Clergy Letter for June 2017, by the Rev’d Derwyn Williams
Some years ago a researcher was conducting interviews about faith in 20th century Britain. Here is part of her exchange with one of her subjects:
Interviewer: ‘Do you believe in God?’
Interviewer: ‘Do you believe in a God who can change the course of events on earth?’
Subject: ‘No, just the ordinary one.’
I wonder what kind of God you believe in, if you do? I wonder what kind of God I believe in, deep down in my heart, whatever my head tells me I ought to think? I wonder what kind of God, God is, in his deepest, truest being?
Followers of Jesus are invited to believe in a God who does change the course of events on earth. A God who can take hate away from our souls and substitute love. A God who can blow away apathy and replace it with fervent hope. A God who can gently wipe away tears of sadness and put joy in their place. A God who can change lives, and so change the way the world is. No ordinary God.
Followers of Jesus believe in such a God because, like Jesus, they know a God who imparts his Holy Spirit. A God who can breathe his own being and life into us. A God who replaces death with unbridled life. A God who purifies us from sin and burns away our corruption when his fire bursts upon us. A God who brings a peace and calm, like a hovering dove, into souls tossed about by the storms of life. No ordinary God.
This Holy Spirit can come in strange and startling signs. He can come in exotic tongues of ecstatic speech – but he doesn’t always, and he doesn’t have to. He can come in powerful words of prophecy, and in dreams and visions– but he doesn’t always, and he doesn’t have to. He can come in wonders and miracles beyond human description – but he doesn’t always, and he doesn’t have to. He blows like the wind, and we can’t control or command him. He is no ordinary God.
What he has promised to do, consistently and constantly, is to bear fruit in the hearts of those who believe in him. To bring forth love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, in the lives of Jesus’ followers. To create qualities which transform us, and profoundly change the world around. No ordinary God.
And he can be met whenever Christians gather. Whether it’s for worship that is quiet and reflective, or loud and stirring, whether it’s prayer with hands in the air, or hands together, whether a service uses words that are centuries old, or that have been made up on the spot, or no words at all. In all these ways, and many more, the Holy Spirit can come, if our hearts are open. No ordinary God.
So why not come and worship at St Michael’s, as we praise God for the Holy Spirit, on the feast of Pentecost, Sunday 4th June. There will be a quiet Communion at 8 a.m., a more modern Parish Praise at 10, and a stirring, traditional-language Choral Eucharist at 11.15. But if you do come, come prepared for change, in yourself and in the world around you. For the God who invites us is no ordinary God.