Easter 6

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Readings

Acts 17.22-31 
Psalm 66.7-18 
1 Peter 3.13-22 
John 14.15-21

A Spacious Place

You may or may not have read it in your service, but I want to start with the Psalm set for today, number 66. It includes some honest verses that resonate with our time. The Psalmist has been through intense trial and suffering, and expresses that honestly, in this way: "You O God have proved us, you have tried us as silver is tried. You let enemies ride over our heads we went through fire and water". But that wasn’t the end of the experience for the Psalmist. 

They go on to say this: “But you brought us out into a spacious place.” 

Can you remember a time when you have entered a spacious place? Perhaps stepping inside the cool of a great cathedral, glancing to left and right at its length, letting your eyes rise to the vaulted ceiling, pausing to breathe in the spaciousness. Or maybe, in the great outdoors, having climbed to the crest of a ridge and seeing a whole new land opening out before you. Or standing on top of the Malverns, with views stretching in all directions. A spacious place. The Psalm itself probably refers to the promised land – a spacious place in which abundant life could flourish. 

In a former role I had a colleague called Jane. Her colleagues used to say that, when Jane wasn’t present, meetings were often fraught, competitive, guarded, defensive. If Jane was present, even without her saying anything, the meeting would be better because of her presence. So what was it about Jane? She offered a gracious context, in which everyone found it easier to simply be truthful. She enabled space to explore possibilities. She modelled openness. Whereas some people's presence tends to close things down, to constrain life, Jane and others like her open things up. They help bring us out into a spacious place. They unleash Life and goodness.

In today's gospel reading, from John's Gospel, Jesus is speaking to his disciples shortly before his death. He promises the Holy Spirit, given by God the Father. This Spirit was given for the disciples and for us – not to catch us out, but to be our Helper, our Advocate. The Spirit will be with us; the Spirit will be God with us.

In this reading, the Spirit is described as the Spirit of truth. We learn from the beginning of John’s gospel, from the opening verses familiar from Christmas readings, that God is full of grace and truth. In God, truth is always interwoven with grace, offered with grace, laced and seasoned with grace. For the Spirit shows us the truth – truth about God, about ourselves, and about others – the Spirit shows us the truth not in order to catch us out, but rather to heal us, to liberate us, to guide us. Truth can be hard to take. We easily get defensive, or competitive, or go into denial. But what my former colleague Jane did well, the Holy Spirit does even better. If we will co-operate, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace and truth, will lead us out into a spacious place. Speaking personally, this is one of my favourite images for the very nature of salvation. 

So as we look forward to the feast of Pentecost, and prepare to receive afresh the gift of the spirit, may we make space for God. Even in these times of testing and intense challenge, and even when we're physically constrained, may we look for and receive spiritual spaciousness in each day. May we increasingly offer gracious space to each other, and pray and act to encourage yet more people to know that gracious truth for themselves. In the spaciousness of God, we live and move and have our being. In God's grace-filled spaciousness, there is room for all.

Questions for Reflection

  • Do you have a memory of a spacious place that is special for you? 
  • Is there an aspect of your life – as an individual, household or church – in which you would value more of a sense of spaciousness?


Page last updated: 19th May 2020 4:01 PM
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