4 June 2017
On this fiftieth day after Easter we conclude our ‘week of weeks’ during which time we have been reflecting on the attributes of spiritually confident faith communities.
In our celebrations today we focus on the bottom line of Easter.
Where is Jesus?
He is here among us, and the Spirit of Jesus that we experience in our own lives turns out also to be the Spirit of God that hovered over the deep waters in the ancient Creation poem of the Jewish faith.
Because we are Jesus people, we are also—and necessarily so—Spirit people.
Jesus embodied the Spirit of God, and so do we.
This is one of the deep truths we proclaim later this morning when I baptise George at St Columba’s Church, Ewingsdale. That ritual is not about expunging some stain of sin from his perfect three year old life, but rather celebrating his participation—with us—in the Spirit of Life.
The dance goes on, and the Spirit is both the rhythm and our intimate partner in the dance.
Imaging the Spirit
Let me now offer you some ideas that will invite you to reflect on how we imagine the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, to be active among us, between us, and within us.
Let me present—ever so briefly—a series of seven metaphors for the Holy Spirit, and invite you simply to embrace those that touch you most deeply for your reflections during this coming week.
Wind / Breath
This one of the most primal metaphors for the Spirit.
Spirit as wind, as breath, as the catalyst for life itself.
As the Psalmist wrote so long ago: When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the Earth. (104:30)
On Pentecost Sunday we naturally think about the tongues of fire, but there are more ancient examples of fire as an encounter with the purity and power of the sacred which lies at the very heart of our existence. One of my favourite images is the burning wish theophany in the Moses story. What ground is not holy? Is there any place where we should not take off our shoes in awe at the holy Other?
Fountain / Well / Stream
As Paul says in our reading this morning:
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1Cor 12:13)
Dove / Mother Hen
This one of the more familiar metaphors, and churches around the world today will be decorated with doves on liturgical banners.
The dove is mostly a sign of peace (shalom), but I also like Stanley Spencer’s image of God as a mother hen protecting her chicks.
Fruits of the Spirit
The natural result of the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives will be to generate outcomes that reflect the character of God, and express God’s hopes for our world.
I like the tropical flavour of this image, which speaks to our local context here.
Gifts of the Spirit
These are not the gifts listed in today’s NT reading, but they are great qualities to have in our toolkit for living lives that are godly and true.
How do we express the intimate presence of the Spirit who knows us better than we know ourselves?
Paul was geting personal when he wrote these words:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit …
Enemy of Apathy
As we conclude these reflections, I invite you to read hymn 418, “Enemy of Apathy” by John Bell and Graham Maule:
She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
Hovering on the chaos of the world’s first day;
She sighs and she sings, mothering creation,
Waiting to give birth to all the Word will say.
She wings over earth, resting where she wishes,
Lighting close at hand or soaring through the skies;
She nests in the womb, welcoming each wonder,
Nourishing potential hidden to our eyes.
She dances in fire, startling her spectators,
Waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
She weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
Nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.
For she is the Spirit, one with God in essence,
Gifted by the Saviour in eternal love;
She is the key opening the scriptures,
Enemy of apathy and heavenly dove.