Recently, I was at a funeral. The venue was in an old church that had probably been built 200years ago or more. It was very grand inside.
The windows had stained glass in them and were lit up by the sunlight coming through them. The craftsmanship inside the church was exceptional and had me wondering how some of the masonry was both placed and carved to create some very intricate decor.
Sometime in the past, somebody cared enough to build a church with the intention of God being worshipped in it for many centuries to come.
Parts of the church had been modernised of course, the priest now speaks into a microphone and there's even a facility for those who are hard of hearing to be included in the message.
As I stood, knelt and sat throughout the service, I was saddened by what I was witnessing, or to be more precise, not witnessing.
There was no passion in the building. It was as if it had been built a long time ago as a place of worship but had now become a place of regular attendance for a few people from an older generation.
During the service, there were some fantastic words spoken, yet the impact of them was lost on many. The Prayer that Jesus taught us in Matthew 6, known to many of us as The Lord's Prayer, where He teaches us to invite Heaven to become a reality on earth was just recited with no realisation that we were seeking a radical change in our circumstances by just saying it.
However, I've said enough about the negative side. Let's see what there is to learn through this.
Over the past number of years there have been things happening in various places around the globe that don't fit into our traditional idea of who or even what God is.
I remember hearing a story in Sunday school around 30 years ago, where there was a young boy in a village in Africa who needed to take a test in his school but wasn't allowed as he didn't have a pencil. He was upset at being left out and went outside the school room with his sheet of paper. He had heard about God providing and that 'Jehovah Jireh' was one of His names so as he sat there in the dirt, he started to pray for a pencil.
As he prayed, he rolled his sheet of paper in his hands and then suddenly realised that it was firm. He unrolled it to see a sharpened pencil inside!
Imagine the joy on this boy's face, and the reaction of his teacher when he arrived back in the classroom with his pencil!
His teacher wondered where he had managed to get a pencil, never mind one so fine and the boy replied "The Impossible God gave it to me!"
That story has stuck in my mind since I heard it. I've longed to meet the Impossible God and see Him act like this in me, and I'm delighted to say, that looking back, He has been doing impossible things in my life all along.
But I was talking about being at a funeral, in a church that seemed to be lacking something, and that something was the incredible life of Jesus Christ.
In fact, I could even say that Jesus had obviously left the building, after all, Stephen witnessed to this in Acts 7 in verses 55 and 56, just before he was stoned for blasphemy:
55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
But here's the thing: Stephen, had what we have, he had what Jesus gave us.
Stephen, "being full of the Holy Spirit" knew who he was and what he possessed was far greater than anything on earth. He had a boldness and a relationship with the Lord that was so great, he saw visions of Heaven.
You see, Jesus had left the building, but He promised that He was going to send a Helper when He was speaking in John 14:
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
This is what excited me in that old church!
I mentioned earlier things that have happened around the globe when God has moved or started moving in and among people. One of these things was that people noticed feathers appearing, before revivals broke out or during meetings where the Holy Spirit was moving.
And this is what excited me. During one of the kneeling times in this service, I noticed in the corner of the pew, a tattered, old feather, just caught there in some dust.
I don't think it was a feather that just appeared from Heaven (it had the appearance of one that had been removed from a pigeon, possibly by a cat), but as is the nature of our God, He can speak to us in many ways.
He reminded me that even though I thought Jesus had left the building, the Holy Spirit was very much still there. Even though I didn't see any signs of revival, The Holy Spirit was very much still there.
Psalm 139 which David wrote says:
"7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me."
Jesus ascended into Heaven and He sent us the One who is called the Helper, The One who David said is everywhere!
The Holy Spirit is everywhere, just waiting to be discovered by us.
He is the unnoticed visitor in too many places,
He is the unseen friend in too many rooms,
He is the unheard voice in too many conversations,
He is the unrecognized person in too many crowds,
Yet He is always there.
There's a phrase that is often heard in Christian circles "The presence of the Lord was really there" and on the face of it, this might seem a bit daft, after all, if the Holy Spirit is everywhere, then surely you can't notice His presence more in one place than another?
I don't think so: Even though He is everywhere, we need to learn to find Him. One way of describing it is like smelling a rose, the closer you are to a rose, the more you are aware of it's fragrance. This is how it is with the Holy Spirit.
As we get closer to Him, we recognise His fragrance and learn to move where He is moving.
I don't want to miss out on what God has for me. He sent His Son to die for me, to give me Life, and then He sent me His Helper to help me live a life that will glorify Him.
I want to be someone who glorifies God in all I do. I want to be someone who learns the fragrance of the Holy Spirit wherever I go. I want to be someone who moves with the Holy Spirit wherever He decides go move, to be a sail that is blown in whatever direction He pleases.
I want to be one who not only recognises that the Holy Spirit is there, but is willing to do whatever He asks me to do.
Especially if it's in an old church that's got beautiful stained glass windows.