God with us as the Holy Spirit (Horizons 8)

“God’s Promise: I Am With You”
Lesson 8: John 14:1-31

“I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights and I live in the unshakeable kingdom of God.”

James Bryant Smith said the above quote at a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) conference on making disciples. I found it challenging to wrap my head around the phrase. What happens when you say to yourself, “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights”? Are you startled, doubting, incredulous or pleased when you think about Christ delighting in you? For 60 seconds of silence, imagine Christ looking at you with pleasure.

What happens when you reflect on Christ dwelling in you? Do you readily identify with the Holy Spirit having a home within you, or do you think that the Holy Spirit will only come once you have spiritually cleaned house? Do you feel like the Holy Spirit has packed up and left, or is the Spirit as close to you as breath or wind?

Chapter 14 of the Gospel of John focuses on the Holy Spirit coming to lodge within the community of disciples to empower them to share the good news of Christ and do even greater works than Christ (14:12). The Holy Spirit is the Advocate and Comforter, the one who prays for us when we cannot find the words. The Holy Spirit brings peace and truth and reminds us of all that Jesus teaches. The Holy Spirit comes as power as the disciples share the good news of Christ’s resurrection.

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts comes as fire and wind, enabling those in the upper room to tell of Jesus’ resurrection. Our awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence may come in our ordinary tasks. It may come during the singing of a hymn, in holding a child or looking with awe before astonishing beauty. One gentleman told me that when he goes hunting, he takes his pocket Bible with him and reads. He may not bring home a deer, but in the stillness, God is present. Another friend in Richmond, Virginia, senses God’s closeness as he works on poverty reduction through increased access to transportation and better housing. One friend does her daily devotional early in the morning, which sustains her as she deals with the chronic, serious illness of her child.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit comes with a call to action or a question. Many years ago, I went sledding with my 10-year-old son. As I pushed my son off the top of a long and steep hill, his father was at the bottom of the hill to keep him from going into a creek. As my son sped down the hill, I felt a pain in my chest and a question arose in me: “What about all the children who have no one to catch them?” Some years later, I answered the question by tutoring at-risk children in one of the worst schools in Richmond.

The Holy Spirit can come unexpectedly. A Presbyterian campus minister took a group of college students to Haiti during spring break. They visited an orphanage where all the babies had AIDS and the group was asked to hold and rock the babies. As the pastor held a baby, he became aware of God as close as his own breathing. That sense of God’s presence remained with him when he paused and became still.

Jesus promises the disciples that he will be with them through the Holy Spirit, particularly as they seek to do his will. There is an astonishing statement in John 14:13-14: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” We talk about acting in the name of love, peace or common sense. To do anything in someone’s name is to act on behalf of the person named or to act under the authority of that person. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are asking to be Christ’s representatives as we do his will.

There are several beautiful hymns about the Holy Spirit that capture the power of the Spirit and our desire to be like Christ in doing his will; for example, read “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” “Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove” and “Be Thou My Vision.” Hymns about the Holy Spirit are prayers in which we ask to be made into more faithful and loving followers of Christ. These hymns talk of quickening faith, fanning faith into a holy flame, giving the church new and stronger vision, spreading Christ’s love broadly, fashioning us anew and having Christ as first in our hearts. These are wonderful prayers to which we can say: “Amen! So be it!”

rosalind-banburyRosalind Banbury is the interim pastor of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia.

You can purchase the PW/Horizons Bible study book through the PC(USA) Church Store.