Is Gabriel in the building?

It is a real privilege to be used by God as a means by which the Holy Spirit can work in people’s lives.Wintershall Nativity 2003

This morning’s sermon was the second occasion on which I sensed throughout the planning and writing of the sermon this could happen (together with a great team of service and worship leaders). And, despite the attendant set backs and red-herrings, as always God didn’t let me down or go by half measures.

I sense from conversation afterwards that some people were challenged, and certainly the prayer ministry that followed the sermon (and again after the service) seemed to provide comfort to some.

My prayer is that it also overcame some of the fears of those who perhaps hadn’t personally experienced the work of the Holy Spirit much, and encouraged St. Peter’s Yateley to ask receive the Holy Spirit in a more corporate way at Pentecost.

Something I found interesting was the way 3 different MEN in the congregation all commented (one whilst leading the intercessions) on the image presented by my asking if Gabriel was in St. Peter’s. I wonder what it is that made one small sentence really resonate with blokes?

Anyway, here’s the text if you’re interested: Sermon Luke 1v26-38 Annunciation (web) “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Things is about a sermon like this:
a) Physically and emotionally they can be quite demanding – I was shattered afterwards
b) I don’t think that realistically you could achieve something that made that much impact every week – and yet, listen to me… I’m trying to limit God already… I should be saying “So be it God… use me!”
c) I’m sure part of the ‘success’ (don’t like using that word, but not sure what else to use) is spending time trying to make connections in conversations and praying/listening to God… which involves time many ministers don’t have
d) Another part of the ‘success’ element is having a fab team to work with who are willing and wanting to let God speak through them too… so my thanks to Janet, Andrew and all the team.

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The Holy Spirit and the Power of the Most High

I’m currently working on the famous Annunciation passage: Luke 1:26-38 and something is bothering me…
In v35 the text says (TNIV)
“The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you..”

Now are there one or two things at work here?
I have one commentary that says the two phrases “Holy Spirit” and “power of the Most High” are synonyms i.e. the same thing. On first reading this seems OK, but why are the two things identified seperately?
My ‘Luke for Everyone’ by Tom Wright suggests they are two separate things, the Holy Spirit acting internally within Mary, and the power of the Most High (God) acting externally as a creator, surrounding Mary with his sovereign power…which would lead me to lovely Trinitarian thoughts given that we’re at the point of Jesus entering the world! But for some this may deny that the Holy Spirit can not act externally and physically?

What does anyone else think?

What does our experience tell us?

Should we say both/and or otherwise fall into the trap of limiting God?

Birds, blooms and boats

Probably not that exciting, but wanted to note that whilst watching the Chris sail for an hour at Hawley Lake (think M3 J4a) we saw our first Swallow of the year… just the one though.

One of Graham's Bluebell photos
One of Graham's Bluebell photos

(Chris passed his RYA Stage 3 sailing qualification at Easter and we got him youth membership at Hawley Lake – where they have previously film Scrap Heap Challenge because it’s part of Royal Engineers set up.)

Dog walking is producing a regular pair of Stonechats on the back of Blackbushe Airport, but definitely not the numbers of previous years, and still not a sign of Dartfords this year… last one I saw was the dead one I found in the winter. Something was singing today too – I want them to be Skylarks, but I gather they could be Meadow Pippits. I need lots of help with SBJs as they are not my strong point.

The bluebells are lovely all over the place, but I suspect will start to go over in the next week. There are a few in the bank along the lane to the airport, and lots in the copse on the way to Castle Bottom. I don’t think we’ll get this year to the lovely bit on the edge of Finchampstead Ridges that lies between Horseshoe lake and Ambarrow, but having driven past last night it’s one to try when we don’t have such a frantic spring. The Gorse has been in full bloom for ages, and the scent is heady, but some is now beginnning to go over, whilst the Hawthorne is in full bloom.

God blessing us with birds and blooms to lift the spirits.

An alternative Stations of the Cross

I’ve variously been thinking about my theological reflection on my placement at All Saints, Basingstoke (which has a Eucharistic and ‘catholic’ tradition), and how to apply worship ideas in my home context (more evangelical). I also had a conversation with our curate who used a sort of Stations of the Cross idea on Good Friday for our reflective service at St. Peter’s (prompting some negative ‘its not Biblical’ comments as well as much more positive ones I gather).

Part of the 'Forest Stations' at Lincoln Cathedral
My own photo of part of the 'Forest Stations' at Lincoln Cathedral

Thinking that one day I might be doing the reflective Good Friday service at St. Peter’s I wondered if you could adapt the idea to have an alternative Stations of the Cross. I would take as its ‘stations’ different parts of the image of Jesus on the Cross that we see in the Biblical stories.

So I would focus on Jesus’ hands, Jesus feet, the sign over his head, the crown of thorns, the wood of the cross, the fact that it is raised up, with crosses either side. This could be done with digital images from various places I’ve been including Furzey Gardens, All Saints’ Basingstoke, and Lincoln Cathedral’s ‘Forest Stations’ which are beautiful as well as thought provoking.

I also thought that as he died, Jesus was in community alongside the two other with whom he was crucified – and that they represented just the sort of people we are called as Christians to be in community with: those who seek what Christ has to offer in the way of love and forgiveness, and those who reject it.