Dear Friends

I’m writing today on the eve of Pentecost, when we recall the gift of the Holy spirit. The Spirit that guides, inspires and empowers our Christian witness to the world. There can be no excuse for the complete lack of inspiration I feel! After all the Spirit gives spectacular gifts to those who ask. The Spirit is the “comforter,” what could be more welcome than that. Never mind if I’m not sure what to write, with the Spirit’s help all will become clear. After all the Spirit likes to leave things to the last minute – like me – and workds best if you stand up unprepared and allow the Spirit to take over. Never mind all that careful preparation by those who don’t trust.

Unfortunately this picture of the Holy spirit bears no resemblance to the Holy Spirit as depicted in the New Testament. There are gifts and we may feel a little wistful, that if only we had tongues of fire reesting on our heads, it might be easier to match the boldness of Peter and the first disciples. Yet what Peter offeres is not just comfort but judgement and challenge. There is a summons to trust but this is not excuse for bing ill prepared. I learnt that lesson many moons ago, when I decided, as a young curate, to forego sermn preparation, in the belief that the words would be given to me. It may be that I didn’t pray hard enough, or perhaps it doesn’t work the way I thought but one way or another it was a disaster, as the sermon petered out with apologies, almost as soon as it had begun.

Time and again in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus. Yet as we witness to our Lord, we are promised our share of struggle. One image for the coming of the Spirit is childbirth.
Sometimes we become convinced that the struggle will never end; but says the Holy Spirit, keep going, the outcome will be worthwhile. Hope is one of the hallmarks of the Spirit and we hope, by placing our trust in God. Not abdicating our own responsibility, in the belief that God will fill the gap but renewed in the conviction that all is well and all will be well.

Today has also seen the wedding of Price Harry and meghan Markle and one of the most striking moments was a powerful sermon by Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church of the US. Bishop Michael spoke of the power of love. Love that is profoundly personal but not sentimental; love that is like a raging fire that will not be tamed, or extinguished. Pentecost speaks of such love, such pwer, as revealed by the Spirit to be at work in Jesus. The Spirit of love who suffers with us will lead us from the seeming futility of this world, to the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom. Our life together as the Church is to be a sign of Jesus’ love. This demanding calling cannot be fulfilled by our efforts, it can only be the fruit of Jesus’ life among us.

“Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire,” we sing at Pentecost and at Ordination Services at the end of June. If we mean what we say, it is a dangerous prayer, for God’s Spirit will change us in ways we had never imagined and force us to face the truth we would rather avoid. Sermons will still need preparation, through which some inspiration may come and magazine articles will occasionally be a struggle to be ground out, rather than flow without effort. Yet I believe the Spirit is with us, love will nnot be quenched, the spark will not go out and all is safe in God’s hands. In the words of the Pentecost intercessions “Lord come to bless us and fill us with your Spirit.”

Martin Keighley

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