A Labour of Love

Living Unpeacefully in an Unpeaceful World
May 13, 2024
Are You Confused about God?
May 24, 2024
Living Unpeacefully in an Unpeaceful World
May 13, 2024
Are You Confused about God?
May 24, 2024

Our firstborn child and son celebrated his birthday this week and I was remembering with my husband the length of my labour, my exhaustion at the end of the birthing, and the knowledge which completely overwhelmed me with tears of joy and sorrow, the realisation that now my life would never be the same again.  I was forever changed by the miracle of new life.  I was no longer a single, autonomous being.  We were part of a much bigger story.   Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:22-27 reminds us of God’s own continuous, unending, creating, renewing story of love for the world: 

We know the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  (8:22-23)

Jesus’ final teaching, his loving instruction and reminders to his disciples and friends are bringing to mind God’s everlasting love for all humanity. (John 15:26-16:15)  God’s birthing of the new world, of new life out of the apparent ruins and desolation of crucifixion and death, of the Spirit gifted, birthed, God labouring in love, midwifing the Spirit in the place of God’s Son into the world, is profoundly moving. 

We know too, Jesus died rather than betray God’s love, in spite of the world’s betrayal; and, we are promised the ongoing, life-giving love of God as Holy Spirit, advocate, guide and sustainer. Out of Jesus’ death comes life, out of betrayal, denial and abandonment by his friends come joy, enduring, abiding love, and the Spirit of God who is one with God as Creator and human being as the Word made flesh.  God’s Spirit, now in the world, is loving and supporting each of us in the face of the ruler of the world who is condemned. We remember the truth of the world bears no resemblance to the truth God gives us and we are foolish indeed if we expect more of the same!

The very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for word.  And God who searches the heart knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26b-27)

The final set of reflections spoken by Jesus in John’s gospel, shared just before his betrayal, trial, denial and death are powerfully loving, urgently practical and deliberately focussed, as his friends are bewildered, grieving, unable to bear God’s truth.   Jesus talks as they grapple with what is going to happen next to Jesus and to them.  Jesus acknowledges they aren’t able to hear his truth; it’s all too much.  It feels a bit like being in labour, the stresses, strains and pain are almost too much to imagine.  The grief and joy of letting go one life-story and shifting into another, knowing the world is forever changing uniquely and divinely, is an extraordinary experience.  

For the disciples, the next part of the journey with Jesus, with God, with the Spirit will test them to their limits of faith, imagination, courage and truth.  As frightened people who buckle under the strain of the invitation offered by God in Christ Jesus, it is almost impossible to imagine the transformation that occurs in them. 

And yet, Jesus says the disciples must remember God’s Spirit will be there to guide them at all times.  They do not need to panic, or doubt God.   The Spirit will do all this with them because the Spirit is in God, as is Jesus, and God is in Jesus and in the Spirit.  Jesus is gifting all this to the disciples, to his friends, to humanity around the world without reserve.  The birthing pains of the new creation are world-changing and life-changing.  The birth of a new, transformed, resurrected life, with the promise of sins forgiven, where separation from God is not a barrier to repentance or forgiveness reminds us, all life is held by God in love.  

The disciples, both men and women, were gathered in prayer and hope, after the resurrected Jesus had ascended into heaven.  Then just as God had shown in the past, divine fire was seen to light up the place and the people present at that moment across cosmic time.  We are reminded of our own creation stories, ‘in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’ (Gen.1:1-2).   In Hebrew, the word for spirit, ruach, is also translated as wind or breath.  When God creates the world as we know it, with all its ecological diversity and brilliance, it is the spirit or breath of God who creates and presides.  The Spirit of God is real, creating a material cosmos, you and I, out of flesh and blood, earth and stardust.  In that room where people were gathered, we hear a violent wind blew, birthing and shouting with God’s joy as God’s presence was heard among the people, speaking all the known languages; reassuring us all the new creation is now present, God now dwells with all people and all are welcome.  God is real, God is creating, God is here.   The Old Testament prophet Joel’s prophecy is coming to pass, says Peter on the day of Pentecost:

It will be God declares, that ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.’  (Acts 2:17)

The excitement of the Spirit, the blowing, birthing wind signifying the Spirit’s presence reminds us we can and should trust God at all times.  We are blown where God wills and if the wind is still and silent, a tranquil, comfortable church is not a place we want to inhabit. It means God’s Spirit is working elsewhere. 

The memory of the deep abiding sorrow of those final hours of Jesus with the disciples is not easily dismissed.  Jesus’ loving words, his reassurance and clarity about their future, and what was to happen, was a blur.   They did not hear or understand the need for the Spirit to continue God’s work concerning sin and separation from God and disbelief; or about righteousness and God’s glory as Jesus is resurrected and ascends to be with God; or about judgement because the ruler of the world is finally condemned, defeated and powerless.

Isn’t this so often our own experience?  We cannot imagine what God is promising, what the Spirit is bringing us, what our hearts are grasping before our minds can comprehend.  The Spirit is upon us, God’s ruach is blowing.  Hold on tight, because nothing will ever be the same again!  The Spirit is with us, Allelujah.  

The Lord be with you. 

Bibliography

Deverell, G.W. 2018. Gondwana Theology.  A Trawloolway man reflects on Christian Faith.  Morning Star Publishing, Vic., Australia.

Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds] 2015.  Feasting on the Gospels.  John, Vol.,2 Chs 10-21.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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