I keep finding that there is something slightly discordant in the life of faith, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. We attend church and worship God. We greet one another and we contribute to the church collection. We take part in the life of the church and in assisting its activities. Much of this take place in church on in the halls or kitchen.
But what then? We go home, have our meals, read, watch TV, rest or whatever. The routine of normal life asserts itself very quickly with all its normal cares and distractions. And this is where our faith is made to work. What is the quality of our pastimes and our relationships? How much are we putting ourselves at the disposal of others, especially of those who we find difficult or abrasive?
There are still those bills to pay, people to stay in touch with, activity at home in which we work to support and encourage the work of the church and of any other cause that claims our support. In short it is in the routine of everyday life that our faith finds its practical expression. It is in the quality of our relationships and the priorities of our lives that simple acts of kindness and generosity or of meanness and selfishness come to the surface.
It is small wonder that after a week of this kind of testing that we want to come back to church and to recharge our spiritual batteries, to encourage one another or to find an understanding ear and heart. Yet it is also in day-to-day life and activity that we find that our relationship with God in Jesus Christ is also revealed. It is certainly revealed to ourselves and probably to those around us just what kind of faith and life we really sustain.
Yet as we approach Ascensiontide and Pentecost, we are reminded that God also has an agenda and it is an agenda for each of us personally and for all of us as a fellowship of believers. It comes into focus as we lay before Him the things of our lives and especially the most hidden and the most difficult things that lie within us.
We have to remember that the disciples who Jesus met in the Upper Room that first Day of Resurrection were the same ones who had run away from Him in His time of trial, and had denied Him. Even as the news of His resurrection leaked out, they were either scared of their fellow Jews or were reluctant to take the news at face value. In short, they were as much a mixed bag of motives and feelings as you will ever find in church on a Sunday morning. But this is where Jesus came to meet them, to forgive them, re-commission them and eventually on the Day of Pentecost, to empower them with the very presence of God in the Holy Spirit.
The first apostles were as fragile and diffident as we are, even after spending 3 years in close company with Jesus. We at least have the advantage of the fulness of the scriptures and the experience of the church in seeking to understand and to live faithfully in Him.
Yet when the Holy Spirit came on that Day of Pentecost, He came with the full authority of God and with the specific mission of making Jesus real and present in every situation that the disciples and apostles might encounter. That mission of the Holy Spirit has not changed – and neither has the commission that Jesus gave to the disciples in the upper room to go forth.
We can of course be limited by self-imposed fears and hesitations. But we do not have to be. Instead we can look to the same Lord for our needs and our guidance. The first step however is in looking away from ourselves. We can look at one another and above all we can make the Lord Himself the first call for our attentions, prayers and concerns.