1st Scripture Reading: Acts 16:9-15 & Psalm 67
Our readings this morning are rather mystical, as well as being spiritual, aren’t they? Paul’s vision of a man calling his group to Macedonia follows hard on his being guided by the Spirit of Jesus NOT to go into the town of Bithynia. Paul and his followers were on a mission to grow and strengthen the fledgling churches in the area.
We are to understand that Paul’s mission is guided by the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, of whom we will read more later this morning. Clearly there is more going on here than mere human whimsy.
The apostle Paul had a huge, over-riding vision of the church of God. And this vision was to drive him mercilessly until the day he died. Whatever you might think of Paul, he definitely was listening to the little voice speaking to him from within himself.
We struggle with this sort of thing, don’t we? Is that little voice the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit? Or is it the sound of my own egoic ambitions? Always, my friends, we must learn to discern what is truly spiritual guidance from what might simply be our own selfish desires.
One of the ways we do that is by prayer – by making sure we attend to the care of our spiritual nature by prayer, or meditation, or reading holy books. We must spend time reflecting on spiritual matters in order to build spiritual muscle – to develop the power of discernment.
God’s face indeed shines upon us, and blesses us in so many ways – but are we taking care of our part of the bargain: sharing what we know about God and God’s ways with others, and being good and responsible stewards of all the gifts God has blessed us with?
As we sing together this morning, let our voices ring out with gratitude for all that we enjoy.
Hymn #236 VU “Now Thank we all our God”
2nd Scripture Reading: Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5 & John 14:23-29
In our reading from Revelation this morning, we see that John has had a vivid and detailed vision of the New Jerusalem. It is fantastic and mystifying, and it is a vision. In my experience these mystical dreams or visions are meant to teach or clarify something for us – something that our limited understanding has not yet been able to grasp. Usually they bear little resemblance to our ordinary reality – but they are no less useful and enlightening for all that.
And we really don’t know where they come from, or who is responsible for planting them in the minds of our mystics or visionaries. But in the reading from the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus putting such things into a context his people can understand or at least believe. He tells them that they should not grieve his passing, because this passing “activates” the coming of the Holy Spirit to live among and in them. This “Advocate” will continue to teach them and to remind them of Jesus’ teachings while he was with them.
So there will be a “voice for God” hovering over every shoulder, reminding us all of God’s ways and the teachings of the Master Jesus.
What evidence of that might we see around us today? What came to mind for me as I continued to read about Paul’s visit to Macedonia, was his conversation with the woman, Lydia, who was a dealer in purple cloth. Lydia was probably a very rich woman, since purple cloth was an extravagant luxury in those days. But she was also a worshipper of God, the writer says. I find this a refreshing story behind the history of the early Christian church. This woman of influence and wealth became a solid supporter of Paul’s mission. She had already drawn around herself a group of Godly women to pray together outside, by a river – a place of prayer.
So following our original line of thought, Paul was guided to this group of helpful and influential women who became baptised, and then early founders and promoters of his church.
Two thousand and more years later, and we still see that women are an integral and important contributor to the survival of the Christian church, with many now taking leadership roles that had been previously denied to them.
And this phenomenon is not restricted to the church. All our modern day institutions are finding they must include more women in leadership positions, as the dominance of a patriarchal system in place for millennia is slowly but surely crumbling before our eyes.
Women are no longer being guided by fear of male retaliation or punishment, instead listening to the voice of the God of justice, and of righteousness. No longer will they remain silent while their children are abused or their own bodies or spirits violated. The little voice is getting stronger, people of God. Our spiritual evolution has been slow but steady, and a Spirit of fairness has invaded our consciousness. We don’t believe the lies about women’s inferiority and inherent weakness that makes them unsuitable to lead – those lies ring hollow in our ears these days, and this my friends is cause for rejoicing.
God, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Jesus, Higher Power of the Divine, whatever you like to call our highest spiritual awareness – that voice calls to us, calls us to a life of integrity, of fairness, and of justice for all.
Listen, children of God, listen to God’s call to mission and to abundant life. This is our journey, the journey Christ calls us to, the journey of which we are now and have always been a part.
Hymn #21MV “Open our hearts”