Red Week 2: Daily Reflection Friday, October 16, 2015

This is the second week of daily devotions reflecting on the sermon series that I'm currently preaching, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus."  This week we are reflecting on what it means to recognize the Holy Spirit working, moving, creating and inspiring in the world around us.  

Several years ago, my wife Merideth and I visited Rome and spent some time at the Vatican.  We were waiting to attend Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and were wandering around the grounds.  I'd been praying for some time prior to our arrival that God would give me a sign, show me something, anything that would give me some direction.  

At the time I was feeling a bit dusty and dry spiritually. To be honest, what I wanted most was to know that God was still there, still caring about me, still guiding me.  I hadn't felt very connected to God in a while, at least not in ways that I had known in the past.  I figured that if there was anywhere on earth that I might experience a sign from God it would be in St. Peter's Basilica in the center of Vatican Square.  

As we waited for Mass to start, Merideth and I went into a gift shop.  Merideth hates to shop, but I love it.  I know.  It's not typical, but then again we're not your typical couple!  Merideth got tired of shopping and went outside while I stayed inside poking around for gifts. 

Suddenly I heard a commotion outside and went to investigate.  Merideth said, "You're not going to believe this!  A perfect white dove just flew down into this square, hovered over everyone who was here and then flew away!  It was amazing!"  I was dumbfounded.  I'd been searching for a sign, and I had missed the one that God had sent: A white dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit hovering over every one, blessing them, inspiring them... and I was shopping. 

I was despondent, but I didn't say anything.  We went inside to attend Mass.  As I sat there beating myself up, and wondering what was wrong with me, why I always seemed to be missing out on feeling God's presence... why I was feeling so disconnected... so spiritually dry. 

Then I looked up.  Above the ornate main altar in St. Peter's Basilica is a beautiful stained glass image of a white dove--the sign of the Holy Spirit.  The words from Matthew's Gospel surrounded it:  "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased..."  

These words are from the moment of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River.  As he comes out of the water after being baptized by John the Baptist, the Spirit of God descends upon Jesus "like a dove," and a voice from heaven declares those words:  "This is my Beloved...."  

I began to weep uncontrollably.  It's like I could hear the voice of God in my head saying over and over again---"Beloved... you are my Beloved... you are always my Beloved..."  

The sign I had been longing for is one that had been with me all along.  From the moment of my baptism, when I recognized God's incredible grace as a young boy and began the journey toward redemption and discipleship (a journey that had more than a few detours), God's Holy Spirit had been upon me, God's voice had been calling me "Beloved," and God's Son had gone before me into the water, leading the way, standing with me in line as my brother.  

If you've been struggling to feel the presence of God... if you're seeking purpose and direction for your life... if you are searching for a sign... 

Remember that you are God's Beloved.  Know that the Holy Spirit is upon you.  Know that the Son stands with you.  Know that God is well pleased with you.  May you know this, and may it give you peace.  


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