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Life in the Spirit

So here we are again, ‘Ordinary Time’ in the church calendar. A time to take our foot off the peddle? Not a chance!

 

Having had all the excitement of Pentecost (Acts 2) we must remember why God sends the Holy Spirit. It is not so that we might personally bask in the delights of receiving a spiritual gift, (1 Corinthians 12), or be spiritually self-indulgent. Not so much that we become nicer people, although the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’  (Galatians 5:22-23)  is certainly a part of the indwelling nature of the Holy Spirit. It is not so that we become enigmatic or charismatic and bounce around like Tigger on steroids.

 

God in his wisdom wants each one of us to receive the Holy Spirit not for our promotion, but for the sake of Christ, by transforming us, ‘The Church’ and the world in which we live.

 

When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they found their lives had been changed. The disciples could not hold back and they told everyone about what God had done in Jesus Christ. They were enthusiastic in their ‘witness’. Indeed throughout the Acts of the Apostles, wherever the Spirit is present, their evangelistic work flowed naturally through healing, speaking, challenging, listening and building up the ‘Followers of the Way’ (The Church). Why? Because the Spirit of God is essentially a witnessing Spirit. The Holy Spirit always draws full attention to Christ, not himself. (John 16: 13-15).

 

As time goes by they recognise that the Holy Spirit is not simply random and unstructured but orderly and strategic. (1 Corinthians 14 as well as many of the letters to the churches). They become the Body of Christ. They have an urge to witness and they begin to work hard on their own lives too. They also give instruction to the new churches on how to be followers of Christ. (The letters of Paul for instance). They build one another up, pray together and share what they have. Each day God adds to their number, but it is not without pain and strife (1 Corinthians 1: 10) or persecution either.

 

This baptism in the Holy Spirit is given to us today to empower us to be his witnesses. In effect we become his possession. Christ then works in us and through us. This baptism is a gift, which identifies us spiritually with the death and resurrection of Christ and joins us together as believers. (1 Corinthians 12 :13).

 

Therefore we are to function as Christ in the world. In other words we are to look after His Body, to witness, to bring people to Christ and make disciples. (This is essentially what the 2020Vision is all about). To heal the sick, teach, be an evangelist or even an administrator. To be filled by and focussed on the Holy Spirit means that we become his people more and more each day, where, as John the Baptist said “He must increase but I must decrease”. (John 3.33) . It will require obedience. This is not about a thrill factor roller coaster of a spiritual ride, but the nitty gritty of life as a follower of Christ.

 

Are you hungry and thirsty for the Spirit of God in your life? How might you respond practically? We need people to help in various ways in the life of the parish. Maybe God is calling you to help within areas such as

 

Children’s, Schools and Youth Work

Pastoral Team

Recognised Parish Assistants

Mission and Outreach

Prayer and Healing Ministry

Listeners

Welcome team

Maintenance team …. Etc etc etc

 

If so, please come and talk with me.

Pentecost

This month of May brings us the Day of Pentecost when we will celebrate and marvel at the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that

separated and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues.” (Acts 2:3,4)

 

Such was the drama for those first apostles. It was high octane drama from the Holy Spirit but He doesn’t always show Himself in such a way. History records the Holy Spirit

working in people in a multitude of ways and their reactions. In some people He seems to have to keep knocking over a long period of time to gain entrance. With me it was a mixture of knocking and a dramatic event.

 

My church life began with Mum taking me there where I graduated through the Sunday School to become a founder member of the Church Youth Fellowship in my teenage years. I was also a member of the Choir from 8 to nearly18. All of this was good pasture for the Holy Spirit. However, just before my 18th birthday, Her Majesty the Queen requested my company in the Army and I discovered new ways of living which could be described from a

secular point of view as “the good life”. Now there was much resistance to the Holy Spirit. So now as well as the “knocking” there needed to be a bit of drama. This came 60 years ago on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

 

At 23, I was now a Lieutenant in the Army, a raw commander of a troop of Royal Engineers. My regiment was on Christmas Island, together with the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and scientists for Hydrogen Bomb testing. In 1958 the nuclear nations had decided to draw up a Test Ban Treaty to come into effect on 31st October of that year. Thus there was a requirement to get in as many tests before that date. On one of these final tests my troop was assigned to assist the scientists on the seashore nearest to ground zero. Their instruments had to be set in steel shelters dug into the ground. An airstrip had to be made to bring those instruments from the Main Camp and Port. The roads were so bad that the

instruments would not have survived a van journey.

 

On the day of the ‘drop’ our job was to sandbag the entrances to the shelters once the scientists had left and get out ourselves. There was not time for us to reach the main assembly area at the other side of the island so we had to make for a dugout half way

across. Here we waited for the action to happen. We were in radio contact and could hear of the progress of the aircraft as it approached the ‘drop zone’. Then the countdown! At zero,

despite being underground, we experienced an increase in light followed some seconds later by a vigorous shaking of the earth. Surprisingly we were soon allowed out of our bunker.

 

As we emerged the sight before us was one of great beauty. A cooling ball of fire was moving through reds and oranges whilst a pure white cloud was forming round it and from the sea a white column of steam was rising to meet the cloud which eventually made a mushroom formation. The experience of beauty was not to last but, in fact, be transformed into horror as we drove through the devastation in order to remove the sandbags from the shelters

and let the scientists in. “Filey would have disappeared completely if it had been here,” was the thought that almost immediately entered my head. We got on with the work but that thought dogged and troubled me and stayed with me overnight.

 

The next day was a rest day. I took myself off to a little bay not far from camp, to think. Although small, I noted that it had a similar shape to that of Filey Bay and my thoughts returned to the previous day and its horrors. Filey was so uppermost in my mind and my thoughts returned to my days growing up, to Sunday School, CYF, choir and suddenly a thought hit me. “I must go to Church!” There was a church on the island made out of packing

cases, gradually being replaced with lumps of coral. I went, found comfort and strength and the beginning of a real commitment to Jesus Christ.

 

It was to be a long process from there, through a career in education, to eventual ordination but my regular attendance at church was established. Was I converted by an H bomb? No!

It shook me to my roots but fortunately those roots had been firmly planted by the children’s and young people’s work in the church here in Filey. I suppose it could be said that, for me, Christmas Island became Pentecost Island.

 

Revd Robert Hall

 

Happy Easter?

 

 

The Crucified Christ by Guido Rocha, a Brazilian sculptor is shocking, and for good reason. Anyone who thinks crucifixion is a walk in the park is deluded! Yet, it seems that society today does not have the stomach for the reality of what happened to Christ.  Are we too used to thinking of the cross as a trinket?

 

Take the new film ‘Mary’ for instance. I heard a film critic describe it as “bland” saying that the director has gone for the most innocuous and inoffensive lines Jesus could speak. By doing so, the critic added, he had no idea who this film was aimed at. “Even believers will find it dull”.

 

In Jesus’ day, not many Jews liked the death penalty, even though the Old Testament approved it. They preferred to say that God would carry out his own execution – if someone deserved death, they would die early. There were still some zealots who wanted death penalties and occasionally a mob killed a sinner, like the adulteress Jesus had to rescue, but generally they were happy to let God look after the death penalty.

 

Crucifixion was normally reserved for slaves, terrorists and the worst kind of criminals. Pilate found no evidence to support the religious leaders claim that Jesus was a criminal. His only crime it seems was that he upset them. So why go to so much trouble? They could have got a mob to do their dirty work. Instead they went for an ‘official’ route. Why?

 

Simply put, Jesus was a dangerous heretic and the only way to stop him and his followers was to have him killed in this way. Then his supporters, of which there were many, couldn’t respect his memory and they would melt away and forget him.

 

It was a cruel, painful slow suffocation that could take days. The only way to breathe was to push yourself up on the nails which caused even more pain. Rocha’s shocking sculpture of Christ has it exactly right in my opinion, it was hell. Then there is the shame of it. A criminal’s death, stripped naked for maximum humiliation and what crucifixion does to bodily fluids we’ll not even mention in polite society! Suffice to say it was graphic, messy and degrading. It was the most shameful death ever invented.

 

Christ crucified is God’s power and wisdom

Can it really be true that this was all part of God’s plan? God came into our world as a human baby. Immanuel, God with us. He lived in the dirt and grime of life. In the village where he grew up they would know he was illegitimate. So, when he preached in his home town they threw him out. The educated elite thought him reckless and his miracles fake. When he was crucified, they wanted everyone to know that God had cursed him. In some ancient graffiti, Jesus is depicted as a crucified ass being worshipped. The idea of God himself suffering in this way seems like madness. Who could worship a God like that, so weak and defeated?

It wasn’t until Constantine saw the cross in heaven just before victory, that Christians started using the cross as a symbol of triumph. Paul said long before that the Cross was where Jesus had his victory and John said the Cross showed Jesus at his most glorious but for normal Christians the cross was just too shameful as a symbol. Yet the point is that the cross is the very symbol of new life. God is not dead, because on the cross, though the sacrifice of Christ, the sin of a world that put him to death is redressed and through the resurrection we are made whole, healed, forgiven; saved! This for me, is what it means to say ‘Happy Easter’.

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

With every blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar