Working Without a Net
”Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity” ~ William Wordsworth
Like many of you, I am from time to time called upon to speak in front of an audience or perhaps give a presentation at work. I enjoy public speaking but it wasn’t always that way. Like most things, practice and experience are your allies. In advance of these opportunities, I prepare and prepare and prepare. And then I prepare some more. I prefer to work with index cards which contain short bullets, figuring that the use of talking points, coupled with thorough preparation, will result in a more conversational, in-the-moment, and (hopefully) a more interesting and engaging presentation. I also pray before these presentations. A lot.
What I’ve come to learn is that if I do stumble, it’s usually due to the fact that I go so far off the cuff that when I look down at my index cards, I’ve usually talked straight through four, five, maybe even six or seven of them and proceed to furiously shuffle through them in order to catch up to the next index card in a series of index cards that I never really needed in the first place. Had I just trusted in the process - my preparation and God to be specific, I would’ve been just fine.
Today’s Gospel (Luke 12:8-12) contains elements of this phenomenon. Jesus tells his newly minted Apostles “When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
Chances are, if the Apostles are brought before the rulers, it’s not because these men of great influence and authority are interested in the Apostles’ recipe for butternut squash. Imprisonment for their disobedience was most likely in the cards. Lord knows what else.
But Jesus knew that the cornered disciple, in perhaps hastily planning his exoneration, might be inclined to attempt concealment, hypocritical dissimulation, or perhaps a nefarious non sequitur. To avoid this, Jesus implores his followers to reply solely and strictly upon the Holy Spirit for their responses so as to insure the dissemination of the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Yet as unorthodox as this approach may sound, Scripture provides us with numerous examples wherein supernatural aid to the many accused followers of Jesus arrived promptly at its appointed time. The grave and stately apology of Stephen before the Sanhedrin. Peter's speech before the same tribunal, and Paul's before Felix and Festus, are all instances wherein the Holy Spirit pouted forth it’s divine gifts of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. It’s probably safe to say that fortitude played a large role as well. In the case of Peter, an encountered that fulfilled this promise and was in fact recorded by the Apostle Luke separately (Acts 4:8), he and John were arrested and taken before the High Priest. It was there that were thoroughly interrogated. While being questioned, Peter was "filled with the Holy Spirit" and spoke powerfully and with great conviction and charisma to the High Priest. Among other things, he said that man could be saved only in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). Peter and John were threatened but ultimately released.
The promise of divine intercession by the “advocate,” the Holy Spirit, extends far beyond matters pertaining to the courts or the defense of the church, the Holy Spirit will help us in every plausibly conceived scenario, no exceptions. Going on to speak more broadly (John 12:26) Jesus declares "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." The Spirit teaches us and helps us to recollect what Jesus said. Additionally, the Spirit speaks through us. The vocal gifts of the Spirit include (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) prophecy, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and in some rare instances even speaking in tongues as well as the interpretation of tongues.
It of course stands to reason that the Spirit will work in more profound measure within those who ardently seek it. Wisdom breeds wisdom, much like success breeds success. With regard to the latter adage, we see this made manifest even throughout the more secular aspects of our world; the board room, the athletic field, in the world of art, and the list goes on and on. Thorough preparation of mind, heart, soul and spirit. That’s our part in this mission.
It is in trusting God during these difficult scenarios and subsequently realizing that we are accountable to him that we come to realize the very essence of true discipleship. The Holy Spirit is always with us. It is because of this that we can go forth in total confidence. It is because of this that we can indeed do the will of God, all while working without a net.
“O God, Who instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, Grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. By the light of the Holy Spirit You have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in His consolation.” ~ Amen