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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Experiences of the Spirit

On page 17 of "The Spirit of Life" Juergen Moltmann explained that by experience(s) of the Spirit he means "an awareness of God in, with and beneath the experience of life, which gives us an assurance of God's fellowship, friendship and love."

Moltmann goes on to develop this concept of "experience of the Spirit" but I want to draw out from this quote some thoughts that touch upon my own day-to-day life experiences.

As a man I have many roles and aspects and one of them is that I supervise teams of gardeners. I work 3 days a week and I take a team of 4 men out on gardening jobs across Newcastle, NSW. The men who work on the program are all diagnosed with a psychiatric illness.

You will notice that I refer to them, in the first instance, as men. The second aspect of their situation relates to the reason why they work under my supervision. These men are varied, interesting and special men each in their own unique way. I am not sure of all that I am contributing to their lives but they are teaching me a great deal as well as presenting me with many questions.

One common theme arises out of one of my other "roles"; that of an ordained Baptist Minister. This aspect of my personhood opens up discussion, critique, complaints, fears and hopes but I find, consistently, that the Church is not held in high regard and is, in many instances, seen to be irrelevant to the lives and situations of these men.

When I encounter these discussions I realise that there are no easy answers, I agree with some of the critiques of the Christian Church and I hold out, and search for, hope in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Moltmann quote begins by saying that an experience of God can be characterised by "an awareness of God in, with and beneath the experience of life". That is such a beautiful concept. The men that I have the privilege to work with do not need dogmatism and religion. What they need is to know this awareness of God in, with and beneath their experience of life.

This, I believe, means that an awareness of God needs to touch directly upon and be comprehensible for each and every circumstance of life. For all of us life is a fluctuating journey but for people with psychiatric illnesses, to take this current example, life can be very bleak, it can be exhilerating and it can be confusing and overwhelming. I suggest that the experience of God that I seek to share and explain with these men needs to move in, with and beneath their experience of life.

This fact, in turn, leads on to a situation "which gives (people) an assurance of God's fellowship, friendship and love." Surely this should be the motivation for any witness to God; that it leads people to an assurance of God's fellowship, friendship and love.

Out of these three facets of God's character can flow a transformative effect upon broken people in terms of leading them into an understanding of fellowship. To know God's friendship is a deep journey into mutual trust and acceptance. Then there is the assurance of God's love. All of us need to have a deep assurance of unconditional love. What if the witness of Christians led people, of all manner and situations, into an assurance of God's love. What a goal.

I am only walking on the beginning of this journey and am take stumbling steps towards communicating God's love with those who come into the orbit of my life. I pray to God that I may be bolder, more courageous and wiser in my witness.

1 comment:

Joey Cavalier said...

Hey Les, Thank you for your encouraging, truthful comment on my blog about Non-christian music...You might know Christopher from the Moltmann website; I am a friend of Chris...I didn't have much time but I will be back on your blog to check out your posts (past and recent) so that we can have mutually beneficial, theological dialogue...Off to work I go, blessings on you brotha...

Theologian Joe