This morning’s sermon is a little different – it’s more a number of questions which invite your reflection. And, the basic question comes from the song we have just sung – “Spirit of Gentleness, stir me from placidness”. There’s another Pentecost song, we sometimes sing - from the Iona Community, called “Enemy of Apathy” – which challenges us with the same question: From what placidness – from what apathy – is the Spirit calling you, today, here and now?
We’ve worn the red – we’ve waved the banner – we’ve called on the Spirit – and lit the candles. We’ve heard how the Spirit seeks us out providing friendship, love and freedom; we’ve listened again to the ancient story of people from many different backgrounds, many different countries, many different languages, being caught up by the Spirit into an experience which took them way out of their comfort zone – into a place of wild freedom and intoxicating joy - a place of possibility they couldn’t even have begun to imagine – but a place which led to the formation of what we know as the church – a source of energy, hope, joy and love, which has sustained many many people for two thousand years. Placidness becoming power, apathy becoming action…
Where do we sit in relation to all that? (It doesn’t sound very Presbyterian, does it?!) Do we remain observers of an ancient tradition, content to allow others the fire, whilst their ashes sift through our placid fingers; or are we excited and challenged to be active participants in the ongoing story? Will we join this restless dance with the Spirit; or will we remain in our worldly apathy? Put another way: has this year’s Easter journey made a difference in our lives? Have we caught the resurrection moments: the expressions of love which have surprised us once more; the renewed commitment to be vibrant, enlivening Jesus-followers, who burn for justice and peace? Did we walk that Easter journey these past seven weeks, tip-toeing through the ashes of death, or with eyes wide open to enlivening new possibilities for ourselves, other people and the whole creation?
Today, as we celebrate the gift of the Spirit, does the early church story fire our imagination so that we become the flames of love and tongues of forgiveness in our world? And, if, as I do so hope, we have been enlivened, what does this mean for our ongoing lives – at home, at church, at school, at work: how are we going to live out our lives, this afternoon, tomorrow and into the weeks ahead in Spirited-restlessness?
What would our world look like tomorrow, if we lived in the awareness of the Pentecost Spirit alive in our midst – if we allowed the Holy Spirit to confound our expectations – to slip beyond our restrictive ideas – to open doors where each person’s single-languaged narrow experience might be shared and understood by the whole world?
Can we live into this imaginative space?
- where Maori, Pakeha and more recent comers to this land - where Asian, African, American and European – all listen with deep curiosity to hear each other’s voices
- where philosophers, scientists and historians; Pro-lifers; euthanasia and abortion advocates; National, Labour and Green supporters speak their deepest truth, acknowledging they have only one part of the picture
- where people of all religions (and especially Christians, Muslims and Jews) acknowledge the Divine Oneness in which we all dwell – holding the basic assumption that this Oneness is on the side of all Creation – that nobody and nothing is against them
Can we live into this Pentecost space?
- turning away from fear of the other who speaks a different language, has a different story; walking the path of risky vulnerability to each other, accepting responsibility for living the radical way of non-violence, forgiveness and love?
E te whanau, the Spirit of Pentecost is alive today – its wind and fire can shake us to the core. The Spirit dares us to leave behind the ashes of our apathy and placidness – it calls us to enter the dance of full and abundant life. Shall we dance?