Not keeping God safe

“Do you realise if I hadn’t “gone back” you wouldn’t believe in me now, Paul?”

It was a thought He shared during a church service the other week. All this stuff about faith and belief.  Yet if Jesus had “stayed” and led “the church” 2000 years ago – if He was still here today – in the flesh … I don’t think I would believe in Him as I do.  Not as a personal friend.  Not as a constant companion. Not in the very real way I believe in Him now.  “Stuff” would have got in the way.  Stuff always gets in the way.  The whispering asides.  The “did you know”s.  The “well I heard” snippets of juicy gossip.

The more I thought of His words that Sunday the more I realised GSHJ was right: if He hadn’t “gone back” I wouldn’t be sitting here BECAUSE of Him.

Pentecost Sunday. The “yee-hah” Holy Spirit day.  The birth of the Holy Spirit day – just like Christmas day!

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:19-23

And we all get revved up with the “power of the Holy Spirit”. The tongues.  The amazement.  The wow!  Almost like a freak show all-revved-up!  Because today we don’t see that same power in action.  We don’t feel that same power in action.  We celebrate the occasion in yearning rather than deed.  We yearn.  We hope.  We wait.

Why is that? How can we read the words and see them as not “us”?  How can we worship and see them as not “us”?  How can we be surrounded by that same Holy Spirit and dismiss that same Holy Spirit as absent in our lives this very second?  Why do we hope when we have already?  Why do we yearn when we breathe in and out the same Holy Spirit right now and always – if WE allow?

The church calendar depresses me.  A lot. On an annual basis it keeps showing me how much we have diluted the Living Breathing Spirit of Life that we Worship each week!  On an annual basis it is evidence of how often we miss the point.  How we don’t “get it” …

Or maybe we do …

Maybe we get that if we lived and breathed the same Holy Spirit as we celebrate today – this Pentecost Sunday – then our lives would not be the same. Our lives would be very different.  Our priorities.  Our desire to be challenged.  To be changed.  To be surrendered.  To be guided.  To live rather than yearn.  To willingly accept rather than hope.  To do rather than wait.

Because today – on this Pentecost Sunday – as I read the verses of the lectionary, He added an addendum:

“If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

That phrase grabbed me and twisted inside.  Forget all the “yee-hah” stuff, forget all the celebration, forget all of that … and consider – really consider – this …

If I whine, judge, hold, pass by, assume, exclude, wound, ignore, close my eyes, go to sleep, continue waiting and yearning and hoping … what am I retaining?

If I do rejoice, allow, release, engage, treat each as sacred, include, heal, embrace, look for love always, be energised by love without condition, stop waiting and start living, right now this very second and always … what am I releasing?

The bible is an odd book.

It only lives when we each allow. Just like God.  Like Jesus.  Like the Holy Spirit.  Like Love.  Like love without condition.  Like each other.  Like the ones whose sins we retain.  Because someone has read the bible and told us we should.  Because someone has an agenda they tell us is of God.  Because someone does not allow.  Because I do not allow.  Because someone thinks protecting God is the point.  Because I think that protecting God – keeping Him safe in a box – is the “getting it”.  And we then teach and preach and worship this God in a box.  Keeping Him safe from all the sinners out there.  Keeping Him out of sight and away from those who might taint our fragile faith.  That is the “stuff” we get.  The yearning.  The hoping.  The waiting.

That is a “comfortable faith”, a “waiting faith”, a “tick box faith”, a “someone else told me” faith.  A “retaining” faith.  A wounding faith.  An excluding faith.  A religion faith.  A denomination faith.  A distant faith.  A safe faith. A faith that retains “stuff”.

“If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

This morning I value the church calendar.  Because what a BRILLIANT reason for forgiving – what a SUPERB reason for living – what a MAGNIFICENT reason for including – what a SUPERLATIVE reason for NOT excluding!  What a reason for NOT waiting and yearning and hoping and for NOT “keeping God safe”!

(unless I have I missed the point)


7 thoughts on “Not keeping God safe

  1. I think we believers often miss the Holy Spirit point…that we already can DO those things…but who does? It makes me think of the night Brandon died. We got the dreaded call around midnight. We lived two hours away. In my desperate moment…in my trembling fear, I thought that I should go “bring my son back” like Jesus did for Lazarus. WHY NOT??? Peter was the only apostle who brought another human back to life after Jesus. Or perhaps the only one we know about. Why don’t we do that same thing anymore? If we have that same power we should be able. But then I was resigned to think that it was “just his time…” and who am I? My inaction has always caused me more grief…more wondering…what if we all used the powers that have been given us!

    I have thought to write about this on my blog before…the raising of the dead. And I will…another day. Hugs….always.


    • Dale, what a truly honest comment. Thank you.

      One short phrase lit up: “… and who am I?” How often we all ask that inside where no one can see. What makes me so special? I can’t do that. Leave that someone else. Not just the “showstopper miracles” – but anything out of our comfort zones. And then the “underneath bit” the inside bit – the “what is healing” question.

      I was reading a conversation about how Jesus only healed those with “disabilities”. Kind of like “What’s wrong with disabilities – leave us alone – we are proud of our “special abilities”” (if you follow that train of thought)

      As in a minister leading a service of those “healing miracles” and all the deaf, blind and “disabled” congregation asking themselves “Does that mean I am not good enough as I am?”

      Seems to me (I am waffling now – sorry!) that Jesus healed those who were “not whole”. Because the ones who happily got on with their lives never shuffled before Jesus and asked for help. Disability or not they “were whole” and happy. Just as those with “abilities” and were “whole” never encountered Jesus because they had no need of “healing” either.

      And I wonder this: raising from the dead, healing an illness, intervening in a bodily “malfunction” … isn’t that simply making whole the souls and spirits of those not yet whole, relevant and “useful” only for those “missing” something huge in the lives?

      And I gently ponder this each time you write. I read your words of Brandon, the pictures, the stories you tell of his life and living – and wonder whether he was already “whole” in his soul. Happy? Is that the same? Perfect? Not the same. Whole in his soul? Only He and our Lord know that truth. But I think your “inaction” was not inaction with consequences. I think your inaction is consequence-free in Brandon’s life and death. And I love you so much for sharing these questions still.




      • All I know is that Brandon is more whole now than he could have ever been here in this life. I have often thought that with that act..if, say, I could have brought him back…I would have been depriving him of the Heaven he is experiencing now. As much as it hurts to have him absent from me, I would much rather go to him than to bring him back. To have “raised him from the dead” would have been the most selfish thing I could have done….(that is me speaking on a rational day.) But don’t think that is my answer on any given day…those days when all I think of is my painful existence without him…I would gladly want him here with me.

        Maybe Jesus was demonstrating His power in the most extreme way so that all those witnessing it would know He is the “Defeator of Death!” And that we could do the same through our faith in Him. Eternal life.

        Just my thought for today…thank you, as always, for “pondering” with me.



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