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The Train They Call the Holy Spirit

July 10, 2017

God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” (Romans 8: 12-14, The Message)

You have probably googled “things to do” in the town where you live or in a city or country you plan to visit. Google has an endless supply of things to keep us busy in our hometowns and in places we plan to visit. In this week’s epistle lesson,[1] Paul tells us to get going—leave the old behind and move on: “So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” (Romans 8: 12-14, The Message).

But Paul is not talking about visiting the pyramids, Pisa, or a palace.  He’s talking about getting on the train they call the Holy Spirit. This week’s texts reminded me of the folk song, “City of New Orleans.”[2] The refrain goes like this:

Good morning America, how are you? Don’t you know that I’m your native son. I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans. I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done.

The Spirit beckons. The Holy Spirit is like a train going through your life. But you don’t have just one chance to jump on the train. It weaves in and out of your life, stopping at your door in God’s perfect timing. The train they call the Holy Spirit provides many opportunities for you jump on.

There were train tracks near our home in Ohio when I was a young child. When we heard the whistle of the train as it was approaching, we ran over to wave to the engineers. Sometimes one of the men would throw us a piece of chalk that we used for drawing on the sidewalk. I can still feel the wind from the train as it whooshed by, not unlike the wind from the Holy Spirit described by Luke in Acts 2:2. The whistle blows, the Spirit beckons, giving us many opportunities throughout our lives to read, write, draw, film, sing, teach, preach, nurse, practice medicine or law, police the community, sit with the sick and dying, practice hospitality, be a lay leader, or do any of a myriad of things you are called to do for him. He gives us the chalk or the seed—the stuff we need–and tells us to get moving.

The Spirit beckons. Isaiah wrote about our obligation to go where the Spirit leads us through the Word. Speaking in God’s voice, Isaiah writes, “My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for planting and food to eat. So also will be the word that I speak— it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.” (Isaiah 55: 10-11, Good News Version). The train they call the Holy Spirit will run whether you get on it or not; God’s will will be done: “It will not fail to do what I plan for it.”

The train moves through cities and it moves through the countryside: “The train pulls out at Kankakee, rolls along past houses, farms, and fields.[3] We can see the train they call the Holy Spirit rolling past fields in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ parable of the sower. As the Holy Spirit moved him across the landscape, the sower throws a handful of seed on rocky soil, and another handful among thorns. Those seeds did not flourish. But then the train moved on to richer soil: “Other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop.” (Matthew 13: 8).   Jesus likened the seed that fell on rocks and among thorns to people who hear the Word, but fall away disinterested after a short time, or their worries push the Word from their lives. But he noted that “[Tthe seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces the crop.” (Matthew 8: 20-23).

Are you up for an adventure?  Get on the train they call the Holy Spirit.  Feel the wind as it blows through your life.  Jump on the train and see where it will take you.  Don’t worry about whether you are up to it.  Put aside your insecurities and doubts.  Just do it.  Not everything will be perfect.  You will have good days and bad days.  You will travel through rocky times, and some richly rewarding times.  Reach out and take the hand of the one offering to pull you onto the train.  And get ready for the adventure of your life.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost are Isaiah 55:10-13; Psalm 65; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9

[2] “City of New Orleans” was written by Steve Goodman in 1970 and recorded by Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson.

[3] “City of New Orleans.”

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