Archive for May, 2016

Worthy to be a slave?

Posted: May 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

29 May 2016, St Cuthbert’s, Heaton

1Kings 8.27-30, 41-43  Luke 7.1-10

Lord, do not trouble yourself

The reading from 1Kings is a continuation of the passage we heard right at the beginning
– The scene of the dedication of Solomon’s temple

The building of the temple is an act of faith, and the fulfilment of a promise made by David to God
But it also represents the centralisation of worship in Jerusalem
From now on, all the sacrifices made to God should be offered under one roof
Because this is where he has chosen to be his habitation – his place of special presence on earth

What does the coming of Jesus do to this idea?
Once Jesus has come, God is no longer confined under one roof

This creates a different dynamic
You don’t have to go to where God is – you can ask God to come to you
That is what is going on in the episode of the healing of the centurion’s slave (or servant)

There are really two issues being played out together here
One is the issue of authority and obedience to authority
The other is the issue of worth and worthiness
Of course, in the story, these are linked

As usual, it’s a good idea to look back and see what happens just before the story begins
Jesus has been teaching a crowd outside Capernaum
His final rebuke to them is, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (Luke 6.46)
So we are already thinking about obedience when we begin to read about the centurion’s slave

Let’s think about authority and obedience: who gives orders to whom in this passage?
The centurion has authority over the Jewish elders – he sends them to speak to Jesus
The Jewish leaders bear a request from the centurion (not an order), asking Jesus to come and heal his slave

The Jew leaders appeal earnestly to Jesus – they don’t act as if they have authority over him
Not even the authority you would think they might have, as the ones bringing the centurion’s request

The elders try to persuade Jesus by appealing to him as a fellow-Jew
They emphasise how much they owe to this centurion, and how much he loves the Jews
So much he has even built them a synagogue
They emphasise the sense of obligation Jesus ought to feel

Jesus goes with them – but as someone graciously granting a request, not obeying an order
Then something unexpected happens
They are met by other messengers – not slaves or other Jews, but the centurion’s friends

They speak in an unexpected way
The words they use appear to be 
the centurion’s own words
They say,
Lord, do not trouble yourself

Through his friends, the centurion says to Jesus, I do not wish to exert any authority over you
There are other people I can order about and send running around
Please, just exert your authority over the disease my slave is suffering from

What gives the centurion the confidence that Jesus can do this?
It is, quite simply faith – the faith that enables him to address Jesus as
Lord
Jesus is Lord
– those three words together are the oldest confession of the Christian faith

Let me remind you again of the episode that comes before this one, and the contrast between them
Jesus teaches a crowd of people outside Capernaum
But then he seems to lose patience with them, and he rebukes them saying
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?

What does it mean to call Jesus Lord?
Lord is the title used most often for God in the Bible used by most Jews of Jesus’ own time
Which was a Greek translation, because not many Jews spoke Hebrew by then

So to call Jesus Lord means in effect you regard him as one with God
But why don’t the people in the crowd do what Jesus tells them?
Because for them, this is just a form of words. They do not believe – they have no faith

The disbelief of the crowd contrasts with the faith of the centurion, who almost without thinking about it, confesses Jesus as his Lord
He makes his request, then submits to whatever it is Jesus decides to do

In personal terms, to call Jesus Lord means you regard him as the one who rules over your life
It means, you have resigned any personal claims to rank or dignity
It means, you have made Jesus your master and placed yourself in the position of his slave

This takes us to our second theme – the issue of worth and worthiness
The issue of worth and worthiness is linked to the issue of obedience
Because s
laves have to be obedient – it’s a matter of survival
They have no rights – if they don’t obey, they can be punished or even killed

The centurion’s slave is valued highly by his owner
Which of your slaves is most valuable? The most useful one
The one who can do most, and who does most willingly what you tell him

But what kind of worthiness is at issue in this story? It’s social status and regard
When the Jewish elders ask Jesus to come to the centurion’s house, they tell him,
He is worthy
But the centurion himself tells Jesus, I am not worthy – though clearly, Jesus is his social inferior

When you hear this you realise, the centurion does not send messengers because it is beneath his dignity to run errands – it’s the other way round
He does not come to find Jesus, because he does not feel worthy to come
He says first of all,
I am not worthy to have you come under my roof
But later he says, I did not presume to come to you

This is what it means to confess, that Jesus is Lord
The centurion confesses himself to be a slave
He actually sets himself lower than his slave – because he is now begging favours for his slave

What does Jesus do? He grants the centurion’s petition; he heals the centurion’s slave
He turns order on its head – he becomes the servant of the centurion
The servant of the centurion who became a slave, for the sake of his slave

In Jesus, God comes out from under the temple roof
The centurion comes out from under the cover of his own authority
Everyone becomes a slave – everyone is set free
The slave is raised up from his sickbed – because his master lowers himself 

That is the challenge – to set aside our personal sense of worthiness and entitlement, to name Jesus as our Lord, and truly begin to honour him in our heart and lives
Then, we will discover what it means to be made worthy – what it means to be set free

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22 May 2016, St Cuthbert’s, Heaton

Proverbs 8.1-4, 22-31  John 1.1-5, 14-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Today is Trinity Sunday – the day we ask the question, how can we say we believe in one God, but then talk about the Father, Son and Spirit almost as if they were separate entities?

The first thing to say is, you won’t find the word ‘trinity’ in the Bible
The Trinity is not a human invention
But the doctrine of the Trinity is a collective human attempt to give a coherent account of all those passage in Scripture that speak of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
And at least appear to suggest that all three are divine
Because Christianity and Judaism agree on at least one thing – there is only one God

The Old and New Testaments both speak of God
– and it’s safe, from a Christian point of view, to say that many of those passages refer specifically to the Father

Both Testaments speak of the spirit of God
– though it’s much less clear how many of those passages refer specifically to the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus

Both Testaments speak of the Messiah
– though it’s only Christians who interpret those passages in the Old Testament as referring specifically to Jesus Christ, the Son of God

To sum up – it’s only Christians who need a doctrine of the Trinity to make sense of Scripture

The doctrine of the Trinity came out of the urgent need felt by the early church to make sense of the Old Testament scriptures in the light of the coming of Christ

I suspect John’s prologue is one of the best-known passages in the Bible:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. John 1:1–4 (NRSV)

This passage doesn’t talk about Jesus as our Redeemer
What we have here is another version of the doctrine of creation
A poetic reinterpretation of the Genesis account, of how God spoke the universe into being
You have to read on further to be sure the writer is talking about Jesus at all

It’s only one of several passages in the New Testament that say the same thing
That Jesus was not only present with God before Creation
But that Jesus himself took the lead role in Creation
Just as, eventually, he would take the lead role in redeeming and restoring Creation

I haven’t time to give you every example – but here are just a few
In 1Corinthian 8.6 Paul says, there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist
In Colossians 1.16 he says,
all things have been created through him, and for him

Hebrews 1.1-3 says Jesus is the Son of God, by whom God created the world, and who upholds the universe by the word of his power

If you have several authors independently coming up with the same formula, you know they have a common source – a common model
They all draw on Old Testament scriptures like the passage from Proverbs 8 we heard today:

When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

John says Jesus is the living Word of God
The Word of God is the wisdom of God
In Genesis, we hear God speak the world into being
The wisdom of God gives harmony to the created world – it is the source of order and meaning

So to say that Jesus is present in the act of creation, is the most active person of God in creation, is not something radical – it is just a matter of joining the ends of a circle

The only problem is, if you accept the Good News translation of this passage, it would be a rank heresy to say it refers to Christ

It translates verse 22 as saying, The Lord created me first of all, the first of his works
If we’re talking of Jesus, that isn’t right, is it?

God is eternal, so the three persons are eternal
Neither the Son nor the Spirit were created – anything created is not God
Not everything in creation was made equal – there are hierarchies of beings
But everything created is less than God – different in essence, not just in degree or dignity

The Son is begotten of the Father – and this begetting is not an event that occurred in time
It happened outside of time, before the creation of time, before there was any such thing as ‘before’ or ‘after’

Does that mean the writers of the New Testament were sloppy readers?
Of course not – but they didn’t read the Old Testament in the English translations we use
They used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible
Which translates this verse as, The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old (I am aware of the absurdity of quoting an English translation of a Greek translation in this context, but the English is probably more helpful to most of us)

Some modern English translations translate Proverbs 8.22 in words very similar to these, and would allow you to say, without accusations of heresy, that the writer of Proverbs could be speaking of Christ

The English Standard Version says, The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old
The New American Standard Bible says, The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his way, before his works of old

Does any of this matter? Is it not enough that we have the gospels and the letters?
Of course it does – the New Testament is built on the foundations of the old

Jesus did not set out to create a new religion – neither did his followers
Jesus fulfilled the Law – he fulfilled the prophets – he fulfilled the prophecies in the Psalms and the other writings
He fulfilled a promise made in the very act of creation

Jesus did not rip up the Old Testament – because if God ripped up the Old Testament, what would stop him ripping up the New?
We can’t trust a God who changes his mind – the basis of our faith is God’s faithfulness

The doctrine of the Trinity is not a simple doctrine
But it’s not a device for papering over cracks
It’s a navigational device
– a tool that shows how texts of many different types point us to the three-personed Deity we believe in
– a way of faithfully discovering more of God in Scripture

15 May 2016, St George’s, High Heaton

No full-blown sermon during worship this week, to make time for our visitors Beverley and Margaret to talk about their work with ex-offenders at Junction42’s Job Club. So here, for Pentecost, are two brief reflections, written as introductions to the inspiring testimony they shared with us.

Romans 8.9-17

You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear

What does it mean, to live according to the Spirit?
Clearly, it means the opposite of living according to the flesh

It’s a state of righteousness instead of sin
It’s a life filled with the expectation of eternal life instead of the judgement of death

The choice would be simple – if we could make it
But this existential choice is humanly very difficult – in fact, totally impossible

We have received the Spirit of adoption that means we are children of God, alive in Christ
Yet clearly we are still alive in the flesh, the children of earthly parents, and still sinning

How do we make the leap into the life of the Spirit?
Not by human will – it’s a spiritual change of heart, enabled by grace

Matthew 6.21 helps explain it: Where your treasure is, your heart will be also
If your treasure is in this world, your heart is bound to the flesh and the curse of death
If your treasure is in heaven, your heart is bound to Jesus Christ and the promise of life

We do not deny the other life exists
But it’s not our real life – it’s not where our treasure is – we don’t invest in it
Our treasure is our new life – our life in the Spirit

What different kind of life is possible for someone alive in the Spirit?
Paul answers that question here – it’s a life without fear

It’s a life not afraid of anything this world can do to us
It’s a life that is not afraid to bear witness
A life confident it possesses something worth witnessing to

It’s a life where you find you have the courage to bear witness in ways you would not have believed possible when you lived the old life

Humble, practical ways – challenging, prophetic ways
Ways that testify to our faith, that there is no life that cannot be redeemed by the gospel of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit

John 14.8-18, 25-27

Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid

in these last few weeks we have been making connections between Jesus’ final teachings, and the events immediately after the resurrection that began to fulfil those teachings

Last week, we heard Jesus’ last words in the upper room from John’s gospel, before he led the disciples out across the Kidron valley to Gethesemane
This week, we go back to the beginning of that last episode of teaching in John

This week, we celebrate Pentecost
A Jewish harvest festival – but not just any harvest festival
This is when Jesus sent his own workers into the fields, to reap a harvest in the Spirit

The lectionary almost gets ahead of itself here – this would clearly be a great reading for Trinity Sunday, which is next week
John shows us Jesus talking about the Spirit as having two roles within the Trinity
The Spirit both reveals the Father, and reminds the disciples of Jesus himself

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father is an astonishing statement
Jesus does more than just lay claim to equality with God the Father
He does more than claim that he is divine – which itself would be a blasphemous claim to Jewish listeners
Jesus says he is one with the Father – which is an incomprehensible claim, to any non-Christian

The one God of Israel is still one god
But, Jesus claims, God has at least two persons – although the idea of God having a ‘person’ in this sense would itself be incomprehensible to a 1st century Jew

Then, Jesus goes further
He talks of the Spirit – and indicates that the Spirit, too, is God

The Spirit, too, is a person – not just a manifestation of God’s presence or influence
So there are not just two persons, but three

The Spirit comes in the name of Jesus – in other words, it brings the very presence of God
The Spirit does what Jesus did: it teaches, it reminds, it brings peace, it drives out fear

That’s the work we need the Spirit to do for us today
To be a constant reminder within us of who we are, in Christ, and what Jesus commanded us to do
To drive out the fear from our hearts
To give God’s people the courage to carry the gospel of hope into situations of defeat and despair
To let people know that, since the resurrection, there is a new life for all of us

8 May 2016, St Cuthbert’s, Heaton

John 17.20-26  Psalm 97

These are very different readings – one is a coronation psalm, the other Jesus’ last words to his disciples, before they left the upper room and crossed the Kidron valley to Gethsemane

But they both in some way speak to us of the great event we remember on Ascension Day
– As Christians, as we read the psalm, we remember how the risen Christ was exalted to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven
– As members of the church, we hear Jesus’ concern that his disciples would forget how to live together in love when he was no longer with him

On Ascension Day we remember how the disciples watched Jesus rise from the ground and disappear into the clouds.
He returned to the Father, as he had said he would, leaving the Holy Spirit with his disciples.

What happens to the physical body of Jesus at this point? Where is the body of Christ today?
The answer is, the physical body of Christ is with the Father, in heaven; but the spirit of Christ is with his followers on earth
The spiritual body of Christ is his church, the church of which Jesus is the head.

These are things we are shown quite plainly in the gospels
The risen Christ has a physical body – he eats with the disciples; he can still only be in one place at one time
Knowing that Christ still has a physical body is crucial to the Reformed church understanding of Communion
If the body of Christ is in heaven, it cannot be physically present in the bread and wine on our Communion table

The physical body of Christ is in heaven – but Jesus also has a physical presence here
We, together, are the body of Christ on earth
We do not have the physical body and blood of Christ – but we have his Spirit

Does our church life reflect this? It will, if we are bound together in love.
The presence of Christ is the love of Christ
The spirit of Christ inspires love, and love makes Jesus Christ present to us

Paul pleads fervently for this love to exist within the church, in his first letter to the Corinthians: God has so arranged the body … that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. (1Co 12:24–26, nrsv)

But the fact that Paul had to write these words tells us at once that this is not what he saw happening in Corinth
I do not suppose it is always what happens in our own churches, either
That compassionate, Christ-like spirit, that puts itself last and constantly tries to build up others who are weaker, often seems to be sadly remote from the body.

The issue comes to the crunch when Paul talks about the Lord’s Supper.
What he says here is still of vital importance for us today.
Unfortunately, it has often been misunderstood.

The misunderstanding arises in these verses: Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1Co 11:27–28, nrsv).

That question of ‘worthiness’ is what has led people astray
It has led us to think of worthiness to receive the sacrament in terms of personal morality.

There is always a risk of distorting the facts when you try to summarise church history
But I hope what I’m going to say is true in broad outline

The medieval church decreed that these words meant worshippers must confess and receive absolution from a priest before receiving communion.
That gave priests and the church a power over individuals that was un-Scriptural and wrong
Because it meant they controlled the means of salvation
It made excommunication a mighty sanction

The Reformed churches rejected a lot of the church’s dogma about Communion
They said, the bread and wine did not physically become Christ’s body and blood
Christ is not dragged down from heaven to earth by the actions of a priest
John Calvin said, what actually happens is that we are raised up spiritually, to where Christ is

But many free churches still came to believe that members’ conduct and belief must be examined by an elder before they could participate in Communion
Communion became an expression of the Law, rather than the grace of Christ

The churches made Communion too special
They celebrated Communion less and less often
Fewer and fewer people considered themselves worthy to participate at all

You may have heard of those great communion festivals in the Highlands
Where people would travel for days to gather in their hundreds
Spend several days filled with prayer and preaching
But then finally, when the time came for Communion, declare themselves unworthy and refuse to partake

Both the medieval church and the Reformers did something very wrong
They made the same mistake
They turned the sacrament of Communion from a sharing in the body and blood of Christ by the whole church, into a transaction between God and an individual believer

They fell into this error because they read Paul’s words out of context.
Paul said, Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1Co 11:28)
But Paul’s real criticism of what the Corinthians were doing in their Communion, is in verse 29: For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves

What is actually at issue for Paul is the Corinthians’ abuse of the spirit of community
Their jealousy and quarrelling (1Co 3.3)
Their love of social status and petty distinctions
Their boasting of what think are the spiritual heights they have attained (1Co 4.8)

The appalling way they behave towards one another at Communion is one sign among many, of their self-centred thinking
They do not discern the body, because they are thinking of themselves.

We think we have risen above the errors of the Corinthians. But have we?
Too much of what we do seems to focus on the serving of each individual rather than the collective sharing of the bread and wine.
Too little of what we do is really based on Scripture
Too much comes down to what we’re used to.

Communion celebrates the presence of the spirit of Christ in the body of Christ on earth, which is the church
The presence of Christ is the love of Christ

Let’s think again. Let’s think how we can make our Communions a true expression of those wonderful words of Paul’s: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:16–17, nrsv).

Tests of the Spirit

Posted: May 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

1 May 2016, St George’s, High Heaton

Acts 16.9-15

The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said

In this season of the church year we look two ways – back to the events of Easter, forward to the coming of the Spirit
The writings that tell us about the events of this time have a case to make – how do Jesus’ followers make the transition, from the ministry of Christ, to the ministry of the church?

The biblical authors have to convince us that this transition was ordained by God, and guided by the Spirit
To convince us, they use all the means at their disposal – the testimony of witnesses, appeals to Scripture, but also techniques of presentation modelled on skills of oratory and rhetoric
The legitimacy of such techniques is one aspect of a much larger question – how do we discern the work of the Spirit, in the context of works of human effort and ingenuity?

Philippi was a city in northern Greece, ten miles from the modern port city of Kavalla
In other words, it’s a European city
This episode tells the story of the foundation of the first Christian community on our own continent

Luke is describing how the Christian church began to conquer the pagan empire of Rome
An empire which at that time stretched across virtually the entire known world
An empire that imposed not just a system of government but a whole way of life across all the lands it controlled

Luke wants us to see this new missionary work as being inspired directly by the Holy Spirit
Paul dreams of a man who pleads with him, saying Come over to Macedonia and help us

If you know much about classical history, you’ll know this part of the story has pagan parallels
The Roman historian Suetonius tells the story of how Julius Caesar marched back towards Rome at the head of an army, after conquering France and Belgium
Caesar was so proud of his campaign, he wrote a book about it

He and his soldiers were about to cross the Rubicon into Italy on their way home when they saw a being of wondrous stature and beauty playing on a flute, and they all stopped to listen
But then this mysterious figure snatched a trumpet from one of the trumpeters, sounded a war-blast, and strode across the river to the opposite bank
This was the sign to Caesar, to continue his march on Rome – where he fought a civil war and turned Rome from a republic, into an empire

Alexander the Great also experienced a vision
He saw the Jewish high priest, encouraging him to embark on a campaign against the Persians that began his conquest of Asia

Just like Caesar and Alexander, Paul receives a supernatural invitation
Luke’s message is that Paul and his mission are of comparable status to Julius Caesar and Alexander and their military campaigns – in fact, even greater

Luke wants us to see is that Paul is a man of destiny
– Like the great conquerors of pagan history and legend
Even though he and his companions are only a few ragged travellers
And they are welcomed only by a few humble women at prayer
A mighty invasion is taking place – but it goes on beneath the radar of the powerful and the mighty

It goes back to Jesus’ words about John the Baptist, in Luke 7.24-25:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? … Someone dressed in soft robes? Those who wear fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces.
It goes back even further, to the magi who thought they would find the new king in Jerusalem, in the palace of Herod

The word is not carried by the generals whose armies march along the roads of the Roman empire
The word is carried by travellers from a small province, whose journey is made possible by the transport infrastructure that supports the empire

The word does not come to the rulers of empire, in their purple togas
The word comes to the humble women who make the purple dye for those expensive robes
Women who would never have been allowed to wear the cloth they helped to make

Luke helps us see these contrasts and ironies by the literary techniques he employs
It is not a case of creating something out of nothing – it is neither falsification, exaggeration, nor misrepresentation
Rather, it is a case of helping us to see the spiritual significance of things we might otherwise miss

This passage is another example of how Luke uses a structural device called ‘ring-composition’
So-called because it’s like the rings of a tree
Something at the beginning of the passage mirrors or parallels something at the end
Something just after the beginning mirrors or parallels something just before the end
And so on, until you find the natural focus or climax of the passage in the middle

At the very beginning, a man invites Paul and his friends to Macedonia
At the very end, Lydia invites Paul and his friends to stay at her house

In verse 10, Paul and his friends are convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news in Macedonia
In verse 14 they get proof, because
The Lord opens [Lydia’s] heart to listen eagerly to the gospel

I said we should find the focus of the passage in the middle, which I would locate in v 13:
On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there

Scholars are confused by this passage
A place of prayer would normally imply a synagogue
But if there was a synagogue in Philippi, surely Paul and his friends would know about it – they wouldn’t have to head out of the city on the off-chance

The women are gathered outside, by the river Gangites – you wonder, where are the men?
The river is two kilometres west of the city – much farther than the 2,000 cubits the Law allowed Jews to walk on the sabbath
So Paul and his friends didn’t go there expecting to find Jewish worshippers

Why did they go there? I’m going to make a wild guess
Paul and his friends didn’t go to the river knowing they would find believers praying there
They didn’t go because someone from the city had told them to go there
They went there, because once again the Spirit had spoken, and told them where to find the people they had to speak to
The people who had been chosen to hear the word

Lydia is the only person whose name we are told. Why is she singled out?
Lydia is very possibly a freed slave: an artisan, possibly a widow, who has prospered in business

Lydia is what Jews of the time called a God-fearer: someone who believes in the God of Israel, but cannot for some reason become a full convert
Perhaps because her job renders her unclean by Jewish standards, Lydia remains a Gentile
This is tremendously significant, because Lydia’s house provides the basis for a model of church
– The model of church most typical of Paul:
– A community built around the household of a Gentile believer

There are anomalies in this passage – some of them down to the state of the text
Others reflecting the fact that Luke is a Christian teacher, not a Gentile historian

What are we to take from this passage?
Above all, the openness of Paul and his followers to the leading of the Spirit
The Spirit is at work all through this passage – in the beginning, middle and end

Unlike pagan oracles, the spiritual signs God gives do not mislead us
But they do test us – as Paul and his friends are tested by Lydia’s invitation
Stay with me, she says – if you have judged me faithful to the Lord
Can you recognise in me what God’s Spirit has done?

The Spirit goes ahead of us and prepares the way
The Spirit leads us to people God intends us to meet
The Spirit is our comfort and protector – but when the Spirit leads us to share the gospel with others, the Spirit is also the one putting our own faith to the test