The Gospel of Luke begins the story of Jesus’ ministry with three episodes in which he is empowered by the Spirit of God.
In the first, Jesus is CLAIMED by God - he experiences the spirit descending on him like a dove and hears the words, “You are my beloved, and with you I am well pleased.”
In the second, Jesus is TESTED, as the Spirit sends him to the wilderness to contend with the devil. Jesus resists self-serving temptations that would lead him down a destructive path.
In the third story, Jesus is SENT. The spirit has given him a mission, and he knows what he has been put on this earth to do. He reads from the prophet Isaiah, and says the ancient words are being fulfilled:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
These three movements of the Spirit in Jesus’ life represent different seasons in the journey of Christian faith.
There are times our focus must be entirely on the fact that we are loved by God. Life in the Spirit is entirely about remembering that we are CLAIMED, just like Jesus – we are God’s beloved, with whom God is well-pleased. All who have been abused, neglected, or rejected know how important this dimension of faith is. We all have felt alone and unloved – and the Spirit reminds us that we are claimed by God.
Sometimes, the second movement of the Spirit is central. We must resist evil. The spirit not only allows us to be tempted, but gives us the strength not to give in when opportunities to cheat, to abuse, to manipulate others present themselves. Each person is susceptible to different vices, but we all have tasted the consequences of evil choices. Resisting the temptation to sin is an indispensable component of Christian faith, and we understand that life in the Spirit comes with TESTS.
Because the first and second activities of the Spirit are so powerful and important, some Christians devote all their faith energy to one theme or the other. Religion is all about telling people how much God loves them, or else it’s all about telling people not to do bad things.
But the Spirit isn’t a single-note chime, it’s a chorus. And these first two movements are met in mature faith by the third activity of the Spirit - the calling, the commissioning, the sending. God doesn’t just want to embrace us, or to police us. God wants to use us – to bring about greater justice and mercy throughout the world.
God wants our communities to be a more compassionate and generous places because of the lives we have lived. God wants suffering met with kindness and abuse confronted with courage. God wants the poor to receive good news, the blind to receive sight, and the oppressed to have liberty, at long last. And for the sake of all these things, God wants all of us to get to work.
The Spirit doesn’t just have one thing to say to us. Don’t settle for a single piece – listen to the whole truth.
The Table is a Christian Church in Davenport, Iowa, pursuing transformation:
From greed toward generosity
From violence toward peacemaking
From isolation toward neighborliness
From fear toward faith
Worship Sundays at 5pm, 102 E. 2nd St., Davenport