Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Welcome to a place of peace, kindness and exploration of faith. As you reflect back on this past week, please stop a moment and think deeply and carefully. I’ve suggested before that at the end of each day we should stop and look back to see where your life moments were tied to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Whatever time of day it is for you right now, I challenge you to look back over the last 12-24 hours and find where the Holy Spirit nudged or guided you in a certain direction.
So, “What is God doing in your life these days?” Perhaps I should have led with that question.
Our congregation has been focusing these last few weeks on the Holy Spirit – how to be open to it and discern where our faith journey should lead us. In years past we’ve provided a building as a women’s hypothermia shelter. We’ve also offered English classes for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and when the pandemic closed the DC churches, we surprised ourselves by plunging right in and successfully moving our classes online.
These are great projects but I feel a persistent push to continue to ask what is ahead for us. This week I began scouring for potential service projects and I was drawn to Friendship Place and its program/support to end homelessness in DC. I took a few screenshots about their speakers who would come to churches to present their programs and help organizations explore what they could do.
Then, in the midst of my research, I received word that there was a person who was literally on our church steps and in need of shelter and food. I met with this person, listening to a bit of their history and passions, their desire to take what they experienced as a homeless person and raise consciousness that would better serve the homeless. I can’t ignore the timing and circumstances of this situation. It too closely intersects with my recent quest for a way ahead for our congregation and the detailed shelter information I had recently acquired. Now as I ask myself, “What is God doing in my life these days?”, I have an answer.
I don’t know where this recent experience will take me nor the congregation. Is it a nudge, or is it a significant step? I don’t know. I do know that I can’t ignore it. I do know that the presence of the Holy Spirit is undeniable here. I do know that no matter the outcome, our first steps are acts of love, kindness, and acceptance. The words of the Community of Christ’s Mission Prayer ring clear: "God, where will your spirit lead me today? Help me to be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen”
So what is God doing in your life these days?
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. In the DC area, today has been a wonderful respite from the heat we have experienced recently. The high yesterday was 99o F, humid, and miserable. However, this morning when I walked outside, it was a cool, breezy 70o F and the contrast was shocking. It made me relax, smile, and just close my eyes and feel the breeze. I thought of the breeze being like the Holy Spirit. Can you feel it? Let me help free your mind and take you on a journey where you, too, can feel the Holy Spirit breezing past you and around you, settling upon you and helping you feel the presence of God.
If you aren’t where the weather is beautiful and breezy, find yourself a cool spot near an air conditioner or a fan and let the breeze flow over you. Wherever you are, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Say either out loud, in your mind, or sing in soft, low tones, “Come Holy Spirit, Come. Come, Holy Spirit Come….” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEISMqHTWV0)
This song awakens me to wonderful memories of sitting around evening campfires with people who are seeking the spirit of God at this mutual moment. We pause our activities, we empty our thoughts of everything but God and the Holy Spirit and we allow the music to fill us. Fill that empty space where to-do lists once ruled, fill it with gentle calls of “Come Holy Spirit, come. Come, Holy Spirit, come…”
As I’m reliving that Zen-filled moment of quiet and dusting off memories of years past, my mind’s eye sees campfire flames flickering upwards, sometimes in a soft wave, sometimes crackling as bits of bright ember burst out in a small spray. “Come, Holy Spirit, come. Come, Holy Spirit, come…”. Come in the silence, come in the minute sounds of the forest behind us or the lapping of the waves on the nearby shore. Can you see it? Can you feel it? Where are you as you focus your mind, then your heart, and seek the Holy Spirit?
Perhaps you are someone who finds music to be the gentle conductor of the Holy Spirit. Here is another beckoning song, calling out in faith and anticipation, perhaps even desperation, trusting that the invited guest is settling in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDyX80iN4S4
What speaks to you and opens your heart, mind and soul to the presence of the Holy Spirit?
Where have you had your encounters, no matter how small? And when was it not a gentle breeze, but a knock-you-down, mighty wind?
Share your stories. But if this memory, or this moment, is so personal you don’t want to put it into words, allow that. But, by all means, let it breathe and live. Come, Holy Spirit, come…
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. As I moved through this past week, I found the presence of the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Sometimes it was just a slight nudge. Other times it was a bulldozer (which could be quite unsettling). When it was difficult to face the hurtfulness of others, I looked inward and outward, seeking an olive branch when my instinct was to wield a large timber. I looked to the Old Testament scriptures which offered the faithfulness of God, the New Testament which offered the living examples of the ministry of God’s son Jesus, and the ever-present gift of the Holy Spirit – promised by Jesus and gifted by God. Which of these three do you reach for when needing counsel, comfort, wisdom and hope?
I appreciate the scriptures of the Old Testament – especially learning the stories of those people who led imperfect lives but whom God still used to pass on his message of love and grace. And, of course, the books of Psalms and Proverbs which individually and collectively speak to my good days and my bad. What in the Old Testament speaks to you?
I use the scriptures of the New Testament to find the God I know best. It is Jesus’ words, actions and death that provide the greatest illustration of God’s immense love for us. Jesus poured out love and acceptance to the marginalized. We would find him today providing ministry to the homeless, the poor, and the incarcerated. How can I ignore any of these people when I know Jesus would be among them in his ministry?
I have learned from reading the stories of Jesus’ teaching, but I don’t get to walk with him to learn like the disciples did in his time. In my day-to-day life, I have the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus and gifted by God. I love to look back on my day and reflect on those times influenced by the Holy Spirit. Some were mere moments of feeling God’s care, at other times there were decisions and actions that altered my day’s journey. When have you seen the workings of the Holy Spirit in your life or the life of someone else?
The Holy Spirit led me to new and enriching experiences. Have you ever had a conversation with anyone in a homeless situation? For many years my husband and I shared dinners at a local men’s shelter. At first we just dropped off the dinner, thinking the men wouldn’t want us to eat with them. But the Holy Spirit intervened and we felt a strong push to bring the dinner and sit down to eat with the men. I didn’t anticipate what their perspective might be. Once one of the men at the shelter expressed his appreciation for the meal and companionship, and commented about most people would never dream of sitting at the dinner table with “the likes of us”. Another time, after a lively conversation, one man thanked us for validating that they had an opinion that mattered. The Holy Spirit offered us an amazing experience. When have you been led by the Holy Spirit to reach out as an individual, family, congregation or community?
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday and it is a wonderful time to acknowledge the Three-in-One. We find “God the Father” in the words of scripture, “God the Son” in the life of Jesus, and “God the Spirit” in the continuing companionship and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I pray you find all three as you seek the One – the God of love who is manifested in all these forms. Amen.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Welcome to the Sunday Devotion. Today is Pentecost – the 50th day after Passover commemorating the day so long ago when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, just as Jesus had promised. All done in a marvelous and miraculous way.
“Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there.” (Acts 2:2-3)
Yes, that image is miraculous, but we need to realize the full miracle is that the Holy Spirit came to stay. It was not just for the people of that time. It was for us today, a true testament to God’s everlasting love. Do you ever wonder why God gave us the Holy Spirit?
Jesus taught about God’s love. He spoke about it and he showed it in the way he lived his life. When Jesus died he told the disciples that he was leaving, but he promised they would never be alone because God would send the gift of the Holy Spirit. Why? So God could remain close to us. That is a profound statement… the gift of the Holy Spirit is so God could remain close to us. Are we really talking about God’s intentional desire to be close to us? It is He that is seeking us? Don’t we usually think of it as us seeking God?
Think of a time when you opened your heart and sought the comfort, guidance, and support of the Holy Spirit. It was an intentional act on your part. Now think of a time when you were not seeking the Holy Spirit, but you felt its presence anyway. It was an intentional act of God.
I find it interesting that we talk about inviting or “invoking” the Spirit of God to be with us at the beginning of our worship services. If we acknowledge that God is always with us, I think we are misidentifying that moment at the beginning of our worship services. We are not opening the church door and calling for God to enter. We are opening ourselves to receive God’s presence – through the Holy Spirit.
I particularly love the hymn, “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”. I love the image of feeling God’s breath on me. God would have to be so close for me to feel His breath. So close. I know He is all around us, but to realize He is that close that I should, could and would feel His breath startles my mind. It must have been like that on that day when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples.
Let me leave you with that hymn. “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”. Take a deep breath 3 times. Click on the link and close your eyes. Feel God’s breath upon you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ph-t8P2r_I
God is seeking you today and at this very moment. Feel his breath?
Author: Bonnie Barber
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.