My week started on Sunday with the Service of the Word, including a Gospel reading and sermon on the Way, the Truth, The Life (John 14:1-14), followed by a mad rush to a local restaurant for Mothers’ Day lunch, and then working it all off by packing boxes ready for our Realtor to photograph our house. Unfortunately that same afternoon we also had a kitchen drain blockage we had to deal.
On Sunday I really did not have a lot of time to contemplate the Way, the Truth, the Life but I did have every intention of seeing how this Gospel passage was visible in the pastoral care visits I made and my meetings this week.
I was not really seeing evidence of this at Carlsbad-By-The-Sea (CBTS) until on Tuesday I was having a coffee in the reception area and a resident came up to me and started a conversation. She introduced herself and although she knew my name she asked where I was from and what I was doing there. I told her about the pastoral care ministry at St. Michael's By The Sea, the School-For-Ministry (SFM), and my field education at CBTS. Then she said something that changed my week. She said that we were all Christians and all belonged to the wider church. She said she had attended a service at St. Michael's and enjoyed it. She then went on to say that she though these services were the way the Episcopal Church connected with God but she was a Presbyterian and they had a more direct line. This made me think more about how the message of “the way the truth and the life” resonated across different denominations and that I was being a little negative by looking backwards at last Sundays Gospel passage each week.
This was when I decided to look forward and try to see how the upcoming message of “Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit” was revealing itself instead.
Looking forward and feeling the Holy Spirit this week has produced some interesting results, such as:
- · The afternoon where I tried to visit someone but he was asleep, so I delayed the visit to later that afternoon. When I went back it was very late afternoon and I was ready to head home. When I was walking out of the Care Center, at the end of the corridor I had to decide to turn left and go home or right and see if I could visit at that time. I am sure it was the Holy Spirit that urged me to turn right and even though it was late we had an enjoyable visit.
- · One afternoon we had a resident who the staff felt was very close to passing. I was guided to go and fetch my Book of Common Prayer (BCP) so that we could say the “Ministration at the Time of Death”. Although the person was not fully conscious I felt she could hear us and it really meant a lot to the staff that they could pray with me and for her. We also prayed for God to fill us with the Holy Spirit and to send His healing power. Later that week she recovered, was alert and was back participating with other residents in the activities room. We were so joyful that our prayers had been answered.
- · There was a Bible Study meeting I was fortunate enough to lead where we read the upcoming Gospel passage (John 14:15-21) and had an in depth discussion about the Holy Spirit, and the differences between “Indwelling” and “Spirit Filled”. I was able to learn from other peoples’ understanding of this theology.
- · There were other discussions with individuals who I met and wanted to talk one-on-one. I saw the Holy Spirit working in the witness of someone who told me that her brother must have been spirit filled when during or shortly after WWII was part of a search and rescue team. He would parachute into dangerous areas of the jungle in Burma to search out and provide medical help to servicemen in need. On his return he set up a service providing medical assistance for a First Nation community who lived in the woods around the Boston area.
I was also able to relate my experiences this week to the ethics class we took last year and the study of James Smith’s book, “You are what you love. But you might not love what you think”.
The research for that book suggested that who we worship, combined with our Christian Narrative (story/history), Tradition (churches & communities) and Practices (services) fundamentally shape our hearts, minds and culture.
And while we want to shape our culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love things that are not the one true God. But as Christians we should recognize the power of culture and the transformative properties of our own practices.
In our practices of worship services, bible studies and prayers we are being transformed day-by-day without really noticing. As with the Gospels and Epistles, our worship liturgy, although written by the early Church Fathers, was guided by the Holy Spirit.
It has an invitation to draw near to God, we confess our sins so that He can forgive and meet us, we sing hymns of praise, we listen to His words in the Readings and the Gospel, we praise and pray to Him in the Psalm, and we talk to Him in the prayers of the people. These are the practices that shape us and change the way we interact with people and the things we do during the week.
With each exposure to God’s Word and presence in our lives, the Holy Spirit is actively changing us.
I feel that these were all aspects of Holy Spirit working in and through me this week and approaching this message with a forward looking and positive attitude made me see it more clearly and made me deliberately focus on introducing the Holy Spirit to others who may not be aware.
It also gave me a more comfortable feeling about the sermon I am due to deliver this coming Sunday, again the Holy Spirit is working in mysterious ways.