• Steven Marsh

Worshipping–The Voice and Motions of the Spirit: a Reflection on Psalm 126, Isaiah 61:1-

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”[1] A most profound question, which is attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The question highlights the second prong of worship. The first, loving God and the second, loving others.

Robert Coles, in his biography on the life of Dorothy Day, the Catholic social worker of notoriety in the 20th century, makes this comment about what we do for others: “One can pronounce the word of God faithfully without living in accordance with God’s teachings from day to day. On the other hand, she knew that we are judged not only by our mistakes, but by our purposes and by our intentions.”[2]

Intentions betray our level of confidence in the voice and motions of the Christ child, which we know through the movement of the Holy Spirit. Do you trust the voice and motions of the Spirit? Mary and Joseph did. My banker asked me how much risk I could tolerate when I transferred my retirement funds from an Oklahoma financial institution to one here in Laguna Woods. I responded that I trusted him to be a good steward of my funds.

Trust impacts each one of us. Trust informs actions. God acted in that first Advent. By the Spirit’s voice and motions, God drew Mary and Joseph together, forming a support group between them and the Triune God. We can participate in shaping lives, communities, and futures with our intentions. Trusting God and God’s mission is important. Humanity is sinful, but the way we pronounce the faith, and more importantly live the faith, will have an incredible influence on the salvation of sinful humanity.[3]

Note these observations regarding the voice and motions of the Spirit as found in our four lectionary readings. First, trust in God and others enables followers of Jesus to be ready for the second advent of Jesus Christ. Second, trust equips us to be faithful, loving, and hopeful in our dealings with others. Trusting the voice and motions of the Spirit through one another sets a faith community on the path of accomplishing the greater good.

This is the Third Sunday of Advent. The effectiveness of the Christian movement depends on people like you and me obediently listening to the voice of the Spirit during worship and responding to the motions of the Spirit after we leave worship.  According to Mark Labberton, author of The Dangerous Act of Worship, the church must focus on the question of what God expects from us in worship as opposed to what we expect. Labberton writes, “The danger of failing to meet the expectations of God has been marginalized. This is not new for God. But by investing in safe worship that satisfies the people, we sell our birthright.”[4]  We are to enact the ways of God in the world as a result of worship. We do that by responding to the voice and motions of the Spirit. In what ways is the Holy Spirit speaking into your life this Third Sunday of Advent?

[1]Cited on Goodreads.com, 2014.

[2]Robert Coles, Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1987), 65.

[3]Some ideas in this paragraph are adapted from Charles L. Aaron Jr. in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 61.

[4]Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 53.

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