The Minister’s Pastoral Letter



Pentecost  is coming up soon.  We usually think of how the Holy Spirit transformed the early followers of Jesus into courageous and effective witnesses.  Here  I want to focus on what John’s gospel says about the Holy Spirit and truth.   Jesus declares. “I have many things to teach you but you cannot cope with them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth” (16.12- 13).

We need the truth not only because of the fake news that misleads us but because there is much we need to know, much we need to learn.  The early church discovered this.  The Holy Spirit helped it break free from its Jewish cradle so that it could evangelize the Gentile world.  At the Reformation the Holy Spirit helped Luther and the moribund church discover new  life.  It was the Spirit  that  urged the churches to launch out in world mission.  Think of  the founding of the London Missionary Society in 1795.  Think too of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis’ reforming work today.   The Spirit is helping us now as we seek  to understand what form the church should have in this rapidly changing world.

Our text tells us the Spirit will guide us into the full truth. Our limited knowledge means that what we  believe is the truth may in fact be a half truth. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead declared ‘There are no whole truths. All truths are half truths.’  How  very important  to pray for the Spirit’s guidance so that we are not misled by what is only partly true.

The doctrine of  relativism would have us believe that truth is not absolute but relative to one’s particular presuppositions and views.  In fact relativism inherently contradicts  itself; it uses some criterion or other , absolute to judge and reject truth.

So how does the Holy Spirit guide us?  It is through a combination of sources that we are guided  -God’s  word, experience, church tradition , reason and culture.. In other words, it is through a multiplicity of particular sources, scripture being the primary source of revelation of truth.

Let us never forget that what is important is not only seeking and knowing the truth but also obeying it.   St. Paul has a lot to say about  obeying  the truth (Gal.5.7; 2 Cor.13.8).

And let us be clear that paying attention to what God has to reveal to us is our never-ending calling.  The epigram dear to our particular church tradition  declares   – ‘The Lord has yet more light and truth to  break forth out of his holy Word.’   Very properly our hymn book  connects the Word and the Spirit.  Thus George Caird’s hymn says

               For  each new step of faith we take

                you have more truth and light to break

               forth from your holy word   (see Rejoice and Sing 318)

We discover truth as we trust   the Holy Spirit and  step out in faith.  Let us pray that this will be our experience as  we  seek to know God ‘s will  .