Year A Proper 20 WEDNESDAY 23 September 2020
Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them.
He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. When some stubbornly refused to believe and spoke evil of the Way before the congregation, he left them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone.” ’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you”,
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The Spirit is one of the huge parts of our faith that I need to do a better job about following, listening to, and leading this parish to listen to better.
The Spirit is one of the key reasons I fell in love with the Episcopal Church. Coming out of the Evangelical tradition, the Holy Trinity was often jokingly referred to as the Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Scripture is of key importance. It is a record of many peoples’ interactions with God. As our Catechism teaches:
We call [the Scriptures] the Word of God because God inspired
their human authors and because God still speaks to us
through the Bible.
We incorporate the Spirit in our understanding of Scripture this way.
Q. How do we understand the meaning of the Bible?
A. We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the
Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures.
In my old way of thinking “God spoke, we wrote, and that was that.” But the Bible is God-breathed not God-dictated. It drips with human perspective, ideas, growth, and an evolving understanding of who God is and what God would have us do. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
But more and more, I ask the Spirit to guide my reading of Scripture and my actions.
In today’s texts we see the Spirit mentioned twice. In the Acts reading, we see folks who were functioning under their own power and might, having not received the Holy Spirit in their lives. It was crucial, and life-changing.
In the Gospel, the Spirit leads Jesus into the Wilderness. Sometimes there are lessons we need to learn, or experiences that we need to have. God knows it, and the Spirit directs it. Now this is where American Christianity gets off the rails too often, I think. Somewhere along the way we have tied Success with Faithfulness. We think that Faith must be Successful. Jesus was led into the Wilderness. Was that Success? He overcame Satan, but the combat was far from desirable.
So often in my life I have gone through times and seasons where I have been led to question and wrestle with the faith I have. Looking back, I can see clearly how God was with me and that I needed those times. Did I want them? NO! Would I choose them, then or now? Then, NO! Now, maybe, maybe not, being honest. But I can say that my faith grew and expanded, and God was glorified when no one anywhere would have called it a success.
But God calls us to be faithful, and not successful. The Success is the Kingdom’s, and not any of our petty benchmarks, like money, fame, or influence that we may keep on this plane of existence.
This all is very fresh on my mind. I cannot share many details, but at Vestry on Monday night I asked the Vestry to make a leap of faith. I knew what I was asking, and I am the first to admit that it was a big ask. It called on them to be generous and faithful. I called the recipient of their generosity yesterday to let them know what they had done, unbeknownst to the recipient. What the Vestry did was exactly what was needed. No one had any way of knowing this, and I was blown away. When the Spirit prompts, and then God shows up, we cannot fell anything but Awe.
Call on the Spirit today, to lead and guide you. Will the Spirit take you where you want to go? Maybe not. But will the Spirit take you where you need to be? Every Single Time. Thanks be to God! Amen