>We are used to referring to the Holy Spirit as the third person. By this we usually mean the third person of the Trinity. But John V Taylor, many years ago, drew attention to the Holy Spirit as the Go-Between God – who is the third person in a very different way. He writes; “the Holy Spirit is the invisible third party who stands between me and the other, making us mutually aware”.
He quotes Martin Buber who wrote: “We are waiting for a theophany about which we know nothing except its place, and that place is called community.”
>What can I give him, poor as I am?
This is the question at the heart of giving. And as we are crunched by the recession this becomes an ever more pressing question, particularly for a middle class which has come to treasure money so highly. It really dismays me when we hear in our churches about giving – and it is always centred on money (or so it seems). What can I give him, poor as I am?
Christina Rossetti discusses this in her poem “In the bleak midwinter“. For her money doesn’t enter into it – and in this recession all of us are questioning the worth of what money will buy (particulalry those of us on their third skip in the process of moving house). Take money out of the equation and what can we give? Those unable to buy off their giving with money perhaps know the answer best. They operate in an economy of gifts aware they can give “their heart”, that they can pay attention, that they can give themselves, that they can for-give, that they can give thanks.
And my own thanksgiving – a woman working on the platform at Crewe Station who was amazingly kind, patient, hospitable and gentle with my mother in helping her find the right train – someone bearing the fruits of the Spirit. British Rail won’t have been paying her for that but some gifts money cannot buy.
Miroslav Volf (in Free of Charge p116)describes the work of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifts. “The Spirit is the gift that gives spiritual gifts”. He writes; “the Spirit opens the doors of our hearts for Christ’s indwelling …. by the power of the Spirit we make ourselves available for Christ to be born in us … The Spirit is the gift that gives Christ”.
“Think of the Spirit as the arms of our hearts that embrace Christ and as the open doors of our energies and skills that welcome Christ in.”
Photo by Logan Antill.
“O Holy Spirit, giver of light and life, free us from all that is
matter-of-fact, stale, bored, tired; all that takes things for granted.
Open our eyes to see, and excite our minds to marvel.”
For Pentecost – from ‘A Procession of Prayers’ (ed John Carden – Meditations and Prayers from Around the World)
>Getting ready for Sunday one job is to prepare a weekly newsletter. We call it Network and we try to have a picture/photo as a focus for the Sunday. This one isn’t one we are using on Sunday, but it’s one that refreshed me. It’s called Pentecost by Chris Shreve. Pentecost is a great Jewish festival which has become the festival of the Holy Spirit for the Christian Church. John Pridmore writes in the Church Times, and referring to Pentecost and the Holy Spirit points out that fire, water and wind are all metaphors for the Holy Spirit, and that they are all things that flow.
has captured this flow with the flame and the wind blowing the curtain – with the suggestion of dancing. Chris also captures the new creation of the Gospel with what reminds me of the stone rolled away from the tomb and the light, breath and energy of God bursting into the world. It’s a very dry picture though – unless that is a water pitcher, or a container of oil – another sign of the Holy Spirit and the gifts the Holy Spirit brings to the world.
>Yesterday we played with our text from John 14:15-21 -particularly “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth.”
At one stage “counsellor” was translated “advocate” or more obscurely “paraclete”. Both those words carry the meaning of “called to the side of” – so Jesus is promising another one to be “on/at our side” (the other one being Jesus himself). It’s quite something to have God “at/on our side”.
Preparing yesterday’s sermon I came across these words: “We observe some people who are seriously ill and marvel at their courage and doggedness. How do they do it?, we wonder. What enables them to go on and not become discouraged and bitter? Then we notice a worn bible and prayer books by their bedside; the regular visits of a eucharistic minister bringing them communion and words of support from parishioners; family and friends who assure the infirmed of regular prayers and visits.” – All these at her side – as advocate, counsellor, paraclete and all those other words we use to describe the effect of God’s work at our side and on our side – encourager, comforter and peace. I wonder how this understanding inspires a more effective ministry of advocacy – the nurse, solicitor, neighbour, friend and priest.
It reminds me of another reference to God being at our side in his creation of companionship and relationship when kneeling on man’s side removed one of his ribs to create a woman. (Genesis 2:21) There’s a good cartoon here with Eve saying “No Adam, I don’t want to see your scar.”