Today is the fourth in our series focussing on the Holy Spirit.
I was planning to choose passages other than the Lectionary ones – but right on cue, God placed these Spirit-inspired passages in the common Lectionary this week.
Today we’ll examine your parts and mine in being servants to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
One Christmas when I was a boy, my parents got my brothers and I a ball game called ‘Totem Tennis’.
Is anyone familiar with this?
You have a pole and a tennis ball joined to a rope and connected to a coiled spring on the pole that went up or down depending on which way the ball was hit.
Two combatants with racquet type bats stood on opposite sides of the pole and hit the ball in opposite directions so the ball would fly through the air straight back to the person on the other side – backwards and forwards.
Sometimes you’d miss the ball as it travelled at you with speed and it would simply go past you for the other person to grow their advantage. In essence one could say – what goes around comes around.
The ball was never far from you and always remained connected to the pole which had one end driven into the ground.
Last week when we spoke of legacies we talked about what others inherit from us, and what we inherit from the Holy Spirit but that we also recreate what has happened – bringing around again what has gone before – just like token tennis.
I mentioned in the beginning that the lectionary reading speaks much about this as we will explore. But so too does this week’s Psalm reading – which is very special in my Christian journey.
What I have here is a holding cross – given to me in a ministry practicum over ten years ago. God placed upon my heart three things when this happened.
Firstly, that I was to make these crosses myself.
Secondly, that I was to gift them to others as the Spirit led and
Thirdly that I was to pray over these crosses as I protected them with olive oil.
And the prayer I was given to pray over them was Psalm 146.
Now let me read a few lines:
The Lord remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
And gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free,
The Lord gives sight to the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien [refugee]
And sustains the fatherless and the window.
What goes around comes around!
And so it is with these two other lectionary readings.
In the 1 Kings reading the prophet Elijah follows God’s command and goes to a place that is alien territory, at Zaraphath in Sidon to the house of a foreigner and a widow at that.
A widow was dependent upon their children to look after them. There was, of course, no welfare or pension scheme then. But here, as her child dies, she learns to be dependant firstly on this man of God, but ultimately on God to resecure her future. Interestingly it all happens through the resurrection of the Son.
We move forward in time, perhaps one thousand years, to be in the time of Jesus, as Luke records, in a critical meeting with the widow of Nain near the Sea of Galilee about 50 kilometres from Zaraphath.
The story has, of course, many parallels with the Old Testament reading. Again, it is the widow’s only son who has passed away.
Jesus, like Elijah, gives the son back to his mother, and once again the ‘healer’ is lauded as a great prophet and man of God.
What goes around comes around, but does the story end there, when Jesus departs this earth? No! In John’s gospel a new game of totem tennis is being created. Jesus says he must go, but that the Spirit will be replacing him, and there is also another new player – it’s you and me – and these are the words of encouragement Jesus leaves for us, in this time, we now begin our part with the Spirit – not as adversary, but as one who goes around so that we may come around – as a partner.
We read in John 14:12-14:
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Now that’s a big Pentecost call – to become healers as well as believers in healing, to be called to action rather than calling others to action and to be players connected to other players, connected to the partnering Spirit by a rope that links us to the centred upright pole that is both fixed in the Earth while pointing to the sky.