Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: "God doesn't give us more than we can handle", Acts 2, hope, Jesus, John 20, John 7, Pentecost, Spirit
It’s been one of those weeks for me. When all the swirling forces of life combine to make a perfect storm. It’s the preschool germs that keep coming home. It’s the laundry that never ends and only gets half-folded before the baby is crying or the toddler is hungry or the dog needs to go out. The calendar that keeps getting filled up. The bills that arrive each month. The extended family members in various degrees of illness and health. Another bowl dropped and shattered on the floor. The days that never have enough hours and the weeks that never have enough days. My junk is what it is, and the mess of my life won’t look like yours. But one week or another, I’d bet you’ve been here, too. With a messy life leaving you feeling worn out, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
Exhausted. That’s a good word for me today. At its roots, there is “ex” meaning from, and “haust” coming from a word meaning to draw or even to take. Draw from. Take out of. Like each little bump in an otherwise smooth road of life has come along and taken a straw to siphon off a little bit more of my energy, a little bit more of my patience, a little bit more of my spirit. Until I am drained. I am dry.
Have you been there before? Have you felt like you have nothing left to give? Not even enough strength to make it through the day? Maybe you’ve been so bad that you’ve known you can’t handle one more thing… and then the phone rings again, something else has happened. It can be too much. And those well-meaning pious phrases like, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” leave you angry and certain that God didn’t give you any of this.
If you’re there, or if someday, you find yourself there, know that you’re not alone. People here have been there. People you look up to have been there. People in the Bible have been there.
The disciples have been there. We meet them there in our reading from John. The text says they’ve locked themselves in a room out of fear. They’ve just seen their beloved teacher killed by the religious and political powers that be. They’ve buried the one who has given their lives meaning and purpose. Now they are alone, afraid, exhausted. Their courage, drive, faith, and purpose have been drawn out of them. They are deflated.
That room feels like all the air has been sucked out of it. Suddenly, into that stagnant mess, Jesus appears. He who once was dead is filled with life. His presence fills the room. He speaks and breathes upon those gathered. He breathes out the Holy Spirit.
The disciples are ex-hausted— drained out. Then Jesus comes and in-spires them. Jesus breathes into them. They are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Early in John, when Jesus was describing what would happen through his ministry, he presents another image of the change he works from us being exhausted to inspired.
Jesus speaks of all of us as parched, dried up, thirsty people. Jesus can change that, so he calls out, and welcomes everyone to come. “Come, and drink from me,” he invites. Then Jesus shifts the image. Instead of continuing the image by saying those thirsty people come to him and are satisfied, Jesus declared, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
Not only is the original dryness quenched, but it is replaced by a stream whose source will never be depleted. Instead of a one-time refreshment, there is a gushing abundance. Jesus changes us from dried up to overflowing.
From exhausted to inspired, dried up to overflowing: this is the change Jesus works in you, through the Holy Spirit. Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into you, Jesus fills you with the living, flowing, rushing Spirit.
Jesus sends his Spirit to you, so that you may have life, believe in him, and continue his work of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Jesus has continued to pour out the Spirit since those first days of his resurrection, when fears were calmed and people of all nations heard the good news in their mothertongue.
So what does it mean when you find yourself in a dry spell? If Jesus is pouring out the Spirit abundantly, why would we ever be exhausted? Is Jesus withholding the Spirit? Is there something you’re not doing right?
The Spirit is ever faithful. Jesus never abandons you. But feeling overwhelmed and abandoned are real. It’s important to remember the source of the Spirit when considering your expectations of how you should feel throughout life. Jesus has given you his Spirit. Jesus has always been connected with the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have difficult times during his life and ministry on earth. Even filled with the Spirit of life, Jesus wept at Lazarus’ death, was betrayed by a friend and followers, suffered, and died. Filled with the Spirit, Jesus still suffered.
So, to proclaim that Jesus has filled you with the Spirit isn’t to say that all your problems will be solved, grief will be no more, and every mundane moment of life will suddenly be filled with meaning. It is to say that the God of life and love is faithfully with you always. One of my favorite verses speaks of the work of the Spirit when we are at our most troubled: Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”The Spirit is always working to connect us with God.
In connecting us with God, the Spirit reframes the troubles of our days. The Spirit elevates us to catch a glimpse of God’s longer and more hopeful perspective. God’s vision always includes light after darkness, presence after loneliness, life after death.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by circumstances in life, there are things to be done to help you find yourself more settled in an awareness of the Spirit. The Spirit leads us to gather for worship, to pray, and to listen to God and join in God’s work in the world. These are places in which we are more fully aware of God’s kingdom in which all those things that burden us will be eased and made well. The Spirit brings us to the one from whom we can drink and be more than satisfied.
May Jesus so inspire you that you would have faith even in the most difficult times of life, and comfort in the overflowing grace of God’s life-giving presence.
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