About 40 years ago I was a not-so-angelic chorister in a small village church choir in Oxfordshire. As well as Sunday services and choir practices, the children of the choir would occasionally have training sessions at our choirmaster’s house, to monitor our progress, and see if we might qualify for the next medal or ribbon which indicated our proficiency.
There were a variety of skills we were expected to demonstrate. Reading music, aural tests, singing from sight, that sort of thing. But one of the categories for assessment puzzled me. It was listed as ‘Catching the spirit’, and I didn’t know what it meant. Mr Garton (for that was the choirmaster’s name) explained that this had to do with taking part, being committed, feeling at home and giving your enthusiasm to the life of the choir. It was about more than just making music skillfully. It had to do with your heart and soul – giving your energy and gifts to praise God in worship. Apparently, without knowing it, I must have caught a little bit of the spirit, for I received my light blue ribbon.
‘Catching the Spirit’. It’s a good summary of the Christian life, if it is to be lived in its fullness. For the heart and soul with which we follow Jesus are crucial to authentic discipleship. Christians are people who believe certain things about God, and know something of the story of Jesus, of course. But without the Spirit animating us, our faith can become dry and our knowledge academic. Christians are people who try to behave in certain ways, and get involved in all sorts of noble tasks and projects, of course. But without the Spirit energizing us and guiding us, our activities can exhaust us or embitter us, or fill us with works -righteousness. All of which get in the way of God. Christians are people who gather together in church, of course. But unless Jesus’ Spirit comes into us as we do, we’re just yet another human club going about our strange business.
‘Catching the Spirit’. It can happen when prayer takes us close to the loving heart of God. It can happen when worship makes our souls soar to heaven. It can happen when Scripture speaks a truth so beautifully compelling and gripping that we want to live it, and feel we might even die for it. It can happen when we see Christ’s face in a loving neighbour, and feel a joy and peace which are not just earthly. It can happen whenever we let God in, and know his forgiveness, his healing, his challenge and his power touching our lives. ‘Catching the Spirit’. It’s when we sense we’re meeting Jesus afresh and anew. It’s something we need to do time and time again.
‘Catching the Spirit’. No better season to do this than Eastertide, as week after week we ponder Jesus’s world-changing resurrection. No better day to do this than at Pentecost (May 20), when the Spirit first came to the apostles. A day when it might come again, if our bodies are still enough, our minds are patient enough, and our hearts are open enough. I wonder, this Pentecost, will you ‘Catch the Spirit’, and find that the Spirit is catching you?