Sunday 4 June 2017: Pentecost

Sermon: Pentecost
Sunday 4 June 2017
The Revd Canon Karen Rooms, Canon Missioner

THE HOLY SPIRIT DISRUPTING – DISINHIBITING – DIVERSIFYING

Come Holy Spirit

This morning we find ourselves shocked again by news of violence on our streets; the big question about the future sustainability of human activity and the balance of our climate and environment may be on our minds, and of course we have a choice to make on Thursday about the government of our country… never mind the more immediate matters that we are carrying…

So as we celebrate the festival of Pentecost and pray for the coming of the Holy spirit, the question is, ‘Who is the Holy Spirit’?

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON.

As Christians we believe in one God in three persons. This is a uniquely Christian understanding.

John’s Gospel in particular spells out the closeness, the oneness of the Father and the Son. Jesus says, ‘I and the Father are one’; ‘all that I see the Father do, I do’; ‘all mine are yours, and yours are mine’. From within this closeness of relationship, Jesus promises another, the Holy Spirit. ‘I will go and another will come to you.’

The Holy Spirit is a person. Like Jesus. Like the Father. Another person in the ‘I and the Father are oneness of God’.

So we don’t believe in the Father, the Son and the Power or the Father, the Son and the electricity or the Father, the Son and the wind, or the Father, the Son and the fire.

The Holy Spirit is not a thing; not an ‘it’; not an energy; not a wind; not a fire; not a feeling.

Neither is the Holy Spirit limited to being present in a particular place and time like Jesus, who, being fully human and fully divine has taken our humanity into the heart of God, something we celebrated at Ascension.

The Holy Spirit gives themselves in a similar act of self giving, to that of the Father and the Son. But the Spirit gives him/herself to the many, unrestricted by the particularity of time and place. The Holy Spirit joins in that movement from the heart of God, of pouring out their love to be with us, humbling themselves to be in us. The coming of the Spirit is that same self emptying action that Jesus made (Philippians 2). Because God likes us. He likes you and he likes me, and wants our company, and to be with us..

The Holy Spirit is a person.

William Young’s novel The Shack offers a helpful portrayal of God in 3 persons.

God is experienced by the protagonist as a motherly African-Caribbean woman, a middle eastern labourer, and an Asian woman who is slight, and ’easier to see out of the corner of your eye’.

The Holy Spirit is the person of God seen out of the corner of our eyes, who comes alongside and whose presence fills the disciples who have been praying and waiting and wondering and hanging on to words that Jesus said to them, ‘wait for the promise of the Father’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’. The Holy Spirit is the experience of God with us, really with us in the here and now of today, promised to all who would follow Christ.

Come Holy Spirit

SPOTTING THE ACTIVITY OF GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

Luke in this account in the book of Acts, is very clear in writing about how this coming of the HS was experienced. I want to invite you to reflect on that and think about it. So how do we recognise the work of the Holy Spirit today? What might we be looking for?

Who is the Holy Spirit? A DISRUPTING PRESENCE:

The disciples are hidden away, anxious about the religious authorities, and taking comfort with each other, and the Holy Spirit comes to them with a sound like the rush of a violent wind and like the presence of fire. Both of these descriptions are powerful. This is a disrupting presence: shaking everything to a tremble, igniting all that is touched.  These men and women are driven out into the streets into public space, and we see Jesus’ words ringing loud and clear, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ God knows they need to get out more!

How much do you like disruption – the unexpected shaking everything up, knocking you off balance? Let’s be honest, we don’t like it very much. It can make us feel insecure. But God is unsettling. Literally. He calls people to leave the familiar and follow callings: to build a giant rescue boat; in Abram he asks a family to up sticks and travel to a new country; he pulls a nation into the desert to be nomads under the leadership of Moses; later that broken nation  rediscovers his love in exile; he calls the unlikeliest of zealots, tax collectors and fishermen to follow… so why would he work any differently with those who would still follow Jesus? The Holy Spirit is a disrupting presence.

Come Holy Spirit

So as you reflect on some of the changes in your life, and in your institutions and workplaces, even this cathedral, in the last months and year or two, might the disrupting indicate the agency of the Holy Spirit in a glorious act of
reshaping things and a creative invitation to adapt to new circumstances?

Who is the Holy Spirit? A DISINHIBITING PRESENCE:

People are bewildered at the behaviour, confidence and speaking of this group of men and women, these followers of Jesus, who are suddenly visible in the public square. Their joy and confidence means people think they are intoxicated, high, drunk.

They have been transformed from being shut-in to being confident to talk about all that has happened to them.

They have a totally new ‘Peace be with you’ confidence. Now they know everything will be OK. Now they experience that peace, and boldness replaces their fear.

They have a new boldness to talk about God. A Boldness to go out, out of the inner and upper rooms where they have been for weeks. Confidence to be visible. Confidence to say something. Confidence to speak about their experience of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is a disrupting presence.

And we see that in each other as well don’t we? That’s is where we see the Holy Spirit at work,  enabling us to talk about a God who does things, who is active in our lives, our city and county, our cathedral.

Come Holy Spirit

Who is the Holy Spirit? A DIVERSIFYING PRESENCE:

The Holy Spirit is given when devout Jews from ‘every nation under heaven’ were in Jerusalem. The presence and blessing of God comes when the most diverse crowd were in town.

The disciples are not speaking in the high language of temple worship but in the language of ordinary people, Aramaic and Greek, Parthian, and Cappadocian and everyone can understand. People from other countries and languages, other social groups, people who are not like them, hear and understand discipleship language, something of Jesus and ‘Gods deeds of power’.

In this moment there is an explosion out of the one tribe of Israel. Out, out, out, from one nation, one tribe, one religion, one geographical location.

Out, out, out into myriad locations, peoples and languages.

Jesus disrupted social conventions with his inclusion of children, women, zealots, Romans, women of the court, tax collectors, a Syro-Phoenecian, businessmen, the mentally ill and the list goes on.

We are all different as our our reading in 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us, different parts but the same Spirit. The Holy Spirit who loves diversity. We have toes helping the body to keep balance; and elbows bringing flexibility; muscles offering strength, and hands that serve; a heart than loves ;eyes that look out and notice; feet that are always on the move. Gods people are all different – it’s the way we are meant to be. We are meant to be different.

The Holy Spirit is a diversifying presence.

And that’s why events like The Great Get Together here in Cathedral Gardens on Saturday 17 June in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox matter. It is good to gather together across our different communities to remind ourselves about what we can do together for the common good.

Come Holy Spirit

So might the evidence of God at work among us be seen in,
–         increased diversity of nationalities
–         diversity of people, rich and poor
–         diversity of passions and gifts in a community who are not the same and don’t pull in the same direction.
–         Confidence to try something new
–         confidence to talk about Jesus openly
–         confidence to be public Christians.
–         and the disruption of newness and the challenge to constantly adapt to our changing context?

The Holy Spirit is a person
God – who speaks your language
God – who wants to be with you
God – who is particularly present in a diverse crowd.
God – who wants to stretch us, and  to challenge our assumptions

Will you say, Come Holy Spirit?