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Holy Spirit disruptions: Wait

Lynne Baab • Thursday July 22 2021

Holy Spirit disruptions: Wait

Some of Jesus’ disciples are terrified. Jesus has died, his body has disappeared, and some of the other disciples are saying they have seen him alive. The ones who haven’t seen him yet wonder if Jesus has become a ghost, and they don’t know what to do with their questions and strong sense of loss.

Then Jesus appears among them.

When they see him, he does look like a ghost to them, so Jesus asks them to touch him. He requests something to eat, affirming that he’s still living in a body. Then he teaches them from the Old Testament scriptures about the Messiah. And he tells them to wait in Jerusalem for a promise from God (Luke 24:36-49).

The book of Acts opens with a recap of these events. In this recap, “he” refers to Jesus.

“After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.” (Acts 1:3-5) 

I began this series of blog posts on Holy Spirit disruptions by mentioning that on Pentecost Sunday this year, the worship leader opened the service by saying that she hoped we would all experience the Holy Spirit’s disruption. I was quite taken aback by her words, because most of the time I look to God for comfort, guidance, peace, joy . . . not disruption! Later in the service, the preacher talked about Jesus’ words to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised gift from the Father. The preacher talked about how waiting can be a form of disruption. The disciples didn’t know what was coming or when it would come. With hindsight, we know the promised gift was the Holy Spirit, who turned the lives of the disciples upside down in so many ways and made it possible for the Gospel to spread throughout the world, even to us, almost two millennia later.

One of the disruptions of waiting has to do with time. God calls us to wait for something, and even short periods of time seem to last forever. Sometimes that waiting comes from reasonably clear guidance from God, like the disciples before Pentecost and like my husband Dave’s and my last few months in New Zealand in April, May and June of this year, which I wrote about last week. Even when we know God has guided us to wait, time so often seems to crawl.

Sometimes waiting comes with illness. My father, at 90, was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes for five months. It was clear his life was coming to an end, and we were waiting for whatever would happen. I can’t believe it was only five months of rapid decline. At the time, it felt like five years. Or even fifty years! Waiting disrupts the flow of time.

Another disruption that comes with waiting for God to act is the fact that we usually don’t know precisely what’s going to happen. People waiting to find a life partner, couples waiting to conceive, job seekers waiting for an interview, patients waiting for an appointment with a doctor . . . we just don’t know what will happen. I’ve been painting a dresser. With each coat, I have to wait until the paint is dry to see how it looks. My painting project – and the blobs and drips revealed after the paint is dry – is a tiny example of the fact that we seldom know the outcome when we have to wait for something. Sometimes a huge amount of emotion is invested in the outcome, and both the waiting and the result are a significant disruption.

I can offer no easy answers for the disruption of waiting, even when it is clearly a Holy Spirit disruption because God has called us to wait. All we can do flex our trust muscles, and hope that the hard work of trusting God this time will make it easier to trust God the next time.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
   Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
   to the voice of my supplications!
. . . I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
   and in his word I put my hope:
my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning.” (Psalm 130:1, 2, 5, 6)

(Next week: ignite holy fire. Illustration by Dave Baab: Dunedin Botanic Garden. Dave did a lot of painting in our months in New Zealand waiting for a vaccine there. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to get an email when I post on this blog.)

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