Saturday, May 10, 2008

Spirit... Blow those cobwebs away!

While I am very hopeful to get some more ramble about cups of tea, VW Camper Vans, my cat and other daily life trivialities on this 'Teapot', today you get another 'sermon'! It's actually my Pentecost talk for tomorrow, and is an attempt to address all ages in church with the great news of Jesus Christ with us all, all the time, through the Holy Spirit...

And by the way, I added some personal testimony just after the Tom Wright quote... but I won't bother to add that here... unless it's specifically requested ;)

Oh, and another little aside... when I actually preached it and we reached the 'creating the sound of the rushing wind' bit - it was rather amusing as half the 'whistlers' sounded like they were wolf whistling and a couple of the 'blowing through your hands' people blew raspberries - not quite, I suspect, what the original day of Pentecost would have sounded like!

Sunday 11.5.08 – Pentecost (All age)

There was once a glove. It was quite a nice glove really. It had everything a glove needs – a thumb, fingers, a hole in one end… but there was something missing, because this glove was empty, it had no hand! The glove was still a glove, but it had been made to be moulded by a hand and it felt rather useless and purposeless without one! And then one day along came a hand and it filled the glove. It gave the glove movement and brought it to life. It enabled the glove to be what it was made to be – it gave it purpose and usefulness – it filled it!
And as Christians we’re a bit like that glove. We need the Holy Spirit to come and fill us, like the hand filled the glove. Without the filling of the Holy Spirit we’re a bit like a glove with no hand – empty, powerless and lacking energy. But like the glove, when we’re full, we’re full of movement and life, usefulness, power and purpose.
And that’s what today’s about – looking back at when the Holy Spirit first came and filled God’s people. AND it’s about asking him to fill us with his power and purpose and LIFE – just as he did with those first apostles.
And do you know, God does it in all kinds of ways! On that Pentecost day, long ago, when the people were all gathered together for what was a bit like the Harvest Festival – God’s Spirit came and filled them. And it was dramatic!
Did you notice what Luke, who wrote it all down said it was LIKE? He said it was LIKE the rush of a violent wind. Think for a moment how that might have felt and how it would have sounded as that rushing wind of God’s Spirit came rushing through the room where they were…
What do you think they felt? Fear, excitement. wonder perhaps?
I wonder if we can create something like the sound of a rushing wind…
One group – “whoosh” getting louder
One group – rising and falling whistling noise
One group – blowing loudly between hands
And they wouldn’t have only heard that noise, they would have felt it too.

And then Luke tells us, it was like tongues of fire – have you seen a fire when the individual flames, like tongues, lick upwards (wave your tongues of fire) and then the tongues of fire rested on them (rest the flames on your head).
They didn’t get their hair set alight because it was a spiritual event that gave very physical impressions which enabled those apostles to describe what they experienced.
We can’t properly recreate that event, but we can imagine the drama of it AND we can see what happened as a result of it… they were all filled with the Spirit and they started to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

It wasn’t just God’s party trick.
He did it for a reason – so that the people of many nations would hear his message in their own language (I know that some people would appreciate that happening here sometimes!). And once God had got their attention, Peter stood up and explained it all to them – especially that God would pour out his Spirit on all people – men and women, young and old.

But you know, when the Spirit’s present, it’s not always dramatic like that. Sometimes, instead, it’s LIKE a gentle dove (hold up your doves). Remember when Jesus was baptised and the Spirit came and rested on him LIKE a dove. Gentle!
Or it’s like a still, small voice – that’s how the prophet Elijah experienced the Spirit of God – Quiet! (All whisper “Shhh”.)

What we need to remember is that FIRST - ALL these ways of experiencing the presence of God’s Spirit are as valuable and effective as each other – we’re all different and God works in all kinds of mysterious ways his wonders to perform – as we often sing here!
The important thing is that we appreciate the diversity of experience. There are those who will experience God’s Spirit dramatically – a reminder of how powerful and life-transforming God can be.
And there are those who experience God’s Spirit in a quiet, steady, almost unnoticeable way. Delight in what God is doing around you, as well as in you, without envy of what he’s doing in someone else!

And SECOND, remember that God longs to give the Spirit to ALL people, if we will just ask.
In Luke’s gospel, chapter 11, verse 13, Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Remember the before-getting-out-of-bed prayer of my old vicar I told some of you about last week…? “Morning Lord, please fill me with your Holy Spirit again today.” Let’s remember that prayer and keep praying it, at all times and in all places!

Why is all this so important then? Hear the words of Bishop Tom Wright [1] on the matter…“What the Spirit will do when he comes is anybody’s guess. Be prepared for wind and fire, for some fairly drastic spring-cleaning of the dusty and cold rooms of your life. We should not doubt that God will give his Spirit to all who seek him, and that the form and direction that any particular Spirit-led life will take will be (assuming obedience and faith) the one that will enable that person, in their own way, to bring glory to God.”
Just as the glove needed the hand to fill it, so we need the Spirit to fill us, so that ultimately we’ll come to a much deeper knowledge of God, of his love for us and his purposes in our lives, and so that Jesus will be seen in, and made known through, us.
Amen.

[1] Tom Wright - Acts for Everyone, Part 1. Page 24/25

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