Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only Start Doing

Lent 2 – Year C

Let us pray: Even as your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ walked this earth, it was your Holy Spirit which he promised to us as our guide, our teacher and our comforter. And so we pray, come Holy Spirit, come.
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Good morning! How is Lent going for you? Have you taken on a fast? Perhaps you’ve given something up or maybe you’re trying to do something differently? Whatever it is, I hope it’s going well…It can be so challenging, I know! Changing habits is just hard. But it is well worth it. There is a point in every Christian life where we must come to realize that we can’t do it alone. And whatever it takes for us to come to that realization, then it’s well worth it. Whether we learn it in the small stuff: like in my lame attempts to resist the siren song of Anita List’s candy bowl on her desk. Or in the big stuff; the hard stuff of loss and pain, hurt and fear. Whatever it takes, we will come to realize how not in control we are. We just can’t do it alone. I know, it’s scary. It’s scary to admit that we are not in control. That no matter how hard we try, we cannot and will not have a full and happy life by our own wits, our own strength and our own abilities. Better to learn that sooner rather than later.

There is a Hebrew word I want you to learn. It is a lovely word that is deep with meaning. Ruach. Say it with me: ruach. Ruach can be translated as Spirit, wisdom, breath…t is the same word for both God’s Spirit and the breath we breathe. And in the Bible, ruach is there at the very beginning. It is what moved over the waters in the creation story. It is also what God breathed into Adam to give him life. ruach is what descended upon Jesus at his baptism. And ruach is the gift that Jesus promised his disciples after his resurrection. After his resurrection and before his final ascension he says to his disciples that he will have to leave. But he is leaving a gift for them. And it will be their counselor, teacher and guide. Ruach is everywhere in scripture and everywhere around us. The Holy Spirit is everywhere.

While we as a church, especially the Episcopal Church, don’t talk about the Spirit as much as we do God the Father or the Son, it is still so important. The Spirit is a life-giving, life-sustaining, healing gift. But as a gift, it must be received to be enjoyed.
It’s a gift not a given.
So make room for it, take it in, receive this gift as your counselor, teacher and guide.

Just last week, I saw someone make room to receive the Spirit and it was… it was amazing! I was at the side of a very sick person with whom I prayed for healing, strength, and wholeness. And as I concluded the prayer, this person pressed my hand and looked at me for a long time, clearly struggling. And then, they asked that I pray for their fear. A fear so terrible that it wakes them in the night flooding their mind with horribly dark thoughts. We prayed that fear together, that God take it away. And I wish you could have been there at that bedside because the most extraordinary thing happened. As soon as that person named that fear in prayer, not only named it but described its contours, shape and enormous hold it had over them, as soon as they did that something happened. The fear lifted. And I watched as this very sick person took a deep breath. It was strong breath that lifted the bed sheets and relaxed their entire body. It was the Spirit. They had received the Spirit! What courage it took to let go of that fear: to give it to God and make room for the Spirit.

I am sure you know you do not need to be in an epic battle against a disease to find yourself struggling. Life is full of opportunities for that. We try, as best we can, to hold on- even if what we are holding onto is poisonous to our spirits; be it fear or anger or resentment. Whatever it is we are holding onto.

We have all been told that God loves us, that God will take care of us. But it is hard, isn’t it? It is hard to believe that amazing love is for us. That it is really there for me. It is hard to trust it so much so that I can feel safe to let go of the tight grip I have on my life. Sometimes it is so hard. Sometimes we are no different than the Jerusalem referred to in the scriptures this morning. Jesus is standing just outside of the city’s gates, wanting nothing more than to protect every last inhabitant of the city like “a hen gathering her brood under her wings”. He is shouting at them “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” come on, I am right here! Let me in! I want to take care of you…And they resist. We resist. It is hard to give up on the tight grip we have on our lives and trust. Trust that when we open up, God will come in. A gift, an amazing, huge, powerful gift for me! For me?!

Yet God is still reaching out, time and again, saying “don’t be afraid”, I am here. I am right here. In the Genesis passage this morning, the Lord says to Abram “Don’t be afraid, I am your shield. Your reward will be great”. Abram is a faithful man, he hears God. He knows. But still, he is desperate for children. He wants one so badly. And he isn’t patient in his trusting of God. So he takes matters into his own hands and fathers a child with his wife’s servant…[yeah, definitely not a marital decision I would recommend]. And though a child is born, Abram is still unsettled. He struggles and is filled with fear which terrorizes his sleep and fills him with dread. In his desperation, he gives it up to God, he makes an offering to God; an offering full of his hopes and desperation. All of it. And then God says aha! Now you have let me in. Now watch what I can do. And Abram receives blessing upon blessing.

God knows we are doing the very best that we can. The very best that we can. God knows we are stretched thin and yet we try to be good, to be nice, to be generous. God knows we sacrifice so much for other people. He knows we look to scripture for guidance and he knows we rely so much on the power of our wits and abilities to live. He knows we pray mostly for other people, not wanting to seem too selfish by praying for ourselves. And he knows we hold back on praying that which is weighing most heavy on our hearts. He knows we are holding on tight to what is most vexing us. God knows. And God also knows we love him. And we, in return, know God loves us. Of course God loves us, we’ve heard that since we were kids. But we are shy. We are shy to open up, inviting him into every moment of our lives, taking the place of this shoddy sense of control we pretend to have. God knows we are shy to make room for his ruach, His Spirit, his wisdom, his guidance. God is waiting.

You see, God is not waiting for us to work harder or to be better. He is waiting for us to let him in. To let him in so he can take care of us as our counselor, our teacher, our comforter.

It’s ok. It’s ok if you don’t know what that would like to welcome the Spirit into your life. Don’t worry, we can’t anticipate what will happen when we let God’s ruach into our lives. [If we knew, we probably wouldn’t need it!] So just trust God. Trust that you are loved and breath. Just breath.
Breath in God’s Spirit
Breath out your control

Breath in God’s Spirit
Breath out your control

Breath in God’s Spirit
Breath out your control

Breath in God’s life
Breath out fear

Breath in God’s life
Breath out fear

Breath in God’s life
Breath out fear

Breath in God’s love
Breath out your sadness

Breath in God’s love
Breath out your sadness

Breath in God’s love
Breath out your sadness