I have a picture in my office, of my ordination as an elder in the Free Methodist Church a few years ago. It means a lot to me, even if I can’t explain and wouldn’t dare boast of what God was accomplishing in that precise moment. But what I do know, is this:
Hearing a lot of what is said in this passage (Acts 8:14-17), it’s tempting to focus on the “laying on of hands”. To want that to happen, as a way of magically “unlocking” some hidden Holy Spirit potential in our lives. That maybe that thing we’ve been wanting to do, or happen, isn’t happening precisely because we’ve not had someone who officially represents God come and lay hands on us in the name of the Holy Spirit. I want to tell you, I don’t think that’s why this story is in the Bible. Yes, there are times and places that call for those moments to happen. But the truth is, we have less in common with Samaria that we do with Jerusalem. We are the place where the activity and Spirit of God is already at work among us. We have several in our midst who have had “the laying on of hands”. People who have received the Spirit of God for purposes of ministry and living a transformed life. We are community that is characterized by being a place where the Holy Spirit dwells and moves. As a community – we have received the Spirit of God.
But perhaps some of us have lived in Jerusalem for so long, we’ve forgotten how incredibly important this gift is. It’s important for us to hear the story of the Holy Spirit in Samaria, to be reminded of God’s presence in our own lives. To receive the Spirit that we’ve been offered. The gift we’re being offered even now.
Do you hear him speaking to you in these words you’ve read?
Do you hear his voice, telling you the story you’ve become a part of? The work He’s been accomplishing through His people for thousands of years, this family of God that’s larger and tighter knit than any family bond we’ve ever known. We’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and connected both to them and God Himself by a Spirit that wants to do so much more than just “be with us.” It’s a living, active, transforming, freeing Spirit that wants to go far beyond “get us into Heaven someday”. The Spirit of God desires to move in your life even now in new ways. To free you from sin. To release you from addictions. To fill you with a love that is more powerful than whatever difficult situation you have in your life. To enable you to forgive someone you’re holding captive in debt to you. To free you from living captive in debt by your offense to others or God. To empower you to carry such a Spirit with you into the world – loving, forgiving, releasing, and transforming as you go. From Jerusalem, to all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Will you receive the Spirit He is giving?
Do you hear his invitation to you, specifically? Yes, he’s powerful. Yes, he can accomplish great things because that is his nature. But quietly, even now, do you hear his invitation – hand outstretched – to have you join in a new work of His Spirit? To take his presence into a place or situation that needs Him in a way they’ve not experienced before? Will you respond to his invitation even now?
Do you hear the foundational truth in this passage – that God desires more for you than simply “getting you in the family”? That he wants to connect you to this community of believers deeply in relationship. That he wants to bring New Life to you that only His Spirit can bring. That accepting Christ was merely the implanting of a seed that God wants to grow through you, branching out in some great, mysterious, and beautiful new ways…..on behalf of all of creation? Will you let His Spirit reign in your life?
God’s Spirit has been given. Is being given. Will be given.
Will we live as those who have received? As those who are receiving? As those who will receive?
May His Spirit move in our midst this week…