I welcome The Rev. Alexander D. MacPhail, who inspired me with the sermon he preached at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Pentecost, 27 May 2012. With his permission, I share this excerpt. 

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13

We are all missionaries

We are inheritors of the Holy Spirit which came at Pentecost and reverberated down through the lives of believers, all the way down to us. 2000 years of that dynamic spirit being passed down baptism by baptism, sermon by sermon, missionary by missionary. And now WE are the church. We are the missionaries. You may not think of yourself as a missionary, but you are, just as much as I am.

Today I want to speak about how we can collaborate (I love the word collaborate…co-labor…work together) with the Holy Spirit in bringing about a more faithful witness to the Gospel in our own lives.

I will talk about things you and I can do that will give the Holy Spirit more places to move around in our personal lives.

Spend time in prayer

Make it a priority in your life. Think of it as “showing up” for an appointment. Think, “This is the time of day that I have my time to pray.”

I once had a parishioner tell me, “Always listen for the dial tone.” In other words, don't just launch in to your prayers, but take some time to settle yourself down and be aware that God is with you and around you.

Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be. Don't think it has to sound like the Prayer Book. A lot of people feel like they don't know how to pray—or they worry that they're not doing it right. I have two suggestions that will help:

  • Step One: stop worrying about it.
  • Step Two: Ask God to teach you to pray. Just say “God, teach me to pray.”  And then give the Holy Spirit time to move around inside of you. The Holy Spirit was given to you at your Baptism. Let the Spirit teach you to pray.

Be honest with yourself and with God at all times

Be authentic in your prayers and in your own heart. Shakespeare famously wrote in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, in the bidding for people to confess their sins, says,  “We should not cloak or dissemble.” We should unveil or reveal to God what is really in our hearts.

If you're angry with somebody else, be angry, but tell God. If you are angry with God, be angry with God. Be authentic. Be real. If you don't want to admit to yourself or to God any feelings of frustration, bitterness, envy, regret, etc., it will hinder ALL your prayers. You won't be able to find that real self within you that wants to be with God.

Read the Bible

The actual Bible, not just what someone says about the Bible. Not even just what I say about the Bible. Read it yourself. Get a modern version like the New Revised Standard Version or the New English. I love the King James, but often it's harder to understand.

Start where you want to start. If you get bored, look for something interesting. It's a big book!

Don't think you have to apply it to your life for it to be meaningful. In fact, sometimes I think if you try to apply it, it won't work, but if you let it apply itself to you—if you read it and something stands out, and you think you know you need to live with it awhile—just carry it around with you. It can be meaningful just for thinking it through. It can be meaningful just for saying it. It can be meaningful just to read it and to spend time with the Bible in your hands.

The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of those words and it will inspire the reader.

Let your holy imagination run wild

Let your holy imagination just go crazy! I think sometimes we encounter God the most in our imaginations. How many gardeners plant a seed in the ground and don't imagine a flower coming up. Let your imagination be like that,  where you're planting seeds and imagining the flowers coming up.

Use your imagination when you're reading the Bible.

Use your imagination when you're praying.

Use your imagination when you're receiving the Communion.

Use your imagination when you're visiting with others.

Be expansive in your thinking. Our hymns and psalms are filled with wonderful examples: “O for a thousand tongues to sing!” In the psalms, we find, “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” You get the imagination that was in the artist's mind!

These are real things you can do: praying, reading the Bible, being imaginative. Those are actual things in your personal life that will give the Holy Spirit another window on you…that will allow the Holy Spirit to come in and inform your life.

Photo of The Rev. Alexander D. MacPhail

The Rev. Alexander D. MacPhail

We'd love for you to visit one of the Episcopal churches of Shenandoah County: St. Andrew's in Mt. Jackson and Emmanuel in Woodstock, VA. Check out our Facebook page. Join us for Sunday Worship! 8am and 11:15am at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 122 East Court Street, Woodstock, VA, and 9:15am at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in on 5890 Main Street in Mt. Jackson, VA.

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