The eighth day of creation

Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
Pentecost. Sunday
31 May 2020

Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISS

[ video ]

 

Everything begins in chaos
Darkness

Tohu vabohu, writes the ancient Hebrew poet

Formless
Empty
Immense swirling oceans (the Deep)
No light at all from any source

Then something happens:
ruach elohim

 

Christians like to translate that phrase: ‘Spirit of God’
Jews prefer to say: ‘a wind from God’
I suggest we read it as: ‘a powerful wind’
In everyday terms we might say “a hell of a storm”

All that we are today has its origins and its explanation in those ancient words that open the Bible we share with our Jewish friends.

To paraphrase:

God was there at the start
God created everything
It was a mess
An amazing storm came through
Hovering above the formless empty chaos
Then there was light!
God had spoken.

 

That is not just a description of our origins.
It also describes our present reality
And it indicates our destiny

TODAY is Pentecost, sometimes called the Eighth Day of Creation
TODAY we celebrate the disturbing and renewing presence of the Spirit
TODAY we pray for the Spirit to hover over our chaos until the light appears

As we observe this Great and Fiftieth Day of Easter, let me offer a simple paradigm for understanding the meaning of Pentecost:

The presence of the spirit of Jesus among us
is the proof of the resurrection
Equally, our commitment to compassionate action
is the proof that the Spirit is among us.

 

The spirit of Jesus among us

This was a major theme in the way that Paul understood the gospel.

He hardly ever refers to the life of Jesus and almost never quotes any teachings from Jesus, but he repeatedly refers to the Spirit as the real, lived experience of the risen Jesus active in the church.

One familiar example, often used in services today, is this:

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. (1 Corinthians 12:13)

However, I think my personal favourite, might be this line from a little later in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)

For Paul and for us, the Spirit present among us is the proof that Jesus has been raised and has gone ahead of us into God, into the future, into eternal love.

Indeed, Paul never mentions an empty tomb. Rather, we find that in the Gospels, all of which were written long after Paul is dead.

For Paul what matters is to have been drawn into the Easter life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, which has been given to us.

For that reason, Pentecost is indeed the Great and Fiftieth Day of Easter.

Easter does not end with the discovery of an empty tomb nor an ascension into heaven.

Easter has really only fully happened when we have a community of people where the Spirit is found: hovering over our chaos, absorbing our darkness, shaping our formlessness, illuminating our darkness, filling our emptiness.

Today, on the festival of the Spirit,  we know the meaning of Easter; and in our experience of the Spirit of Jesus among us we know the reality of his resurrection.

 

Acting with compassion

In our mission statement on the Cathedral website, we speak of ourselves as “acting with compassion in the heart of Grafton since 1842”

When that description is true, then we have proof that the Spirit of Jesus is indeed active among us.

Jesus was, first of all, a person of compassion: he healed the sick, he cast out demons, he made the blind see, he fed the hungry, he proclaimed a time of liberty and salvation, he had time and compassion for those on the margins of their own communities.

As Jesus people, his Spirit of compassion will be evident among us as well.

Paul one time described this as the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23)

This does not mean that we always get it right.

Nor does it mean that when we mess up we should beat up on ourselves.

But it does suggest that when we get it right, this is what the presence of the Spirit of Jesus among us looks like: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”

We should expect to see evidence of the Spirit of Jesus at work among us.

And we do.

We saw it during the fires during summer.

We have seen it in the care and support during the pandemic.

We see it in the OpShop volunteers.

We see it in the Cathedral Pantry.

We see it in every act of compassion and care.

 

May the disturbing and renewing presence of the Spirit continue to be our experience so that we never doubt the resurrection of Jesus and never lose sight of what it means for us to be Jesus people here and now.

God was there at the start
God is here now
God will be here in the future
It may be a mess
But an amazing spirit-storm is around us
Hovering above the formless empty chaos
There will be light!
God has spoken.
Alleluia!

 

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
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1 Response to The eighth day of creation

  1. Peter Shayler-Webb says:

    Thank you Greg. At the end of a difficult week, your words have uplifted and inpired me. Bless you.

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