Wednesday, 27 February 2013
What's missing? - Part 3
As I mentioned in the last post the promise to the disciples and the conditions that existed were a one off and in that sense unrepeatable. We belong to a church that has rumbled on for over 2000 years seeing lots of ups and downs in the process. We are facing a particularly down time at the moment and looking for answers by turning to the pages of the New Testament and considering whether or not we need to go 'back to basics'. The trouble with this is that the basics we are talking about stand in a particular context which is not the same today. The situation the disciples were facing were pristine and brand new. They themselves were blank pieces of paper that the Holy Spirit was about to write on and therefore had less of the baggage that we carry today. Also life is much more rushed and busy and we struggle to pause and pray or relax and reflect. Karl Jung - although not a Christian at least not in any New Testament kind of way - did get this right when he said that "Busyness is not of the devil, it IS the devil." and it is keeping us from listening to the still, small, voice of God.
Another thing to factor in too is our attitude to God in all this. In our usual and very 21st century kind of way we are looking to apportion blame or offload responsibility for what is happening to us as a church and at the moment, subconsciously if not consciously, God is the one who is having to shoulder it either positively - "God calls us to be faithful not fruitful" or "His timing is what counts", or negatively - "my God, my God why have you forsaken me" or even worse perhaps, "God does not care about us".
Worse still perhaps the prayers we pray are framed in such a way as they seem to imply that God needs somehow to change in order to answer our prayers. When we implore God to send down His Holy Spirit we can give the impression that He is reluctant to do so. Or that He is waiting for the right form of words for us to use. Or he is not generous or understanding but reluctant and needs persuading by prayer and fasting! But what about those scriptures which tell us of his love and generosity and his fatherly concern? In Luke 11 we have already been taught that God is NOT evil and will not give us a scorpion when we ask for bread.
Which leads to this. If God does not change in his character, desire and generosity and loves to answer all our prayers according to his will or in his name (John 15:7, 16) then quite clearly there is nothing wrong with the signals but there may be a problem with the receiver! In other words God doesn't change, but maybe we need to. Here's something along the lines of what we can pray: "Lord, I thank you for your promises to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask you. Please change ME so that I can become the kind of person who will be able to receive Him, the kind of person He can use and operate through. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."
Perhaps we need therefore to change us and change His Church so that what He gives may be able to be received in a worthy, humble and obedient way.
Looking back to Luke/Acts can give us a lift if we remember what the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish in such a short space of time. But where it does not give us the whole picture of what was going on in the disciples lives etc and how the Spirit was already changing them in order for it all to fall into place.
I don't know if this is helpful to you. It has been to me because I am now able to widen my perspective a little more and see the broader picture. What happens next then is to change the way I pray so that God is able to work IN me and now just around me His will and purpose. As someone once said, I must become part of the answer to my own prayers.
Note: We cannot - and should not - read Luke 24:45-49 without reading for example John 21:15-21 where Peter is healed. Jesus clearly prepares his heart for what was about to happen and maybe in the days following his ascension Jesus was able to to something similar in the lives of the other disciples before the Spirit fell?