I am writing this post on another dull grey Monday morning, this winter has felt long, and while the days are perceptively longer I know that winter is far from over. Winter is far from over, but on my lawn daffodils are bravely pushing their heads above ground, thight greenish yellow buds are emerging where flowers will be. On my un-pruned rose bushes there are signs of new leaves emerging and elsewhere, undergorund and unseen I know that spring is stirring into life, the signs are there for those who can see them, or feel them, or simply know that change is in the air. They are easy to miss of course when we focus on the greyness of the Monday and the length of the winter ahead.
I have come to the conclusion that greyness means that often miss the stirrings of something new, the same can be true in our own lives ( I will come to that in a moment), and of course in the life of the church. Take a congregation that tells itself the same story over and over, “we are gerring older, we are shrinking” and yet fails to see the young families who are coming and fails to truly see its young people who come faithfully week after week. To truly see means to include, to celebrate and to lift our eyes from the grey Momday to see and celebrate the signs of coming spring. What happens if there is a deeper sign, a young voice lifted in prayer that speaks out in the often misunderstood gift of tongues? It took a little while for the penny to drop but I believe I saw that yesterday, and while I do not know what was spoken into the unsuspecting congregation ( for I do not have the gift of interpretation) I do believe that it was significant. It was a sign of life.
Yesterday again, in another church a healing service, we began with a simple vestry prayer where the Spirit met us with such power that we all felt it and one of our group buckled at the knees. The service was a small beginning, but a poweful one, a church not filled with people but filled with the beautiful and gentle presence of the Holy Spirit moving among the gathered congregation as people prayed for and ministered to one another. I recieved prayer a wonderful gentle grace filled prayer, an assurance that I have not been abandoned of forsaken and that God sees me even in my grey and flat days. It is easy, we were reminded, to turn away from or refuse to recieve the gifts of love, grace and healing that the Spirit brings, easy to miss the signs of her/his presence among us.
I am often asked how it is that I as a politically and sometimes theologically liberal ( I describe myself as a liberal evangelical just to confuse people), inclusively-minded, femminist can believe in the charasmatic gifts of the Spirit as catalogued through Paul’s letters in the New Testament. The simple answer is this, while I have doubts when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture, and while I do not worship a God of wrath and anger I do believe that love conquers all, and that love is powerful and unstoppable. I do believe in a love so strong, so supernaturally overwhelming that it overcame death not only in Jesus, but calls us all to participate in the Christ-life and a oneness with him where who we truly are will be revealed. I believe in a God who like the Prodigal Father in the parable of the Lost Son, has not only welcomed me home, but reclothed me with a robe and a ring that signify me as belonging to him forever no matter how I feel. I believe in the deep mystery of the invitational Trinity whose relationship of love and lifegiving grace longs to include everyone without exception. I believe enough to say that when I don’t know the answers that I am content to trust myself to the mystery of it, for God is ever and always bigger than any of my sermons or explanations.
God is bigger and in that I find my salvation, for readers will know from previous posts that I am living in a perpetual grey Monday at the moment, but yesterday I was given a glimpse of spring and it stirred my heart. I am not going to beat myself up because I did not bounce out of bed singing hallelujahs this morning, but I am open to the signs and movements of the Spirit as s/he awakens something new within me. Yesterday I believe that I was called to see, but not only for myself. I believe that I have been called to see with and for others, to point and say look, do you not see, do you not hear? We are told not to despise the small things, the days of new beginnings, so I share my prayer from yesterday morning:
Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us, help us to know we are yours, to love one another with your love as we see one another through your eyes. Help us to take our place in your body, respecting and valuing each part. Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us.
… and hear Gods still small voice speaking within me:
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Isaiah 43: 19