David, the Holy Spirit, and me? (2)

Baseball promoLast 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.

Idiot's GuideAs 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.

hate1So 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.

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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’.

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David, the Holy Spirit, and me? (1)

Chagall David
I imagine David, God’s chosen warrior King (and poet in residence) in Judah, sitting down to write another song, and wondering where to begin. He had often experienced a sort of inspiration that even he did not completely understand and now, looking through those earlier psalms and maybe hearing the instruments and the voices fresh in his mind, there was the thought that never quite left him. How did I do that? How can I do it again?

 

When Samuel anointed David as King in Saul’s place, ‘the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward’ (1Samuel 16:13 ESV) and though it would be some time before David came to the throne, his life, from that day at Bethlehem, was lived in the inescapable presence of God.

David again
There were times when David probably wished it wasn’t so. The early excitement of life in Saul’s court quickly took a sinister turn as God withdrew his Spirit from Saul and David found himself the prime target for the King’s jealousy and madness.

 

Later, there would be moments, when faced with the opportunities for sin that power presented, David may have wished he could feel the presence of God less; that the ‘rush’ of the Spirit would be replaced with a warm glow, a happy affirmation; an effective but less demanding presence in his life.

Beginnings are almost always difficult…‘The Lord is…’, ‘The LORD is?’ “The LORD is a…’ ‘The LORD is our…’ Until at last, moved to recall God’s beginnings with him, his earliest sense of the Spirit at work in his own life; the protection and guidance and nourishment that had surrounded him while he cared for his father’s sheep and when he fought Israel’s enemies, David wrote, ‘The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…’ (Psalm 23)

David’s image of the God of Israel as his shepherd is a recurring theme that finds its great fulfillment in Jesus, who lays down his life for his Father’s sheep; in Jesus the Good Shepherd, the King of Kings, and servant to both his Father and his sheep.

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Why ‘David, the Holy Spirit, and me?’

This new series of posts aims to share something of David’s experience of the Holy Spirit as Shepherd and to think over what it means that he is our shepherd too; but not just David’s and not just ours, but Shepherd for all the sheep who come to him, for goodness and mercy all the days of their lives.