Article 39 : Letters from the desk of a Great-Grandfather
Come, Holy Spirit.
At the Service of Remembrance for the Unknown Soldier last November, the Archbishop of Canterbury got up to deliver the sermon and began with a simple prayer- "Come Holy Spirit." My attention was immediately captured and I waited to see if anything was going to happen - Prince Charles falling off his chair, or Camilla getting the giggles! Sadly, there was no repeat of the scenes we have witnessed in recent years when remarkable things took place as the Spirit came in power and people were physically touched by God.
It didn't begin with us. John Wesley saw it in the Weardale Revival in 1770. Folk expressed their godly enthusiasm in Rainton Chapel in 1870 by running from the back of the church to the front - on the pew backs! More recently, in 1970, the mainline churches enjoyed an invasion of the Holy Ghost, spiritual gifts were almost commonplace, and the John Wimber / Vineyard ministries saw people shaking all over the place. Even more recently still of course, Toronto.
But the violent physical manifestations were only a minor part. It was a very strong sense of the Presence of God that pervaded the place and people's lives. When they were touched or prayed over, they would often fall and then lie on the floor enjoying a wonderful experience of closeness to Him. Sometimes we would bypass the intermediate steps and go straight to "resting / soaking" in the Spirit. We didn't all get up with "shining faces", but we were and still are affected by it. You cannot be touched by the finger of God, linger in his immediate presence and not be marked by it. A dear friend of ours, a very tall man, used to remark about going into the meeting 6'4" and coming out 4'6" as he couldn't stand straight with the weight of the Spirit.
A man in the Old Testament knew all about this presence - Obed-Edom. You can read about him in 1 Chronicles 13 onwards. Please read on a few chapters or you'll miss the best bits! He had the Ark in his house for three months after David's badly planned mission went wrong. For all that time he enjoyed very close fellowship with the Presence of God. It blessed him and all his family so much that he became addicted. So when the Ark moved on to its new home in Jerusalem and the new worship arrangements were set up, he had to be involved in all of it. He became a singer, a gatekeeper, a harpist in the band and even one who ministered before the Lord, Anything to stay close to the Presence!
There are those special moments we have known in our gatherings when suddenly God seemed very close and everything stopped. We stood in silence and awe. The aim of soaking in the Spirit is to achieve such a quietness and closeness over a period of time, not just for a moment. But it takes time, effort, perseverance on our part. God isn't like a waiter who can be summoned in a few seconds. He comes to us slowly, quietly, almost as if vulnerable. As Pastor Tim has been urging, we must begin by approaching Him and as we wait, He will draw near to us. God forbid we should ever be folk who have many wonderful memories of the Holy Spirit but little present experience. The thing is, God never went away. We stopped seeking him out.
But coming into his immediate presence is a wonderful privilege and rewarding experience. We need to find a comfortable place, set time aside, ask him to come, and be prepared to wait. One thing about the Spirit - if we talk about him, he always turns up. I sense his presence even as I write these words. For some of us, it's like "coming home", for in truth we don't want to be anywhere else.
Stay safe. Stay distanced. Stay soaking.