Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Happy Easter to you!
We are still in the Easter Season. The Easter Season in fact does not conclude until Pentecost Sunday – when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church – this year that’s the 31 May.
I wonder have you ever noticed that we affirm our belief in the coming – or ‘proceeding’ – of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, every Sunday, when we say the 4th century Nicene Creed? We say: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.”
The Holy Spirit is all over the New Testament. But He is also in the Old Testament. It is the Holy Spirit who ‘has spoken through the Prophets’. In fact as early as the second verse of the Bible is the Holy Spirit referenced – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And the Spirit of God [lit. ‘breath’ of God] hovered over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).
One helpful way of distinguishing how the Spirit works between the Old and New Testaments – or better – before Pentecost and after Pentecost – is that before Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon a particular person, for a particular task, for a particular time. Since Pentecost (in Acts 2) however the Holy Spirit has been upon the whole church. He is ready and waiting to bless, strengthen and equip, every church family and every Christian who comes to Him and asks to receive the help and strengthening of God.
I describe the Holy Spirit as ‘He’, because the Church recognises the Holy Spirit as the ‘Third Person’ of the ‘Holy Trinity’ – that is God is three-persons-in-one, and one-person-in-three! God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is considered to be a ‘Person’ because in the Scriptures (on what the Early Church’s Creed Statements of Faith are based) present that ‘He’ has ‘personable traits’ – for example in the New Testament – the Holy Spirit, whilst literally the ‘wind’ of God – He is presented as a teacher and comforter (John 14:26), a decision maker (Acts 15:28), a giver of gifts (1 Corinthians 12), even someone who has his own ‘mind’ to pray for us! (Romans 8:26-27).
We remain in Lockdown. At present, we are rightfully being told to “Stay at Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives” – we are only allowed out for essential purposes. This means that, for the time being, we must continue to not physically gather together for worship in our churches.
Our current situation reminds me of the early church on Easter Day. Just as we are being told to lock ourselves at home to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus – On Easter Day, Jesus’ disciples locked themselves away – to protect themselves from the authorities who had crucified Jesus and were now out to get them. (John 20:19- 31)
Yet something extraordinary happens in this story. Although the doors are locked, Jesus, now risen from the dead, still comes amongst the disciples and – over the course of two visits in one week, three times (vv 19, 21, 26) – he says ‘Peace be with you’ – Three times He gives his disciples who are afraid His peace. On one occasion, Jesus says to his disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” (v21). Jesus gives God’s peace. And it is through the Holy Spirit that we receive God’s peace, that we can know hope in a crisis, or calm in the storm. And what is more – locked doors don’t stop Jesus meeting with us! God’s promise is that even in Lockdown and away from our churches, we can however still meet with Jesus, still know the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives and still know God’s peace.
Some of us may be living completely on our own and unable to get out at all. The Christian promise is that just as Jesus breathed His life-giving and strengthening Spirit into the disciples, we can receive the same ‘breath of God’ into our lives too. God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit can still ‘blow over us’ His peace. In this sense, we are not alone. God is with us.
This Easter Season and this Pentecost, may you know the peace of the risen Christ, the help of the Holy Spirit in your lives.
In Christ, Adam.
Rev Adam Pawley