Let the spirit take you where it wants

Published 8:12 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

For Father’s Day my wife and I went over to Scottsville and took a canoe ride down the James. Other folks were there, of course, and most of them took the tubing route. But we like the canoe, even though we know how you can zip through the 4 miles between Haddon’s Ferry and Scottsville, so this time we took a more tubing-like approach. Rather than constantly stroking with the oars, we spent more time just drifting, letting that wonderful, beautiful, historic James take us where it wanted.

It wasn’t long before we were not going straight down the central channel. The current took us all over the place, most of it backward. Sometimes we were moving toward one bank, then we would be driven to another. Slowly, of course. It’s a wide old river and it takes its time.

As I drifted along on that beautiful day in a place I have grown to love, I found a lot of connections with the spiritual life (I am, after all, a minister and we are given to such things). This being the season of Pentecost – the 30-something Sundays between the Day of Pentecost and the beginning of Advent – this is a time of year to reflect and marvel at the workings of God’s Spirit. It’s not easy, especially for us Presbyterians. We’re not known as “the frozen chosen” for nothing.

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But paying attention and letting the Spirit take you where it wants is an important part of living the spiritual life. Many people use that “spiritual life” tag as an excuse not to go to church and their own thing. But following the Spirit means something else.

Yes, it is letting go; yes, it is not stroking at the oars in a feverish attempt to rush through life; yes, it is being out in creation and marveling at the creative genius of God.

But it is also remembering that the Spirit of God takes us somewhere. And it is not always where we want to go. When I began ministry I did not have it on my agenda to speak out on behalf of gay rights, the protection of the environment or all immigrants, legal or illegal. But that is where – I think – God’s Spirit has taken me.

As Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, the Spirit – the wind – the breath – of God moves us where it will; we cannot see it, except in the ways it moves in the trees and the brush. But the Spirit is there. The Spirit moves us into a deeper relationship with a God of love, mercy and justice. The Spirit moves us into a deeper relationship with each other, even with those who make life hard for us. Maybe especially with them.

May you enjoy all of your journeys, on the river and on the road. And may you catch a glimpse of God’s Spirit transforming you as you go.

REV. DR. TOM ROBINSON is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. His email address if robin216@embarqmail.com.