Somewhere between Pentecost and Trinity with Psalm 139

Last Sunday was, as you know, Pentecost. The imagery of Pentecost was even more powerful this year, in our context of social isolation, than usual for as we read from the Acts of the Apostles we heard how the Holy Spirit came into the locked upper room and brought God’s power and fire into the lives of the 120 or so believers who were gathered there. We needed the reminder that there are no doors that are locked against the Holy Spirit, no restrictions of the presence of God’s power.

The archbishop of Canterbury, in his Pentecost service, used as one of his readings a passage from Psalm 139.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

I strongly recommend you re-read the whole of the psalm again.

I have loved this psalm for as long as I have known it. It was a guide and reassurance in the days when I was back-packing around Europe on my own, it was strength in dark days when depression could leave me feeling profoundly isolated and now it is the promise that no one – however isolated by lock down, shielding or illness – is separated from God’s presence. The whole psalm celebrates the uniqueness of each person and reminds us that everyone in the world – whoever or whatever they are – are part of God’s loving creation. (A message we need particularly at this time as we are challenged by what is happening in America at present.) It speaks of God’s Spirit seeking and finding us but I believe it also speaks of Christ reaching out and holding us. Jesus is the eternal light that no darkness can ever overcome. So this psalm is not only a wonderful reminder of the presence of God’s Spirit at Pentecost but it also leads us forwards to the celebration of God as Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Trinity is the mystery that is our God – one yet three – and this psalm helps us glimpse a little of what that means. God the creator, utterly involved in his creation and loving it completely; God the Son, the light that shatters darkness and the love that draws us into an everlasting relationship with the Father; and God the Holy Spirit who searches for us and guides us, where ever we go.

Although lock down is easing and many of us are now able to enjoy a little time with friends and family, with great care, it stills feels as if the way forward is hidden from us.  So Psalm 139 is a perfect psalm for this time. It teaches us to trust in our God who knows our path and is there before and behinds us; who is our light even in the darkest time and in whom there is no darkness; and whose Spirit will be with us – now and always. So let us trust him to lead us in the way everlasting.