Tagged: religion

Pneumatology – Read all about it.

Signpost for Sunday 11th. June, Trinity Sunday: Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a; Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20.

I have been reading some essays by Rowan Williams, and one of them reminded me of a word I have not seen for some time: pneumatology: (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: “2. Theol. The, or a, doctrine of the Holy Spirit 1881”).

One essay that I read set me off on a line of thought, so I will try to formulate it in the context of the readings. The two short readings both include the Three-in-One form: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and are effectively an invitation to attempt to find out more about the Three-in-One from the rest of the New Testament.

There appears to be more than one way that the work of the Spirit is described. Luke seems to describe the Spirit as a sort of conduit, bringing sporadic and powerful interventions. In Acts, he uses phrases like Paul, filled with the Spirit, … and, Peter, filled with the Spirit… almost as if this was an abnormal event. Of course, since Luke is such a good story-teller, and takes care that what he records is accurate, his presentation may represent what those witnessing the events could actually perceive. Sometimes the people of God pick up this view and regard one or two things as the primary, or possibly the only, evidence of the work of the Spirit.

Ideas like this led the Corinthian congregation to ask questions, and Paul could respond in more depth and detail than could be provided in a book like Acts. In his letter to the Corinthians he gives an extended view of the gifts, given by the Spirit, for the common good of the people of God, but he adds: I will show you a more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, and have not love, I am a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal. This love enables the congregation to work together, and provides the framework in which the gifts can work for the common good.

In his letter to the Romans he writes: You did not receive a Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him.

Here Paul explains that we are being drawn by the Spirit into the family of the Three-in-One. Here is the work of the Spirit. The Spirit brings us to new birth in the everlasting family: she gives us new life, we are born in the Spirit. (She seems to me to be the appropriate pronoun.)

But the family into which we are born is not a risk-free environment: The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, so we, as brothers and sisters also face risks. This is how the Three-in-One works as a unity.

Finally, John, in a letter sums things up for the redeemed part of the family: Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not been revealed. What we know is this: we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.


Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Signpost for Sunday 20th September: Proverbs 31:10-31, James 3:13-4:3, Mark 9:30-37BrettMj

Jesus was taking time with his disciples to try to get them to understand what was to happen to him. The combination of betrayal, death and resurrection was a set of ideas which did not in any way match what they thought should happen. Jesus obviously regarded the combination as all of one piece, and as part of his mission as the anointed one, but the emphasis falls on the resurrection. The concept of a resurrection was not foreign to the disciples, but their idea was probably that there would be a resurrection of the righteous at the beginning of the age to come. The notion of an individual resurrection lay far outside their conceptual framework. Just like many of us, faced with an incomprehensible lesson the disciples avoided the problem by getting involved in something else, they began arguing about the position of each one of them in their group.

The status of an individual was a very important part of life, and a servant was very low in the pecking order, so the concept of the Messiah as servant was again incomprehensible. The idea of the greatest being the servant of all broke all the rules of status, rank and standing in society. Children were also of very low status, but Jesus took a child in the crook of his arm and described the child as one who represented himself. We could use this statement by Jesus to raise questions about refugee children.

Some years ago a group on Waiheke started an enterprise which they called The Village Project: it was aimed at providing fresh water for a village in Africa. One of the people involved built concrete water tanks on Waiheke and he took himself over there to built tanks for the village. The local Waiheke newspaper had a photograph of him with a small child sitting in the crook of his arm. The child was happy, confident and smiling. I wonder if the child Jesus held, in front of a group of uncomprehending disciples, felt like the child in the photograph.


Photo courtesy of Waiheke Gulf News

Muddling through.

Signpost for June 9 2013, Ordinary Sunday 10: 1 Kings 17:8-16, Gal. 1:11-24, Luke 7:11-17.

My Bible has two parallel upright lines in the margin at the side of particular piece of the text that means “parallel in another book”, and gives the reference or two. Now, I was taught rather a long time ago that the three first Gospels in the Second Testament were written a very long time after the events they record. I didn’t take much note of it, discounting these “Low Church” ideas; we “Anglo-Catholics” knew better. Nowadays I’m more tolerant, and look for down-to-earth explanations for the events that may have been blown-up by being passed on by word of mouth.

Now you may ask what all that blurb is about. Well, I had made a mistake. You see, our first reading today in 1 Kings is the story of Elijah turning the jar of meal & the jug of oil bottomless. But I started reading at the wrong point, and read about the prophet bringing back to life the dead son of a widow, and it’s the next story in the book! I thought, aha, Luke thought, “We can’t let Elijah look better than Jesus in reviving dead widows’ sons. I’ll include a story I’ve been given about Jesus meeting and resuscitating a widow’s son being carried dead through the town gate of Nain. I wonder why Mark didn’t mention it. My informant seem reliable so we’ll put it in.” So when I read the story in my Bible, there are no upright parallel lines in the margin.

But what about Jairus’ daughter, both Mark and Matthew have her story, and the parallel sign in the margin their text ? Well, we’re told she’d only just died, and that only because Jesus had been delayed and got there too late. In the original story, Mark’s, Jesus shoved the crowd out, and brought the girl to life. When I was in the fire brigade I was taught how to resuscitate, without any special gear, a person who had stopped breathing not too long before. I never had to do it, but some amazing cases get in the news from time to time.

That leaves us with the Epistle to muddle up. Galatia is the inland area of Turkey, around Konya and Kaysen on modern maps, an area that Paul visited during his first journey. He has found out that others following him have spoiled his work by teaching that in being a Christian you have to conform to a set of rules (especially circumcision).

Paul didn’t have Gospel Stories to provide texts to preach on, like we have, courtesy of the four Gospellers. On the Damascus road he learned only one, the one that starts thus: “No greater love …” (Jn 15:13) which defines the word “love” as a verb, not just a noun.

The Greeks in his congregation had to learn that the whole universe has only one creator God, and that is Love, not a collection of petty gods coveting each other’s patch. To the Jews he taught that love doesn’t consist of conforming to a list of rules to the last dot and tittle, but to be loving the whole of creation and ALL those that live in it.

There’s plenty in that lot to argue about. Let’s be having it! The address is

Brye Blackhall (you guess!)