Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Mysterious Spirit

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Today, 23rd May, is Pentecost Sunday. A day Christians will often remember the story we read in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit is outpoured upon the disicples of Jesus like tongues of fire and 3000+ people joined the community of the saved, the followers of the way.

This painting is called Pentecost, dating from 1962 and was painted by Dennis Hawkins. It one of the many paintings we find among the Methodist Modern Art Collection. This Painting from Hawkins comes from a larger series of paintings, here’s some explanation about the painting and story behind it…

Pentecost, Dennis Hawkins, (c) TMCP

The descent of the Holy Spirit, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, marked the birth of the Church, and is represented by an intense circle of white light, painted on the top of an old school desk. In this way Hawkins represents the success of the Church penetrating unlikely nooks and crannies and dark corners throughout the world and illuminating them with the light of the Holy Ghost. In the 1960s Hawkins produced dozens of “Pentecosts”. The traditional iconography of Pentecost was tongues of fire, but instead he chose to use the circle or sphere. He saw it as a numinous object, mysterious without beginning or end and all-embracing, an ideal symbol for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Commentary based on ‘A Guide to the Methodist Art Collection’. from Pentecost – Dennis Hawkins (methodist.org.uk)

I love way Hawkins demonstrates the coming of God’s Spirit in this endless and timeless way, echoing the truth that while we have the Acts 2 Pentecost, God’s Spirit is at the beginning in Genesis, and through many different images and metaphors threads its way throughout scripture, throughout time, And throughout our very lives.

I also love the way this sphere of light appears as graffiti on ‘normal’ objects to the 1960s world. From being an ordinary day to day object, this old school desk is now marked and becomes something unique and special, carrying a hallmark of the life-giving, all-embracing spirit of God.

This image, this art, this metaphor, reminds us that today, Pentecost, is not merely a day where we may read Acts 2 and be reminded of the story we sometimes call the birth of the early church. Today is a day where we remember and celebrate the timeless, endless, all-embracing and life-giving presence of God – which we know as God’s Spirit, that rests on and within each of us – ordinary people, who become marked, special and unique, carrying the hallmark of the all-embracing presence and power of God everywhere we go.

Keep on believing

Part 1 of a 3-part series reflecting on the ending(s) of John’s Gospel, chapters 20 & 21.

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Do you ever get stuck knowing how to end a letter or an email? I don’t write letters very often, but send many emails, and often pause as I end wondering what the most appropriate ending might be. ‘Every blessing’, ‘best wishes’, ‘regards’, ‘in Christ’. Since the pandemic began I often use ‘in peace and hope’.

I find it fascinating that 2 of the 4 gospels in the bible sort of have 2 endings. Mark has a shorter and longer ending in chapter 16 – depending on which original texts you look at. Often our bibles make this clear with headings and footnotes.

Headings and footnotes don’t usually appear in the same way in John – but it is also thought to have a first and second ending. When we read it, chapter 20 feels to have a natural end – but then, goes on with chapter 21. Many scholars think (though not all!) that chapter 21 was added to the text of John’s gospel at some stage after the first version of the gospel was created.

Stories

All the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are stories of persuasion and intrigue and encouragement. Stories of the life of Jesus, the impact he had on the communities he travelled through, and the lives he touched and transformed.

Each gospel comes from a different perspective and was written for differing communities and audiences. Some repeat stories told in other gospels; others hold stories unique only to them. Few stories occur in all 4.

After telling its version of the story – John’s gospel comes to its first end as we read the last verses of John 20:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”     

John 20:30-31
Keep on believing

The phrase interpreted here as ‘may come to believe’ can equally be interpreted as may continue believing, or keep on believing.

Some scholars believe this second translation is in fact the one intended by John’s author. They argue that one of the key principles of John’s gospel is that it was written not only to persuade and encourage people to believe, but equally, if not primarily, to encourage and sustain the continuing believing of a persecuted and struggling community, who were not the original witnesses to its story.

The text we now call John’s gospel comes from, probably, around 70AD, 40 or so years on from Jesus’ ministry. The text therefore comes from a point in history where the Jesus-story was being passed on from the original witness to the next generation. This generation, who’s faith up to now had been sustained by the original witnesses, were now themselves the custodians of the story. These custodians needed encouragement to continue believing the story and sharing its life-giving power with others, despite the fact they were not original witnesses.

2000 years on, the story continues to be passed on, so I think we can say they did an ok job.

Promised Presence

Before we get to this first ending of the gospel, we have read another important story –Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the disicples.

They are locked in a room together, grieving, fearful, lost. And into that room filled with uncertainty and fear Jesus appears and says, “peace be with you.” and breathes on them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

John’s gospel begins with the word that was with God and was God (1:1) – who comes to dwell among us (1:14). An echo of the story of origin that we find in Genesis 1. Now, as we reach a climax to John’s gospel the word that was made flesh and dwelt among us, now breathes the very presence of God upon us.

This promised presence flows throughout the story that is John’s gospel. In chapter 14 Jesus promises the comforter will come to remind what Jesus has taught them and continue teaching more of the story to the community. (John 14:26)

The story lives on

John’s gospel reminds us that what we read in scripture is not the whole story – that the gospel story lives on through the very presence of God – the Holy Spirit – living among us. There is more the be taught, more to be reminded, more to be said. [hence, perhaps, chapter 21 gets added in!]

If the story lives on among us and within us, that means our stories become part of the gospel story – the good news story – that is the transforming life and love of Jesus among us.

So while here in John we are told here is enough of the story that you can believe and keep on believing, by God’s presence with us and in us we too have our own stories to tell of how our human story and God’s story have entwined. Stories of our experince of our lives transformed by the transforming life of Christ.

These stories we can share remind us and witness to the truth that God’s presence is with us, and they encourage us and others to keep on believing.

So friends, what story are you going to tell today?

Recommended read: ‘Finding God in a Culture of Fear’

Living in fear is when “day-to-day living becomes more about knowing how to survive rather than thrive”.[1]

Where do we pin our hope in an age of fear? Fear can be both rational and irrational, it can make our world smaller and less hopeful. Fear can be a place where it is harder to dream big for the future, and can be harder to know where God is in the middle of it all.

And in the midst of global pandemic, fear is undoubtedly a part of human living for many of us at the moment. But what do we do with it? How do we fit the fear we feel within our Christian faith that speaks of freedom, healing, and transformation?

This is a book for anyone living with the realisation that the life is a little broken. For anyone wanting to resist the temptation to retreat into our armchairs and ignore the world.

This is a book that resists the culture of fear that can be seen to be growing in society, and growing among Christian communities.

This is a book that encourages us to discover and rediscover the mystery of hope, which will bring us face to face with the nature of God, character of Jesus and playfulness of the Holy Spirit.  

Using the biblical story of the exile, Cox-Darling brings a prophetic voice for Christians to hear. During the exile, the absence of a place of worship was destabilising to sense of community. Yet the story of the exile can was a catalyst to God’s people discovering the true identity of God.

Through rich threads of biblical exploration. Joanne Cox-Darling is convinced hope can be a present reality for us, not just a distant future. That we can find hope in the Christian story, that the church is a window to a community of hope-filled rebels striving to seek first the kingdom of God.

Within these pages, be encouraged to look again at the Christian story as a place to discover a hope-filled resistance, reminded that at the heart of the gospel is the truth that death and despair are never the end.

Discover hope as a catalyst that believes the world can be different, that our living life can be different. That hope thrives in a community of broken people willing to live in brokenness. 

Find a call to faithfully and hopefully respond to God who knows our struggle, can meet us in unknown places and offers us stability and constancy, and the hope that things can be better and brighter. God who is the source of all hope, who begins to restore the brokenness, makes a difference to our living, and help us glimpse the light of the kingdom of God.

Hope that says ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. [2]


‘Finding God in a Culture of Fear ’ is published by Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), written by Joanne Cox-Darling.

Purchase from your Local Christian Bookshop or visit the BRF online shop.


[1] Joanne Cox-Darling, Finding God in a Culture of Fear, (BRF, 2019), p27-8.

[2]Joanne Cox-Darling, Finding God in a Culture of Fear, (BRF, 2019), P.96.

Learning from Lockdown #1: Diversity + Difference

Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.

Learning From Lockdown #1 – Diversity & Difference

These giraffes sit on my office windowsill, you might have seen them in previous videos. We bought them on a holiday in France in 2012 and they remind me of our holiday.

They sat on our mantel-piece in Cornwall, then went into storage while we were in Birmingham. When moved here Louise my wife thought we should get rid of them, I didn’t, so we found a compromise and they ended up in my office.

Now they not only remind me of our holiday, they also remind me that as human beings, include married couples, have differences of opinion.

Lockdown as a time to learn

I want to encourage us to reflect this month on what we may learn from lockdown, because I do not believe this is a time of life on pause that doesn’t matter. I don’t believe this is a time that God wants us to waste.

Just as the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was formational for them, I believe our living in lockdown is a time that can be formational to us. Where God has and continues to speak to us, challenge us and change us. 

For some of us, we may feel like lockdown is over, for others, we may still very much feel like we’re in lockdown, for others again, maybe we’re in the middle.

Wherever we stand on that spectrum, it doesn’t really matter, it just goes to prove one of the things that I’ve been increasingly conscious of over the last few months – just how diverse and different we all are.

Diversity & Difference

And that’s where this month of learning from lockdown reflections is going to begin.

In the book of 1 Corinthians we read:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12, NRSV

The body of Christ, the community of faith, is made of lots of different parts, we all look different, we think differently, respond to circumstances in life with the full colour pallet of human diversity.

I’ve seen the diversity and difference in so many ways through lockdown. Some people have seemed to thrive during lockdown, Energised by the new opportunties and environments and challenges others have really struggled, and others somewhere in between – with good days and some not so good days.

Christian faith is not about conformity – not about creating robots that think and speak the same. It’s about being a community of faith that can call itself a communtiy while celebrating the fact we’re different.

It’s about being people tuned into God’s Spirit, collectively discerning what Gods Spirit is saying to us as individuals and as a community of faith

As we’ve worshiped from our homes, I’ve found my role as minister being less of a leader of worship, and more of an enabler of worship – offering lots of different resources by post and online, seeking to resource the diverse people that make up the churches I serve. It’s been a joy to see diversity thriving, but a challenge at times to keep up!

So as I encourage us to reflect this month on what we may be learning from lockdown, I want to start from a recognition of the diversity and difference among us.

And I want to encourage you all, to think and pray and reflect for yourself… what would you say you’re learning, or have learnt during lockdown.

And try to be go a bit deeper and further than saying I’ve learnt to use zoom.As much of an achievement that may be! `

Where has God spoken to you, challenged you or encouraged you?

What is God’s Spirit saying?

Join the Conversation

Comment below with your own reflections on leanring from lockdown.

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Sunday Reflections: Listen and Understand

Listen and Understand.
A message for a lockdown Pentecost

At Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate, some of us have been reading the book of Acts throughout May and today we reach the last chapter.

Today is also Pentecost, the day we remember that the disciples were filled with God’s Spirit and were able to speak in many languages so that everyone could understand their message.

In this week’s Sunday Reflections, I think about Acts 28, Pentecost, how much God wants us all to know him, and the invitation we have to respond.

Many of us have been travelling through the book of Acts this May, and today we reach the final chapter Acts 28. In the last few chapters Paul has been arrested and put on trial for telling people how much he loves Jesus, and encouraging others to know him to, and now he’s been put on a ship to sail to Rome. Except the ship gets caught in a storm and they go adrift, landing on an unknown island, they later learn is called Malta.

After being on trial for some time, and travelling on the ship through dangerous storms, Paul must have been pretty glad to be safely on dry land. But he was in a new land, a land that wasn’t familiar.

Today is a special day when as Christians we celebrate the festival Pentecost. This festival takes us back to the start of Acts, when Jesus disciples were experiencing their own unfamiliar time.

Jesus death, resurrection and returning to his father was definitely not what they expected. They felt alone, living in a way that was unfamiliar to them.

I think there’s some similarities here to living I lockdown. The way we live, work, shop, learn, travel, interact with family, friends & neighbours has all changed. Even 10 weeks on, I still feel like I’m in a very unfamiliar land, and the uncertainty about the future doesn’t help either.

For Paul, for the disciples, and for all of us, the Spirit of God comes to us. The presence and power of God that supports us, encourages us, affirms us and say’s no matter how you feel, I am with you.

For Paul the presence of God with him was so strong that the natives of Malta thought he was a God. For the disciples the Spirit of God enabled them to speak in every language. For Peter he stood up and delivered a stonker of a sermon and convinced about 3000 people to join the Way – which is the early name for the people now known as Christians.

In Acts 28 Paul says:

“You will indeed listen, but never understand,
 and you will indeed look, but never perceive.”

Acts 28:26

Paul challenges the people that are listening to him. Will you seek to understand, will you seek to see, or will you just look and listen and then carry on as if what you’ve heard makes no difference?

I encourage you today to listen. To listen to what God’s Spirit is saying to you. Yes you. Just as God’s Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in every language, God’s Spirit speaks the language of your heart and mind.

God understand your worries.
God knows your strains and anxieties.
God knows this unfamiliar way of life, with all its uncertainties is tough at times.

Whether you’ve never had a care in the world about God until today,
or you’ve been a Christian all your life,
or you used to go, but you’ve not been much recently,
It really doesn’t matter.
What matters is if you’ll seek to see and understand today.

God is waiting for you, and I believe God’s Spirit is already with you, and in you, just waiting for you to see, whether for the first, 10th or 100th time.

If you want to know more about God and the difference God makes to the lives of many, including you, do get in touch with us or find a church near you can connect with.

Join the Conversation

How is God’s Spirit speaking to you this Pentecost?
If you’ve been reading through Acts this May, how has God spoken to you through it? What has been the standout verse or story for you? Please share in the comments below.

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Sunday Reflections: Pause

This week I reflect on Acts 21, and ask how Paul’s delay in visiting Jerusalem and the resulting encounter with Agabus might help us as we continue in coronavirus lockdown and the uncertainties of the future.

Many of us are travelling through the book of Acts this May, and today we reach Acts 21.

Acts 21 starts with Paul – who is on way to Jerusalem, and wanting to go to Jerusalem – we know that from Acts 20 where he seems to be desperately wanting to go. But we read that God’s Spirit tells Paul not to go. After being so desperate, that must have been painful for Paul.

So instead of going to Jerusalem, Paul goes to a number of other places, and while in Judea, meets a prophet called Agabus. Now Agabus comes and takes Paul’s belt, then ties his own hands a feet together and says – this is what the Spirit says will happen to the owner of this belt in Jerusalem.

I wonder how paul felt in that moment… anxious, worried, sacred?

A short while later, we read Paul and his team got ready and started headed towards Jerusalem. And, time for a trailer – God does great things through Paul in Jerusalem.

Reflecting on those snippets of this part of Paul’s story… I wonder if there’s something for us as we live in lockdown.

I wonder if, through pausing, and then encountering Agabus, Paul was more prepared for his destination, more ready for what would happen in Jerusalem, and therefore more able to deal with it. I wonder whether, after his encounter with Agabus, Paul saw his destination differently?

There’s been a lot of things happen we were not prepared for at the start of 2020. Lots of things are on pause, but it doesn’t mean things won’t happen. But as the world keeps saying, things will be different – to what extent we don’t know, but we’re being told to expect a new normal.

But just like for Paul who readied himself and carried on, I wonder if we too need to be open to readying ourselves for the new normal that is to come. Opening ourselves for the Spirit’s prompting.

To see lockdown as a space to listen to God’s Spirit as we pause, and allow God’s Spirit to make us ready for what is to come? To be ready for the great things of God that are to come.

Dear God,
As the uncertainties of lockdown continue,
help me to make space to pause and listen for your Spirit,
ready me for the future,
and fill me with excitement for the great things to come.


Join the conversation

Have you paused to listen to God recently?
Have you know God’s Spirit strengthen and preparing

Could you share the story of your encounter with us you?
Comment below – I’d love to hear from you.

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Testimony Thursday: Surprise Encounters

Have any of you had a surprise recently? A surprise phone call? Or a surprise left on your doorstep?

I had a surprise this week – on Easter Sunday Louise got me my favourite Easter Egg, and not just 1 – a box of 12 of the marvellous things – crème eggs!

We’re in the first week of Easter, and this week I’ve been looking at some of the resurrection stories in John’s gospel. I’ve noticed more then I have done before  how Jesus doesn’t appear in the temple – the place of worship, but in houses and homes, to people walking and working.

In the resurrection encounters with Jesus, perhaps it’s fair to say Jesus appears to people in isolation, on daily exercise, or working as keyworkers!

One of those passages is John 20:19-22:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you’ve ever been with me when I’ve led a home communion service, you’ll know I often use this passage. I find it a helpful passage for home communion  because in the surprise that Jesus appears in locked room, we are reminded of the truth that Jesus comes to us where we are, in our houses and homes.

And not only that, but Jesus says receive the Holy Spirit, an ever present comforter and strengthener – the very presence of God. I’ve found that a great comfort and strength this week as I seek to live in the resurrection.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been really encouraged by way Jesus is ministering among us even though we’re physically distance from one another. I’ve found the testimonies and stories I’ve hearing in phone calls, emails, messages and on the blog an inspiration. So please keep sharing your stories of Jesus at work!

Always be ready to notice Jesus at work – because you never know what’s coming next!

Share your Story

So that’s one of the ways God has been in my week – what about you?

Where has God been in your week?
How might God be surprising you?
What ways are you finding strength and encouragement?

Comment below and share your stories of God with us, in us and among us.