We gathered. Some were there a bit earlier than usual — so they figured out how to make the coffee! We found seats and we opened in prayer. Then, as is our custom we started to check in….our homework had been to daily pray for God to create in us a clean/pure heart. AND we also had paper hearts that as the Holy Spirit might lead us we could write in what God might tell us would be part of our clean/pure hearts.
Some folks filled their paper hearts with notes. Some as they prayed found that as God answered (& did!) the prayer, a new awareness was opened up to them — and that was hard…because well, learning the truth about ourselves (esp. if we think we’re doing alright!) is hard! There also was the important question of ‘what for’ or ‘for what’? We pray that God would create in us a clean/pure heart — but why? Just to be clean and pure? The sincere question was asked knowing their desire to live their faith out in real ways — in ways that feel more productive/active than only gathering around a table once a week. AND the thing is yes — God does invite us to move with the Holy Spirit, to do work that God has designed & invited us to do in our lives….and — the work does not look the same for everyone, and the work will not always be the same for us, and the work is not always the work that we want to do — sometimes what God calls us to do is the boring — the extra ORDINARY — the little things that seem not to matter at all — sometimes faithfulness doesn’t look like us curing cancer, poverty, racism…or even healing 1 person we love! I do believe though, as we seek God, as we ask to draw near, as we pray (or sing!) “Create in me a clean heart — oh God” (and if we’re singing maybe including too, “and renew a right spirit within me”) again and again and again, I just imagine God is able to do some of that — and as was correctly mentioned too — we don’t do this — it’s always God who is able! (We can’t really even know — what’s the difference between our heart, and our mind, and our spirit and our soul?) And even if we don’t care about those distinctions (and no that doesn’t make you a “bad” Christian!) — praying for God to create a cleanness and a purity in us opens us to be able to hear more of God’s voice, and God’s desires, and the direction that the Holy Spirit is inviting us to follow. Praying for God to create this cleanness and this purity might be the equivalent of turning stuff of when we have TV on, and music going, and something in the microwave, and laundry in the washer, and our own internal dialogue, and a text message coming on the phone, and a friend or a partner or a neighbor is trying to say something — AND OF COURSE WE CAN’T HEAR — praying for God to create the cleanness and purity might be the equivalent of turning off the TV, shutting off the music, pausing the microwave, silencing our phones, and breathing to pause our internal dialogue — to check in and listen. None of the other things are necessarily bad…but they sure do make it hard to focus on the one (One) trying to speak to us, right? And that voice might be telling us what is next, what we are invited to do — the voice might be trying to tell us where the Holy Spirit is moving next so that we are ready to go! (And that’s exciting!)
After this amazing time of talking and pondering and sharing. We turned to scripture. A small book (minor prophet) towards the end of the Old Testament. We read Jonah 1:1-6
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”New International Version
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
After listening we asked….what is the Holy Spirit highlighting? Something named was how even in disobedience Jonah has this trust in God which is so comforting he is able to sleep soundly in the midst of a powerful storm (something not mentioned at the time….but how many of us have been asleep in the storms of our lives…that we essentially walked into? How many of us have been blessed to have someone direct us — Wake up & pray!? How many of us have listened?) . They noted that it reminded them of the type of trust that Jesus had in God during storms….being able to sleep while everyone else experienced fear and chaos.
There’s much to notice in these short verses….as well as in this short book….and so — the homework this week is to READ. Read all of the book of Jonah. And come back ready to discuss what stood out — where God led you to pause — to share what verses are coming alive to you right now!
I know I’m looking forward to hearing how (& what) the Holy Spirit is speaking to each of us though this book!
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater