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Life in Greencastle - Hoping the Spirit Might Come

Some time back, I discovered that line John Calvin wrote in response to Paul's own assuring words to the Ephesians. "We are rich before we are born," is what Calvin said, commenting on this great mystery by faith, by grace, we have been accepted into God's family. Paul had more to say; he prayed that the Ephesians might now all the glorious riches that were going to be theirs when the entered completely into the Kingdom of God.

Such notions of heavenly riches can seem quite appealing, but they can also seem quite flimsy when your dumping fifty bucks of gasoline in your car week every week. Paul Simon once sung that "faith is an island in the setting sun, but proof is the bottom line for everyone." Indeed, it is Rhymin' Simon, and one of the great challenges we have as people of faith is to find a way to make tangible these promises. If we don't, the promises simply become platitudes, a type of "pie in the sky." That's not to put us on the stage; it's just a fact. As Christians, people expect us to deliver some proof to the promises we speak. And if we cannot, they will go looking elsewhere for hope and help.

Sometimes, thankfully, we can bolster people's hope and faith. No doubt it has happened every time we've built a ramp. Sometimes, though, there is only so much we can do. I talked with a woman this past week who began to tell me about her home, which - in truth - was not really a home. It was a 3 car garage that has been converted into a home ... with no running water and no stove. There was so much that I would like to do for her, and seemingly so much that needs to be done. Sometimes the world seems a great ocean of need.

I have been drawn in recent weeks to some other words from Paul - the apostle, not the singer/songwriter: these words Paul wrote about the deposit God is making in the world, about the pledge that has been placed into our lives to make sure we know that the initial investment in redeeming the world has already been given, with the full measure shortly to come. That pledge, says Paul, is the Holy Spirit, deposited into our hearts as an assurance that despite how broken we might feel or how much we might fear the financial undoing of our lives we will never be forsaken and never be left to the ruin of poverty. In the same way, I believe, the Holy Spirit has been deposited into this world, a lingering pledge like an anchor in choppy waters to assure us that God's hold on the world will not drift or disappear. Isn't that - ultimately - the greatest gift we could ever give to another. Not that it is ours to give. We can only pray and hope that the Spirit might indeed come and rest securely in the breast of those who most need the Spirit's new life.

Paul also says that this Holy Spirit lives down in those places that go deeper than the part of us checking our emails or flipping on the television. It goes all the way down into the very core of our being, the part that God formed and fashioned. Paul also says that even when we or the world is in crazy motion, the Spirit is groaning and praying and communicating our subconscious S.O.S.'s to God. That is such good news for a world that seems to need precisely those prayers and assistance.

This Sunday we have the chance to recognize the moment when God's gift of the Holy Spirit first came. Sunday is the day we mark Pentecost, that event when the Spirit rushed into the world and has not left since. Graciously, Brian Martin has volunteered to bring the Word to you this week and to guide us through service, for which I am most thankful. Brian's willingness and service is freeing me up to be with my own family this week. My mother's father, Les Slinker, is turning 90 years old this weekend, so I will have the opportunity to celebrate and connect with my own family story a bit more.

I hope that Grandpa Slinker can make it over to our church again soon. Like many of that generation they call "great," his own life has been touched and marked by the momentous events of his era: the displacement from a life of farming by the advance of manufacturing, the uprooting from this relatively new native soil to fight a war against the land of his old ancestors, teaching and coaching and serving a local community as he saw his children come of age in a time of great progress and social change. Mostly now he returns to those old stories from the war, but I always try to get him to tell me also of the old basketball days. A few years ago, a student from Park Tudor paid my grandfather a visit and brought a tape recorder. She kindly turned on the tape recorder and invited my grandpa to tell his memories from the war. So he did. It was a simple assignment she was given from her teacher, but it has since become a treasure to my family. It has helped us connect with that precious discipline of listening to our family story.

And what a gift it was to sit together last week in the fellowship hall and to share with one another the stories of our baptisms, the ones we could and could not remember. What a gift it was to hear about the hands that felt heavy after Jeremy Black was baptized and how that moment has left a significance of "weight" upon Jeremy's heart and mind. Maybe that was the weight of the deposit. How funny it was to hear Pat Miller recount her early "evaluator" coming out as she learned to grade the preacher's message dependent on the harshness or gentleness of his voice. How valuable it was to hear how intimately and uniquely God has poured that Holy Spirit into our lives - sometimes in the most public of ways and sometimes in ways that are completely unaware to us.

Brian is also planning to help guide you back into those conversations this week, so you are more than welcome to join the Bible Study group at 9:30 am this week. I will miss being there, but I am looking forward to hearing the stories when I get back.

Friends, let us pray that the Spirit might come into our hearts and into the world anew. May the Word of God and the Holy Spirit dwell in you richly,

Wes

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