Alpha Retreat: Intro Sermon
The first of Nicky Gumbel's video we watched was on Firday night and served as an introduction to the weekend series of videos about the Holy Spirit.
First, I'd just like to say that Gumbel's focus on the Holy Spirit is a little weird and intense. For instance, the Alpha Course has three sermons on the Holy Spirit and only two on Jesus. The self-proclaimed "highlight" of the course is the last day of the retreat when participants are encouraged to invite the Holy Spirit into their lives (sometimes resulting in manifestations such as speaking in tongues, seizures, etc). In fact, if you search for "Alpha Course and criticism" on Google, the bulk will actually be from other Christians criticizing Gumbel's Holy Spirit-oriented, aka "charismatic", views.
For reasons that escape me, because it didn't have anything to do with the Holy Spirit, Gumbel started off with an amusing story about a criminal in a church. A suspect on the run from police is seen entering a church during a service. The police discretely flag down the pastor and tell him that a criminal is sitting with his congregation, and that they're going to have to storm the place looking for him. The pastor doesn't like this idea, and gets the police to agree to another scheme. The pastor asks all members of the congregation and all their guests to come to the front to witness a baptism. This leaves just one guy sitting down, who the police pounce upon and take away. It is later discovered that he wasn't the criminal, instead, he was just a poor guy coming to church for the first time.
Finally getting into the meat of the sermon, Gumbel started to explain what the Holy Spirit was. He explained that the Holy Spirit, not "Holy Ghost", was a "he" not an "it" and he thinks, grieves, etc. From this perspective, the Holy Spirit is typically neglected.
The Holy Spirit was "sent by Jesus from the Father." Huh? That's one thing I really, really hate about Christianity the more I have to listen to it - how they have to get all three parts of the trinity involved in everything. It's meaningless. Hell, most of the time Gumbel uses "Jesus" and "Holy Spirit" seemingly interchangibly.
He said he thinks that everyone has a "cosmic loneliness, a homesickness for God." This has been hammered home many times, and I'm sick of this one too.
Finally, Gumbel got around to explain a little more about what the Holy Spirit is all about. It (sorry, not a He) is described by the Greek word paraklatos, which means "one who comes alongside." He told the story of a guy in a little airplane. The pilot suddenly died of a massive heartattack. The man was able to steady the plane and radio for help. Fortunately, a flying instructor was listening and scrambled up to help. Conversing on the radio with the troubled man, they established that he didn't have a clue how to land a plane. So the instructor flew alongside him and told him to just do what he (the instructor) did. This way, the instructor was able to guide the man down to a safe landing. "Thank God," said the man. "You're welcome," the instructor replied. Totally missing in this story was the irony that it really was a skilled, human good-guy who saved the man, not God at all. Don't expect your average Alpha attendee to notice.