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“Stories of God’s Presence and Power” 7.21.22

By July 21, 2022No Comments

When I was being confirmed in the Lutheran Church, the hymn sung was George Croly’s “Spirit of God:”

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou Art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

The hymn goes on to say, “Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh…Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear…Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer…Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love.”  Teach me, teach me, teach me!!!

One of the more recent books read in Wednesday’s Spirit Group is Freeing Jesus by Diana Butler Bass.  In her book, the author declares six ways she knows Jesus; Friend, TEACHER, Lord, Savior, Way and Presence.  Jesus, as I understand him, taught through example and words, words that could be and were, perplexing, like His parables which often pose more questions than they answer.

And so, during my life God/Jesus/Spirit has been nudging me, pointing me, through the writings of the New Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, and through writers, theologians, historians, pastors, friends, and teachers, who themselves have been nudged by the Spirit. I say, “pointing me” because through each sermon, book, or forum I was opened to an “aha” moment.  Or, I was pointed elsewhere if I was not open to the Spirit-directed “aha.”

A few of the guidepost readings from the Spirit for me have been:

Joan Chittister’s A Spirituality for the 21st Century: The Rule of St. Benedict.  Written over 1500 years ago in his Prologue Benedict invites us to “Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Howard Thurman writes in Jesus and the Disinherited in 1949, “His [Jesus] message focused on the urgency of a radical change in the inner attitude of a people.  He recognized fully that out of the heart are the issues of life and that no external force, however great and overwhelming, can at long last destroy a people, if it does not first win the victory of the spirit against them.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer says in what Elizabeth Gilbert calls “A hymn of love to the world,” Braiding Sweetgrass (2013), “The moral covenant of reciprocity calls us to honor our responsibilities for all we have been given, for all that we have taken. …Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision all offered up on behalf of the earth.  Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world.

In return for the privilege of breath.” [breath, spirit, ruach]

Before, St. Benedict, before Thurman, before Kimmerer, St. Luke wrote (8:18), “Then pay attention to how you listen.”  So how have these teachers; Benedict, Thurman and Kimmerer taught me to pay attention, to listen to the Spirit?

Benedict, through the lens of Joan Chittister says, “All the rigid…teachers in the world cannot make up for our own decision to become what we can by doing what we must.”  When I am called by the Spirit to act, whether it is concerning voting rights, violence, or poverty, I am called to do what I MUST. What I do may express itself differently than others in my Christian community.  But as I listen and pay attention, I hear the Spirit saying that that is alright.

Skipping hundreds of years, Benedict points me to Thurman.  In doing so, Thurman teaches me how to be with those “with their backs against the wall,”  the marginalized; “the poor, the disinherited, the dispossessed” that I see…and maybe, don’t see, and should.  After writing about fear, deception and hate and recognizing them for what they are Thurman says, “The disinherited will know for themselves that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men which is committed to overcoming the world.  It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture, and no condition of men. For the privileged and the underprivileged alike, if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline, he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of the Son of God.”  Thurman, like our own Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says that this “needful dedication and discipline” is going to require the calling upon the Spirit in the Way of Jesus, the Way of Love.

Benedict and Thurman point me to a way of being with other PEOPLE in my life and community.  Benedict and Thurman in turn point me to Kimmerer who in a more recent writing reflecting thousands of years of Indigenous Spirit and life, teaches me about creation itself.

The last verse of the Thanksgiving Address included in the book states:

We now turn our thoughts to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of creation.  Everything we need to live a good life is here on Mother Earth.  For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.  Now our minds are one.

Gift, thanks, and reciprocity are themes threaded throughout her book.  Among the many gifts of creation, with the aid of the Spirit, Kimmerer reminded me of the mature but diseased Norway Maple in my yard, and to give thanks before and after its recent removal.

“Through all its pulses move.”  The Spirit continues to move, asking me to listen carefully, pay attention and love.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou Art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

Ginny Jacobson