Sunday, January 3, 2016

John 6:63 (NLT): God’s Spirit and Word

John 6:63 (NLT): God’s Spirit and Word
The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

Oswald Chambers, in his classic Christian devotional My Utmost for His Highest, writes:
Once, the Bible was just so many words to us . . . then, suddenly, the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us when our circumstances make the words new. That is the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a [person] gets to God, it is by the most simple way—words.

What is it about the words of Christ that can have such an impact on us at one point in our lives and at other points mean very little? This mystery is an amalgamation of our free choices and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. If you think about it, the Holy Spirit’s presence is a radical thing: The Spirit we receive is the same Holy Spirit in Acts 2 that comes like wind and tongues of fire, shaking the foundations of the earth, causing each of the Apostles to speak languages foreign to their own.  It is the same Spirit, moreover, that fills the Apostle Peter as he stands up to preach to and baptize 3,000. We have that same Spirit, and this truth is amazing! Sometimes, unfortunately, we choose to ignore the soft nudges of the Spirit, and our lives take formative turns.

When I think about the Spirit and impact of God’s word in my life, I recall my first Communion in April 1980.  I was a lector during the Mass and read from Luke 19:1-10. It was the story of Zacchaeus, the “short in stature” tax collector, and his immediate conversion through Jesus’ invitation. As an eight-year-old, I vehemently read and and tried to memorize the passage so that my delivery would be poised and practiced. That scriptural passage made a lasting impression on me, especially to an eight-year-old who needed a step-stool to reach the towering ambo. Time passed, life’s circumstances and choices redirected me, and, although still blessed in many ways, I lost interest in God’s word. Many years later I had a conversion, and these same words of Jesus bore an immense impact on me again. The lofty ambo came rushing back, and I remember Christ’s invitation to a sinful, small man. The Spirit was calling me to accept that invitation, and I joyfully responded.  

It is a mistake, however, to attribute conversion to my own efforts. God is always there, patiently waiting, as he waits with each of us at every moment. The Holy Spirit urges us to listen to and act on the words of Jesus, for His words are “spirit and life.” God’s grace is an invitation, however, and not a forced move.  We must choose God and say yes much like Samuel does in 1 Samuel 3:10: “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”

Let us keep each other and our special intentions in prayer this week.  

May you all be blessed and encouraged in the love and peace of Christ.