St. Mary Nanoose Bay
June 9, 2019
Acts2:1-21, John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
This past week my good friend told me that when she and her husband were traveling in Bratislava, when Sunday rolled around they went to church. They didn’t understand a word that was spoken. Yet it was one of those Sundays they will always remember. They were warmly welcomed with a few awkward English words, smiling faces and enthusiastic handshakes. In the liturgy and especially the singing, they felt lifted up, up and out of themselves, and as they came forward for communion, embraced by the community and by love. “It was a Holy Spirit experience,” my friend said.
I’m sure you have all this kind of experience?
A Holy Spirit experience goes beyond words, it is lives in the realm of the heart. And the language of heart finds connection beyond nationality, race, language, creed. The language of the heart resonates with the heartbeat of our Creator. And as we were all created by the Loving One, we all, ultimately, speak and understand the same language.
But many of us are not attuned to this language. We hear snippets. Maybe in a song, or in a loved one’s voice, or hearing the Swainson’s thrush for the first time in the Spring. We have to hone our ability to hear. We have to WANT to hear. We have to give up our own ideas about God and the world, and be willing to hear the truth.
In the reading from the Gospel of John today we heard Jesus describe the Advocate, or Holy Spirit to his disciples in this way, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (Jn14:17).
Jesus is describing that to receive the Holy Spirit requires a different way of knowing; a different kind of consciousness. One that his disciples hopefully have. An openness. An openness that involves our heart, not just our head. An openess that involves being engaged in relationship; not hanging back and keeping safe; not testing the depths, temperature and current of the water before jumping in, but surrendering and abandoning oneself in love, and in trust. Scary stuff. We have to be open to being changed; changed from the inside out. We have to be open to being changed by this Holy Spirit and then we will be opened to knowing God.
William Blake, the mystic and poet, put it this way:
Unless the eye catch fire, The God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire The God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire The God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire, The God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire, The God will not be known.
Today is Pentecost. The celebration of the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ followers. In today’s reading, we hear him say to his disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
Jesus knows he is mortal. That he will die. And this is the gift Jesus gives us, the reassurance that even when he is no longer with us in the flesh, we will never be alone. God always has been, is, and will be with us, but our human nature seems to work against this knowledge. So God sent us Jesus to show us the extent of God’s love for us.
And Jesus, knowing the fragility of his followers’ faith, reassures them that when he dies, they and their descendents will receive another advocate, another form of support and love. If we truly believe Jesus’ words to his disciples today, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” then we understand that relationship is the key to being connected with God. And relationship requires taking the time to get to know the other.
We all know a relationship that thrives and lives and gives is one that we give attention to. We are invited into relationship with God! A relationship we simply have to claim! And this relationship that is promised to us in the Holy Spirit is one that promises that deep peace, that peace that goes beyond understanding, the peace that holds broken and hurting hearts, the one that takes us beyond fear. It is also the relationship that makes our hearts sing unexpectedly, that introduces us to people and experiences that help us grow in wisdom and love. For it’s also the relationship that brings us together.
Listen again how the reading today from Acts began, “When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place.” There is something about gathering together that allows the Spirit to move powerfully. Jesus said it another way, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
So for Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the gathering of people is important to the expression of love. I think we can all touch into gratitude for this wonderful life-giving, life-serving community of St. Mary’s!
In today’s reading from Acts, we also learn that the Spirit speaks differently through different people. Same Spirit, different language. Same Spirit, different experience. Same Spirit, different needs. Listen how the people respond: “Amazed and astonished, they asked, “And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” (Acts2:8)
When we project human qualities on God, we limit our experience of God; we limit our relationship with God. We think things like, “God doesn’t have time for me,” and “I can’t ask God for that,” as though God were human and limited to time and space and abundance. Or, we think, we have the right take on God; we know. Our experience is the right one, the only one.
Listen to this reading from the devotional, God Calling: Listen as if it is God speaking: I came to help a world. And according to the varying needs of each, so does each person see Me. It is not necessary that you see Me as others see Me – the world, even the Church, My disciples, My followers, but it is necessary that you see Me, each of you, as suppling all that you personally need. The weak need My Strength. The strong need My Tenderness. The tempted and fallen need My Salvation. The self-righteous need My Pity for sinners. The lonely need a Friend. The fighters need a Leader. No person could be all these to all people – only a God could be. In each of these relations of Mine to people you must see God. The God-Friend, the God-Leader, the God-Saviour. (June 6, God Calling)
So today, in the quiet after this sermon, in a moment in your garden, or relaxed in your favourite comfy chair, take a moment to listen to how the Holy Spirit is calling to you this day; offering to meet you exactly as you are. God, through the Holy Spirit, longs to give you what it is you truly need. So that you, in turn, can be and give what the world needs.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.