19 May 2013
As what I call the “God’s Story” part of the Liturgical Calendar begins to draw to a close, we are prepared for the second half of the year – the “Our Story” part which happens in Ordinary Time. And that preparation is in the form of a gift – the Pentecost gift of God’s Spirit, God’s community and God’s call. It is easy, after all of the work of the calendar so far to just breathe a sigh of relief and just get through the last few weeks with as little effort and stress as possible. But, the Pentecost event needs our best efforts – and some new ways of thinking about it. Which I hope I’m helping to stir up in this post.
May your eyes be opened and your heart be filled as you celebrate the ever-present Spirit of God this week, and as you receive the empowerment of God for the journey ahead.
Acts 2:1-21: The believers are filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and they start to praise God in various languages.
Or Genesis 11:1-9: Humanity seeks to build a tower that reaches the heavens, but God confuses their language and they scatter over the earth.
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b: The world and all its creatures depend on God for provision and breath – which leads the Psalmist to commit to praise God.
John 14:8-17, (25-27): Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to be an advocate for his followers, and to lead them into truth.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
Perhaps the oldest mistake we make with the Pentecost event is to speak of it as the Spirit’s “coming” – as if God’s Spirit was absent from the world before this. Jesus gives us a clue to a different understanding, though, when he says that “the world cannot receive him because it isn’t looking for him…” Pentecost is essentially a breakthrough in our human capacity to apprehend and experience God’s activity which is (and always has been) active in all of creation (including us). At Pentecost we learn to look for God’s Spirit – and the readings for today make it clear that God’s Spirit can be seen and found anywhere and everywhere we look. It is this awareness that there is nowhere that God is not that breaks down Babel’s walls of division. In receiving the new awareness of God’s Spirit we find that we all speak a common Spirit-enabled language – the language of God-imaged, Spirit-filled, humanity. Once our eyes are opened to see God’s Spirit in all things (including those who are different from us, who are hostile toward us, and who are most repulsive to us), everything changes. We know ourselves (and all creatures) as St. Francis did – as God’s children and siblings of one another – and we willingly share Christ’s suffering (as Paul says) to bring God’s creation into awareness of this unity and community in God’s Spirit.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: Across the globe human beings suffer from a blindness to the Spirit’s presence and activity. When we use the earth as nothing more than a resource to enrich ourselves, we have failed to recognise the Spirit. When we justify killing, exploiting, marginalising or dehumanising others, we have failed to see the Spirit in them. When we embrace a rampant individualism and consumerism, we have failed to recognise God’s Spirit and the community of all things in God’s Spirit. Pentecost is a wake up call for our world – how different might our politics, economics and environmental policies be if we recognised God’s Spirit in all things, and if we took time to really learn our common language? How would this consideration impact how you pray, speak, act, vote, spend, advocate and play? How can you and your community participate in the Spirit’s work and help others to recognise God’s Spirit in all things?
LOCAL APPLICATION: It is all too common among Christians to speak of God’s Spirit being “with” us and “not with” others who believe differently from us. We speak of churches and people where God’s Spirit has “left” and we talk about places where we think God is no longer present. Whenever we fall into this trap, we have missed the gift of Pentecost, and have made our God too small. But, when we realise that God’s Spirit is everywhere – although we and/or others may not be looking for or able to recognise God’s Spirit for whatever reason – we find our view of these others changes. We suddenly discover that God can be encountered in every person, and every place – from a untouched places of breath-taking natural beauty to slums and disaster areas. And, once we have seen this, we discover that, like Jesus, we would rather suffer than inflict suffering on these Spirit-filled ones. We would rather sacrifice than exploit Spirit-filled people and the Spirit-filled world for personal gain. We would rather listen for the language of our common humanity than deny the humanity of a single person – even if they deny ours. What would it mean for you and your community to take Pentecost seriously? What defences might have to come down? What hands might have to be offered to others? What beliefs might have to be released? What actions might have to become obsolete? What people might have to be welcomed and embraced?
Breathe On Me Breath Of God
O Thou Who Camest From Above
Spirit Divine Attend Our Prayers
O Spirit Of The Living God
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Deep Calls To Deep
Breathe (Link to YouTube video)
All Who Are Thirsty (Link to YouTube video)
Spirit Of The Living God (Link to YouTube video)
Shine Jesus Shine (Link to YouTube video)
O Let The Son Of God Enfold You (Link to YouTube video)