Highworth United Reformed Church

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Prayer and Study Group 2015/2016

The Spirit in action
Genesis 1:1-5   1 Kings 19:9-18

Blessed Lord, you speak to us through the Holy Scriptures.    Grant that we may hear, read, respect, learn and make them our own in such a way that the enduring benefit and comfort of the Word will help us grasp and hold the blessed hope of everlasting life, given us through the Holy Spirit.   Amen.

We talk about the Holy Spirit including it in our hopes and desires,  we affirm it in the Creeds,  and yet it has not always been "allowed" to act in our lives and the life of the church.   This is why for our first meeting this year I would like to consider the Spirit in Action,  because when the Spirit gets involve it does so in many different ways.

Two readings - the first an obvious choice when referring to the Spirit in action  the second reading a well known reading as well,  where the Spirit is presented in a rather different way from the usual forms of actionThe Genesis first narrative of creation,  presents to us the imageof emptiness,  darkness - somewhat the vision of what space would seem like without all the stars and planets floating around!   Interestingly the NRSV speaks to us of the "wind of God sweeping over the face of the waters",  and it is a footnote which refers us to the "Spirit of God".   This is because in the so called Biblical languages there are different words with similar meaning:

Hebrew: ruah:  A force or principle believed to animate living beings.   nephesh:  breath
Latin:  spiritus:  breath     anima:  soul
Greek:  pneuma:  breath     psykhe:  soul

This is simply to give us an idea of different words available,  meaning sometimes different things in the original,  but not always easy to translate.   All this in a world and over a time where the spiritual was much more present in daily life and understanding of matters than in our current reality,  which in a way is much more rational.

In the Old Testament,  the Spirit refers to God's presence that goes beyond a particular place and time. And this is so clear in Genesis 1...,the action of creation of what today we would call the universe,  a present and a future reality.   The Spirit sweeps over the initial chaos and through the word of God begins a process of ordering the chaos, in this case step by step.   And it was good:  each act of creation is declared good.

The Spirit is only visible through the effects of the actions - as our own breath.   This is why the Spirit in Genesis 1 is visible in the steps of creation.   The second reading is somewhat different - from the spectacular to the unusual.   In the reading from 1 Kings we read of the strong wind,  the earthquake,  the fire... each of them a usual manifestation of power attributed to the deity.   the forces of nature,  usually destructive ones at that.   But in this case there is yet another one:  when God wants to speak to the prophet who is running for his life,  God comes in a "sound of sheer silence".   God expects from Elijah a resolute action,  but the calling comes not in the great signs but rather in the gentle whisper.

This is a reminder that if we only expect God in the spectacular we might sometimes miss the point,  because God does sometimes approach in the silence,  in the quiet,  and we must be open to the action of the Spirit in the everyday events of life,  not only in those that seem to be extra-ordinary.

What does the implication of affirming that the Holy Spirit is the Giver of Life mean for our daily life as individuals and as a community?