Robert's Ruminations

The thoughts of Revd. Robert, Minister for Emmanuel, Ilfracombe

Locked doors

The French writer Jean-Paul Sartre wanted to explore the agony of many human beings who feel trapped in the midst of life. He wrote a play about hell, and gave it a suitable title: ‘No Exit’. In this play three people arrive in hell, which consists of a large sitting-room with mirrors around the walls. There is no exit in the room, and no intermission in the action. The three characters are on stage all the time since they are condemned to spend eternity together without leaving the room.

They pass the time reflecting on what has happened in the past, but they cannot use that to change their lives now. As they remain locked within the room, the final line of the play is, "Let's go." But of course, they can go nowhere. For them hell is being tied to a past and a present that cannot be changed. They have no prospect of a future that is different from the present time. All they have is mirrors. And that is hell!

It is one thing to be locked in a room with no exit. It is another thing to lock yourself in a room because you believe that the world beyond the door is hostile, and that if you leave the room you will meet with certain death. This is what the disciples did following the death and resurrection of Jesus. They were so afraid of what might happen to them and what the authorities might do to them if they hunted them down, that they locked themselves in a room and stayed there, unsure of what the future held. They are in a room that just mirrors their fears and provides no exit for them. For them, it must have been hell.

However, into this room of trapped people Jesus comes with peace. He breathes the Holy Spirit on his disheartened followers. As the risen Jesus breathes on them, the disciples breathe in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the breath they take on Easter Sunday evening, the breath that gives them all new heart as they receive it like ‘tongues of fire’ at Pentecost.

Only in the gift of the Spirit is fear changed into freedom. Only in the Spirit are the disciples empowered to understand the past anew and see the future with hope. The Holy Spirit is the exit from the hopelessness of being locked into a cruel and fearful past. The Spirit is the exit that leads into the streets and the market-places where legions of people may seem to walk freely, but where so many feel trapped in their own lives. Through the disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit will reach these people. For the disciples are commissioned to breathe out as they have breathed in; to share this new Spirit with the multitude of peoples whose lives are hell without it.

That same Spirit of God is in our midst today - it is the same Spirit "working in all sorts of ways in different people". The Spirit is not shy of difference, but is free to deal with people as individuals all of whom have a variety of gifts. Part of our own task is to discover how the Spirit has gifted us in individual ways, and to appreciate the Spirit's different gifts in other people. In the Spirit, difference has a future.

None of us are the same, and a sorry world it would be if that were true. We are each individual and unique, and it is that uniqueness that enables us to witness for Christ in the world today, because others can always find something of God in those people they meet – yes, even in us!!

In Jerusalem at Pentecost, all those there, even though many were foreigners from different lands, they all heard the message of the disciples in their own language. Let us speak out the message of Christ today in the sure and certain knowledge that we will be heard if we speak loud enough and with conviction. Others are waiting to hear – let us be prepared to speak out and break open the locked dorrs!!

Every blessing,


Christian Tolerance
The Everywhereness of God


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Thursday, 05 December 2019

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