COLUMN: The labor pains of hope

Published 3:01 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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It’s funny how one thing can remind you of quite another. A friend of mine says that our scripture text this week always reminds him of a popular old film from our younger years. What movie is that? The original Ghostbusters hit from the early 1980s. 

That film grossed over $300 million, a huge take back then. The theme song, by Ray Parker, Jr., became a number one hit. The song asked a key question, at least pertaining to the story: “Who you gonna call?” And, of course, the answer was shouted back — “Ghostbusters!”

Pentecost had come to the gathered Christ followers in Acts chapter two. This spirit was a mysterious presence and power whose aim was to help us in numerous ways. One of those key functions is to be an intercessor for us with God. 

This was a presence that would always be near when a believer wondered who to call. Now, in our scripture from this week in Romans 8: 22-27, the apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome. He was trying to help them understand the role of the Holy Spirit. 

But what do we do with this mysterious presence of God called the Holy Spirit? Let me ask you something: have you ever watched as hope was born right in front of you? Hope doesn’t just come about out of nowhere, you know. 

There will be labor pains. There will be a process. If our faith gives us anything at all, it is hope. This week was Pentecost Sunday, where we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered Church. 

In fact, some label Pentecost as the birthday of the Holy Church. It marks this powerful arrival fifty days after the Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, Paul is writing to the Roman church to try and help them understand the Holy Spirit, and this is not an easy task. 

Have you ever listened to yourself try to explain to someone what you believe about the Holy Spirit? It’s tricky for him or for us. 

I mean, how can we explain it? Who is the Holy Spirit? It is for some, if not most, the hardest part of the Holy Trinity to grasp, discuss, or even to imagine. 

When earth was created back in Genesis one, a “wind” or “breath” swept over the waters. This is the depiction of a Spirit that was there with God in the earliest moments of Creation. There is mention here and there of the Spirit scattered throughout the whole Bible, the Old Testament included. 

Now, Old and New Testament professors might argue as to whether it’s 1:1 exactly the same thing. But in all cases, this is the powerful presence of God being depicted.

The Spirit empowered Joshua with leadership skills in wisdom. The Judges were empowered by God’s “spirit.” David was visited by a power that was far beyond him. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. Jesus had the Spirit sweep down upon him at his own Baptism.

Now we have Paul, writing to the people at Rome, trying to help them grasp what a spirit was. But also helping them understand what that Spirit would do to help them endure as Christ followers living in an uncertain place and time. 

Is this all starting to sound relevant to you again? A helper to come alongside us. One that is within us to lift us up and guide us through this life. 

Paul goes on to say that sometimes, we don’t even know what to pray for. But he says the Spirit intercedes with groanings that suffice as Prayer that will make its way to God. Because the Spirit will be our advocate. Our intercessor. 

Best I understand, the word Jesus used in the original Greek meant comforter or one who comes alongside us. A presence for those moments when you wonder who you’re gonna call.

Our faith has been around for so long, we forget sometimes that we are still living in a time when all around us the whole of Creation is experiencing the labor pains of hope. We are living in the same season as Paul.

I wonder if sometimes, even when we’re talking about our faith or discussing what we think or believe, we should stop and be quiet for just a minute. Maybe the Holy Spirit is already trying to talk to us and tell us something new.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.