Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. -Psalm 127:1
On Sunday mornings a group of us has been reading through the Book of Acts. I often say when we call the book “Acts of the Apostles” we are misnaming it. As one of my seminary professors put it, the book should be called “Acts of the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the primary actor in every scene in the book. I’ve been reminded of this as we worked our way through it this fall, winter, and spring.
In Acts, the Spirit pulls people along as it moves and breathes through the story. It is the sending agent throughout the book. Over and over, the Holy Spirit transforms hearts, compels conversations, and guides the disciples toward faithfulness. It forces hard discussions among those who believe they know it all. The Holy Spirit repeatedly reminds the apostles that God shows no partiality. Truly, nothing happened in the Church without the Holy Spirit’s intimate involvement.
What a good reminder for us in the church today. As Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” So often we are tempted by the next new fad. We are always looking for the next “easy” fix to the problems our churches have. We hire consultants every few years thinking they will tell us something new. Reflecting the culture outside the church, those of us within the church are so often tempted by the easy fix, the latest “get rich quick” scheme. After awhile, when none of these “great ideas” seem to work, we get disillusioned and apathetic about our future. We become content to run out the clock. It seems we labor in vain.
The good news is that we have a book like Acts. A book that shows us our God is living and active. A book that shows repeatedly that we humans, while called to be actors, are not the director. The Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting and we are simply called to follow its leading. Christ is the head of the church and we are simply the body which follows. While we are called to give our whole lives in service to Christ, we are not called to do so in an anxious, frantic way. We are called to follow a loving Lord who tells us that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light”.
The Holy Spirit has fallen afresh at First Presbyterian Church. The Spirit is at work among us, waking us to work to which we are called. The Spirit is at work in our lives drawing us toward the flourishing God desires. Conversations about new ways the Spirit may be calling us into the world are happening all around. As I meet other Duluth pastors and community faith leaders, I can thankfully report we have a great cloud of witnesses praying with and dreaming with this congregation. We have a strong prayer ministry within this congregation. I am certain that as we labor in this congregation, we are NOT laboring in vain. Christ has placed us here with a plan. The Holy Spirit is working through us. God will bring about even greater faithfulness. I think this is exciting and I hope you do too!
In Christ’s Service,