St. John 14.vv.18-26
~ Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them". Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?". Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me". ~
It is only in museums nowadays that we see buses and cars with solid tyres. Few living today have experienced the discomfort of riding penny farthing or bone shaker cycles with solid tyres. The only plea one can put in for them is that punctures were unknown - but even then it is only when we have struggled with a car jack in the pouring rain and to find that the spare tyre has also gone flat, that we can think with any degree of favour of solid tyres!
In 1925 we saw the advent of the pneumatic tyre and what a difference this made to our comfort on the road. If we maintain our vehicles carefully, and follow the maker's instructions, punctures are few and far between.
In 1965, shortly before his death, the great theologian Karl Barth was asked his opinion about the state of religion in Britain and Europe. His answer was devastating - he described it as a 'flat tyre Christianity'. Why? It was because he believed the Pneuma had gone out of it. Now Pneuma is the Greek for wind, breath, spirit. It is the word we use of tyres that are blown up but it is also the regular New Testament word for the Spirit of God. This was a very damning indictment of the Christian church, but one we should heed - lest it be true. For some Christians the Holy Spirit is the most unreal and least recognised part of their faith. The use of the term Holy Ghost is not particularly helpful, for Jesus was not referring to a ghost or wraith.
However we speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit, it is our encounter with the Living God, the energising of those who respond to God: it is the imparting of new life to individuals and the drawing together of the Christian community in their mission to the world.
Let us not be like certain "fringe Christians" who look around and see the wickedness of the world, wring their hands and cry, with the old woman in ancient Israel when the Ark was lost in battle, 'Ichabod! Ichabod! (the glory has departed). The gift of God's Spirit has not been withdrawn. Let us look to those areas where we see Christians long separated coming closer together. Let us recognise that the Spirit of God still blows where it wills, and fills his faithful servants with the dynamic for victorious living. On Whit Sunday we ask that we may be filled with the Pneuma of God.
Sometimes the Spirit is referred to as the Comforter. It is true that he comes to us to calm us, reassure us in our pain and sorrow - perhaps he says, "Why so hot and bothered, my child? Lo, I am with you always". But there is another meaning to the word Comforter linked with the word fort, fortitude, the strengthener who gives power, courage, determination.
The Spirit comes to transfigure our lives, to enable us to live victoriously and to die serenely.