The Holy Spirit

An address for Pentecost Sunday, reading  Acts 2:1-13

       The wind is a mysterious force.  In Hebrew and Greek the two languages of the Bible the word for wind and breath is the same word.  In Hebrew, ruach, in Greek pneuma.  You cant see the wind but you can see its effects.  You cant see your breath but taking a breath has an effect.  (without it you die)

Participation activity: Blow up balloons and let them go   – cant see the breath in the balloon but it energizes and creates a new life in the room as balloons zip everywhere!

It is God’s Spirit, or breath, who moves over the empty creation as a wind and life begins.   In the creation stories it is God’s Spirit, or breath, who breathes into the first creatures made of dust and human beings are brought to life.  It is the breath of life.  It is the breath that gives and enhances life.  All of us I think want to feel alive.  We want to do more than just exist, we want to live, really live.  We want to find eternal life as our scriptures call it, we want to walk tall, make a difference, and find deep peace.  When I think of the Holy Spirit I think of a power that is working in the world to bring this life we long for.  The Spirit is working in my life to lead me to this abundant life, the Spirit is working in our community to bring this life, and the Spirit is reshaping the world to bring this life.   So when economic systems work to benefit the powerful and forget the rest the Spirit blows the embers of discontent.   When people think the earth can be treated as a commodity for plunder and abuse the sacred gift of creation pumping carbon into the atmosphere and all sorts of nasties into our local waterways the Spirit will raise up people to lead a revolution.  When the church loses its saltiness and withers away the Spirit will stir a reformation.  When you and I are tempted to put our feet up and say this is as good as it gets the Spirit will nudge and whisper of another chapter in the journey of aliveness, the journey towards abundant life.   The Spirit is a breath of life…. Life in all its fullness in all creation.

There was a sound like rushing wind and the early disciples encountered the breath of life, the Spirit of aliveness.   A new community was born that was called to give witness to this life in all its fullness in individuals and in communities. 

Lets do something that illustrates this.  Take your balloon.  It’s limp and lifeless, but I invite you to blow it up.   It now invites you to a party, maybe to throw it to someone and have some fun.  You can let it go and it literally takes off.  The Holy Spirit is a power alive in our world like the breath in the balloon that brings life, and goes on whispering and blowing to bring a fullness of life that Jesus talked about.

The  tongues of fire – (Participation activity: light a flaming torch and giving out little flames to everyone and talk about fire and flames)    We recognize this with the decorating of the church with red, the colour of fire.  Our story tells us at Pentecost these bursts of fire-energy spread out and touched each one of them.  No-one was missed out.  I think that’s significant. The flame of fire is a symbol of God, and at Pentecost we witness the truth that each of us are empowered with a God given flame or burst of energy.   I wonder what this could symbolize?  The Holy Spirit is alive in me your little flame celebrates. 

I choose to give the flame another name and that is the passion of God.  Within each of us there is a God filled passion or energy to do or be something.  I believe that each of us comes into the world with a sacred purpose.  There is a dream of God in our being.  This may involve undertaking a particular task or tasks or it may be to live a certain way, or maybe most often a mixture of both.  Whatever each of us has a unique role to play in God’s ongoing plan for the life of earth.  One way of recognizing this is to see what we get passionate about. We each have unique gifts, and a calling to play a part in the ongoing journey of creation.  Some people are wonderful planners and administrators, some are great carers, while others teach brilliantly or work with their hands.  Some are great encouragers, or have a gift of healing, others are great prayers have great wisdom.  Some are musicians, while others are teachers, academics and researchers.  There is a God flame burning within each of us and one of my prayers this morning is that we will each know our God flame well. 

There was what appeared to be like tongues of fire dancing around the room where they were, and a flame came and rested on each one of them.    A new community was born that was called to discover their God given gifts and to use those gifts together to transform and heal the world.

Today we celebrate that the Spirit of God is alive within each of us.  I invite you to be still for a moment and consider your own gifts.  Remember each of us is gifted…. It’s often the case that we are not very good at recognizing our giftedness and that is largely because we are not good at reflecting back to each other and encouraging each other.  You are invited to write on your flame a word or words to describe your gift then peel off the double sided tape and stick it on you.  You may like to talk about your gifts over coffee after the service. 

Wenn ich anfangen Deutsch zu sprechen Sie wahrscheinlich nicht verstehen mich  (When I start speaking German you probaly wont understand me!)  Participation activity: See how many greetings we can recite in the congregation…

I start speaking in another language and you can no longer understand me –  our sense of connection is broken.  But if we speak the same language we can communicate, have a conversation, and hopefully connect.  Connecting is a wonderful thing.  The cross we have on our church is a connecting cross just like an addition sign.  And when we add and connect things happen.  One connected to one becomes two.  Two connected to one becomes three.  When we connect with another amazing things happen.   It’s a wonderful thing to have a common language that enables us to connect. There is a power released when you know you are not alone.  The Holy Spirit is a connecting power.  The Spirit of Jesus wants to build connections with god and with each other. 

I’m thinking of the great gulf between generations in our own society, or the gulf between races or religions, the huge gulf between those who live comfortably and those who struggle to pay the bills or to find a roof over their heads.  At Pentecost a new community formed where the fences were down, the connections were made across all sorts of boundaries – there were to be no insiders and outsiders.  This sense of connection was to be a key feature of the new community.   Slaves and free, young and old, Jew and gentile.  The Christian community was a community without fences.  The first Christians stirred by the Spirit were people who put effort into building bridges across divides, reaching out beyond the comfort zones to discover the stories of the strangers.  The Pentecost story isn’t just about speaking other languages it was about connecting across all the things that divide us and building team.  Maybe the Spirit is whispering to you today to do some connecting?

Dugald Wilson 9 June 2019