A Sunday reflection on the Day of Pentecost. The lectionary readings for today are here.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.Romans 8:14-17
On this day of Pentecost, you may be wondering why I’m choosing to write on the reading form Paul’s letter to the Romans instead of the story of the Holy Spirit descending upon the followers of Jesus. I have a few things to say about my choice, mainly that there will be a plethora of Holy Spirit, Birthday of the Church, Flames and Tongues type sermons today, and since I’m not actually preaching I thought I’d use Paul’s words about fear and adoption and belonging to continue to conversation we started here.
This world we live in, and by ‘world’ I don’t mean God’s amazing creation but the ‘princes and principalities,’ the people, governments, institutions, and societal groups that seek our attention so they can shape us to their will (aka discipleship) that are absolutely contrary if not actually deliberately opposing God’s Way and Will, this world we live in wants to control us through fear. At the most simple level, look at the advertising we encounter every day. Companies use phrases like ‘must have,’ ‘everyone is getting it,’ and ‘the life you want’ to get us to buy or buy into whatever it is. They play on our fear of not belonging, of missing out, of someone having something we don’t.
We are told to be afraid of being manipulated as we are being manipulated by the group we are listening to. We are told to fear others having what we have incase there isn’t ‘enough.’ We are told to fear being afraid and whatever they are selling will make us feel safer. We are told to fear those who are different than us because accepting them means we have to change and we should definitely be afraid of changing.
Almost as often as Jesus tells us about Love, he tells us to not be afraid. And although there is much to fear in this world, I can confidently assure you that if you are following a leader or a group or any institution that teaches you to be afraid, you are absolutely not following Jesus, nor are they (even if they claim they are). Jesus knew all too well the manipulative power of fear. The Roman controlled world he lived in were experts at it. The Pax Romana wasn’t an idealistic society, it was a society brutally ruled by fear. There was an artificial peace because no one was brave enough to stand against the leadership. Except Jesus.
As Children of God, as Followers of Jesus, we are taught (discipled) to let God’s Love be the foundation of our living. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are adopted into God’s family (we call the outward act of this baptism). This is the belonging we are created for. There is absolutely nothing in this world that can take away our belonging to God. When we find our true identity in God our Creator, we have the courage and strength even in the worst of times to not be afraid, to not let fear govern us.
Jesus has shown us, in flesh and blood, the Love of God. He has invited us to follow him, to let compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy shape us to God’s Way and will as we live in this world so that others know Love as we do. God’s Way and will is Love, that everyone should flourish and thrive as beloved children of our Creator. Following Jesus means participating with God in working out this purpose and plan for all people, making it on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.