Seems like when we ask the question, “What does it mean to be spiritual?” we come at it as individuals and try and take from it something for ourselves, personally, almost selfishly.
We might say or ask things like
– I want to know what it means to be spiritual
– I wish I was more spiritual
– I wonder if I’m spiritual enough
– You think there’s more out there for me?
It’s easy to get stuck here – on my individual spiritual journey. You might get a certain distance on your own, but you’ll never get as far. This old proverb may help us here, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
You can’t get too far into the biblical narrative (both OT & NT) before discovering that spirituality is a community thing…a team effort you might say. Following Jesus doesn’t happen in isolation; living a full and spiritual life doesn’t happen alone either.
If you’ve ever been part of a band or a team you understand this a little better. Your team is only as good as everyone’s contribution. A band or orchestra will be it’s best when everyone is doing their part and appreciated for it.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians really helps us here. Actually, it’s where much of this idea of community spirituality comes from. The church community, the body of Christ, is where our spirituality is formed, where it comes together, where we grow in our spiritual maturity.
Paul has to address some difficulties and disjointedness in Corinth. People aren’t appreciating what others have to offer. They are comparing the gifts they feel they’ve received from the Spirit. They’ve gotten to a point where there’s too much me and not enough we.
In chapters 12-14, Paul takes time to explain what spiritual gifts are, what they do, how they’re used in the context of community, and how love must be front and centre for spiritual gifts and the people who use them to shine.
Paul says, “I want you to be informed about spiritual gifts.” He wants to bring clarity in the midst of confusion. We learn here that there are MANY gifts…but ONE Spirit. That there is much spiritual activity, but ONE God who activates it in us.
What are the gifts Paul is actually referring too: In Romans 12 we see prophesy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, compassion; In 1 Corinthians 12 we see wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, discernment, tongues, interpretation. In Ephesians 4 we read about apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, pastors. Most scholars say this is not an exhaustive list.
We’re told that the reason for, and the manifestation of these gifts are for the common good; build up one another, help one another, help us in our walk towards spiritual maturity.
Paul continues this conversation on spiritual gifts, with his readers and us, by moving into what it means to be part of the body of Christ. It is not an accident that these two themes are connected in the same chapter.
If we go back to the orchestra analogy we’re reminded that every instrument plays its part in performing a piece of music, not just the prominent ones. In baseball every position on the field is important, not just the pitcher or the homerun hitter. In football the quarter back gets lots of attention, but every person on that field plays a part in winning a game.
What’s the connection here? Everyone has something to offer. Spiritual gifts are only understood in the context of community. Which means that spiritual growth and being ‘spiritual’ is fully realized in the context of that same community, the church. Read these brilliant words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
Following the conversation from spiritual gifts to the body of Christ, Paul then moves into the topic of love. We often read 1 Corinthians 13 out of context. It’s read at weddings and engagements and other occasions where love is celebrated. But the purpose of these words were always to help the reader understand that spirituality without love is useless.
Think about it? You can speak in other tongues, move mountains, share knowledge, lead crowds, give money away, etc. BUT if there is no love, those gifts of the spirit don’t accomplish anything in you or others.
I hope you investigate the gifts of the spirit. I hope you do the worthwhile work of discovering what you have to offer the world and the church, but know that true spirituality is never selfish, it doesn’t mature in isolation, it grows in the midst of a healthy community of people who follow Jesus together and who are convinced that love is the funnel through which our spirituality flows through.
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small(er) group discussion:
What are your initial thoughts or questions around spiritual gifts? Are you coming to this topic fresh or with some baggage?
If you were to take an inventory of your spiritual gifts, where would you land? What would they be? Are you working with (and at) what you sense God has gifted you with?
Have you been guilty of seeing spirituality as a ME thing and not enough as a WE thing? Why is it so important to base this conversation in community and love?
Can everything be spiritual? Can every gift or skill you have be spiritual? If so, how? If you disagree, why?
Wanted to let you know that this Sunday we’ll have Doug Sider on hand. Doug is BIC Canada‘s director and will be teaching in our Sunday morning gathering/intermission. He might also be sharing a little bit about the family of churches we are a part of.
Really hope you will be with us for this. We’ll also be celebrating Running4Home from the day before.
See you at 10:33am.
We’ll all heard the saying, “All talk and no action”. It’s a great statement; inspiring, challenging, helpful. It’s used in settings where someone may be saying all the right words, but isn’t backing them up with his or her actions.
What if we were to reverse this? What if, at times, the opposite is true? That we are all actions, but no talk?
As we continue to jump into this conversation on the Holy Spirit, we discover that the Spirit is very much about enabling us to speak? To talk? To share our voice?
In our last post we showed how the NT describes the Spirit’s presence in our lives as with us, in us and on us. Today we move to two chapters in Acts that changed everything in regards to our understanding of the Spirit. The church was birthed on what we call the day of Pentecost; the day that the promised Holy Spirit fell upon the church. It’s a big deal. Both historically and today.
Three words frame Acts 1 & 2 for us: Power, Pentecost, and Purpose.
Jesus said in Acts 1:8 that the disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them.
Jesus was about to ascend to heaven. In previous teaching and conversations he said he would leave the Holy Spirit for them…for us. Jesus promised us the power and the ability to launch the church forward.
This power comes from above, but is intended for below; it’s from heaven, but it’s for earth. The dialogue between the angels and disciples (1:10) shows us this when they ask, “Why are you looking up?” It’s as if they said, this power you’re about to receive is for here & now; for what you need to do here on earth (as it is in heaven).
We need this power. One writer says it like this, “The mystery of the church is that it is, by God’s good grace, more than it seems to be. The Holy Spirit is the more of the church.” It’s the power of the church, then and now.
Pentecost wasn’t the first time we see the Holy Spirit on the scene, but it was a fresh and new way for the Spirit to operate in the midst of community and of people. (Acts 2:1-4)
The church derives its meaning from the first Pentecost…
– originally the 50th day after Passover
– an agricultural festival (on the ground)
– farmers brought first crops (gratitude)
– looks pack to Exodus
– about God giving his people a new way of life
On this Pentecost…something new started…the church was born because of the Spirit’s arrival. So Pentecost was a look back at the past, with the purpose of launching forward.
In Genesis 1 the Holy Spirit breathed life into dust.
In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit breathed life into people and created a new community with the gift of bold speech.
As we read onward in Acts 2 we find some pretty interesting things happening. There’s definitely something interesting and mysterious about what transpires. People speaking in other languages, others visiting Jerusalem that day understanding the languages being spoken, Peter having the ability to speak/preach, a reminder from the prophet Joel that all kinds of people (young, old, male, female) will have something profound to say about God.
So what’s the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s arrival on the church? It’s to give the church the ability and the power to speak. That’s it? Didn’t we learn how to talk at two and three year’s old? Most of us did. Well, for the church, this was their early years, their formative years, and God sent them the power to speak, to talk, to proclaim, to communicate the good news of Jesus to the world.
Let’s not minimize the importance of this moment in the church’s history. The Holy Spirit enabled the church then (and now) to be people who communicate good news. There is definitely lots going on in this narrative, and perhaps even more than just about communication, but it’s definitely not less than that either.
It’s true that our actions often don’t match up with our words. We fail at this often. But we also fail at matching our words with our actions. What happens in Acts 1 & 2 is a reminder to us that one of the Spirit’s roles in our life is to enable us to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus – to communicate his message to the world. Do our lives have to match up? Yes. But our words should also be heard. The Spirit helps that happen.
“The Spirit is the power which enables the church to go public with its good news, to attract the world, and to have something to say worth hearing”
Let’s sum it up with this: Jesus promised Power at Pentecost for the Purpose of speaking life into the world through his church.
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small(er) group discussion:
Are you attracted to, scared of, or fearfully open to the Spirit’s Power and the adventure that comes with it?
What new thing could the Holy Spirit be initiating in you? What kind of movement might the Spirit be leading you towards?
In what way, through the Spirit’s power & help, can you communicate and be a witness to the ways of Jesus and his Kingdom?
Are their any parts of Acts 1 & 2 that are a little more difficult to understand?
What do you think about this statement? “When we pray ‘Come Holy Spirit’, it’s as if we pray, ‘Bring it on, shake us up, send us forth, kick us out, and make us a more interesting church then we would be if you had left us alone.”
Thursdays at The Manafo’s (22 Harness Ridge Drive, 7:30pm)
Thursdays at The Hayes’ (9485 Baldwin St. N Ashburn, 7:30pm)
2 Wednesdays at The Clarke’s (May 10 & 24, 5 Northgrove, Cr, 6-8pm)
Check our Sunday Conversation page for teaching notes and discussion questions.
Do you have any friends or colleagues who are great at what they do, but don’t always get the credit they deserve? Perhaps it’s a work colleague, a sport’s teammate, or just a really good person in your close group of friends. They’re a constant contributor, but they sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
This is how some say we view the Holy Spirit.
We talk much about faith, following Jesus, having a healthy and robust spirituality, understanding God’s will and plan, discernment, but often forget who is actually behind the scenes leading, empowering, helping, comforting, and making it possible – The Holy Spirit. But why is it that the third person of the trinity is sometimes seen as “the other one”? One writer describes him like this, “Some say the Spirit is a distant member of the trinity. Neglected almost. Like Cinderella. Father & Son are at the Ball while the Spirit is home washing the floors.”
Over the next few weeks/posts we want to investigate the Holy Spirit and what it means to is be ‘S’piritual.
The Spirit may sometimes be forgotten, but he’s never out of the picture. He’s always here. We have to welcome him, acknowledge him, be aware of him, and if need be, invite him (even though he’s already here). From the first words of Genesis, we are made aware that God’s Spirit is very present. Intentionally included from the writer of Genesis.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
If there’s one thing we want to appreciate and understand about the Holy Spirit, it’s this – He is present.
The New Testament talks about him being present in 3 ways: He is WITH us, he is IN us and he is ON us.
In Jesus’ closing remarks before heading to heaven, in what we call the great commission, he says that ‘he will be with them always, to the very end of the age’. How could he be with them if he was leaving? How could he assure them of this on his way out? Was he lying? Was he giving them a false hope? Neither. He actually meant it.
We read these words in John 14, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
Jesus tells his first disciples and us that he will be with us, to help us, to comfort us, to assure us, etc. How? Through the Holy Spirit.
Notice that he also says he would be in us. ( John 14:17b)
In Romans 8, Paul does a masterful job of connecting the Jesus story to the role of the Spirit. He teaches the early church that it’s God’s Spirit in them that gives them the power to live out the ways of Jesus. Through out that text, a number of times, Paul says that it’s God’s Spirit who will live in us and enable us to live a life that follows Jesus and reflects his Kingdom values. The Holy Spirit also enables us to be children of God. In a sense, he’s the one who signs the adoption papers. If you’ve ever watched, witnessed, or have been close to an adoption story, you know how beautiful it is when a boy or girl find a home to belong to. This is what the HS does for us.
When the Holy Spirit abides in our hearts, it is he who makes us understand that the Lord is near and takes care of us. (Pope Francis)
We desire the ability to do good – the power to make a difference – the gifts to be on mission and do justice. The Holy Spirit comes ON us to do that through us.
Acts 1:8 says, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses. This is Jesus promise to us, but we saw it on him first.
In Luke 4 (cf Isa 61) we read,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus said we would do greater things than he did. That is only possible because the same Spirit that was on him is on us. This means that I can be a good news person…a proclaimer of freedom…a restorer of sight…a reconciler of brokenness…all because the Holy Spirit is ON me.
Here’s the question – will you be open to all that the Spirit has for you? Will you invite him to be with you, in you and on you? Every day – In every way!
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small(er) group questions:
What do you think about when you think about the Holy Spirit? How would you define or describe him?
Read John 14:15-17(above). How can you speak to that verse? What about Jesus’ use of the word ‘advocate’ (helper, defender, one who speaks in your defence). How do you sense the Spirit is that for you? What does it mean to you that the Holy Spirit is WITH you?
In Romans 8 we understand the Spirit’s role in us is to enable us to live a life for Christ and to identify as children of God. Can you describe what it means that you’ve been adopted into God’s family via the Holy Spirit’s presence IN you?
What about Acts 1:8 is exciting, empowering, mysterious? Have you sensed God’s Spirit on you for a specific task? Big or small? How’d it feel? What did you do? How did you respond?
What would you like to learn about the Holy Spirit in the next few weeks? Anything you’d like to see clarified? Any questions around him, his role, the trinity, being aware of his presence, etc.?