Proper 25, 24 October 2021
There are many churches, and it’s important to ask the Lord, “Where are You planting me?” Psalm 126:3 says, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.” We don’t come to church to be entertained, but to worship Him because He has done great things for us. If our attitude is to be entertained, what happens when we’re no longer entertained? We come to church not because of people but because of God. God visits us in worship. We worship Him with our heart, soul, mind and emotions. Sometimes we sense the Spirit of God among us, but even if we don’t, He’s with us – He promised that if two or three gather in His name, He’ll be in our midst.
In John 5:1-8, Jesus asks an interesting question. Those waiting at the pool were sick and wanted to be healed. Some people prefer to be sick, and the sick man had to be reminded that he was there to be healed. He was paralyzed and couldn’t get into the water.
The pandemic has affected many people. Some have faced eviction from their homes after being unable to pay rent. In Estonia the suicide rate has increased by 300%. Some have experienced memory loss and other effects from coronavirus. This is not the time to stop praying. It would be misleading to say we want to go back to “normal” – I don’t want to return to my old life before the pandemic. God has spoken to many of us. He called the Church to pray; we prayed, and He protected us. Let us hear what He’s said to us.
Church attendance in many places has diminished: some prefer livestream because it’s more convenient. The Church is intended to gather together physically: there’s an unchangeable, imperative need to come together and touch God in the Eucharist. The recent ordinations were a great celebration for God’s glory: the Holy Spirit visited us, and we received new hope and strength. God is not inactive but active, not dead but alive.
“The north wind made the Vikings”
This Scandinavian proverb reminds us that challenging circumstances can be a blessing rather than a curse. If you trust in God, He’ll turn things for your good. The Vikings were known throughout medieval Europe as ruthless warriors and fierce raiders. They were bold explorers, sailing east to Russia and west to America to seek new opportunities. Imagine climbing into an open boat with a dozen people and setting sail on the freezing North Sea, unsure whether you’ll find land. The north wind is very cold and harsh; the Vikings were fearsome warriors because they lived with the north wind and learned to survive the freezing cold. Many Europeans had never seen anything like them; but if they’d known anything about their cold, rocky homeland, they might have understood why they were so fearsome.
Raise the sail
At the Creation, the Spirit “was hovering over the face of the waters”. To hover is to remain above a particular place, like a helicopter over a building. This word also means “brood” – to hatch or incubate, like a hen warming her eggs until the chicks come out. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord “incubated” the earth, and everything was made good. Jesus describes the Spirit’s ability to Nicodemus as like a wind blowing: we don’t see the wind, but we see its effects. The Holy Spirit is described as the wind originating from God. Saint Augustine said, “God provides the wind; man must raise the sail.” We do this through a life of prayer, immersed in God’s Word, a life of obedience, a Spirit-filled life of undying devotion, humility, openness, and desiring the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah 31:8 speaks of God gathering His people. Our gathering together is more than a religious duty: it’s to thank God, but also with a sense of expectation that the Holy Spirit is moving among us: you need to have your sail up. Even during the pandemic, God is in our midst: even though people were dying, life is greater than death, and God is greater than evil – let’s not be deceived. If the Vikings became fearsome warriors because of the north wind, the Church is made by the wind from above, the gentle yet transforming power of the Person of the Holy Spirit. We’re not a Church simply because we gather to receive the Eucharist – it can be new to you every morning.
Learning to know God’s love
We believe in God’s love; but my understanding of His love is very limited; our whole life here on earth is a constant process of understanding God’s love. It’s when I commit a sin that I learn that God loves me. Believing that God is love doesn’t mean I know His love: my knowledge of His love is still so shallow; but as I walk with God every day, I’m learning that truly God is love and a God of forgiveness. I don’t know His love in my head, but God wants us to know His love in our hearts, and it takes a whole life’s journey to do so. Archbishop Adler once looked me in the eyes and said, “Everything is about the love of God”.
God is beyond a pair of canes we use to travel and survive this life, an amulet or omen to make us rich, or someone who helps us in times of need. I say jokingly that if we only pray when we have a problem, we may have many problems – God calls us to pray, even when we don’t have problems. Our life, even in the midst of difficulties, is knowing who God is. It’s only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we, the Church, can be transformed and become what God wants us to be. We need to be sensitive to His work among us. Even during the pandemic, God was at work in your life – even if you didn’t notice – because He is love. We come together to proclaim to the world that God is love.
God loves you
If there’s a question in your heart whether God loves you, listen to this: God loves you, God has forgiven you and God will never, never leave you nor forsake you. We’ve all sinned and offended God, but God loves us. He doesn’t love the fact that we commit sin; but He loves us, and His love transforms us. If you have any doubt in your mind and heart – does God love me despite what I’ve done? – Yes, God loves you. Believe nothing less than this fact. If you open your heart to His love, He will change your life. Love is the most powerful force on earth, and God is love.
Lord, I reach out to You. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for moving in our midst by Your Holy Spirit.
The Spirit from above, the wind from heaven, makes the Church alive and transforms us.
If your Christian life has been in the desert, may the Spirit of God move in your heart and renew you. If your life seems hopeless, I pray that God will bring hope, and the spirit of suicide will never come near you, in Jesus’ name. If a voice says you can take your life because it’s useless, say, “Get out of my way – I have hope in God”. Never look at the past – look at the future. If you’ve been struggling financially, God is saying, “Trust Me – I will take care of you”. If you’re struggling to take care of your family, don’t do it yourself – trust in God. Life may have been hard; but in difficult times, God will never leave you nor forsake you. Receive the working of the Holy Spirit to bring hope, faith and love, in Jesus’ name.
If there’s doubt, Lord, let it be overcome by Your Holy Spirit in our midst; let faith be planted in our hearts. Let us not leave hopeless, but with a sense of faith, joy and love that the world cannot bring, but only You can bring in our lives; in Jesus’ name.
Think of those you know who need hope and are struggling, and mention them before the Lord. Some may be ready to commit suicide; say no, it’s not worth it.
There are times when life and Christianity are difficult to understand; but we’re not supposed to – we’re to believe Jesus. You’ll never understand what God wants to do and what He is doing. I don’t understand why God loves me, a sinner. We’re not supposed to understand – we’re to believe what Jesus has done in our lives.
 Genesis 1:2