Last weekend in Sydney, at the Cricket Ground, Major League Baseball teams from Los Angeles (Dodgers) and Arizona (Diamondbacks) played the opening games of their season; both were a very long way from a home ground advantage. Despite repeated public comments to the contrary, it was obvious that most players agreed with the one who admitted to feeling ‘zero excitement’ when first informed of his employers’ decision to send him to Australia. At least he could take some comfort from the fact that he was better paid than the first British convicts sent to these distant shores in 1788; and he was allowed to go home.
As an Australian I cringed at the ‘zero excitement’ comment and as a cricket fan (one of a billion or so of us around the world) I cringed at the no-doubt-well-intentioned remarks of the American commentators regarding the history and nature of the game we will all be playing in heaven; to my (unrepentantly) biased ears, they came across as the worst kind of patronizing (the kind born of the union of ignorance with certainty). We were clearly not reading from the same page of The Idiot’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Pastimes.
Maybe you are wondering what all this has to do with King David, the Holy Spirit and me? It reminded me of the power of the sometimes silly opinions that divide us (and the sometimes terrifying prejudices that unite us) not just across our planet but within our cities and, sadly, our churches and our families too; whether it’s a matter of sport, or politics, or religion, what unites us is also what divides us.
So that there really are two sorts of people in the world, me and you; and the older I get the more ready I am to accept that, this side of heaven (if any of you actually get to join me there) it is not just impossible that we will ever agree on everything, it is possible we may never entirely agree on anything.
I am not (I hope) as cynical as I sound; my tongue was pretty much in my cheek as I typed that last paragraph. But I did turn seventeen in 1970 along with a score or two of my conservative suburban Baptist Church peers (some, friends) and I still feel, all these years afterwards, the distress of the separation that grew between us over the place of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our young but, by Grace, genuine Christian lives.
I think it’s these memories that have contributed most to my delays in moving on with this series of posts (even though the original material was written almost twenty years ago).
However firmly my (conservative suburban Baptist Church) opinions may be set by now they are grounded, I hope, in a better understanding of the scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments; an understanding that rests (quite serenely most of the time) in verses like these from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV
The Spirit of Jesus who fills his disciples now and to the end, ever the same, is the one who rushed upon David at his anointing never to leave him; our Good Shepherd whose person and work David described from his own rich experience in what we know as his 23rd Psalm and that is an experience we may all share ‘in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’.