Releasing the Spirit …

As we approach Advent and Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus yet as sure as eggs are eggs we will also be on the path which leads us into a deeper understanding of God . We have celebrated various Christian festivals in recent weeks All Souls day, All Saints, day and concluding with Remembrance Day

As a young 18yr old student nurse, one of my first jobs was to prepare the body of a person who had recently died. The sister told me to talk to the person as though they were still here, then tenderly touch and wash them.

After washing, we wrapped the body in a white sheet, tightly…and it has been this image that has stayed with me all my life … the image of being encased, ‘womb like’, waiting for something to happen … the physical body in a state of slow decay.. Yet the spirit being released …soaring to its final destination… to be a new creation

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I have never seen a soul take flight… yet I have felt what is like to be so overwhelmed with awesomeness that my inner body responds in wavelike motions… it’s a though my Spirit is wanting to reach some ‘outer part’ that I can only glimpse at… yet she can see and feel the Creator God more intimately than I can.

There will be opportunity to reflect on the birth of Jesus through the following weeks, yet I think the final word needs to be with the image of the Spirit soaring to merge with essence of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Comforter… what a happy occasion that will be. !!

The song is one I remember singing as young child, then I heard it sung again in Jamaica at a graveside during my ministerial training … the image of a bird, the Spirit flies to be be in completeness and oneness with God.

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Touched by the Spirit

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Growing up in Blackpool, I miss many things; the Pleasure Beach and walking home with hot doughnuts, the Trams taking me to and back from school, the Sand at St Anne’s and taking my children for picnics on the beach. And finally … the wind. It really does blow a lot in Blackpool.

Sometimes it was a breeze, sometimes it was a gale. Yet the wind to me is fascinating a movement that sweeps over the sea and beyond. Every time walked on the prom, I felt the wind close around me .. it was almost as though the wind was caressing me, I would close my eyes, take a some deep breaths, and feel energized, revived and renewed. I miss the sea air and that feeling of being wrapped and held by the bracing sea breeze. As a new Christian, I remember thinking, I know God is everywhere, and sometimes I would never feel Gods presence. Yet walking in Blackpool and along its coastline, I felt the caress of God.

It’s the wind you see,….  that for me… is a great illustration of the Holy Spirit, the wind blows everywhere.

Christians throughout the ages have found the idea of the Holy Spirit curiously hard to pin down. The word ‘spirit’, when it applies to God is a metaphor. In Hebrew it translates to ruach, a ‘feminine’ word which means breath or wind; and it is a picture of air in movement. Since moving air is invisible it evokes the anonymous nature of the Spirit.

In a book called ‘Participating in God’, written by Baptist Paul Fiddes, he  describes ‘the gentle breath of God moves deep within our being, the Spirit within, and the Spirit beyond us. Both aspects mysterious, for this breath is not under our control, it is inseparable from God’.

This image of how the Spirit affects us, within and us and beyond ….is the God who touches us, intimately. When the Spirit is moving in our life and is creative, a reaction is evoked. The disciples certainly had a reaction when the flames at Pentecost descended on them. I don’t know whether actual flames appeared, but the image of being touched by flames would indeed instigate a reaction of some sort. !!

If God wanted an image to instigate a reaction in someone, well flames are just the right illustration. When I was growing up we had a coal fire, and as a young girl used to stare in the fire and see the flames dance and flicker, jumping about the fire. Imagine if you were touched by a flame, the reaction would be intense, your emotions high, you would feel a physical urge to respond. That is what God’s wants from us, a Physical urge to respond to his call, and the initiator, the encourager in this process is the Holy Spirit.

In Acts2 we hear that the disciples need a kick-start, and the Holy Spirit affected them collectively them and were renewed, the effect of this was the birth of the church. … I think we all need that gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to kick start us into action, for the Spirit keeps on working, God still keeps on moving us onwards and forwards, it is never static.

The Spirit brings vision; it is how God speaks to us sometimes, with words of wisdom. As Christians we need to channel the visions and dreams into our ministries. It is only then that we will encounter the mysterious God who is ever within us, yet ever beyond us, and alongside us, who is on a costly voyage of bringing love into the world.

We all can lean on the wind, and be carried in the heart of God and be revived, and we can also be carried on the wind, into the future, renewed and energized.

Prayer

As disciples we need to accept the Spirit,

the Paraclete,

the one who will stand alongside us with of Jesus

the challenges she may bring us,

the movement she creates ,

the wisdom she instills , and

the opportunities she generates

to be alongside us… in Spirit and in Truth .

Amen

Tent people or Temple people

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The other day I was visiting a parish in Madras. After the service I was talking with the elders. I asked them ‘What function does this church perform?’ They were a bit embarrassed. Then one of them said, ‘It caters for the needs of its members. I said, “Then it should be disbanded.'” (Bishop) Lesslie Newbigin, 1974.

This quote certainly makes you think about the purpose of the church in today’s context. However unfortunately, many people still think the church is a club for ‘do-gooders’, and a place where we can just care for each other inside the four secure (or maybe crumbling ) walls.

This quote from Leslie Newbiggin , addresses the fact that the Church is not about looking after the people who attend this so called ‘exclusive club’… but the primary function of the church is to walk with those who are outside the church, to address injustice, and to reach out to the unlovely.

Whether we like it or not, many Christian churches have developed into  ‘Temple People’, putting their efforts into maintaining buildings, looking inward when we should be looking outward. One church I know removed some beautiful stained glass windows and replaced them with plain glass … so they could see the world buzzing about outside the church building during their Sunday service.

The early Church in the New Testament focussed their energy in gathering, praying and discerning, a ‘Tent People’ looking outside as to where to pitch our so called ‘Tent’. Some Churches can be excellent at addressing the needs of people outside the church … they are very switched on and aware of what needs to be done, nevertheless, ‘Tent people’ are not just about doing the caring and serving; Tent people need to be with God , listen to what God is calling them to be, and be flexible and be open enough to move with the times.

‘Tent people’ are nomadic, as they sometimes can be seen as doing things a little differently, nevertheless the words from Newbiggin area real challenge to all of us, … not to be complacent, not to assume we have the right answers, but to listen to the guidance of God’s Spirit that moves deep within us.

God of the Tent and Temple

Help us to be aware of the needs of your world

to Listen , and not to assume we know best.

to Encourage , and not to assume we can do better,

to Love, and not to state conditions .

What a privilege !

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I am always humbled when I conduct a funeral. I think it is such an honour to be there with relatives and friends as they ‘hand over’ the person that they have loved and cherished over many years to God.

However, it does need reinforcing that God never leaves us, and ‘Time’ as we understand it, is all too precious. However in God’s ‘Time’, life and death merge into a cyclical time, not linear. God is present with us in this life and also continues to cherish us through into the phase of our journey… the circle of existence. We are all part of the essence of God, so when we journey through to the next part of our existence that we call heaven, I like to think that the Spirit of God that dwells within us, merges with the perfect essence of God, which we call Love, and therefore we become a new creation.

We are changed and transformed into something that radiates God’s love even brighter than before. I am not so bold as to think that I know what heaven is like, however as I Christian, I believe and have hope,  that we have a new beginning surrounded by the Grace and Love of God; that I am reunited with all my friends and relatives, whatever their colour, gender, race or creed. ‘For there is nothing in this world or the next that can ever separate us from the Love of God’. What a privilege to have faith!!

God who is Love,

Enable us to recognise your Spirit within others

So we may look into their eyes

and see your love radiate back to us

So we may feel the pain,

and hold your hand

So we may speak word of comfort

And show you that we care

What a privilege and blessing it is

to have you in our lives

Amen   

Hymn to sustain our Prayerlife

Lay your healing hand upon me,

When my heart seems all alone;

Give me Strength, through Prayer and Praise

Accept the Love, that you have shown.

 

In my prayer life, Lord sustain me,

When the words are hard to find.

In your stillness, come be near me,

Tenderness to fill my mind.

 

When the world around is hurting,

and the pressures fill my time.

In my service and my witness,

Prayer enriches life, in kind.

 

On life’s journey, still my mind-

my heart, till I am one with you.

Then in one with all Creation

Hope and Love will bring me through.

 

©Words Ruth Dillon

Tune Servant song 8787