I have good news for everyone here. You have the gift of the Spirit living in you. You have enough to give to others. One of your main jobs is to notice what is being given by God and others, and to receive it. Your other job is to respond to God’s gift by giving to others.
There is a way of life that is bad news. It is to live believing that there is something out there—and if you had it—you would be happy. The Bible speaks of this condition in its very first story. It tells a story about how Adam and Eve thought that if they had a certain piece of fruit, they would be happy. I’ve never thought about it being funny before, but there is an element of humor. If only I had that apple, that apricot, that pear, I’d be happy! But it so honestly expresses how many of us live.
We live in a world of serpents. We live in a time in which some of our most brilliant minds are figuring out how to say in more potent ways: “that apple is really delicious.” “It will make you wise. It will fulfill you. Here, let us shine it up for you. Let us place it in the most glorious light. Let us break it open so you can see how crisp it. It is the perfect hybrid of tart and sweet.”
But the serpents and hawkers of goods do not stop there. There is also the cultivation of discontent.
“You’re really hungry. You poor child. Look, everyone else has been eating tons of apples. Way better food than what you’ve been getting. You’re not only hungry, you’re not as good looking as you should be, you’re not as smart as you could be, you’re not as loved as you could be. You are lacking in so many ways!”
“So, how ‘bout that apple?”
The most convincing lies always have a big element of truth in them. There is a lack in each of us. Augustine so eloquently identified it when he wrote in his Confessions, “Our hearts our restless God, until they find their rest in you.” Each of us is yearning for complete communion with God, others, ourselves, and creation. And that lack is not likely to be completely satisfied in this lifetime.
So we can use that lack as motivation to seek communion with God, others, ourselves, and creation. Or, we can keep trying different apples.
One reason that some apples are “forbidden fruit” is that they are in someone else’s tree. Because of that, God gave the gift of the law. Basically the law said, “Don’t take apples from your neighbor.” “Don’t think you’ve got to have that apple. Your neighbor is poor and needs it to survive.” And so God, in giving the gift the law, created a people on this earth dedicated to justice and peace.
But even with the good instructions against apple taking in the law, people kept stealing apples.
In Jeremiah 31:31 it tells us:
31 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.
33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (NLT)
At Pentecost, God gives God’s Spirit to us. God finds a way of tattooing our hearts. Because we have God’s very breath in us, we no longer need to live a life of taking. Because we are supplied by God, we join in the self-giving of God.
Think about the life of Paul. When we first meet him in Acts, he is going around taking from others. At times taking people’s very lives. But after he receives the Spirit, he gives his life, with open handed generosity, so that others can know the good news. He works as a tent maker so that he is free to give and give and give. Even when standing in front of judges and magistrates, he doesn’t seem afraid of what they might take from him. Rather, he tries to give them something—the good news of the gospel—even when they least expect to receive.
Or think about the cross. Christ pours out his blood, his life, for others.
The good news is that Christ’s Spirit is available to us though may not always feel like it.
In the 12 steps, step seven is to ask God to work in us, and take away defects of character. In working the twelve steps, I would sometimes call my sponsor after messing up and he would say, “Well, did you ask God to take away your character defects today?” The answer was always “no.” What I really wanted to say to my sponsor was, “I already asked God a couple of months ago, is God going to do it or not?”
But I’ve come to believe that God never takes away our freedom. We always have the ability to go back to apple grabbing. So it is a daily thing, sometimes an hourly thing, sometimes a “God I need you this minute” thing. It is a constant process of opening ourselves to the Spirit.
God’s Spirit is available to us. Because of that we can give up our apple addiction. Rather than thinking that if we only had “that” our lives would be fulfilled, we can give ourselves away. In each moment we can seek to contribute, to encourage, to build up, to nudge beauty along, to inspire, to embolden, to bless.
Imagine being part of such a people. It has practical consequences. The Spirit enables the first believers to speak in foreign languages thus giving away the good news away that God has sent the Messiah. Then it says that the first converts sold their apples, so that nobody had any need. They hung out basking in an economy of generosity, while God kept adding to their numbers.
I have good news for everyone here. You have the gift of the Spirit living in you. You have enough to give to others. One of your jobs is to respond to God’s gift, by giving to others. But your main job is to welcome the gift of God’s Spirit, to enjoy that communion, and know God’s generosity toward you.