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Flame-dancing Spirit, Come!2 weeks ago
ReSource Minister and Leader of the Scargill Movement, Phil Stone helps us to reflect on how at Pentecost the Holy Spirit releases dispirited disciples from a place of lockdown (sound familiar?) into a loving spacious place full of promise. He speaks of the the thirst that the Spirit gives us for more of God, and of the Holy Spirit as the divine jazz-player who "loves to improvise as he plays from the glorious melody of grace, the joy of the Gospel."
Flame-dancing Spirit come
I hope and pray that this blog finds you well. The last two conferences that we had at Scargill before the lockdown in March was on being renewed in the life of the Holy Spirit (with ReSource), and the other was on discovering the lost art of lament. Both very appropriate in the times we are living in.
During the lockdown and as we begin to emerge tentatively from it, we have had time to ask deep questions; like what does really matter? I have been doing a lot of spiritual de-cluttering. (as well the normal type of decluttering, the garage is full!) But I have also been asking - How open am I to the Holy Spirit?
The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the first band of Jesus’s followers at Pentecost was both life-changing and life-giving. A bunch of dispirited followers were now filled with the Spirit as they began to be and do things that were beyond their understanding and imagination - from a place of lockdown they moved into a loving spacious place full of promise (Ps 18:19). This Jesus they followed, who turned their hopes and longings upside down, makes his home in their hearts at Pentecost. (John 14:17) As Henri Nouwen writes, “Without Pentecost the Christ-event – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus remains imprisoned in history as something to remember, think about and reflect on. The Spirit of Jesus comes to dwell within us, so that we can become living Christs here and now. So, come Holy Spirit, make your home in my heart.”
Surely this is our heart’s desire?
The Spirit gives us a thirst for more
The Message paraphrases Psalm 63 wonderfully, and I love it. It sums up a prayer, if I’m honest, that I want to pray;
“God – you’re my God!
I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such a hunger and thirst for God,
travelling across dry and weary deserts”
The surest sign that the Holy Spirit is working in us is we are made thirsty for more of God, and the sight of his Kingdom on earth. The sentiment of yearning and longing in the U2 song ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ in itself is not a bad prayer. I am often asking God to break through the complacency that I feel is in my heart so that I can live and move in the things of the Spirit. Paul (in Ephesians 5:18) speaks about going on “being filled with the Spirit”. This is one thing I am learning to ask daily. As a Korean Pastor prays as he gets out of bed to start a new day: "Good morning Holy Spirit. What shall we do together today?"
Now, that is a good prayer.
The Spirit - the divine jazz player
Are we willing to remain open and willing to hear and see what God is doing, and join in? The Holy Spirit, is the divine jazz player. He loves to improvise as he plays from the glorious melody of grace, the joy of the Gospel, but in a way that is relevant so that people are drawn into the love of God. He is calling us to listen deeply so we can play along too. Of course, sadly, we have this amazing capacity not to hear very well. Brian McLaren writes, “And so that gives us a choice: Do we dig in our heels, clench our fists, live for our own agenda, or do we let go, let be and let come….and so be taken up into the Spirit’s movement?” This is a little vexing for those who like being in control, or feel we understand how the Spirit will work – how often have I been caught out!
The Holy Spirit asks us to intentionally remain open, and refrain from saying, ‘This is how we always do it’. Archbishop Justin Welby, sometime back at a New Wine Leaders’ Conference, spoke about this, “one of the most vital things for all of us who are of the Spirit is to keep alert and open to the new things that God is doing. And even though those things are always consistent with whom we have known him to be, God very rarely simply repeats himself; he is far too imaginative for that.”
Ann Lewin’s wonderful prayer sums up nicely what I have been trying to say;
‘Flame-dancing Spirit, come,
Sweep us off our feet and
Dance us through our days.
Surprise us with your rhythms,
Dare us to try new steps,
Explore new patterns and new partnerships.
Release us from old routines,
To swing in abandoned joy
And fearful adventure.
And in the intervals,
In your still centre.’