What are the marks of a community that is “filled with the power of the Spirit?” In this week’s text, Jesus gives us a clue.
The poor receive Good News.
The captives are released.
The blind see.
The oppressed are set free.
Whenever we see these things happening, we can trust that the Spirit of God is at work loving the world, calling us to join the party.
Of course, Christians do not have the market cornered on this kind of work, any more than we have the market cornered on the Spirit (though God knows we’ve tried). And that’s because the Spirit is not the property of any religious tradition. The Spirit is that which enlivens all.
When we make the Spirit the property of the Church, there’s a natural outcome—we start to believe it’s our job to take the Spirit to the world, as though the Spirit was another thing we could pack in our bags and carry with us. As a result, the mission of the Church becomes colonial, oppressive and ultimately violent.
Every Bush is Burning
I am happy to report that things are changing. We are collectively learning that we don’t take the Spirit anywhere; instead, we bear witness to the Spirit at work everywhere. Yes, the Spirit is at work in all things, calling forth life. That’s what she does.
That God is always at work before we arrive, waiting to be noticed, is not a new thought.
Do you remember the burning bush that Moses saw when he “turned aside” (Ex. 3:3) in the desert? There is a line of interpretation in the Jewish tradition in which the burning bush was always burning, just waiting for someone like Moses to “turn aside” and notice. This kind of interpretation recognizes that the Spirit of God is always at work, waiting for us to see and celebrate God at work in our midst.
Yes, the whole world is a burning bush ablaze with God’s glory, if we can only see it, calling us to join the wildly liberating work of God among the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed.
If this isn’t cause for celebration, it’s probably because we don’t easily identify ourselves as poor, captive, blind or oppressed. It’s only when we are numbered among them that we see God coming to us in the shape of our own lives, plumbing the depths of our own poverty, captivity, blindness and oppression with mercy. Suddenly, we are all on the same level.
One People, One Spirit
Suddenly, we are one people, one humanity, all of us on the receiving end of a huge gift that is setting us free. Suddenly, we discover ourselves being filled with the same Spirit that empowered Jesus and, almost without thinking, we find ourselves joining the celebration. We find ourselves bringing Good News to the poor, releasing the captives, giving sight to the blind and letting the oppressed go free because that’s exactly what is happening in us.
So let’s take a moment today to turn aside and notice God at work in the world, and in our own lives. There is no obligation here, only invitation to be filled with the power of the Spirit and join the party. It’s how we rediscover our deepest delight and become fully human.