Friday, December 10, 2010

Spirit, Power, Life

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you .” (Luke 1:35).

By the time you read this your day will likely be well under way. If you’re like me you woke up this morning knowing what that would look like. I’m looking at a morning office appointment, a lunch appointment, an afternoon office appointment, and family plans for the evening. In between those things I’ve got some tasks to complete and some writing to do, along with some teaching material to prepare for Sunday morning. Not a bad day.

Occasionally surprises crop up here and there, but for now this day is looking fairly “typical.” I’ve done these things before. Some of them, in fact all of them, are things I do regularly. Pastoral visits, writing, studying – this is standard fare in my line of work. I can do these things without trying too hard.

And that’s the problem.

Far too often and far too easily we develop the skills we need to get through the day or the week. But getting through the day is not the same thing as living the day. An inner crisis often develops when we realize that somewhere along the way getting through became our objective. Without realizing it we stopped living.

Of course, getting through the day is not an unworthy goal. There are seasons and circumstances in which getting through a day is all we hope for. Maybe today you’re facing something so daunting that just getting through it would be a blessing. God hears and answers prayers for getting through.

But Jesus told us that he wanted us to have life – and in abundance (John 10:10). The question is where does life come from and what does it mean for us to live our days and not merely get through them?

The story of Mary is the story of a literal conception. Cells divided. An embryo took shape in her womb and a heart began to beat. Fingers and toes, chin and nose, the body of a boy. This was Jesus. This was the body of the one whose mouth would speak God’s thoughts and whose touch would heal. This was the body that would one day be crucified.

We ask Mary’s question: “How can this be?” The answer we receive in scripture ignores cellular biology. This happens by the Spirit and Power of God. It’s sad that this event has morphed into a topic of theological debate and speculation. For what’s worth, I assume the truth of the virgin birth. I affirm the reality of the incarnation – God “in-fleshed” among us.

But the gift of life by the power of the Spirit isn’t something for us to merely think about. It is something we can experience. God still comes to us by the Spirit and infuses our days with power. Jesus promised that God would give the Spirit when we ask (Luke 11:13). Jesus told us that we could live our days with power (Luke 24:49).

God still does this. He has from the beginning. At the creation of the world, the Spirit hovered over chaos and brought forth life. In Mary’s womb the Spirit came with power and created life. After the resurrection the Spirit came on a small group of Jesus’ followers and the church was born. This is God’s way: the Spirit gives life.

The Spirit and Power are yours today. This will not necessarily change what you’ve got on your calendar: Same appointments, same job, same chores and errands – but truly lived and not simply accomplished or endured. There is more for you today than getting through.

We listen to the word, we trust God’s promises, we ask for the Spirit, and by God’s grace we truly live what we are doing. It’s not too late today to start.

Come Holy Spirit and grant life to us as we go through this day. Save us from empty motions and habitual patterns. Work within us to bring forth life that we might do ordinary and familiar things as people called, blessed, and sent into this world in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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