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Spiritual Life, Acts of Power, and the Christ Within

By Rev. Dr. James D. Findlay

James FindlayAs we journey further into the sacred season after Pentecost, the “tide of the Kin-dom” rises higher (thus the traditional name of the season: “Kingdomtide”).  The days continue to lengthen, the sun shines ever-more-brightly – and despite injustice, oppression, and war in the human social world, the Earth bears wondrous fruit, and our lives are healed by the movement of the Spirit, seen and unseen.  As our lives in God deepen, the Word gives us guidance about how to proceed further with and within God’s Presence.

The text of 1 Kings 17 relates the story of Elijah’s provision for a struggling widow, and his raising of her son from death.  Elijah’s reputation as a “man of God” certainly precedes him – but the woman declares “now I know you are a man of God, and that the word of YHWH in your mouth is truth” after Elijah’s powerful deeds, of sustaining the blessing of food and raising the dead, are accomplished (1 Kings 17:24).  And isn’t this how we are known as “people of God”: not because of the doctrines or ideas we profess, but the deeds of kindness, mercy, and compassion which we perform, day after day?  Elijah’s spiritual life and communion with God, which makes his actions possible, is profoundly prayerful, manifested in physical posture and movement (“then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to YHWH,” 17:21).  Our own spiritual lives, grounded in prayer and awareness of God as we traverse the Earth, are the source and ground for our compassionate work, the things we do which touch and bless the lives of others.  Elijah shows us: resurrection is not only an article of faith based on what has happened to Christ.  It is an act we perform, when we are immersed in God and in the life of the world.  And though we may not have resuscitated dead children, have we not all brought life to others, and received it, in moments when danger was dire and hope seemed to have departed?  Each of us could tell our own stories of resurrection – how love of others, grounded in God’s love for us, has birthed life in the face of death.  Yes, in the season of the rising tide of the Divine Kin-dom, resurrection is something we do, not just a crucial section of a spoken creed.

Jesus’ raising of a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17) is modeled on Elijah’s acts centuries before.  (No wonder that, when Jesus asks “who do people say that I am?” many answer “Elijah” [Mark 8:28, Luke 9:19, Matt. 16:14]).  Jesus is first known, not as the One who was raised, but as the One who Raises the Dead (many Muslims through the centuries have remembered Jesus in just this way).  And Jesus’ reputation is solidified by this wondrous act of power: “a great prophet has arisen among us” and “God has looked favorably on God’s people” (Luke 7:16).  Jesus’ action a few lines later, of receiving the blessing of bathing, kisses, and anointment from a socially unacceptable woman, and then pronouncing her sins forgiven (Luke 7:36-50), is another act of grace grounded in his life in communion with God.  Jesus’ welcoming and inclusion of such a person, without the use of ritual procedures or requirements, was truly an “act of resurrection,” of extravagant forgiveness.  And it led to release and healing, not just for the anonymous woman, but for all others who witnessed their encounter.  Even progressive religious people can be shocked into new levels of perception, when we delve deeply in the gifts of Word and Spirit!

The foundation and fountainhead of our entire journey, however, is our life with Christ, whom each of us knows within.  In the Letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks of how his encounter with Christ transformed his life, and made him a faithful servant of God.  In his own description of his “conversion” (somewhat different than the narratives presented in the Book of Acts), Paul writes powerfully that “God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me” (Gal. 1:15-16a).  The deepest, truest relation we have with Christ is when God reveals Christ in us: in dreams, in prayer, in meditation, in times of reflection with Scripture, in the deepest recesses of our hearts.  And Paul also makes clear – our spiritual lives must be cultivated in solitude, developing into an experience which we share only with God: “I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia” (Gal. 1:16-17).

This work of “going away,” of silent and spoken time with God, may not take place in a literal desert.  But if we do not take the time to savor God’s Activity and Presence, and carve out time and space for sacredness by going to our own spiritual Arabian territory, our faith will lack rootedness, deep grounding, and full fruitfulness.  Paul shows us that all encounters with the Divine require time for processing, away from the influence or suggestions of anyone else.  The path of our souls, and how that journey is nurtured, is completely unique to each of us, and utterly personal.  Each of us knows, for ourselves, how old ways have died out in us (“I have been crucified with Christ,” Gal. 2:19), and how, day after day, year after year, moment by moment, our lives grow from the inside, so that we know for ourselves, and others can see in us: “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

May each of us cherish and care for our souls.  May each of us be open to the comfort and the challenge of the Spirit.  May each of us claim the power to enact resurrection and forgiveness.  May each of us continue to commune with Christ and allow the Divine Life within us to grow and to bless.

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Note from author: Please feel free to post here at the Conference website, or contact me via e-mail at sleight_of_time@yahoo.com. I wish to engender a conversation among us about how the Word and Spirit are active in our lives, and how we might nurture these gifts further. I also am happy to work with groups and individuals on how to nurture the Word and Spirit among us. Please visit my Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Accompaniment-Services/219750211459838 as another way of being in this sacred conversation. I look forward to hearing from many of you soon!

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