Monday, September 26, 2016


Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient. - Exodus 24:7

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. - Romans 12:11

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 110; 1 Samuel 16:14-17:31; John 3:16-26

Several of today's scriptures use the word "spirit" to talk about someone being energized or motivated or moved in a certain way. 1 Samuel differentiates between Saul having "the spirit of the Lord" (with "spirit" capitalized in some English translations, and lowercase in others) and "an evil spirit from the Lord." John 3, a few verses earlier, has the well-known passage about being "born of the Spirit," and in today's verses connects that with light and truth and openness, as opposed to evil and hatred and deception. Paul, toward the end of Romans after some powerful writing about the Holy Spirit's work in our lives (particularly in chapters 7 and 8), seems to be talking about our own human spirit, calling for us to be energized by and aligned with God.

It's hard for me to sort out all of these different references to "spirit." I think the ancient world probably understood the word differently than we do today, probably with different shades of meaning between Hebrew and Greek thought. Of all these references to energy and motion, which would we find easy to attribute to God today, and which would we say are just from "nature," or other forces, or our own will? It's helpful for me to think of the word "direction" alongside "spirit." It can mean just a certain orientation, or it can mean that we've been "directed" by a force beyond ourselves. However we interpret "spirit" in the various ways it's referred to in the Bible, "direction" gets to the end result. Which way are we going? Are we aligned with God's purposes, or against? What are some road markers and goals along the way? And how can we use the resources under our power and control to keep moving in God's direction?

There's a lot I don't understand in the world - and in the Bible! But I understand and trust that my life can be oriented toward God's will and purpose, and that God's Holy Spirit does actively work in me to direct me in that way. I don't have to be fully able to explain or understand or navigate through the various "spirits" in the world (even my own!) to watch for that main current of direction, and try to be in sync with it. I thank God for light and truth and clarity, and for the peace and abundance of life that comes from being directed by the Holy Spirit.

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