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The God who is Spirit is everywhere. The God who is Spirit is here.

March 23, 2014

The Samaritan woman (John 4.5-42) may not have been the most respectable of people (far from it) but she was very special. She was special as the perhaps first apostle sent out by Jesus to share his message. And that message? “true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4.23-25).

‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’, that is one of the most famous verses in the Bible, it feels mysterious and powerful, but what does it mean? I would love to have a nice simple answer, but I don’t. I have known that verse for many years now and I’m still puzzling away. I can’t give neat answers but I can invite you to join me in my puzzle.

I know that the God who is Spirit, is everywhere, in everything and above all things. This God is ‘he’ and ‘she’ because he made all things including male and female. I call God ‘he’ simply because as a man I can relate to God better that way. Anyway, the point is I think that God is more than any special place. Holy places are only holy if the God who is Spirit can be encountered there more easily than in other places. Old churches can therefore be special places but only when they are places where the God who is Spirit can be felt. That said this Spirit God can be worshipped anywhere not just in a temple or church.

God is in the trees, and streams, hills and level fields. God is in the city streets too. God is in all places if only we look hard enough. But as I said above, he is easier to recognise in some places. The understanding of God who is Spirit, seems to me to be more about experiencing God rather than about learning facts about him. A spirit can’t be touched or fixed in one place. God is Spirit and will blow where he wills.

Sometimes I will come into one of our wonderful churches and feel the God who is Spirit. I feel him in the air, in the light coming through the windows, in the stone, and in the earth beneath me. Indeed, before I lead worship I always pray that everyone will feel the presence of the God who is Spirit in the worship. Old sites of worship like these often seem to have prayer suffused in the very stones. Prayer and holiness can leave their mark on a place, like a bright dye of God’s presence indelibly marking our places of worship.

Some places are thin. Places where the God who is Spirit, and who is everywhere, can be experienced that little bit more easily. Churches should be such thin places, but so should many other places.

When I pray in a home I also pray that the Spirit may be felt in that place; that the Holy Spirit will guide all thoughts to Jesus: That that home may be a place of blessing to all who live there or enter that place. I see the light of the God who is Spirit coming into that home, pouring in through the windows, up through the floor and from the walls and ceiling. I pray that that home may be a place where Jesus is encountered like Jesus encountered that Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well. I pray that the presence of the God who is Spirit will drive out all evil and corruption from that home and keep safe all who live there.

I pray in the garden and in the countryside. I see the beauty of the growing and living things around me and I see the creativity of the God who is Spirit. I sit or stand and know that I am on holy ground. Any footpath or flowerbed can be a holy place; a place where the walls are thin and the Spirit can be felt. I love those moments, just as I love the created world and its Creator.

But I love it even more when I am granted the privilege of standing somewhere less beautiful and still feeling the close presence of the God who is Spirit. I have been in hospital wards and felt that presence so powerfully. Whether I was praying with someone or arguing about the news or football, sometimes the God who is Spirit just makes his presence felt. The God who is Spirit can do that, anywhere, anytime; a derelict and burnt out house or a rubbish dump can all be holy places for our God.

Sometimes, I can stand in the most holy and beautiful place, be it a church or open space, and feel nothing. All can be dark. All can feel empty, but that does not mean that the God who is Spirit is not there. Sometimes the ability to sense God’s presence is withdrawn. It happens. It is normal. It is then that I learn to trust but it can be hard to hold on in those times. Often it is only when the Spirit can be felt once again that it is clear that the God who is Spirit has always been there; unseen and unrecognised.

Sometimes the God who is Spirit is felt so strongly it is overwhelming. They can be times of healing and prophecy where the love and wisdom of God breaks through into this physical world in power. Healing and prophecy happen. We call them miracles but they are just the natural consequence of the overwhelming presence of the Spirit.

So God is Spirit and those who worship must worship in Spirit and in truth. And so I am sharing something of the Truth that I am puzzling over. I am trying to be honest as I share… as I try to be truthful and honest in my worship.

God is everywhere, God is here with me now. Through the Spirit, Jesus is here now, like he was with that Samaritan woman. I strain to hear what he is saying to me. I pause and listen. He tells me everything I ever did – it hurts and is wonderful both at the same time. I am being sent out again from this holy place to share what I’ve experienced of Jesus here. Again, just like that Samaritan woman.

The God who is Spirit is everywhere. The God who is Spirit is here.

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2 Comments
  1. Thanks and God bless, Nigel.

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  1. Praying to the Holy Spirit for physical healing | Disciples of hope

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