Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall nether reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God.
John Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion” II.2.15
New Life in the Spirit
This weekend, my daughter had planned to go backpacking on the Laurel Highlands Trail. She and a friend were going to hike out by Beam Rocks. They canceled the trip because of the weather. I was at Beam Rocks four or five years ago and it has a wonderful view. I doubt if the view was as good yesterday. Last weekend I went hiking at Deer Lakes Park. It was beautiful – the wildflowers were spectacular.
Most of the time when I go hiking I find myself longing to see what is at the end of the trail or what’s over the next mountain. I remember a time I was out in Colorado, hiking in the foothills outside of Colorado Springs. It was a beautiful, sunny day in May. I walked up a valley and came up to the top of a ridge that looked out over another valley. Across that second valley I could see Pikes Peak. It was spectacular. It had snowed several days earlier so the mountains were white. The sky was a brilliant blue. I found a tree that had fallen and the snow had melted around it, so I sat down, and just enjoyed the beauty. I was overwhelmed by the majesty and glory. A sense of awe welled up from deep inside.
As I sat there, I found myself wishing I could climb Pikes Peak, wishing I could explore the other side of the mountains I could see. I felt a pull to keep exploring, a tug on my heart. My body and the amount of time I have usually limits what I can do, but that longing toward the mountains is usually there. I believe that this tug on our hearts, is a symbol of the spiritual life. It points to the desire we all have to draw close to God.
This urge to connect with God, and to grow in our faith, is inherent in everyone. It is part of being human. We were created with a desire to know God and experience God. Augustine, the great theologian from the 4th century, put it best. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in God." This morning, my hope is to invite you to become aware of this urge in your life. I want to encourage you to start or continue your own spiritual journey. I want to challenge you to live, to be fully alive.
To be fully alive, to be fully human, is to be on a journey of faith. It is to be growing in our relationship with God. I know that some of you are already doing that. You are spiritually alive. You are pursuing a relationship with God. You are being filled with the fullness of God. I rejoice in that and encourage you to continue.
Mike Davis, my best friend from seminary, talked on the phone yesterday. He is a pastor outside of Nashville, TN. He started a group in his church of people who were going to commit thirty days, fifteen minutes a day, to praying and reading the Bible. At the end of the thirty days they got together and talked about their experience. One man was 82 years old. He had been in the church his whole life. He’d came to church regularly, had served on Session and several different committees. His comment about the thirty days was that he never knew that you could have a relationship with God. He had been a Sunday Christian his whole life and didn’t know that God wanted to be part of his life the other six days of the week.
That may describe some of you here this morning. You’ve never started on a spiritual journey. There are probably others here who at one point were growing in your faith, but something happened and you stopped. Maybe it was a crisis of some sort, or just the busyness of life. Other activities started filling up your time and God was put on the back burner. Since then you’ve been going through the motions of being a Christian but you aren’t growing in your faith.
If that describes you right now, I invite you to become aware of that longing for God, that tug on your heart. Let me ask you a few questions – is your faith strong enough to deal with a crisis that overwhelms you? Will your faith hold up and bring you comfort when someone you love dies? Or when the doctor says you have cancer? Or you lose your job? Being a Christian does not mean that God is going to make life easy and we will never need to struggle or deal with pain. Being a Christian involves finding hope and comfort in the midst of our struggles and pain. That hope comes from a growing relationship with God.
If you are aware of that tug on your heart toward God, there is good news. If you have a desire to continue on your spiritual journey, if you want a faith that will carry you through the trials of life, here is the good news:
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in our lives, we can grow in our faith.
Today is Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. It is the day we celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. The verses that Dave read this morning, for the call to worship and then for the first Scripture lesson, tell the story of that first Pentecost. The disciples were together and a wind from heaven filled the house they were in. Tongues of fire touched each one of them. They spoke in different languages, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to people from all over the world. Peter then got up and preached his first sermon. Dave read part of that sermon. Peter went on to talk about Jesus and at the end of his sermon three thousand people became followers of Jesus.
This story in Acts, and the ones that follow, show us the presence and power of the Holy Spirit bringing new life. Peter is transformed from a cowardly follower of Jesus into the leader of the church. Just a couple of months earlier Peter had denied that he even knew Jesus. He was afraid for his life. Here he is, standing up in front of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and Jews from all over the world, preaching about Jesus. Later on in Acts there is an even more incredible transformation. The presence of the Holy Spirit transformed Paul from one who persecuted Christians into a follower of Jesus Christ who went all over the world telling people about Jesus. The Spirit brings new life and helps us on our journey of faith.
In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis paints a wonderful picture of Pentecost and the Spirit bringing new life. After Aslan is killed by the evil, White Witch, she goes off to attack Aslan’s followers. Aslan comes back to life – that is the resurrection. Then he goes to the castle of the White Witch. There are statues all over the castle; dwarves, beavers, dogs, unicorns, foxes and fauns. These statues are creatures that had been turned into stones by the White Witch. Aslan breathes on the statues and they come back to life. It is the breath of Aslan that brings new life.
Breathe. In invite you to take a deep breath. Breathe. The Spirit, the breath of God, brings new life. Take another breath, breathing in the Spirit. Breathe. The Holy Spirit transforms us and helps us to grow in our faith. If you feel the pull of God on your heart, if you have a desire to be fully alive and growing in your faith, if you want to continue your journey of faith, then breathe. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life again and to fill you with new life. “Breathe on me Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do.”