July 2023

‘My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear’.  Haggai 2.5 (NIV).

When the ­first wave of exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., they began to rebuild the Temple but soon became discouraged. The prophet Haggai and later Zechariah both encouraged the exiles and the task was ­finally completed in 516 B.C. Haggai had criticised them for living in ‘panelled houses’ while the ‘House of God’ remained in ruins and he reminded the people that their wealth alone would not be enough to complete the rebuild. They needed and could have God's presence to stay with them to prevent them being fearful and becoming discouraged.

For differing reasons, as human beings we also seek this reassurance from God as we face uncertainty and challenge. God’s touch of love sustains us in our feelings of wellbeing and in our anxiety can give us an assurance of deep peace. If we feel we are facing an anxious future, we can cry with the Psalmist: ‘Out of the deeps I cry to you O Lord’. And we can ask, as Jim Cotter’s adaptation of ‘A Gathering Prayer’ by Bishop George Appleton does: ‘Give me a candle of the spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being ... give me freedom to grow, that I may become that self, the seed of which you planted in me at my making’.

As we strive to become the people God would have us be, we are given the assurance that God's spirit will strengthen us as we journey on. Ezekiel says: ‘I will put my spirit in you and you will come to life’ (37.5) and in Joshua we read ‘Be strong and very courageous’ (1.9). The spirit and breath are invisible but powerful. Martin Tunnicliffe’s Within Thy Silence reminds us: ‘All of our thoughts happen in the air element. Our greatest thoughts come to us from the generosity of the air. It is here that the idea of inspiration is rooted, you inspire or breathe in the thoughts concealed in the air element. Inspiration can never be programmed. You can prepare, making yourself ready to be inspired, yet it is spontaneous and unpredictable. It breaks the pattern of repetition and expectation. Inspiration is always a surprising visitor’. May July’s Saying enable us to feel the breath of God’s spirit and its inspiration in our hearts and lives.