We begin a new series we are calling “indwelling.” Over the next five weeks we look at God‘s desire to dwell in humanity. Through the scripture of the next few weeks we will see the story of God’s love for us and this deep desire for God to be with us. God is a creator who wants to completely indwell with each and every one of us.God is a creator who wants to completely indwell with each and every one of us. Click To Tweet
There are many places where we see the message from God to dwell with us. Dwelling literary means tent, it is where Moses met God. In Ezekiel “My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (37:27) We know the people want to pitch a tent for God but Ezekiel reveals God’s desire to be among the people. The tent is God among the people, it begins to form the tabernacle. Eventually the tent becomes a temple and for the people this is the place where God dwells among them.
In time Jesus is incarnated into humanity, Emmanuel, God with us. When Jesus returns to the Father he sends the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, God dwelling within us. We will also see that we are in Christ. We eventually are living a mutual indwelling. As we look at the readings for the next few weeks we will recognize God’s love and how God turns that love into a closeness that makes us mutually in God and God in us.
This week’s readings declare clearly that God has made the Holy Spirit available. In fact Jesus is said to breath on the disciples and say to them, “receive the Holy Spirit.” In each of the chosen readings of the day it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that maintains humanities close relationship with God and God with humanity. Jesus came so that we might know the Holy Spirit, he revealed the Father to us and he revealed the Spirit to us. Jesus took on flesh, and entered into humanity and our world to bring fulfillment, by uniting the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus came so we might know the close relationship between Father, Son and Spirit and in our belief of this mystery we might have life. God’s indwelling is lived mainly through the Spirit, but it is the relationship between the three that makes our knowing of the Spirit as gift of God an authentic love, a love that forms our hearts and makes us recognize the closeness of God in our life.God’s indwelling is lived mainly through the Spirit, but it is the relationship between the three that makes our knowing of the Spirit as gift of God an authentic love, a love that forms our hearts and makes us recognize the closeness… Click To Tweet
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Second Sunday of Easter; Acts 5:12-16; Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9. The readings guide us to believe and receive forgiveness as Jesus overcomes death and returns to his followers to continue to spread the Good News.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we read about all the signs and wonders that are happening at the hands of the apostles. People are being healed by the shadow of Peter as he passed those sick and disabled. The word is spreading and more and more of those in need of a cure or healing are being brought to the apostles and they are being cured. People were hearing the name of Jesus from the apostles and coming to believe. Even though it was dangerous to join this new community, people were joining because of the signs they have seen. The signs of course were the work of the Holy Spirit. God indwelling in the apostles and bringing about the cures that convinced the people joining, there was something special about this new movement. When the Spirit of God shows through, people recognize something different, they know there has been a change and want to be a part of it. Jesus was attractive to people when he walked among them, preaching, teaching and healing. Now the people could see something special within the apostles and were attracted to them. This attraction is God in them, the Holy Spirit.
In the second reading from the book of Revelation we are introduced to John the author of the text, who is receiving the message in the book from a voice that is Jesus. John is told to write what he sees for seven churches, essentially for the church in the entire world. This is the introduction to the book of Revelation, a presentation to readers of a vision of the risen Lord, who entrusts John with a word of prophecy for seven churches in Asia and through them the whole church in all time and place. In this introduction we see this phrase from John, “I was caught up in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” For John this is an experience of being in the Spirit. The Spirit in John is very real and gives him the power and vision to see what Jesus needs him to see and record. It is not like John had tape recorders or paper even, he would depend on his memory and the Spirit to later dictate to a secretary what becomes the text of this book. We can imagine John depending on the Spirit to see the vision and later recalling all the necessary details and vision to be recorded. This is what we say about all the text contained in the book we call the bible, it is written by humans, but inspired by the Spirit. This is in keeping with God’s desire to dwell with us, to remain close to us, the Spirit is in John during his vision and later when capturing the text for the church. It is why we call the different chapters in the bible the word of God, a way for God to dwell among us and when we enter into the word God dwells in us. God remains close to us even when we read the stories of his activity in the world. Like John we receive the Spirit, and have God in us, particularly when we pray or provide some service in the name of God.
In the gospel reading John (likely the same John from above) tells the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples, after his resurrection, as they were locked in a room hiding. Jesus is with them in the room and wished them peace (twice), and then has them receive the Holy Spirit. John tells us it is the first day of the week, very likely the day Jesus rose. God could not be away from his disciples even for one day. Then the Spirit dwells within them and giving them the power and courage to, as Jesus asks, forgive sins. The reading continues focused on Thomas a disciple who was not with the others the evening that Jesus appeared. When they told him they have seen the Lord, Thomas remarks that he has to touch Jesus’ wounds to believe the Lord is alive. A week later Jesus appears again, this time Thomas is present and Jesus tells him to touch his wounds and believe. Jesus continues saying blessed are those who have not seen and believe. This of course is millions of Christians who have come to believe in Jesus through the stories of these first disciples. We have several accounts of the life of Jesus, including his death and resurrection. Many people throughout the world have heard these stories and have come to believe in Jesus. This gospel reading ends with John declaring exactly this message that these stories were written so that we would know Jesus is the Son of God, and that through belief we will have life in his name. We read and hear the retelling of Jesus life and resurrection by eye witnesses, we come to believe and receive the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, God dwelling in us.
We are never alone. We see in these stories the presence of God in the lives of the people God loves. God, is close to the Israelites and even allows them to declare his presence in their tent, temple, tabernacle. Through their life and struggles we read of a God who is always with them. The disciples begin to go out and tell the stories of Jesus, what he did while he lived and how he died and rose. We understand God wants to dwell with us so much he took human form, lived and walked among us. When it was time for Jesus to return to the Father, God comes to us as an Advocate, the Spirit of God not just close to us, but within us. God indwelling, with us always, our strength from within, our power from within, our peace from within. We are never without God, because God always wants to be with us. A Creator who loves his creation and wants to remain so close he is in our breath.A Creator who loves his creation and wants to remain so close he is in our breath. Click To Tweet
Receive the Holy Spirit
God dwells near and in us has changed over time. God in the old covenant remained close to his people and aided them in their flight, fight and struggles. God near us. God promised a Messiah who entered humanity through Mary and became the teacher who showed us the intimacy between the Father and the Son and the Father and us. God with us. Jesus returned to the Father sending us the Spirit, who is a unique gift that brings a radical conversion of the heart to every disciple of Jesus and creates a whole new lifestyle called the Christian community. God in us. People living together, supporting one another, and forming deep relationship with one another so that God is seen through their love for one another.
The Spirit comes to us in three levels; through inspiration, we have a sudden idea that comes from nowhere; by inner movement – it is a movement in us that comes from the Spirit, we can’t ignore it, must follow through, we have a heart desiring to move and finally through divine possession – the Spirit takes over our being, every cell and thought is Spirit driven. God dwells in us at every level, but to be most faithful to the Spirit, we must be moved through to the third level.
We must be faithful to the Holy Spirit’s inspirations, everything we begin begins with the Spirit. The Spirit has the initiative in everything we do, inspiring our works and aspirations. At this level we are allowing God to be our inner master who inspires everything we do and say.We must be faithful to the Holy Spirit’s inspirations, everything we begin begins with the Spirit. Click To Tweet
We must distinguish between inspiration from above and fantasy or whim which comes from our own imagination, driven by ego. Ego desires attention or boasting, to show off or dominate, to seek pleasure of grab everything for ourselves. We must guard against the ego, the boastful voice inside us, it does not want to serve but control.
The Spirit inspiring begins with love, we love ourselves and others, we are inspired to unite and build fellowship, we have a common vision and goals with others in the church, we are united in heart and faith. Our hope is the same as God’s, the same as others in the Christian community, the same as those serving God, we are in harmony with others. We can use the stories of the bible, lives of others who are recognized and leading in the church as a means to determine if the inspiration is from the Holy Spirit.
Depend on prayer to know that it is the Spirit inspiring. Recognize the peacefulness that comes with the inspiration when it is truly from the Spirit.
At a deeper level, the Spirit wants us to be faithful to the movements that come from him. The Spirit gives not only through inspiration but by actually moving us. And we need to be moved. The Spirit will give each of us the strength to transform our work and put renewed vigor into our effectiveness.
It is impossible to live without struggle. We will always have influences that resist what we are trying to accomplish through the Spirit. This resistance will weaken our heart. We must open our heart to the Spirit to give us strength. We must let the Spirit be our guide so we are not negatively influenced.
We must depend on two characteristics to allow the Spirit to move us, we must be passionate, wholly influenced by the Spirit and excited to do the will of God. We must also be effective, making an all-out, no holds barred effort to succeed. With both these characteristics we depend on the Spirit to strengthen us. But we must recognize if we are passive or blasé about the work to be done on behalf of the Spirit we are not letting the Spirit move us and we will get nowhere. With a bad attitude the Spirit won’t be able to help.
Through the gifts of the Spirit these two characteristics can be harmonized to be one force, united in the fire of love for God. Being moved by the Spirit we are given value, strength, harmony to excel in difficult and extreme situations. Through our passion and full effort the Spirit gives us new life, renewing us from deep within ourselves. The Spirit finds an inner strength that works on behalf of God without deterrent or failure. Through the Spirit our action is realized, even the smallest, humblest, most ordinary realities of our life are magnified when we let the Spirit move us.Through our passion and full effort the Spirit gives us new life, renewing us from deep within ourselves. Click To Tweet
The Spirit shares grace and gifts (wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety, and respect) both of which help us to recognize his inspiration and allow ourselves to be moved, acting on behalf of God in us.
The Spirit not only inspires and moves us, but can act in a deeper and more hidden way, through the gifts which renew and transform us. The Spirit will want to take possession of and transform our very substance. Accepting Jesus, through Baptism or some other means and allowing the Spirit to enter our lives gives us the precious grace of his presence which illuminates and invigorates us in the very manner of loving and being loved. We receive new love.
We also receive new life, we are a new creation through Christ in the Spirit. Life is breathed into us and we become one true person, formed through our relationship with God and others. It is God’s indwelling giving us this new identity, this new divine presence.
The grace received strips us of our old self, our ego, so that we can birth our real self, transparently seen by the Spirit and others. We are graced with a radiance, an infinite light and warmth which comes directly from divine love.
The Spirit gives us the gift of presence, a humble, gentle presence which is passionate and effective. The Spirit will allow us to transcend our personality and become a natural, humble, simple, transparent person reflecting the way to God. We must leave the Spirit free to arrange our interior life as he wishes. Through the presence of the Spirit we can be found to be attractive to others. The Spirit’s presence is seen externally as love, which is genuine and rooted.The Spirit gives us the gift of presence, a humble, gentle presence which is passionate and effective. Click To Tweet
This grace of divine presence surpasses the graces of inspiration and inner movement and is the simplest and most hidden. All work is brought to accomplishment through divine presence. But this grace requires attentiveness and effort on our part to be able to recognize them and not ignore or contradict them by trying to apply our own efforts. Presence is a gift from God which we can aid with prayer and service, but always requires God’s grace to fulfill.
How does this work?
Suppose you are inspired to begin a new church. In your prayer you see something missing and you think you can offer it to people. You test it and determine it is not ego but Spirit. So you see it as inspiration, from the Spirit.Well, you can’t stop there. You must have an inner movement. You must actually gather people who are like minded, who perhaps have a similar inspiration or are inspired by your inspiration and you begin to form a new church. You start small, in a garage, with a few people.As the Spirit has moved you to do something this movement grows because the Spirit moves others. As it grows you might think you are doing a good thing, people are coming to you and affirming your good work. You recognize your personal influences taking over and you recognize you must completely step back out of the way and allow divine presence to come through. You respond as God in you, you move from activity to activity by God’s complete indwelling. In all that happens to the church and in your life, all glory goes to God, you the human know it is only happening because of God’s grace in you. You are an instrument but God is the architect.
In these levels we see how God moves from inspiration, to inner movement to divine presence in forming us and being an indwelling. God begins by wanting to be near us, and hopes that we can be in God and God in us, mutual indwelling. And as we see in the reading from Acts it is Peter’s shadow falling on those who need healing that brings that healing, this is the work of divine presence. When we let the Spirit be divinely present in us we allow him to do the work God needs done through us.
God remains close throughout history, first with the chosen people, then by sending his only Son and finally through the Holy Spirit who remains in us. We are inspired by the Spirit, the Spirit moves us and then the Spirit is a divine presence that guides us to be completely an instrument of God. We receive a new life and become new love, attractive to others as Jesus was when he walked the earth. God wants to be so close he is inside us, we need to be so close that we are inside God.God wants to be so close he is inside us, we need to be so close that we are inside God. Click To Tweet