This is an article I wrote for one of my church’s magazines shortly after Pentecost. This is the time of year Christians remember the work of God’s Holy Spirit. It begins with a quote from a hymn by Charles Wesley. To read the hymn in full, click here.
“Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire,
Let us thine influence prove”
We are now in the season of Trinity when, after all the excitement of Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost, we reflect as a church on the nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Whenever I go into schools or indeed preach, it is the third part of that Trinity that many people seem to struggle with most. Generally, we have some sort of image of God as Creator or Father, and we are very familiar with the stories of Jesus from the gospels. However, when we come to the work of the Holy Spirit, many of us become less confident. We use analogies and images (like a dove), and it can end up sounding as though this third person of the Trinity is nothing more substantial than a ghost story.
The words of Charles Wesley’s hymn quoted above give us a vital key to grasping the reality of the Holy Spirit. It is to be seen and experienced primarily not through tongues of fire or rushing wind (or even doves), but through the lives of ordinary women and men like us. Through Christian communities and individuals showing God’s love, grace and power in what they say and do. Through churches opening their doors to the needy; through Christians speaking out for justice and truth, even in the most difficult situations; through countless acts of charity and kindness.
The Holy Spirit is the assurance of Christ’s presence in our lives, this day and always. Our neighbours and our world need to see and feel its influence today, just as much as people did two thousand years ago at the first Pentecost in Jerusalem. This season, therefore, let us cast aside our fears and doubts, and open our hearts and minds to its blesséd influence. Come, Holy Spirit!
Image: An icon of the Christian Pentecost, in the Greek Orthodox tradition. This is the Icon of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. At the bottom is an allegorical figure, called Kosmos, which symbolizes the world. Source: Wikimedia. Public domain.