In our reading on Monday, we read how Paul’s discernment leads to a confrontation between the Spirit of Jesus and a false spirit. Yet we can also understand this moment as one of the fresh beginnings of the early church, the becoming-one of Jew and Gentile through God’s grace-that-went-before.
For the last few years in South Africa, we have struggled with the debilitating symptoms of many deep-seated attitudes and hurts left unresolved from the past. In today’s reading the writer speaks of having heard of the Ephesians’ faith and love toward all God’s people and then says the following: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you” (ceb).
As in the life of Paul and the enslaved woman, and as was the case in the early Christ-following community in Ephesus, and as is the case in present-day South Africa, the writer’s call is clear: We are called to unity in and through the Holy Spirit, but we can only authentically be so and do so if we have a discerning and loving spirit. The question begs to be answered: “How can we be more discerning followers of Christ?”
As we remember the ascension of Jesus today, we remember that it serves as a reminder that he has been where we still need to go. As we know and follow the ascended Jesus, we shall receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation. Discernment, therefore, finds its root in a solid relationship with Jesus when we allow his presence and influence to fill all of our life.
Holy Jesus, we invite your life-giving Spirit to fill and empower our whole being. We pray that your Spirit shall connect with our spirit. Amen.
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.