Benediction Online

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Come, Holy Spirit, Come

In the beginning, so the ancient story tells us, God formed a being from the dust, and breathed into it, she breathed into it the breath of life, and it became a living being. Humanity was born - born when the breath, the spirit of God entered the dust body. Today we commemorate Pentecost, the day when the Spirit of God breathed into the band of frightened disciples, and the Church was born.

The Church and the Spirit have a special connection. Without the Spirit we go back to being a confused and frightened group of people wondering what to do next. With the Spirit we become the household of God united in the Ascended Christ. We are empowered as the daughters and sons of God to live God’s abundant life and to share that with the world around us.

It must have been an amazing day in Jerusalem when the wind blew through the room and the great flames of fire appeared, transforming the disciples for ever. They were never the same after that day. They began to teach Jesus resurrected and alive, and their words were miraculously understood by people from many nations. This story is like a book end with the ancient story of the Tower of Babel. That story explains that God made the people speak in different languages so that they would no longer be able to cooperate and together try to become greater than God. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was bringing people together through the power of the Holy Spirit, transcending the differences of language to create one people of all nations. The people of God.

Some of you, I know, are uncomfortable when we recite the Nicene Creed or when we reaffirm our baptismal vows, because of the expression ‘Holy catholic Church’. It seems that we are referring to the “Catholic Church” headed by the Pope. But that is only one expression of the ‘holy catholic church’ and is properly called the Roman Catholic Church. We are part of the catholic church because we are members of the church which began at Pentecost. From this perspective we are called not just to be disciples of Christ but to be members of God’s family and God’s household. We are members because of our faith in Jesus Christ and our calling, expressed in our baptism, not because of our beliefs.

Thus our unity comes not from all speaking the same language, not from all saying or thinking the same thing, but from our membership in the Body of Christ, our membership in the Church. You will notice when we renew our baptismal vows that the holy catholic church comes immediately after we have said that we believe in the Holy Spirit. This isn’t an accident. There is a special relationship between the Church and the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Church.

There might be groups of people who gather together to remember things that happened a couple of millennia together, but they would not have the same possibility of meeting the vibrant Spirit of God in the midst of that meeting. It is my prayer every Sunday that the Spirit of God will be here tangibly in our midst, that each person who worships here may be touched by God’s Spirit and that not one of us will leave here unchanged. It is also my prayer that the Holy Spirit will knit us together into a unique expression of the Body of Christ, a community of healing, a community of service and a community of worship. And I believe that the Holy Spirit is doing just that.

If there would be no Church without the Holy Spirit, just as there would be no humanity without the breath of God, then we need to get to know this Spirit, to know more about her and to understand her ways so that we can cooperate with her.

In today’s reading from Acts we see the Holy Spirit as wind and flames of fire. At Jesus’ baptism we see him as a descending dove which is often the symbol used for the Holy Spirit. In the Celtic tradition he was a white goose. In the Gospel reading we heard that he is the Spirit of truth who will be with us, will remind us of God’s peace and will teach us everything. Very specifically, we believe that the Spirit interprets God’s word to our hearts and makes it relevant to our lives. So when we read the Bible whether alone or here in the service, we expect that the Holy Spirit will be active in teaching us about God and in interpreting the word to us.

The early church was very conscious of the power and work of the Spirit and during the last few weeks we have had several readings from the Acts of the Apostles in which Peter was empowered to preach, Saul was converted, Tabitha was raised from the dead, Gentiles were welcomed, Lydia started a house church and Paul and Silas were freed from the prison. All because of the Holy Spirit. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul describes the gifts of the Spirit as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

Pentecostal churches give priority to seeking and expressing these gifts and they are attracting many people and growing fast. That is not the way that God is working in the Episcopal Church at this time. I sometimes wonder whether we are somehow at fault in that, but I have come to the conclusion that God works in different ways at different times. God is totally free and gives different gifts to different people and different churches. There are those among us who have a private gift of praying in tongues and I encourage those who do, to pray in tongues as part of your private prayer life. Many of us have moments when God gives particular insights which may be gifts of wisdom or knowledge and, when that happens, I encourage you to share those insights with humility.

In his letters Paul is very clear that although miracles and prophecy and speaking in tongues may seem glamorous they are not the most important thing. It is the Holy Spirit working in us who teaches us to pray. If we listen, we will be given ideas of how God wants us to pray and what God wants us to pray about. Some of us are asked to pray in particular for the environment, others for specific situations or people. When we pray as the Holy Spirit directs then we are praying with power whether with unusual sounds, in our normal voice or in silence

It is the Holy Spirit who whispers gently to us, reminding us of God’s incredible and boundless love for all beings. It is the working of the Holy Spirit in us which turns our hearts to God and enables us to love with more than human love. It is the Holy Spirit who works within us to make us holy. It is the Holy Spirit who has called us to be the community of God at St. Benedict’s and who is present with us in our worship and in our service to God.

Just as light is both wave and particle, so the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and is the expression of the passionate, creative, adoring, worshiping love which flows between the Creator and the Word. It is that quality of relationship which God longs for us to experience and to express. It is too much for any one human alone. But together we can become a part of the Godhead and participate in the passionate, creative, adoring, worshipping love which is the Holy Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

1 Comments:

  • It is written that Satan has deceived the whole world until the heel of time when a woman shall bruise him by exposing his lies. Check out the love of God that has been hidden at http://thegoodtale.blogspot.com

    By Blogger val, at 10:43 AM  

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