Friday, May 25, 2012

Thoughts approaching Pentecost

1.  The prayer for the Spirit, whether addressed directly to him ("Come, Holy Spirit") or to the Father and Son ("Send your Spirit"), is the third of three 'prayers of locomotion' which the Christian prays.  The first is "your Kingdom come"; the second is "come, Lord Jesus".  The second is a prayer for the ultimate fulfilment of the first.  God's Kingdom rule comes when God's King comes, and so ultimately we look to the coming of Christ and the end of this age for the answer to our prayers.  When we pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit, we are looking for the provisional, penultimate entry of the Kingdom into the circumstances of this age, of our daily lives and the situations we know.  Pentecost itself points beyond itself, to the time of the restoration of all things.  Bearing this in mind will help us to remember that even on the 'Spirit's day' Jesus is the final word.

2.  It may be (in a dry and dusty part of the brain) that the language of "coming" has to be understood metaphorically - after all, the Spirit is everywhere and in everything.  Even if this is so, we must acknowledge that the metaphor is absolutely appropriate.  The idea of coming establishes two poles - there, where the Spirit is and is at work, and here, where his presence and work are needed.  (The Lord's Prayer is explicit on this - "...on earth as it is in heaven").  It is the 'movement' from there to here for which we pray.

3.  We can be hopeful in praying for this movement, for at least two reasons.  Firstly, Christ has promised to send the Spirit from the Father.  Secondly, the fact that we are praying shows that even here, whilst it is definitely not there, the Spirit is still (and already) present.  We pray only at his prompting.

4.  Although the dove has understandably been adopted as the symbol of the Spirit, the more prevalent Scriptural images are fire and a mighty wind.  Perhaps the dove is better suited to the brand of mysticism we prefer, or perhaps we just like the peaceful imagery more.  Perhaps fire threatens us - does a fiery pneumatology imply a fiery ecclesia?  Or at least a community where more sin is burnt away than we are happy with?  And a rushing wind sounds perhaps a little more out of control than we would like?

5.  Speaking of mysticism, let's have none of it.  Let's remember that the Spirit is not formless, in the sense of a spiritual force that twists and bends this way and that.  As the Spirit of the Father and Son, he takes what is theirs and gives it to us.  Every time we see something desirable in Christ, every time something of the gospel rings true, every time we take a stand for God's sake against some sin - internal or external - there is the work of the Spirit.  Mysticism is the attempt to have a direct experience of God which bypasses the human and historical Christ; the Spirit of Christ is not to be thought of as in any way facilitating such a foolish enterprise.

6.  We are in need - oh, how we are in need!  We are and have nothing unless the Spirit comes to us.

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