St. Mary Nanoose Bay
May 24, 2020 – Pentecost
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us, your faithful, and kindle in us, the fire of your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Today we celebrate Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit is given to the community of Jesus followers in the very early days after the death and resurrection of the One they love and follow.
One of the metaphors for the Holy Spirit is wind. In the reading today from Acts of the Apostles we hear - “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak …. as the Spirit gave them ability.” (2:2,4).
Moving air, wind, energy. We see the effects of wind, we cannot see wind itself. I’ve been sitting on our porch and looking out into the yard and it seems to me it has been a windy Spring. The trees sway, the picnic table umbrella creaks as it gets pushes this way and that, the eagles and buzzards catch the draft and circle up and around. The wind brings us smells from around the neighbourhood: wood smoke on a chilly morning, newly mown grass, the perfume from our lilac tree, and occasionally cigarette smoke from a passing walker.
Many afternoons when we break for a cup of tea, it’s been too windy to sit on the porch. And at night, there have been several occasions where I’ve had to put the doorjamb in place so our bedroom door doesn’t slam shut. We hear the wind as it interacts with objects in its path, we smell what it brings to us, and we feel it on our skin as either a pleasant reprieve on a hot day or as goose bumps on a chilly one.
In an attachment I sent out recently with one of our Updates, there were diagrams showing how the Corona virus spreads. Like the wind, we can’t see the virus itself, but observing the airflow in a restaurant, for example, it was clear how the virus spreads from one individual to others. And it’s amply clear that 2 metres distance does not contain the spread when air is moving, or when people are moving through air. You can’t see the virus particles moving on the air, and it might take a few days, but you will see the effect. People get sick. I lived with Jim while he came down with Covid-19. We observed the strictest protocols so I wouldn’t get sick as well. We each had our own bedroom, our own bathroom, our own access to the outdoors, and I was the only one who had access to the kitchen. I was continually wiping down surfaces. It took 4 days. I contracted the virus. We were sharing the air, and the movement of the air was something we couldn’t control.
So today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into our midst. A Spirit we can’t see, can’t control, yet is very real and effective. The term Holy Spirit comes from the Greek word “Paraclete,” which translates as the verb “to call” and the preposition “beside” and so means “one who has been summoned to the side of another.”
In today’s reading from the gospel of John, we hear Jesus preparing his disciples, telling them that when he dies, he will send an advocate, someone to help them. They need not fear being left alone. Of course this is information doesn’t make much sense to the disciples until after Jesus has died.
And in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles for today, we hear how the Spirit does in fact arrive as promised. But like the wind, it is not something that is seen directly. The effects are seen. People receive it and begin to speak in tongues. People from different tribes and countries are able to understand them as if they were being spoken to in their own language. What was the content of their message? – they were “speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
Some believe. Some doubt.
Peter admonishes the doubters with words they will know well from the prophet Joel – “God declares, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
This is how we see the movement of the Spirit – in the attitudes and behaviours of those who accept the support of the One who has been called to walk alongside us.
How do we see, smell, feel and taste the Spirit alive in us and in our community today? How do others see the presence of this Spirit in us?
The poet William Blake puts it so beautifully:
Unless the eye catch fire, God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire, God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire, God will not be named.
Unless the Heart catch fire, God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire, God will not be known.
How have our hearts caught fire? How do we express that fire? How big do our actions have to be?
The writer Bo Lozoff goes right to the point: “Don’t overlook the significance of your smallest opportunities for civilized behaviour throughout each day… The world changes for the better with every act of kindness, and for the worst with every act of cruelty.”
In Christian terms it means that everything we do goes well beyond the safety of 2 metres social distancing; our words and actions affect the whole Body of Christ. Sound daunting? Well, maybe. But what is also true is that we are not alone in our ventures. We not only have this helper alongside us, we have a community of believers to support us, and continually remind us, first and foremost, that we were made in love, are loved, made to love. We are not alone. The Holy Spirit moves with us, in and alongside us, and in and through our world and our lives.
During this pandemic, does it not seem that Holy Spirit is challenging us to appreciate, deepen our care and compassion for a world created in love, to get to the heart of what is truly important? Are we not being asked to speak of God’s deeds of power to a world that has been grasping, hoarding, and promoting fear, destruction and suffering for millions of people?
Our world was created with abundance, generosity and creativity. There is enough here for the well being of all. This Holy Spirit that Jesus and the Father sent into the world gives us the courage and words to speak about this other reality; the world we are being asked to re-create in cooperation with God. Shall we not speak to the despair, darkness and fear with confidence, hope and compassion?
The words we speak and the actions have effect in ways we cannot know. Like the wind, our kindness or cruelty moves. So it is imperative to call on the Holy Spirit to guide us. Because we are a work in progress. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says to his followers, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” If we are open to the Spirit, we will be guided to grow in ways that we can manage. Each one of us is unique. God is gentle with us. The Holy Spirit will guide us.
And we in turn make God visible in the world, in the life of the church, in the relationships we have within our families and with our friends. Lean on your companion. Call on the Holy Spirit. And let your life be renewed and in turn, the world will be as well.
Thanks be to God. Amen.