There was an implication in my last one that the sort of faith I was fed in my youth, concentrating as it did on the fear of God and with its image of the Father as a stern but just judge, was not one which, when the winds of change hit, turned to have deep roots. That may, of course, just have been my view, but I don’t think it was; I think, though, it was superficial. For those who just went because it was ‘the thing to do’, that was what they came with and took away. But it wasn’t true for all of us. Some of us may have come for that, or because of that, but we acquired something else in the process – and that can best be called the ‘new spirit’ of which the New Testament speaks. Christ’s living word evangelised us.
I sometimes think that the way our faith is taught focusses too much on the two great festivals – Easter and Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the Resurrection and the Incarnation are not vitally important – but I am saying that are not everything. Catholics now, I think, number Sundays outside festivals as ‘in ordinary time’. I don’t know the derivation of that, but don’t like what (perhaps wrongly) I take to be the implication. For me, studying and reflecting on Christ’s mission during the Incarnation and before the Resurrection were what struck deep roots. Luke hit home hardest.
In Luke I encountered a Saviour who reached out to the marginalised and the sinner, indeed to those marginalised by their sins, and who prayed and told me prayer was important. So I tried to do the same, and the prayer mattered more than I could have known. I’d come to prayer as part of the code – we asked God for things, and we praised him. The Lord’s prayer apart, I found it hard, still do. I am not good with extempore prayer – and that helped me. It was in the silences when I had given up struggling to find words that there was a still, small voice to be heard. So I developed my own habit of being silent and just being there with God. I recall once telling a friend this, and he described it as ‘like sunbathing’ I’ll take his word, we don’t get enough sun in these parts, though we get plenty of the other stuff in which you can really bathe; but it expresses it well enough. It is a suffusing of God’s presence. Jesus told us he must preach the good news of the Kingdom (Lk 4:23) – and that Kingdom was not in the future, it was now – or could be.
The Spirit gives life, we are told, but there was a condition – that could happen only once Jesus had died for us (Lk7.39b). The Kingdom of God is what happens when the Spirit comes, or so it seemed, and seems still, to me. God is love, and light, and in that love we are loved, and by that light we are lit.
Only on reflection did it occur to me that this was my own out working of the doctrine of the Trinity. Concentration on the Father alone gave an unbalanced and shallow faith, only through the Son and the Spirit could balance be found and the deep wellsprings of faith be tapped. That being so, I stayed where I was because it was where God in fullness was. I know that for others that fullness is, they say, found in their churches. I’ve nothing against that, and indeed, once I had come to it myself, I renounced denominational rivalry. If a fellow believes he’s found the fullness of the Trinity in his church, I am glad for him – or her. And long before it became a suspect phrase, ‘who am I to judge?’ was on my lips. Not as a refuge in relativism, but as a surrender to the infinity of God’s mercy. These things are too high for me, I know only that me and my house serve the Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the Trinity which deepened and balanced my faith and which struck roots which have withstood the tempests. I’ve a sense it’s so for all believers, so I let the theologians argue – and go away to a quiet place where that still, small voice is found – and I thank God for his mercies.