Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Spirit and God's Peace

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 
I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:23-29)
The Beaker Religion is nothing if it is not about feelings. Feeling good. Feeling slightly sorrowful, but somehow determined and resolute. Feeling happy. Feeling like our hearts have been slightly warmed - but not so much that we would do something daft like get on a horse and ride around England preaching the Gospel to hostile crowds.

And so we do the things that make us feel good. Lighting tea lights. Contemplating pebbles. Playing Enya songs while looking at videos of dolphins. Dancing around the sun dial in the warmth of the afternoon sun. Good things. Spiritual things. Uplifting things.

And we do this because we have told ourselves that religion is, when all is said and done, about our own feelings. We help people because we feel good. We sing songs to cheer up. If the sermon has not entertained us, or lifted us up, or made the pastor sound good, or made us feel just a bit sad - but with a good but at the end - then what was the point? We don't go to Church to feel sinful, or properly challenged, or - if it comes down to it - to meet with God. We want to get the good bits that meeting God should be like if God is as loving as we like to think, but without the bad bits. You know that bit in Dream of Gerontius where the old guy gets a vision of the Lord, and he realises what the bad things in him are. So he goes off singing to Purgatory knowing he can be cleaned eventually? That bit?  That strikes us as a bit much. Why go through all that when you could light a candle and feel a bit beatific?

But I suspect the reason we think like that is because we have a view of the Trinity that is maybe more post-modern than the Gospel writers might recognise. That the Father is the source of Godhead - yes. Got that. Dunno what it means, but then our best bet in that case is not to think too hard. That way heresy lies. But just accept it - nice and Nicene.

But then we differ. To a Beaker person, the Spirit is available across the whole world, to all people. For does not the Spirit blow where s/he will? So the Spirit is the bringer that nice feeling we get - which is a nice, ecumenical, evangelism-light way of recognising our common gooey religious feelings with people of all religions and nuns. I mean none. Whereas the Son - you have to accept the Son, don't you? That's a conversiony thing. That's the way it works. The Father is a given - the Spirit is free to all - the Son is the one we accept.

Whereas I suspect that's not the view from this passage. The order seems to go - if we love Jesus, we will do what he says - and then we will received the Spirit. Implying that Jesus is already there - the given. And when he is offered to all, we can accept or reject. But if we accept him - and therefore follow what he says - then we receive the Spirit.

The way I see it is that the Word - the Logos - is the logic behind Creation. The Word - Christ - holds all things together. The world is created through him, takes its shape from him. So we are already offered with this Christ - because he holds us all together. He brings us into being, gives our lives his meaning. His glory is written in all things, from the fine structure of the hydrogen spectrum to the most massive supernova, in cell biology and the force of gravity and human love.

And if his love is not already written clearly enough into the structure of things, he then writes himself into history - coming as a man, healing the sick, eating with his friends, dying on a cross, rising to life.

And he says that if we love him, that is when we will receive the Spirit. He tells us that the Spirit he gives will bring us peace.

But if this is so, then all the doing stuff to make ourselves feel nice is pointless. Love Jesus - show it by keeping his commandments - receive the Spirit - be left with Jesus's peace. It's not the sort of peace we look for as in peace and quiet, or a nice comfy feeling - although these are both good at the right times. It's far beyond that.

It means that chasing after pleasure is actually a waste of time - although pleasure itself has nothing wrong with it, should it come along. That the source of pleasure is the real thing we should be looking for.

And when we love him, the Spirit is what marks us as God's children. Who makes us more like Jesus. Who brings peace into our lives - the true peace that comes from being in tune with God's heart.

St Paul tells us  how close that relationship then draws us into the Trinity. When describing how the Spirit meets us.... " our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." (Rom 8:26)

And so the Holy Spirit is the one who brings us into the heart of God. The one bringing us the words to pray, the words to praise God. The one who takes the words of Scripture and writes them on our hearts instead of just on the page. The Spirit is the promise that Jesus leaves with us - the one who keeps us close to God, until Jesus comes.

1 comment :

  1. There’s danger here of thinking somehow that there are three gods. I know that you know there aren’t, but there it is. We attribute certain things to the Holy Spirit or to the Son, or the Father, but ultimately God is One, and every effect outside Himself is performed by all three persons. It’s a mystery – a bit like Daniel Sturridge’s thigh.

    I would discourage any mention of Enya. That way madness lies.


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