Yesterday I heard I was preaching at Pentecost. Today I got to spend all day listening to the wise and experienced Australian community worker, Dave Andrews. Those two things are linked because among the many helpful things that Dave spoke about were some ideas about the Holy Sprit that I can pinch for my sermon.
Dave helpfully reminded us that the Spirit is not something that arrives in Acts, the Hebrew Bible is full of it and in fact it gets a mention in the first two verses of the Bible – in the creation story when the ‘wind from God’ swept over the face of the earth. Nor it is just in the Church or in Christians. Nowadays we are really keen on the gifts of the Spirit and forget about the fruits – love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. We certainly can’t claim the monopoly on them!
This week I saw the presence of God in action in a really moving way when I visited a church and met a group of kind, gentle, faithful people who generously offered patient healing prayer to people they know and don’t know because they believed that it could work and in a way it would be rude not to. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit came together in those people who lived their life of faith, hidden and unnoticed, without glory or reward and their offer was incredibly moving.
I am terribly impatient and often I finish people’s sentences and interrupt. There is no excuse and clearly I need to focus on growing some patience (alongside the other 7 gifts) but I think that perhaps sometimes we can see the Spirit or the work of the Spirit as interrupting. Wind and fire would certainly interrupt our church service and on that day when the Spirit came things started to change dramatically. The steady growth of disciples that happened during Jesus’ time was interrupted and 3,000 people joined them in one day. The movement took off and took shape. The patterns they had established were interrupted and new patterns of worship and communal living began to emerge. This is why Pentecost is celebrated as the birthday of the church. (You can read about it in Acts Chapter 2)
Someone said somewhere that our lives in the Spirit sometimes mean that we have to interrupt bad practice. That’s certainly what Martin Luther King did and what Dietrich Boenhoffer sought to do. It could also describe the work of Mandela, Ghandi, Oscar Romero and many other saints. It is clearly not a popular job description as most of those paid with their life or at least their freedom. But I have so much gratitude to people who are prepared to interrupt the practices that oppress, separate, sicken or terrify people – especially those who do it with so little fuss or expectation of reward.
Dave Andrews said today that the Holy Spirit is God Incognito. I think I need to stop interrupting others and let this God interrupt me from time to time. And once I am used to letting that happen, no doubt I’ll find myself engaged trying to interrupt bad practice in some small way. (Not that I want to be killed or imprisoned…) In the meantime – if I have finished your sentence or interrupted your conversation, sorry.
PS Any comments or thoughts that would help shape these random mutterings into a beautifully crafted sermon on June 8th would be most welcome.
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