Squirrel! or was that the Spirit?
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, January 13, 2012.
And the Holy Spirit came. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is praying after his baptism by John. And, the heaven open up, the clouds part, and the Holy Spirit arrives, descending in bodily form like a dove. In our lesson from the Acts of the Apostles, the early church is scattered. Stephen has just been martyred, killed for his faith, and church is dispersed throughout the region. Philip went to Samaria. While there, he preached the Good News of God’s love found in Jesus Christ. He preaches that Jesus is the Messiah and performs miracles. The Samaritans respond with faith and he baptizes them. Peter and John followed Philip, prayed with the Samaritans, laid their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit.
What does that look like? What does it look like when the Holy Spirit arrives? I think it looks a whole lot like a Mississippi squirrel, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s pray…
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world starting today. Amen.
“The Holy Spirit is God’s present activity in our midst. When we sense God’s leading, God’s challenge, or God’s support or comfort, we say that it’s the Holy Spirit at work.”
In the first two verses of the Bible (Genesis 1:1-2), we find God’s Spirit sweeping over the unformed void as God began to create the heavens and the earth. Throughout the Old Testament we find the Spirit of the Lord, or the Spirit of God, at work. In our Gospel Lesson for today, following Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit of God comes like a dove and rests upon Jesus. The Scriptures record that after his baptism, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit…was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2a, New Revised Standard Version). At the Last Supper, as Jesus was telling about his upcoming betrayal and death, Jesus reassured his disciples saying,
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live… Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them… I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus met with his disciples and told them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, New Revised Standard Version). And, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came “like a rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where [the disciples] were sitting… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:2, 4, New Revised Standard Version).
The Holy Spirit is a disruptive presence that leads us on a journey of transformation, readying us for a life in God’s Kingdom. The presence of the Holy Spirit is, I believe, disruptive. And, it moves through the church like a crazed Mississippi Squirrel…
The Holy Spirit is a disruptive presence not unlike
The day the squirrel went berserk.
In the First Self-Righteous Church
of that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.
It was a fight for survival,that broke out in revival.
They were jumpin’ pews and shoutin’ Halelujah!
Like the squirrel! The Spirit helps us see and admit the truth about who we are. When that squirrel jumped up Sister Bertha-Better-than-You’s dress “she began to cry and then confess/ to sins that would make a sailor blush with shame.” We are all broken and sinful. We all act, at times, in ways that keep ourselves and others from a relationship with God and each other. But, these faults and failings do not define who we are.
We were each created by God in the very likeness of God. And, “God saw everything that he made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31, New Revised Standard Version). The Holy Spirit reminds us that we are more than our mistakes. True, we must acknowledge where we’ve done wrong. We must acknowledge or confess those things which have kept us from growing in our love and being in relationship with God and neighbor; but, these things do not reflect who God has created us to be. God created us good to work for good in the world. God gave us everything (see Genesis 1:27-30) in order that we might care for and work toward the well-being of all God’s creation. Sure, we sometimes get it wrong—the Spirit helps us see that, and through the grace of God found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ all that we’ve ever done in error, all of our sin, is forgiven. The Spirit empowers us to live into our God-given role in the world: to work for the good of all as we grow in our faith and love of God and neighbor.
Like the squirrel! The Holy Spirit motivates and empowers us to do world transforming work: seeking justice and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. “…25,000 dollars got raised./ And 50 volunteered for missions in the Congo on the spot.” The Spirit makes us restless in the face of injustice. It motivates us to give food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, clothes to the naked, a voice for those who have been forgotten or silenced. It motivates and empowers us to work tirelessly to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth: the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed and prepared his disciples to live into.
The Spirit makes us yearn to tell the world of the grace and love of God we’ve found in Jesus Christ. The Spirit helps us see that the love of God we find in Jesus Christ is not just about us as individuals, it’s about the redemption, the restoration of all that has been created. In a world where violence, degradation and separation are common place, Jesus brings a message of peace, restoration and unity: that’s news worth sharing in with the whole world.
We and the world in which we live can be so much more than what we are now, if only we’ll let God’s Holy Spirit disrupt our lives. Like that crazed Mississippi squirrel, the Holy Spirit helps us see the truth about who we are. We were created good in order that we might care for and work for the good of God’s Creation. The Holy Spirit motivates and empowers us to transform our broken world into God’s “Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Holy Spirit is a powerful disruptive presence in our lives. It’s not a settling presence. It shapes us in ways we’re not always comfortable with. It leads us to places we’d rather not go. But, when we allow it to work in us and through us, when we allow it to disrupt our lives, we’ll find that the broken world in which we live will find peace, restoration, and unity.
May the Holy Spirit move among us, stir us from placidness, so that we might discover who we are and help the world become all it was created to be: a place of peace, a place of health and bounty, and a place where all of God’s creatures work for the good of one another.
 John 14:18, 23, 25-27, New Revised Standard Version.