Between Easter and Pentecost there is ‘waiting’. It is a hard word for any of us to hear because what comes is something we long for or perhaps because we dread it. And yet waiting is what the disciples are commanded to do (Luke 24:49).
What are we waiting for? Jesus says in Luke that we are waiting to be clothed in the power from on high. The death and resurrection of Jesus tell us a little of what this power is both like and for. It is not power over others but for them. It is power most clearly expressed in the willingness of Jesus to suffer and die. It is this suffering that the resurrection affirms. To wait for this power is to wait for God’s love to clothe us and fill us. We also know that this power was in the beginning of all things, shaping and creating the world. We wait to be given the gentle power of a loving creator so that we can share in God’s work of healing and mending.
How do we wait? A simply answer would be, ‘impatiently and nervously!’ Such a gift of love for others is both extraordinarily wonderful and wonderfully extraordinary. How we long at times to make the world a better place, and perhaps even for us to be better people! But a more complex answer would be a play on the word, ‘waiting’ – to wait as a Waiter waits. As such we pay close attention to what God wants, ready to help – obedient and patient. We wait as the disciples waited because until God gives us the resources all our efforts are in vain.
There are always such rhythms in life – a time to wait and a time to act! (Ecclesiastes 3). It is often important to simply get on with things – not to wait too long until everything is right, everything ready, and you feel on top. You have to get on with forgiving someone even if you feel terrible, to care about someone even if you feel tired and worn out, to get up in the morning when you simply want a duvet day. However, sometimes, and perhaps now is that time, we need simply to wait for the resources to be available.
People’s experience of the Holy Spirit is as varied as people. There was a huge emphasis a few years ago on what some people found strange. They were experiences that shaped the early church, ‘prophesy’, ‘speaking in tongues’, ‘signs and wonders’. In a way the Church got distracted by them – they stopped being ‘signs’ pointing towards something and became something in themselves. As if all the race enthusiasts set up their picnic hampers at the large traffic signs to Epsom Downs and didn’t actually get to see the races! What makes something wonderful is not that it is strange, or inexplicable – but that it is from God even if, in our view, it is quite ordinary. I wonder if we would be better focusing on the consequences of God’s gifts so we put them into perspective! (Galatians 5:22-23)
The experience people have of receiving God’s Holy Spirit may be difficult to describe – but the consequences are extraordinary and in some ways more wonderfully ordinary. People feel loved, valued and precious. They gain strength to love others, journey through hurts and old wounds and ‘be there’ for people in new ways. Attachments to ‘things’ and ‘ambitions’ and unhelpful longings are diminished as the power that made the universe takes an increasingly important place in their hearts and minds. We are restored, healed and forgiven.
God transforms us by the Holy Spirit. The creative force of the Universe that we know through Jesus continues the work of creation, and God’s loving desire to make us whole and happy. The Spirit of God that is ‘for us’ helps us to become the people who are ‘for others’.
Now there is for me a temptation to either ‘wait until I’m OK’ before I try and do anything new, or ironically, to rush in and get on with it’ and be braver and harder working, and less of a wimp. However, at my wisest – I know that there is a rhythm – a moment to have a go, a moment to wait to be filled.
Let us wait a little for God’s Spirit to blow through our Church and our community, and turn little sparks of light into warm fires of love. Let us be brave to give the creative force of the Universe space in our hearts and minds to help us become the women and the men we were designed to be. Let us be like sprinters in the blocks – waiting – but waiting ready to go and be part of God’s work of creation and healing!