I knew the pews would creak to announce our tardiness into the sanctuary, but no one seemed to mind. The rows were old like the building, but not unfamiliar. Worshippers sat spaced out, in clusters and alone, and they all seemed to be taking a collective sabbath sigh as the liturgy began.
And we spoke together, slowly.
I sank into the collective sabbath sigh and let the quiet rest my soul. The pace inside the church did not match the streets outside; it savored the words and the melodies and the notes of praise coming from the ensemble in the corner. And somewhere in the standing and sitting and reading and singing and praying, the pastor preached on Pentecost in the present tense – the now of God’s Holy Spirit provision that we wouldn’t be orphans.
I mangled my notes with doodles and arrows and bold letters. The beauty of Jesus promising that even better things would be achieved in this provision than He achieved while on earth is astounding.
But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you,sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:5-7
Though the air was quiet and my soul full of Sabbath rest, my mind rushed to gather insight from the Word. Bread for the soul is the best way to understand the way the Word nourishes our spiritual bones. And it is this hunger that spun my mind’s wheels on that creaky pew.
The Spirit lives (in the present tense) and gives (in the present tense) peace and fights (in the present tense) for my sanctification.
When Jesus left, we were not abandoned. In fact, the Holy Spirit expanded the reach of Jesus beyond a locality and beyond the limit of a lifetime. The Holy Spirit ensured my rescue from abandonment and God’s faithfulness to His promise to sanctify the chosen.
He is daily, joyfully, continuously, and graciously rescuing me from orphanhood. His promise-keeping secures my place in His family, forever.
I don’t mean to say there is a danger He would not, but the beauty of being awed by His doing so re-positions my worship. Hm. I can’t quite tame the wild realizations of my heart or find words to make sense of my joy. The moment I think I’ve grasped an intelligible way of relating these discoveries, I’ve lost it. But I know it was something wonderful because the surge in my soul was electric.
I am rescued from orphanhood and my rescue is present tense as much as it is past. At the end of the sermon while I was caught in my doodles, the pastor said something and I can’t tell you what it was. But while he said it I wrote this down,
“Our good works are the evidence of God’s promise-keeping.”
God sent the Spirit to be active in the present tense to reach beyond the locality and lifespan of Jesus and reach people like me. God is daily keeping His promise to be faithful, to provide, to delight, to redeem, to rescue, and to reveal His glory.
This powerfully translates into our completing the good works that were planned for us to do (Ephesians 2). When we are effective for the kingdom, it is not because we were faithful to answer the call or maintain the resolve or finish the race.
We are effective because He is faithful to keep His promises.
We are being made holy because He is faithful. We are humbled because He is faithful. We are successful because He is faithful. We mourn with the grieving because He is faithful. We live in community because He is faithful. We serve our neighbors because He is faithful. We love the downtrodden because He is faithful. We release the captive because He is faithful.
His promise-keeping enables us to do good works and those good works return glory to the One whose faithfulness empowered them.
Oh, what a mess. I’ve made no sense and much sense and many circles. Sometimes the circles spin my heart with delight and I give in. I don’t mind if delighting in the Lord makes me dizzy.
I got the good kind of dizzy on Sunday, spinning around in circles to understand the mysterious faithfulness of our gracious God.