This past Sunday was Ascension Sunday, or the day Jesus ascended into heaven.
In the days and weeks before he left the disciples, Jesus instructed them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the gift the Father had promised–the Holy Spirit.
It’s easy to skip over that part – the gift of the Spirit. Often, at least in the faith tradition I grew up in, we would skip to the part about what the Spirit does through us–signs and wonders, evangelism, teaching, proclaiming, growing in the fruits of the Spirit. We sometimes get lost in what the gift produces. But today we’re going to focus on this–the gift that is the Holy Spirit.
And it’s a gift we desperately need.
Because of the gift of the Spirit, we can hear from God at any time. While the Old Testament is full of prophets and ordinary believers responding in faith to God’s direction, it was actually an extremely rare occurrence to hear from God, and often happened only through a messenger sent from God to deliver a message. The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s voice speaking directly to us by His Spirit. We are encouraged, comforted, reminded, guided, and accompanied by the Spirit of God in our faith, in our daily lives.
Because of the gift of the Spirit, we have the ability to endure suffering as Christ endured. We are strengthened by the same power that strengthened Christ. And what’s more, we are not left alone to endure our suffering – indeed, the Spirit of God endures with us.
Because of the Spirit of God, we can truly and intimately abide in Christ–all the time, everywhere we are. The Spirit is with us, within us, and around us at all times. It’s not only through our times of prayer and devotion that we are abiding. It’s while we work, as we run our errands and cart our children from place to place, as we pull weeds from our gardens and mend broken appliances in our homes, and as we gather with friends and family for dinner. The Spirit is with us, and through the Spirit we abide in Christ.
Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk, once said, “The time of work does not with me differ from the time of worship; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, even while several people are at the same time calling out for different things, I commune with God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees in prayer in the holiest cathedral of worship.”
This is the gift of the Spirit of God with us. That in every moment, as we relish in the joys of life and grieve at the sufferings of it, communion with God is always available. May we recognize this gift for what it is–not a means to an end or to some grand work for God–but as the presence of God with us. Just for us–a gift that never withers or fades. The most precious and eternal gift of all. Emmanuel.
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