Where does our help come from?

Read: Isaiah 61; Psalm 104; 1 Thessalonians 1

One of the big questions in pneumatology and Christian history is the direction of God’s work. Where does God’s help come from?  Where do we see the emanating presence of God’s activity? Where do we go to discover God?

In Exodus, we see God giving the Law to Moses, filling Moses with authority and wisdom, passing this on to Joshua. Later, judges are anointed to provide wisdom when needed, though we find the people often wandered astray.

The king, not God’s ideal, becomes a center of focus and God’s ordaining, though likewise without consistent faithfulness.

There is the Temple, which God filled with his presence. The ark of the covenant become a unifying symbol of God’s favor.

Even still, where did God’s help really come from? From the centers of power and influence?

Sometimes, not always.  Centers of power and control are where we seek validation and authority and influence.  We are, we might even say, addicted to leadership, if not the pursuit of it then at least the validation by it.

But God is not so limited. There is the gift of leadership, but it is God’s gift.  And when leaders abuse God’s mission, calling, values, dismissing his love and care for all people, then leaders find themselves countering God’s grace.  Which is not a healthy place to be.

When their privilege is put before God’s mission, then the Spirit is grieved.  But doesn’t stop working for the sake of God’s people.

Where does our help come from? How we answer that says a great deal about our understanding of God and especially our understanding of the Spirit.

God is not limited to the powers of this world because God is not limited to the systems of this world. Jesus did not concede to the institutional leaders, the religious leaders, the political leaders, or the zealots in adapting his mission to meet their demands and expectations, to meet their assumptions about how peace and hope are found.

God guides in a different way, and this way is a way from below, where the Spirit works to enliven people where they are at and to find an identity that transcends that which the world provides.  We are more than conquerors because the kingdom we participate in is everlasting and it is life-giving.

This is a message of hope and life and calling, pushing us to see past the immediate and to invest in God’s vision of this world and each other.

Are you discouraged? God’s Spirit is with you, leading you and not abandoning you. Are you weak? God’s power can work even in death, where there is by definition no hope.

The resurrection means that God is not limited by what we see or hear or assume. This power of new life always among us gives us hope in even the darkest places, to live in a new way, caught up in neither anger nor despair.

In this hope we become bearers of light to others, resisting that which claims death, pushing against that which seeks to minimize or anonymize each person.

We are called by name and we can live in a new way in the midst of our present circumstances, knowing the Spirit who works from below and within, a fractal transformation that envelops the world in new life. This is not fully realized but it is in play, and we can choose which way we live for.

Where do you see the Spirit working in your life today? Where is the Spirit working in your community? What can you do to participate in this more fully?

How can you spend time to cultivate this life? Let us live in the life of the Spirit who is with life and invites life to be fully awakened.

Let us enter fully into our present so that we begin to see that God doesn’t need the right election results or any other indications of power to do a magnificent work.

Let us be thankful that the Spirit works and works even among, especially among, those the world abandons or dismisses.  Let us be thankful because most of us are in this situation and God still, oddly enough, calls us to join in this amazing mission.

Where does our help come from? Where are you looking for help on this day?

Each week in my class on the Holy Spirit, I add a more pastoral reflection to the usual theological content. This was the one for the current week 3.

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2 Responses to Where does our help come from?

  1. Craig Devereaux says:

    Great opening post. I’ve often spoken of the need for “oppressors” (though I’ve framed it more in terms of those who actively commit sin against others and those who are victims of others’ sin) to hear the good news of forgiveness and the hope of reconciliation and restoration that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Karl Barth, Jurgen Moltmann, and Miroslav Volf have impacted my views on both the nature of Gospel and applying it to the “oppressor”. There’s so much literature out there for victims of sin but not as much for perpetrators of it, and yet, Christ himself said that he came for the redemption of sinners. It’s interesting to contrast Martin Luther King Jr.’s definition of freedom with Disney’s Queen Elsa, who in the song she’s most famous for exclaimed, “no right, no wrong. No rules for me. Now I’m free.” Seems to be quite different than and actually violates Martin Luther King Jr.’s definition. I’m looking forward to more of your posts.

  2. Patrick says:

    Craig, thanks for this. Yeah, the language of “oppressors” isn’t necessarily all that useful. For the book, it was really meant to tap into the broader liberation theology discussions, since it reflects that. It really is about sin, though, and that’s been missing in a lot of discussions, with a lot of idealism both minimizing human tendencies but then also blaming people more when they don’t just stop. Moltmann was the one who really got me thinking about this stuff, and I’ve found there’s a lot out there but not as specifically focused, almost like people are embarrassed about talking about helping oppressors. The Queen Elsa song is definitely the cultural model, which between that and Anna’s song about “love is an open door” got me a little concerned about the direction of the movie! I think by the end, though, it found its way back to MLK’s version, where Elsa’s original version of freedom was really isolating and she found there was a way of responsible freedom that invited community, and Anna found the love that wasn’t just sentimental and manipulative, but was commitment and trust.

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