A couple summers ago I had the opportunity to do some fly fishing on the Yellowstone River in Montana. My first night there I went out on my own and caught absolutely nothing (except a couple branches, of course). That might have been related to the fact that I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. Did I mention it had been 20 years since the last time I was fly fishing?
The next day, that all changed when a good friend of me took me fishing. He had a boat, so we could cover a lot more water. He showed me what flies to use and how to present them. He showed me exactly where to cast. And guess what? I caught several very nice trout, including a couple that were 20+ inches long and weighing several pounds.
My point in telling this story is that I could not have caught those fish without the help of my friend. I didn’t have a boat, the proper flies, or the necessary knowledge of how and where to fish this particular river. My friend had all these things, and in sharing them freely, made it possible for me to do something I could not do on my own.
It seems to me that the underlying point in today’s reading is that through the Spirit, God is able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
This may sound simple, and probably is. But it raises the question: What are we doing in our lives and in our churches that takes us beyond what we could do in our own natural capacities? Verse 5 really jumps out at me; where are we allowing the Spirit to work miracles today?
So, simple though they be, it seems important that we ask questions like these. How is God shaping our lives and churches, even as He shaped personal lives and public communities in ages past? What is God doing in our life and churches that only He can do? What is there both in our experience and in what we offer others that goes beyond psychology, the culture of success, and self help of the world around us?
Otherwise, instead of being the sacred places they were meant to be, our churches will only become more and more like the world around them, built on human achievement rather than the power of the Spirit.