“Filled with the Spirit”
January 24, 2106
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
This morning I have a message for you on being filled with the Holy Spirit.
This week as I was reading the daily devotionals from the UCC I came across one written by Rev. Tony Robinson. In his devotional he tells a story of going to visit his father. He writes:
After Christmas one year I drove five hours to visit my father, who had Alzheimer's. He was then in a care home with twenty other people whose memories were also shot.
He was asleep when I arrived, which was not unusual. Previous experience had taught me it was better not to wake him, but to wait and let him wake of his own accord. A good nap often restored a bit of lucidity, if briefly.
So I sat and waited. To pass the time I sang Christmas carols. I was also hoping that the familiar words and tunes might summon him to consciousness. He slept on, peacefully so far as I could tell.
When I ran out of carols, I tried a few familiar verses from the Bible, like the 23rd and 121st Psalms. He did not stir. Since I seemed to be conducting a sort of worship service for the sleeping (not the first time), I moved to the Lord's Prayer. My Dad had taught me the Lord's Prayer when I was a child. We said it together most nights before I went to sleep.
As I prayed the Lord's Prayer, I noticed his hands at his sides had begun to float slowly upward like two giant fluttering moths. "Forgive us our debts . . ." His hands came together -- praying hands. "For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen." As I said those last words, he opened his eyes and smiled. He said, "Oh, it's you. What a nice surprise."
I really connected to this story as I was reading today’s scripture passage. The first line of this passage, which is often viewed as Jesus’ first sermon states “then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit…” What on earth is that like, what does that mean, “filled with the power of the Spirit’?
Luke, who is crediting with writing today’s gospel as well as the book of Acts of the Apostles, says more about the Holy Spirit than any other biblical writer. In our passage this morning in v. 18 (“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free”),. Luke describes the Spirit as the action and presence of God.
We believe in the Triune God, meaning God in three persons, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In this statement from Jesus the Holy Spirit is described as another source from God that guides us in truth and is always with us. Thus the Holy Spirit is among us ready to guide us, just as I believe it guided Jesus for “he was filled with the Spirit”.
What does the Spirit mean for us as individuals? The 14 chapter of the Gospel of John with Jesus’ remarks to Philip:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
I take this to mean that the spirit is here, and abiding in us even when we do not realize it.
I also believe the Spirit is with us and manifests at turning points in our lives and in ways sometimes that we cannot understand. Key turning points in the Gospel Luke are initiated by the Spirit, particularly Jesus’ birth (35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Luke 1:35), baptism (“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22), temptation (“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.” Luke 4:1-2), and today at the beginning of his ministry (“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” Luke 4:18).
The Spirit is always present.
Every year 7.7 million people are diagnosed with either Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. This is a huge turning point for those individuals and their loved ones. A while back I was visiting an older woman in an assisted living facility. I knew she was not as sharp as she once was but I had never meet her before so I had no real gage. I wore my collar to visit hoping that it would be a visual reminder to her who I was. Once I found her in the building we went and sat in a comfortable area. I told her who I was and she’d say “oh you’re the minister, so nice to meet you. I just love the church. I used to sing in the choir and we had two services which were completely full. How is it now?” Then it was as if she was on loop and would start back at the beginning, “oh you’re the minister, so nice to meet you. I just love the church. I used to sing in the choir and we had two services which were completely full. How is it now?”
After a few times I asked what hymns she would sing and we began singing some of her favorites, the oldies but goodies. Just like Rev. Robinson’s father with the Lord’s prayer, this woman knew all the words to the old hymns. The way music connects to people with dementia is an amazing phenomenon. In the Social Work Today journal it was stated that “The parts of the brain that respond to music are very close to the parts of the brain concerned with memory, emotion, and mood,…In [dementia] you lose your life. You have lost your past; you have lost your story; you have lost your identity to a considerable extent. You can at least get some feel of it and regain it, for a little while, with familiar music. People can regain a sense of identity, at least for a while.”
I believe the way music connects to people with dementia and the way Rev. Robinson’s father recognized him after the Lord’s prayer is the Spirit filling those individuals. At times we can feel God’s love and the Spirit moving around us and at other times, when our lives are hard and we just do not understand why something is happening, I believe we can trust that if our hearts are open to the Spirit it will surely fill us and our loved ones.
Jesus was open to the Spirit and was filled by the Spirit. May we also be open and trust we each can be and are Spirit filled for “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
May we notice and feel the Holy Spirit moving and working through us and those around us.