These were dream-team disciples and all-star apostles, these were the kin and companions of Jesus who could tell you a thing or two about the Lord’s work. These were Peter and James and John, Matthew and Mary and Martha. These were the don’t-just-stand-there! muscle-up! roll-up-your-sleeves! doers and movers and shakers who had grown up in the synagogue, who had heard of the Torah since the time they were tikes bouncing on their bubbes’ knees. They hosted Seders. They honored the Sabbath day. They kept kosher. When it came to being pious, they had been around the block before. Indeed, they had taken religion on the road, had spent years schlepping hither and yon with Jesus, serving the poor, soothing the possessed, helping the suffering, healing the sick. And so when Jesus told them, I’ve got to be getting back to heaven. But just hang tight here. You’re in for a surprise!, when Jesus told them, Sayonara, friends! Sit back until the Spirit fills you! – when Jesus told them that, they said, What? You want us to wait around? We are not ones for late starts and loafing, and we are no lazybones, Lord! How can we sit on our hands? There are hungry, starving people, there are hurting, oppressed people in the world. We have to hop to it! We have to help them! (And you know, those Yom Kippur potlucks do not plan themselves!) But Jesus said, To be sure, there is work I need you to do, but you need God to do it. You cannot be and do what God would have you be and do by your own strength, under your own steam. You cannot do it alone, cannot do it, all of you, alone together even. This is going to take God ...
But of course they had God, had more God than they knew what to do with! They were THE FAITHFUL, the church people, only back, back before we called them that, the church people – you know the type, who, from the time they were yea high and hanging off their Nanas’ knees had been hanging off every word of the stories of God that were told to them – the strange, enchanting stories told to them, told best in the gravelly but still singsong voice of a grandmother, the stories of forbidden fruit and slithering serpents and towers tumbling, the stories of angel-sightings, giant-slayings, and (gulp!) whale-swallowings. God would have been in these stories they cherished as children, as surely as God would have been in the morals of these stories which guided them now in maturity. And God would have been smiling over them – with a huge grin spread from everlasting to everlasting – on the day their parents promised them to the faith and the pastor intoned a Trinitarian formula (and God would have been smiling still, even though there was howling just the second that wet hand rested on their forehead). God would have been on the other side of the prayers they spoke, of the Our Fathers they mumbled while making out their checks for the offering, and of the It’s-two-in-the-morning-and-the-baby-is-burning-up plaintive, desperate pleas. God would have been listening in when they sang hymns; God would have been tapping a toe on the upbeat ones… well, God would have been trying to tap a toe, but, you see, some of these church people were white people and, heaven help them, rhythm can be something of a struggle for white people.
They had God, had more God than they knew what to do with! They were THE FAITHFUL, the church people who pitched in with service projects, who would stand at the door and shake hands and say hello to folk as they came in, who sat on committees, who taught Sunday School, who sung in the choir; they were the sure-to-show-up, certain-to-step-up gold star saints of the church, and so if you were to tell them, tell these Peters and Jameses and Johns, these Matthews and Marthas and Maries who were up to their eyeballs in God, tell them that God had more God to give them, they would look you square in the face and they would say – and I know what they would say, because I know some of them – they would say… ‘Make it a double.’ If you were to tell these doers and movers and shakers that God wanted to do something for them, that God wanted to move in them, that God wanted to shake things up in them, if you were to tell these who were chomping at the bit to change the world that God wanted to change them, if you were to tell THE FAITHFUL that there is yet a higher fullness and a holier fulfillment, that God would fill them, even them, though by any account their cups already runneth over, if you were to tell these who live and breathe for others that God wanted to live in and breathe into them, tell these who were fired up to do their fair share that God would first set fire to them, if you were to tell them that God would come to them, come into them as a burning, a burning in their heart of hearts, so that never again would they grow weary in doing good, never would they burn out –
If you were to tell them, tell Allison and Caroline and Allen, Debbie and Meg and Dick – I mean, Peter and James and John, Matthew and Martha and Mary – if you were to tell them: God is going to rain down Spirit all over you, God is going to pour out that perfect God-good-stuff on you and in you so that there will be God coming out your pores, if you were to tell them that God by the Spirit will be (as it is said) getting all up in your face, all up in your business, all up in here, if you were to tell them that God will be sharing your life with you, that God by the indwelling of the Spirit will be sharing your life with you, and so – because God is pretty big, you know – God is going to stretch it out. God is going to stretch you out, make you bigger. God is going to push and push up against the boundaries of you and make space in you for more and more and more passion and compassion, more and more centeredness and calm, more joy, a greater and ever greater concern for and capacity to act for others. God is going to stretch you out, make it so the ego you had, the self you thought you knew is taking up less and less and less of the sum total of you. God by the indwelling of the Spirit will be sharing your life with you, and it will not be so much that your fear or your stress get any smaller, only that you, and God in you, get bigger, that God will be growing you, that God will be growing in you, and so, in time there just will be a shift in how you see things and how you cope with things. If you were to tell them that, tell them that when it come to God, enough is never enough, that God always has more God to give you, that the Spirit is going to set on you and settle in you and stretch you out and send you out, if you were to tell them that, I know what they would say, what they would sing: Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew, that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly Thine, until this earthly part of me glows with Thy fire divine.