Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Gospel According to Myers-Briggs

The insights of Myers-Briggs into how human personalities fundamentally differ in quite interesting ways, has radical implications for preaching.

Below is a scanned-in section of a Myers-Briggs inspired commentary on the Gospel reading for Pentecost (John 15:26-7 & 16:4b-15). As someone who has been preaching for a fair few years it is humbling to think how what I consider to be a good sermon may mean nothing at all to someone else...!

What follows is taken from Exploring Mark's Gospel, An Aid for Readers and Preachers Using Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary, by L. J. Francis & P. Atkins (pp. 224-7).


Context

At the supper table immediately prior to his betrayal, Jesus promised his disciples that, after he is taken away from them he will send to them the Spirit of truth, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The promise was fulfilled on Pentecost Sunday.

Sensing

Sometimes a good picture can say so much more than a whole book full of words. On that first Pentecost Sunday, the church was given a profound picture concerning the nature of God the Holy Spirit The Holy Spirit came to those eleven disciples like a mighty rushing wind. Forget the words, and for now just live for the picture.

The Spirit came like a mighty rushing wind, and the wind is right here. Open your eyes and look for the wind. At first you see nothing. Then you remember how you see the wind blow the washing on the line, how the clothes hanging there are brought to life. You remember how you see the wind pick up sheets of paper and blow them along the street. In the same way, you can see the effects of the Holy Spirit on the lives of people.

The Spirit came like a mighty rushing wind, and the wind is right here. Stretch out your hands and touch the wind. At first you feel nothing. Then you remember how you feel the wind blow you along the promenade on a blustery day, transforming your whole experience. You remember how the wind blows sailing boats through the sea and tugs the child's kite into the sky. In the same way, you can feel the effects of the Holy Spirit on the lives of people.

The Spirit came like a mighty rushing wind, and the wind is right here. Prick up your ears and listen to the wind. At first you hear nothing. Then you remember how you hear the wind rustle through the trees and give voice to the voiceless branches. You remember how you hear the wind slams doors shut and rattles the dustbin lids. In the same way, you can hear the effects of the Holy Spirit on the lives of people.

Sometimes a good picture can say so much more than a whole book full of words. Forget the words, and for now just live the picture.

Intuition

Sometimes a good image can stimulate the imagination and spark ideas so much better than a whole book full of words. On that first Pentecost Sunday the church was given a profound image concerning the nature of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came to those chosen disciples like tongues of fire. Now what ideas does that image start running in your mind?

Imagine the ancient world without the discovery of fire, for fire gives light in the darkness. Without fire, when the sun goes down, the world is left in darkness. Does not the Holy Spirit bring light into our lives? Then pray that this fire may illuminate the whole world!
Imagine the ancient world without the discovery of fire, for fire brings warmth in the coldness. Without fire, when the snow falls and the ice sits thick on the lake, the world is left shivering in the cold. Does not the Holy Spirit bring warmth into our hearts? Then pray that this fire may warm the hearts of all people!

Imagine the ancient world without the discovery of fire, for fire cooks our food and kills unwelcome bacteria. Without fire, bread cannot be baked, fish cannot be grilled, vegetables cannot be transformed. Does not the Holy Spirit feed our souls with the food of immortality? Then pray that this fire may feed the spiritual quest of all nations!

Imagine the ancient world without the discovery of fire, for fire refines the metals from the rich deposits in the earth. Without fire gold and silver cannot be fashioned into artefacts of beauty; iron and bronze cannot be forged into objects of utility. Does not the Holy Spirit refine the base metal of our lives for the greater glory of God Then pray that this refiners' fire may transform the human race!

The Holy Spirit came to those chosen disciples like tongues of fire. Now what ideas does that image start running in your mind?

Feeling

Jesus offered his disciples many different images through which they could explore their experience of God the Holy Spirit. The image of the Paraclete is one of the most encouraging and enheartening. Sometimes translated as 'Advocate', the word Paraclete means literally 'the one who is called to stand alongside'.

Ever since that first Pentecost Sunday, Christian men and women have been very conscious of God the Holy Spirit being called alongside them as Paraclete in their time of need. Listen to the accounts of the early disciples in the Acts of the Apostles. Remember how, when they were in prison, the Paraclete came to stand alongside them. Remember how, when they were on trial for their faith, the Paraclete came to put words into their mouths. Remember how, when they were martyred, the Paraclete brought them comfort.

Ever since that first Pentecost Sunday, Christian men and women have been very conscious of God the Holy Spirit being called alongside them as Paraclete in their time of need. Listen to the accounts of Christian disciples across the world today. Hear how, when followers of Jesus are imprisoned for their faith, the Paraclete still comes to stand alongside them. Hear how, when they are on trial for their faith, the Paraclete still puts words into their mouths. Hear how, when they face death for the sake of their faith, the Paraclete still brings them comfort.

Ever since that first Pentecost Sunday, Christian men and women have been very conscious of God the Holy Spirit being called alongside them as Paraclete in their time of need. Listen to the accounts of Christian disciples in your own congregation. Hear how, when followers of Jesus are under stress and fatigue, they become aware of the Paraclete called to stand alongside them. Hear how, when they are sick and in great pain, they become aware of the Paraclete called to stand alongside them. Hear how, when they face the hour of death, they become aware of the Paraclete called to stand alongside them.

The image of the Holy Spirit as Paraclete is both encouraging and enheartening.

Thinking

Jesus offered his disciples many different images through which they could express their understanding of God the Holy Spirit. The image of the Spirit of truth is one of the most challenging and controversial.

Throughout the ages, from that very first Pentecost Sunday, the church of Christ has been committed to truth. The danger is that we sometimes imagine that we have got it right from the very beginning, that all truth has been established and communicated in the past. But listen carefully to the words of scripture.

Listen carefully to Jesus' promise to his disciples. Jesus said, 'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.' The verb 'guide' is of extreme interest and great significance. It seems unlikely, therefore, that the Spirit of truth plans to reveal or to present all the answers complete and final for human acceptance. A guide may show the way, but nonetheless still expects us to make the journey of discovery for ourselves. It is worth taking the verb very seriously.

Listen carefully to Jesus' promise to the disciples. Jesus said, 'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.' The future tense 'will' is of extreme interest and great significance. It seems unlikely, therefore, that the Spirit of truth intended to have retired from the appointed task as guide shortly after the first Pentecost Sunday. A guide who remains active in the church is day by day leading the people of God to grasp new insights and new truths of the kingdom. It is worth taking the tense seriously.

Listen carefully to Jesus' promise to his disciples. Jesus said, 'When the Spirit of truth comes 'he will guide you into all the truth.' The qualifier 'all' is of extreme interest and great significance. The church continues to struggle with issues of huge significance, issues of doctrine, issues of practice and issues of morality. On many of these issues, is it not arrogance and foolishness to claim that our view of the truth is complete? Our guide remains with us as the quest for all truth goes on. It is worth taking the qualifier seriously.

The image of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth is one of the most challenging and controversial.

1 Comments:

At 4:59 am, August 15, 2012, Blogger Lois Siemens said...

This is incredibly helpful! I am completely opposite of my congregation and will use this to help shape my sermons. Thank you.

 

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