It was the 1940s, writes Ron MacDonald in the current issue of Friends Journal. “My white father who lived in Arkansas was visiting Michigan for a Methodist conference when he found his assigned roommate was a black man. Outraged, he thought about requesting a different room, asking himself how he could accept and room with a man he perceived as inferior and still hang on to his own self-esteem.”
“Despite the inner conflict,” MacDonald writes, “my father was polite to his roommate, and before long he was surprised to discover that he actually liked the man.” What was it that could have brought about such a change in Mr. Mac- Donald to move him so quickly from prejudice to friendship?
“I recall,” writes Fred Craddock, “of a morning some years ago, when I was preaching a worship service in a university church in Norman, Oklahoma. A young woman came up to me after the service. I had preached on Mark chapter one, ‘Jesus calling the disciples.’ The young woman approached me and said that she wanted to talk.”
She said, “I am in medical school here at the university and your sermon clinched for me what I have been struggling with for some time.”
“What’s that?” I asked. “Whether or not I should drop out of medical school,” she said. I asked, “Well, what do you want to do that for?” She said she was going to work in the Rio Grande Valley. She said, “I believe that’s what God is calling me to do.”
“So she quit medical school and went to Texas. In the Rio Grande Valley, she sleeps under a piece of tin in the back of a pick-up truck. She teaches the little children of migrant farm workers while their parents labor in the field picking vegetables. For that she dropped out of medical school and her folks back in Montana are asking, ‘What in the world happened?’ Good question, don’t you think?”
Our Moderator, Larry Littlejohn, has selected for his focus this year the theme of “God’s Imprint of Love”. Alex Coblentz, in the July/August edition of this magazine, reminded us that we are God’s image bearers. God’s imprint of love is upon each of us as his children and we bear God’s image before our families, before our Christian brothers and sisters and before the world.
What followed in the September/ October issue was a reminder by Moderator Littlejohn that Jesus called his disciples to become like him. He wrote, “Jesus had left his imprint upon the stage of their lives and in the character of their being.” Rev. Bob Illman reinforced our understanding by reminding us of the words of the Apostle Paul. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness, with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In John’s gospel, Jesus is recorded as telling his disciples that he had chosen them to “go and bear fruit, fruit that will last,” (John 15:16). This fruit that remains will be produced as the disciples live out Jesus’ prom- ise that they will do the works of Jesus and greater works as well (John 14:12). The work that they will do and the fruit that their work will produce is a product of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke, in his history of the early church we know as the Acts of the Apostles, relates in the first few verses the final words of Jesus to those of his followers whom God had called to carry on the work of the kingdom. They were to remain in Jerusalem to wait for the fulfillment of what Jesus said was the “Promise of the Father.” The Father’s promise was that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. It was only through the Holy Spirit that they would be able to obey the command of Christ to be his “witnesses.” Jesus had said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Luke spends the remainder of his history displaying how the Holy Spirit of God empowered and in- formed, directed and enlivened the early church to be the witnesses that Jesus called them to be. Witnesses in both word and deed. Witnesses who actively live out Jesus command- ment, “that you love one another as I have loved you. All will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). St. Francis of Assisi interpreted Jesus’ call to love in word and in deed. He is credited with this piece of advice to the church. “Preach the gospel al- ways. If necessary use words.” That is what love does isn’t it? Love is always compelled to speak and to act. Oscar Hammerstein II wrote these simple lines,
“A bell’s not a bell til‘ you ring it. A song’s not a song til’ you sing it. Love in the heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love is not love til’ you give it away.”
For the Christian the power to act in love does not come from the commandment of God. Neither is its source the example of Jesus Christ. The power to act in love comes to the Christian through the Holy Spirit of God.
Millard Erickson in his Systematic Theology introduces his chapters on the Holy Spirit with these words, “The Holy Spirit may be the most difficult of the three persons of God for us to understand, because, of the three, he is the most troublesome to visualize, the most intangible, the most difficult to capture in our minds.”
“And yet,” Erickson continues, “the Holy Spirit, is the point at which the Trinity becomes personal. We can often think of the Father as far off in heaven. Also, we can think of the Son as far removed from us in history. But the Holy Spirit is God present and active in the life of the believer. The Holy Spirit is the particular person of the Trinity through whom God can be understood by us. The Holy Spirit is that particular person of the Trinity who is seen to be at work in us. God works in the Christian through the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that we experience the real presence and power of God. Is that not what the Apostle Paul was refer- ring to when he wrote that “we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It was the morning of June 13, 1995. It was both a Tuesday and a school day. A day when our two daughters should have been in their classrooms. Instead, they were with me. I picked them up at school and we drove out to the brand new Charlotte Coliseum. There, we took our seats in the arena.
I was surprised that the Coliseum was not packed to the rafters with folks wanting both to see and to hear Agnes Bojaxhiu. At ten o’clock, she walked out on stage accompanied by the Mayor of Charlotte, Pat McCrory, the Bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte, Reverend Doctor William Curlin, various other politicians and dignitaries. I suspect, had they been alone, these community leaders and occupiers of high places, they would have received a round of polite applause at their appearing. But that morning when the group entered onto the stage, an immediate and reverent silence absorbed every sound in that large arena. Every one of those gathered there that morning stood in the presence of the one the world knew as Mother Teresa.
There was no doubt in any of our minds that we were in the presence of one whose life and ministry was an example of what Jesus meant by the “greater works.” This tiny woman was irrefutable proof of the kingdom work accomplished when God’s people act in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Mother Teresa’s work of ministry, like that of Jesus, was among the poor and powerless, the sick and the dying. Yet God through His Spirit has done amazingly above all anyone could ask, think, or even imagine.
The Third Person of the Trinity, God’s Holy Spirit, is at work among us. He is at work erasing prejudice from our hearts, giving us compas- sionate concern for the poor and the powerless and leading us into the full truth of what it means to display the love of Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work conforming us as a church and as individual Christians into a community that defines what it means to fully express the imprint of love that God has left upon our lives.?
Rev. Dr. Jeff Bost is the pastor of Young Memorial ARP, Anderson, SC.