In the liturgical year, this week is the first week after Pentecost or the week beginning with Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is often something of a stumbling block to people – perhaps particularly those outside the church. For some of these people, Christianity may be seen as some strange religion which worships three gods. This is quite wrong. Christianity is completely monotheistic. There always was and always will be, one God. Jesus himself said “I and the Father are ONE.” However, in order to understand the nature of God we need to see God as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Water can be in the form of ice, steam or liquid but it is still water. A woman can be a manager, mother and wife but she is still exactly the same person. So it is with God. God is Father, Son and Spirit but He is still one God.
I have spent most of my professional life in education leadership. One of the roles of the school leader is to give talks in assembly. How do you communicate to young people the transforming power of the Holy Spirit? I often used to take a plastic bottle of washing up liquid and a small plastic stick with a circular hole in it (children’s party bubbles). The young people would dip the stick in the liquid and blow through the circular hole to produce many bubbles. The question then was what had transformed this greasy, slimy liquid in the bottle into those beautiful spheroids, which, in sunlight, would refract all the colours of the rainbow? The answer is a puff of breath. The Old Testament word for Spirit is the same as ‘breath’. The Holy Spirit is the breath (or wind) of God which brings about change. Specifically, He changes the ordinary into something beautiful. This gives us an insight into the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who came in a special way to the believers on the day of Pentecost, is in the business of changing things for the better. He is also in the business of perfecting us into being fully the people God intended us to be. I hope and pray that the generations who heard my Pentecost assemblies captured something of this message.
How much do we throw ourselves into our lives in this world? How much do we value our careers, possessions, homes, entertainments and even our families? How sad would we be to give it all up and move to an existence somewhere completely different? Although we are all called to be ‘salt and light’ in our communities, the Gospel passage assigned to this week reminds us that our home is elsewhere. When Jesus prays for his disciples, he notes that, they are not ‘of this world’ any more than He is of this world. The question returns. Are we too much in love with this world? It is a lingering question, which should make us continually reflect.
Why do some people in our society accept the Gospel message while others do not? This was a great historical debate between, amongst others, John Wesley and George Whitefield. John Wesley was adamant that all people could be ‘saved’ while George Whitefield had different views. In our Gospel reading this week, Jesus seems to suggest there is some mileage in the latter’s views. Jesus says “You did not choose me, but I chose you..” However, we need to consider other things that Jesus said. Jesus is on record as saying that ‘the harvest is plentiful’ and also ‘go into ALL nations baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. Whatever our views on predestination, what is clear is that God has not chosen to reveal to us those who are pre-destined. Therefore, we proceed to proclaim the Gospel by all the means that we can to all people that we can until told otherwise. Peter captures his Lord’s sentiment on this issue when he writes: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. It is our joy, calling and privilege to do nothing less!