This spring one of my granddaughters learned to ride a two-wheeled bike on her own. She’d been trying to make this a part of her skill set for a long time.
She had all the right safety equipment. She had seen her mom and her dad and her big brother ride their bicycles, so she wondered what she needed to know in order to ride by herself. She just needed to trust her bicycle, trust the laws of physics, trust that she could do it.
So my son did what I had done with him and each of my children, and you probably did with yours. He helped her onto her bicycle and he ran behind her, holding the bicycle seat.
He helped her develop a set of disciplines. Like making sure she kept both feet on the pedals, both hands on the bars, and head looking straight toward the destination. They worked on her focus. Keeping her mind on the job and not on the pretty flowers that were just over there.
They also developed what my grandmother called “stick-to-it-iveness,” which is not giving up when things go wrong. So when our granddaughter fell she was able to get back up and try again because she trusted that one day she would be able to stay upright, balancing on two wheels.
After Jesus ascended to heaven, I wondered. Did the disciples feel what my granddaughter felt the first time my son let go of the seat?
Sure, they’d been in Jesus’ discipleship training camp for three years. And sure, they had been sent out a couple of times, two by two on a mission to announce that the Kingdom of God was at hand. They knew Jesus had been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 29:18) and they knew Jesus had promised always to be with them (Matthew 28:20). But they still didn’t have the power they needed; they were on their own.
And then the Holy Spirit showed up. The Holy Spirit had already worked within the disciples through the words of Jesus to bring them to faith. It was like that moment when my granddaughter was able to start balancing on her own. She was able to trust in her knowledge of bicycle riding, and at the same time allow her heart to be empowered to let go and let God. And now every day my granddaughter is out riding her bicycle.
And so, as it was then and still is today, the Holy Spirit continues to empower people. If your faith has grown stale, or seems powerless, if God seems distant, maybe you need the Holy Spirit in your life. When God sent the Holy Spirit, it was like a powerful explosion of faith and trust.
People believed they walked in the power of the Spirit of God.
People trusted that God heard their prayers because there was evidence.
The sick were healed, those imprisoned by addictions or fears were set free.
The lame walked.
The blind saw.
The truth was spoken and heard.
The Holy Spirit empowered the early Church and held it together. The Holy Spirit can do this today, when we make the invitation.