theunfamiliarname

Sermon, Evensong Pentecost B

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm

God does not leave those God has called alone.

That in a nutshell is the message of Pentecost.
We are not left comfortless.
We are not to stay locked away for fear of anyone.
We are not simply reliant on ourselves and what little faith we possess.
This is not what God has called us to.

The Holy Spirit is the impetus that touches and moves us,
that sends us out to touch others and to trust
that with God we are able to be what we are called to.

Pentecost marks the passing of the great week of weeks after Easter.
Seven weeks ago we discovered that the tomb was empty.
Today we hear the good news of how the Resurrection
could not be contained by any group of individuals or by any ethnicity.

The people of God are from this moment sent out,
charged with the wind and fire of the Spirit which cannot be controlled,
which rages where it wishes.
Not civilised and living in a house,
but travelling and tenting across the deserts of our age.

Those disciples who were sent on this journey
had no idea where they might end up,
but the wind of that encounter with God twenty centuries ago
washed our forbears – and the bearers of the faith we share –
on these shores.

The languages of Pentecost resonate with more than one Old Testament image.

As the tree of the Garden of Eden is mirrored in the Cross
and the garden of the Easter morning encounter,
so Pentecost speaks of restoration of that universality
that was lost at Babel,
where mythic human self-satisfaction conspired to over-run the heavens.

Today, heaven speaks,
and a hundred generations of language and life experience
hear the truth of God proclaimed as grandiose and as intimate
as flame.  As very breath.

On this day,
the barriers of language are blown down.
The Jewish face of Christ is transfigured,
becoming “a spectrum of all races and all cultures”.

And yet, in this very embracing of all people by God in the Holy Spirit,
comes the affirmation of diversity.
The one flame divides and rests on each of the disciples.
Each bystander hears in their own tongue.
Each is offered hope,
and the fullness of a divided humanity,
now made whole in Jesus,
taken into the very heart of God.

Like those first Believers, we need to listen – to expect to hear –
what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

The Spirit present among us is our comforter, our warrant,
the sign of our hope,
our reward and the collective cattleprod of the Church.

By the Spirit we are encouraged into places we might not want to go,
we are built up and brought down to earth.
Scattered, sometimes, but not abandoned.

The Spirit, if we really do believe the stuff we say about her,
will be with us.
That doesn’t mean we don’t take our part in being Church seriously.
On the contrary, we are those who are lit and thrust out,
like some sort of ecclesiastical molotov cocktail,
to set the world on fire.

And yet the Spirit is also named “Comforter”.
A distinctly feminine voice within the music of the Godhead.

So we add our voices to the song of people, Spirit-filled.
Saints, among them Hildegard of Bingen.
Her song:
O fire of the Spirit – Comforter, life within the life of all creation,
holy in giving life to all.
Holy in anointing those who are not whole,
holy in cleansing dirty wounds.
O sacred breath, o fire of love,
o sweetest taste in my breast
which fills my heart with a fine aroma of virtues.
O most pure fountain, through whom it is known,
that God has united strangers and sought the lost.

You always draw out knowledge,
bringing joy through wisdom’s inspiration.
Therefore, praise be to you, who are the sound of praise
and the greatest prize of life, hope and richest honour,
giving the gifts of light.

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