Today’s Scripture Readings
These are amazingly strong readings about the Holy Spirit. So much so that for the Psalm we have the words of Zachariah, filled with the Holy Spirit after he gets his voice back when he names his son John. It is a classic example of being given the Spirit and a change of heart. The other readings are just as pointed. Paul adamantly questions what’s wrong with the Galatians, why aren’t they being faithful to how they received the Spirit in the first place. Jesus says praying is about stepping up and doing it with persistence. The result is receiving the Spirit.
I believe the Spirit is especially important today because the Spirit is God’s presence among us. Seeing that presence as part of our experience is key to living a life of faith, which often takes strength, courage and compassion. That is what Paul is yelling at the Galatians about. They have gone back to some practices dictated by Jewish law as if that is necessary for maintaining their connection with God. Paul is reminding them that their experience of the Spirit and “the mighty deeds” the Spirit worked among them didn’t come from following the law but believing in Jesus Christ.
The issue that is relevant for us today is thinking about the Spirit too narrowly. As if the Spirit only comes to really holy people like saints or in dramatic biblical events. I would like to take the Spirit out of the interventionist highly demonstrative category and place Spirit into the everyday operating category. Let’s consider God’s Spirit as a presence that empowers and emboldens us to live and do things we might otherwise fear or dismiss as beyond our abilities. Also think about Spirit as a calming, reassuring presence that can bring peace and joy into the midst of everyday activities.
The Psalm is thanking God because God “has come to his people” to make us “holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.” Wouldn’t that be an amazing gift if we accepted that we’re OK? If we accepted our own value before God as good? Wouldn’t that be a “mighty savior” who enabled us to worship God and live “without fear?” Jesus lived that way but it’s only the Spirit that can transmit that gift to us today.
Which brings us to Luke’s Gospel and Jesus telling his disciples and us to persevere in prayer. Not so God will improve our situation or even heal someone who is sick but rather send the Spirit to give us the best gifts of all. Aren’t what we really want “things” like confidence, peace, courage, insight, happiness, patience, appreciation, etc. That’s what Spirit is about. The challenge is, will we ask for this kind of help? Will we acknowledge the kinds of “things” we’re missing so we even see the need to ask? The man in the Gospel knows he needs three loaves of bread because he has a visitor at home who he can’t feed. He knows what he needs and why. It’s night time so finding the bread isn’t going to be easy or convenient yet the man is out there knocking on doors, probably being embarrassed. However, if he wants that bread he has to do it. That’s the persistence Jesus is talking about. Not “I wish, I wish” but taking the steps to find the help we need. If we do that, the Spirit of God will already be there giving us what we need.