Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Holy Spirit in the World Today (Part 2a)
I arrived for early morning prayer to find stacks and stacks of people there - the Scottish squad lost the ability to watch the action straight on from middle aisle seats so we found ourselves in some side seats (not so good)..nevertheless HTB is good on space to move around/flex the joints so we figured we'd survive. Survivor mentality and all that.
Jane Williams opened with a homily on Matthew 12:22-32 and took on the brave topic (briefly) of grieving the Holy Spirit by what she called "deliberate, clear-eyed cold hearted acts" against the Spirit of God. She made it clear that this is not something you do by accident, and that if you mind about even the thought of having done it, then you haven't done it.
She described it as a cruel attempt to trash anything that God is doing or working out in people. "A deliberate rejection of the good". Jane was at pains to say that this was rare, and that it manifested itself as rejecting the flourishing of other people.
She drew our attention to John 16; that the Holy Spirit gives "judging power" to allow us to see (judge) the truth. And so we often say the Holy Spirit helps us to judge people (where they're at) but this can often cross over into criticism. No...really...in the church? Surely not!! Tear the sermon apart? We never do that! Yet...if someone else is "flourishing" through that sermon/ministry - shouldn't we just shut up?
She encouraged us to seek discernment; the judging gift of the Holy Spirit - which is to help us see the Father and transform this broken world. A practical tip was to look for Jesus in everything we see - a good test is: where are people working for human flourishing? This is not exclusive to Christians. I loved this point and it has really made me think over the past few days.
One of my favourite TV programmes is Secret Millionaire. There are some remarkable charities working in multiply-deprived areas doing amazing work to lift people's self-esteem and life chances. I always watch avidly for even a tiny hint that the charity is a Christian one and it doesn't look that many are - and so I will now re-look at this as a sign that Jesus is in the world - there are individuals in that little rented unit working for human flourishing - this is what Jane Williams called "a sign of Jesus" - and she encouraged us to rejoice and give thanks for that.
"Praise is a better way to change the world than condemnation" - such challenging words. I found this homily brave and bold in tackling a sensitive pastoral issue (what does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?)
and then Jane got all the women on the platform to say the grace so that she could claim "loads of women spoke from the front at the Holy Spirit in the World Today conference!"
I need to blog about the awesome Prof Ford. Later in the week!