by Bruce Gilberd
(Based on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 and Psalm 126)
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” Yes to that!
This morning I put it to you that lasting deep joy arises from God’s inspiration, and our resulting action – both!
We are not only to be hearers of the word and the inspiration of God’s Spirit, but doers of his will in the marketplace and the world – and I note that Isaiah emphasises justice – doing as a key outcome of being inspired.
Joan has most helpfully been reminding us of this recently – that whenever God intervenes and inspires, action is required, and happens. In Israel’s history: Moses leads Israel out of Egypt; Solomon builds the first Temple; Ezekiel predicts the return from Babylon to Jerusalem; and so on …. To John the Baptist’s brief ministry to pave the way for Jesus’s pivotal work for all humanity.
Throughout the first century, covered by the New Testament, time and again inspiration requires and leads to action, and it is so down the centuries and today.
Today, in Isaiah and the psalm readings, we see inspiration leading to restoration – of persons, cities, the nation – and the great joy of that! I am sure you picked up the meaning and relevance of the first verse of Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”
And what follows – action!
- Good news to the oppressed
- Binding up the broken hearted
- Liberty to the captives
and so on.
And, it is this very text Jesus chose to read centuries later to preface his first sermon in his home synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19), and what a stir that caused!
True Inspiration leads to Right Action!
When John the Baptist’s disciples come to Jesus to ask if he is the Messiah – what does Jesus say? There is no theological discussion. He points out what he is doing. The inspired Divine Man, Jesus, points to the inspired, life-giving action that was happening. (Matthew 11:2-6)
Last Saturday and Sunday were God-inspired events – and now a vibrant part of St Francis Church history. So now we, newly inspired, seek to act, rightly, deeply, convincingly, in our village and wider spheres of influence. Some of this action will be personal, some with others. It will involve:
- Prayer – seeking the Lord’s guidance
- Giving – self, time, energy – and
- Action – on one or several fronts
It will not involve a self-centredness – the Holy Spirit is given to disciples – yes, and corporately to the Church, not so we can have an individual high (we may!) but to empower us to act – to do God’s work and will, God’s way, in the marketplace and God’s world.
Some of you will recall the old word “Comforter” was used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. Have some of you seen the Bayeux Tapestry portraying Norman William’s conquest of England in 1066? William is prodding his sword into the buttocks of the soldiers in front, and the caption is “King William comforteth his troops”.
The Holy Spirit comforts us! That is, prods and stirs us to action!
So, when the Spirit comes upon us, to empower, to disturb, to guide, to require truth and costly love in our living – we then need to get specific … as to how, like King William’s soldiers to put our hearts and minds and bodies on the line … Now what?
Option 1: We may look to the world wide Anglican Church’s Mission Statement, to see what we are led to do:
- Share the Good News with a friend?
- Encourage children and others we know to be baptised?
- Learn and share more about our faith?
- Offer accurate listening to someone we know is hurting?
- Challenge local Councils, or the Government, on issues that need addressing and that address us? Call for justice?
- Act responsibly with our household waste, plant trees, be discerning buyers?
Option 2: Or/And … there are these outstanding Aotearoa issues (so, pray, give act …):
- Good housing for low income families
- Putting church investments into housing and social services
- Reducing child poverty for 300,000 children
- Enhance gender and ethnic and interfaith respect
- Speak up when a line is crossed
- Resist technological takeover of our attention.
The Spirit is given to Jesus’s disciples in order that we may act, joyfully and effectively, in some way or ways towards justice and peace in our village, our world. If it all seems too much, pick one action today and do remember Michel Quoist’s remark:
So, how might I sum up my message to you today? With this prayer: Come, Holy Spirit. Initiate and guide all our actions!