, that he is protecting us, and that he will reveal all when the time is right.
In the meantime, we need to abide (endure) in faith. Whatever life throws at us, whatever fiery ordeals and painful tests and difficulties we face, GOD IS WITH US! He has not forsaken us, we are not alone! We will get through this together.
Have faith in our God and pray for each other.
And lastly; we all have the Holy Spirit within us, our constant companion, but sometimes we need to have a personal renewal.
Each of us must at some moment when we are ready, ask the Holy Spirit to stir up His life in us, and from time to time ask for further release. It requires only a simple prayer of faith and a new discipline of a spiritual life under some kind of personal “rule of life”.
After soul searching and penitence, you can pray the following prayer of abandonment.
Father, I abandon myself into your hands. Do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all creatures. I wish no more than this, Lord. I offer myself to you with all the love in my heart, for I love you Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence: For You are my Father. Amen.