If you are like me at some point you may have wondered what it was like to be in that upper room with Jesus and his disciples.
When I was living in India I would love to contemplate these things when sitting in a room in the city during a power outage, no fan - just the infrequent breeze cooling my sweat, the room illuminated by candle lights. A myriad of noises coming from outside as folks went about their business. The different smells wafting in from street vendors, mingled with other smells that were not quite so savory. Or I would be in a mud hut in the jungle, contemplating the upper room with the shadows flittering around as the flame of a lamp moved with the breeze. Noises filtering in that I could not recognize that gave me a little uneasy feeling and fanned the flame of fear within me.
I think the upper room must have been a place of differing and complex emotions. In the darkness, noises can bring fear, uncertainty and the unknown. With the folks in the upper room that must have been heightened as they knew the establishment of the day did not want them around and was trying to silence Jesus. The possibility of guards crashing through the door, just like many people around the world today who still occupy similar rooms knowing that the authorities want to get them and silence them.
The people with Jesus in that room must have been very thoughtful. One of those thoughts would have been the hope or expectation that Jesus was possibly going to announce his kingship and raise a call to arms for his followers and the people of the city to seize control of the government. The hope of bringing in a new Kingdom.
I think this upper room was charged with atmosphere. The pictures that I am often shown are of a nice quaint controlled scenario. But where there is emotion there is uncertainty, people on the edge of their seats, unsettled, tense, not too sure what will happen next. Jesus had already told them that someone in their midst was a traitor. What a charged environment!
However, at this point Jesus says I am going away!!!! What a let down that must have been. Talk about sowing confusion and fear. Come on this is supposed to be his time. Then he says that he’s not going to leave them as orphans but will give them a counselor! I think I would have rather had Jesus.
In our little community we were recently looking at this space in time and at the way Jesus comforted and encouraged his people in this depressed period of their lives. He tells them he will give them a counselor, one who will lead them into all truth. If I was them that would not seem to be a good swap. Jesus was supposed to be the truth - why have something else when you can have the real thing? I wonder how encouraged and supported they would have felt.
As people we often desire for that charismatic figure to do the work for us or to physically lead us while we appear in the background. I don’t believe God is into that. Rather I think he wants us to journey on a pathway of personal, emotional and spiritual growth. To be able to personally make use of that blessing and to be a blessing to the community we are part of. To be like Christ rather than have Christ and or others do it all for us.
I think that by giving us the counselor who leads us into all truth God helps us to grow as people. Listening to the counselor helps develop depth in our lives, that depth or as God calls it fruit; is love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness & self control. Against these sorts of things there is no law.
This counselor doesn’t come in the nice comfortable times of our lives but is there for the untidy, painful times, the times when we screw up. Counselors are to help us follow a path through the challenges, pains and difficulties of life and help us understand or develop through them not so we stay comfortable and safe. God’s dream is not the American, European or any earthly community’s dream. It is a reality of community, justice & love. The counselor asked for by Jesus is one that gives us the intimate words of Jesus and the Father and helps us live in that intimate relationship.
Our little Refuge community has many places that it gathers and one gathering takes place on Monday night. Recently this community spent the night simply praying a blessing for each other. We gathered in a circle, some sitting and others standing by them. Those standing gently placed hands on their shoulders, and after a while we changed places. We sought the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help us encourage and empower each other. There were different emotions and uncertainties around the circle. People were in different places in their journey. However, at the end of the time it was amazing how words shared by friends under the guiding influence of the counselor had built us up in who we are and in the hope of who we can become.
After we did this we read a short statement that the group had developed and that emphasized our commitment to each other. This statement was put together one night by thirteen different people. Normally it is difficult to get two people to agree one statement. However, on this occasion each person shared a short phrase or sentence and they were collated just as they were. The result continually surprises us. On this night as we read it the words placed another layer of grace and love over our time as we sensed an even deeper encouragement from the counselor, and the words reiterated the whole process we had just undertaken.
Our statement goes as follows.
We come here to be the beloved community, to grow deeper and more centered in Christ as we explore life-forming practices.
We seek to change our image of the Father so that we may view God as Jesus did, as daddy. For Jesus said “… I will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them….”
We desire to be joined to Jesus’ heart. That we may fear God and know what that fear is, comprehend it and acknowledge it. That we may proceed forward in faith and hope, with new hearts similar to that of King David’s.
Knowing God in a deeper and fuller way, trusting God, hearing God & seeing Jesus in others around us. For Jesus said “….. Whatever you have done for a brother, however humble, you have done for me…”
We encourage each other to tell our truth to God as we may remember it and allow that to be a place of safety and honesty. God will meet us there and enable us to grow into and live out the fullness of Christ.
We commit to supporting one another’s faith journey, lifting each other up in prayer, tonight and through the week, listening intently without judgment and being generous with love, kindness and an open heart.
In the highly charged emotional upper room of my mind the Holy Spirit comes to bring counsel, intimate love and truth. May it be so for you as well.