Today marks an anniversary for me of the first time I led worship in North Carolina. It was January of 1978. It was at Advent Lutheran in Charlotte. It was Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. I had met with the Pastoral Search Committee the day before and we were beginning the discernment process of whether God was calling me to that parish to become its next pastor. Later that month we decided God had indeed called me to serve there. I have come to love North Carolina and have been here ever since.
That day my focus was that even though we were from all over the country we were family because of the waters of baptism. In baptism Jesus became one with us, and in baptism we have become one with him as his brothers and sisters. So, whether a Christian is baptized in Canfield, Ohio or Cambodia they are part of the same family.
The same is true of this congregation. How many of us moved the High Point from somewhere else? How many of us were born here?
Now we are family through these holy, cleansing waters.
Baptism has many aspects. Today we are going to focus on the fact that when we were baptized, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Down deep in our soul the Spirit of God is there. Some Christians focus on this by greeting the God in each other when they meet.
Today our focus will be the question; “What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?”
How might we prepare ourselves to hear what that Spirit is saying. We must take the time to stop our daily activity and try to empty ourselves of all thought or outward distractions and sit down, quietly breath, and allow God to clear our mind.
When this happens for me; the emptying process often begins with me realizing how many things I have done or have left undone that make me feel guilty. Another thing that surfaces is fear of the future is apt to surface. Ann almost died in the arms of an Aide at Clapp’s Nursing Center. She went totally limp, and they almost called a code. She got conscious and they sent her to Cone Hospital to get checked out. Several hours later I was able to drive her back to Clapp’s.
Then there are the busy people. Many feel if you are not busy all the time there must be something wrong with you.
This attitude has made it harder for people to grieve and has encouraged people to not show their pain.
I like to call this time with God as solitude. It is a time of cleansing, experiencing forgiveness, and assurance that God is walking with us.
After the cleansing has happened it is time to listen for the voice of God. I remember this happening to me as a preteen in church while feeling sorry for myself and listening to the prelude. My father had abandoned my mother and me. She married a terrific man, George Brainard, who gave his all to raise me. But neither were in church with me on Sunday morning since both Betty and George worked the night shift. So, there I was convinced I was the only child in the world in church without his parents. I clearly hear God speak to me and it has made all the difference in my life. “You are my beloved son, and I will never forsake you.” That message changed and continues to undergird my life.
By the way I have never heard God speak to me in that way since, but He has spoken to me through scripture, other people and events.
I met my spouse Ann on a blind date. I did not want to show up and I showed up at Alice Shesler’s house after work not particularly well dressed. Ann answered the door, and I knew I had really messed up. But I was there, so why not have a good time. When I kissed her good night, I knew I was in love with her.
But the key is to do your best to empty your soul of all the spiritual garbage and expect God is going to say something to you. Start with taking 5 minutes. Set a timer and begin to work on this discipline of Solitude. Over time you will be able to extend the time to 10 minutes and later even longer.
Expect God is active in the world and your life. And don’t use the excuse I am too young or too old, or I have numerous health problems. God’s Spirit has called me to many different things over the years. All of them were to participate in what God is doing. This happened when I worked in the Steel Mill. This happened when I worked as a volunteer firefighter and a member of a rescue squad. It happened yet again when I was a chaplain for Hospice
But it all begins with expecting God in his grace to empty you of all your spiritual garbage and the tears you need to shed. Secondly, expect that God will speak to you directly or indirectly through your thoughts, the words of another person, or an event.
There are further steps in discovering what the Spirit is saying to us. Jesus gathers us together to make and grow disciples. I especially suggest you get into a small group Bible Study and share with each other the stirrings, or the questions that are happening in your soul. We are here to be Christs for each other. We are here to learn from the scripture, solitude, experiencing communion and talking with each other. A church is really being a body of Christ if a person can share their deepest hopes and fears and after folks have listened dialog with them about what they are seeing and all that is shared is confidential. And then we pray expecting the Spirit to show us the way.
The Quaker movement has been doing it for years. During their sharing they agreed God did not bless slavery. During their sharing they decided God was showing them all persons, no matter what sex, or sexual preference were beloved children of God. They feel equally strong that War is wrong and are pacifists. All these teachings surfaced after much silence, much sharing, and much seeking consensus, undergirded by prayer.
After worship our Council will meet and reorganize for 2022. After this sermon we will be installing new members of this body. I hope as we seek to spiritually lead this congregation this year that together we will seek what God is telling us through prayer and the opinions each of us will share as we discern.
As a congregation pray for us and each other. The Spirit is speaking. What is the Spirit saying to you, to me? Amen.