Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Go-Between God

The other day I was reading a book on the train – as you do – and got so enthralled and inspired by its contents that I almost got to the point of shouting out ‘hallelujah’!  However, I kept myself under control and internalised this unexpected enthusiasm.  Perhaps that was a mistake – it would have been interesting to see how my fellow passengers coped with a shout of ‘hallelujah’ on the 8.20 just past Salisbury!

The book I got so excited about is a theological classic from the seventies, written by a former Bishop of Winchester, John V. Taylor all about the ministry of The Holy Spirit called ‘The Go-Between God’.  It was given to me by a retired friend, colleague and mentor; and it was a delight to find a Home Mission promotional bookmark (dated 1972 – the year of the book’s publication) tucked between its pages.

Bishop Taylor’s view is that every encounter and conversation, if touched by the Holy Spirit, can become a sacred moment.  It’s as if there’s me and you and this gap, this space between us, and if the gap is filled by the ‘Go-Between’ God, the Holy Spirit, then our meeting is utterly transformed from just a mundane encounter and becomes, instead, a precious moment touched by God.

He puts it like this: Every time I am given this unexpected awareness towards some other creature and feel this current of communication between us, I am touched and activated by something that comes from the fiery heart of divine love...The Holy Spirit is the invisible third party who stands between me and the other, making us mutually aware.

The Bishop goes on to say that it is significant that in the words of The Grace we don’t say the ‘power’ of The Holy Spirit as might be expected but the ‘fellowship’.  In other words God’s Spirit comes amongst us to create community – potentially filling the gaps between us with divine love.

So as we come to Whit Sunday this weekend how do we ground all this theology?

Well I do it by just thinking back over the last fortnight and remembering some of my own encounters in which I really do believe the Holy Spirit has been the ‘third-party’. 

There was last Sunday evening when a group of us went over to Montacute Baptist Church to help with their 188th Church Anniversary.  What do I remember?  Acoustically it is a super church in which to sing.  And then there was that lovely moment when the offering was announced and the steward simply couldn’t find the offering bag wherever he looked!  Yet most of all I remember the conversations with the Montacute pastor and church members, their love and appreciation, the warmth of their fellowship and instant sense of being ‘family’ together.  The Go-Between God had blessed us.

Or how about those Listening Groups at last week’s Retreat Association Conference.  Once a day about we were put into a group of about ten to reflect on our time together.  Scary stuff off-loading to complete strangers.  Yet by day four we had shared some precious moments – gone ‘deep’ you might say – and strangers had become friends.  The Go-Between God had blessed us.

And then there is the regular Friday Coffee morning at church that I often pop into.  It all looks so ordinary.  Yet as I look closer – especially as I see some of our helpers deliberately sit at tables with a solitary coffee drinker and offer friendly conversation and a listening ear – I begin to see something different.  Space is being made and in that ‘gap’ the Holy Spirit is at work making that casual encounter one where the love and presence of Christ is experienced.  It’s exciting, isn’t it, how gentle and ‘ordinary’ Christian mission can be – just making space for the Holy Spirit’s touch of love. It’s the Go-Between God blessing us.

So, as we celebrate Pentecost on Sunday I, for one, will say with added conviction:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
The love of God and
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all evermore.

With best wishes,



Ian

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