What can I say about the celebration of Pentecost that has not already been said?
Nothing. There is nothing that has not been said already and probably better than I can say it.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be reminded.
But sometimes we need to be reminded of how important the Holy Spirit is in our lives as followers of a Triune God: a God who comes to us in the form of Mother, Christ and Holy Spirit.
She was there at the beginning of creation, hovering over the waters. She is called upon by Ezekiel and Isaiah, she shows up in John and in Acts and Galatians and of course Romans, to name a few.
This breathe of God that blows among and between us, disrupting, creating, interceding, sighing, disordering our lives. She is mischievous. And we need her.
I was really captivated by the piece that Paul writes in this letter to the Romans that we heard tonight. Let’s hear that again:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 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, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
I love the verbs in this passage: groan, wait, redemption, hope, pray, intercede, sigh, search, know. There are fleshy words that describe a direct participation with us or on our behalf.
We groan inwardly while we wait. Redemption comes for us in our bodies, here in the skin that we are in as a part of the body of Christ. The whole of creation has been groaning too, with us. Waiting. The Spirit intercedes for us with sighs that are too deep for words, coming to us sometimes at our request and sometimes despite us.
And in the passage just before the one we heard, this letter says that creation in waiting in eager expectation for the intervention of the children of God. Creation that is subject to frustration. I think this has been true through out history and is still now. Creation awaits our participation in the redemption of it and us. Waits for us to rid ourselves of the evil that the destruction and the anger and the turning away from the love of God that feels everywhere right now.
The Spirit is both outside of and a part of us, both within us and around us. And she is difficult to describe. She is hard for us to put our finger on. And we call upon her regularly.
I did not wake up at 3am to watch the Royal wedding but I did watch it later, after a decent amount of sleep. I watched because I wanted to hear what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry would say both to the couple getting married but the world. His message was not just for them it was also for us. He talked about love and about fire. His was a Pentecost sermon. So I’m going to steal from him a little bit. He quoted Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher and Jesuit priest who said this:
Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
Man that sounds nice and so necessary right now, as we continue to hear about school shootings and global political situations that are scary and dangerous. Fire in the form of love sounds really good and like a chaos that I can fully endorse.
And that is what I think the Spirit of God feels like – this spirit that comes in the form of fiery love who from the beginning of creation has been loving us into being and as much as we allow, seeks to save us from ourselves. Groaning and sighing. Who helps us to live into the hope that is unseen.
A hope that is unseen. A hope that pushes us into the future full of possibility and potential.
A hope that the church was built on – the hope that we would realize Jesus Christ in the world and seek to live our lives following his commandment to love.
I wonder if we will ever harness the energies of love. I think that is what the Spirit looks like: like the energies of love. Like fire. Like wind. Like that sense of something that we can do no other than follow. It is unpredictable and chaotic and I think that is what we both fear and love about her.
We have no idea where she will blow us to next.
How on earth do we harness something like that and do we really want to?
I’m not sure I do.
I sort of love that I have no idea what will happen next. I would never have told you when I was first ordained that I would plant a congregation. In fact as many of you know, I was pretty clear that being ordained at all was a ridiculous plan for me and not one I was interested in – and yet I think it has been the best plan for me. And I know it was the push of the Spirit that brought me here.
And I’ve said this before but pastoring this congregation with it’s uncompromising affirmation that we are all beloved members of Gods’ beautiful creation has been the best work I have ever been invited into. And I know for certain that it was the work of the Spirit that got me here.
Left to my own devices I would happily sit on my couch reading books and watching call the Midwife – but she wouldn’t have it – there was work for me to do and because of her nudge and pushing and groaning, I get to stand before you now.
It is through the Spirit I believe, that we feel the presence of God and enter in to community with one another, stand with and for each other.
I believe that when we allow our lives to be disordered by the Spirit of God, there is so much possibility in what we can do and how we can change the world around us. When we open ourselves to the voice of God and stop resisting that her plan might be different from our own – we who like order and safety, we turn our lives more and more fully towards God.
And creation is waiting for this to happen and has been waiting for a long time. Rather than basing our lives on power and acquisition, on accumulation and individualism. We are called upon to open ourselves to each other, to make ourselves vulnerable and available. And when we can do this, then we are a part of the birthing of another way of being.
I’m not going to say new, it’s not new. It’s very old, this hope that we will turn towards God and respond to the Spirit and live into love.
But how? As we celebrate this Pentecost Sunday as we give thanks for the power of the Spirit and acknowledge that it’s real, as we talk about the fire of Love – how do we take this out into the world with us and live a different way?
I want to say those verbs that show up in our reading from Romans again, listen and see if you connect to any of them, notice your reaction to them – what do they evoke for you? What do they tell you or do they tell you anything at all about the Spirit and your connection to her? Groan, wait, redemption, hope, pray, intercede, sigh, search, know.
These are verbs – action words but also descriptive words of the Spirit. They tell us something about us and about her and about the relationship between us and us and the rest of creation.
There is groaning all around us, sometimes it is too much to bear. We can wait to be invited or to notice where we feel called or invited or where we feel pushed. We know redemption in our bodies when we turn towards the love of God. Our faith is enfleshed. It lives in us and was shown for us in the flesh of Jesus Christ.
We live into hope. There is always hope in some form. It is always possible.
We pray. Connecting our hearts and our minds to the love of God.
We allow the Spirit to intercede – opening ourselves to the possibilities that she offers. We listen for her sighs. We search our hearts and notice that God is there too. And we trust in the knowledge that we have of God and that God has of us and in our ability to live into the love and the power that the Spirit offers.
It is messy and beautiful and often not at all what we plan. But the Spirit offers us so much more that we can offer ourselves our job is to allow for the possibility.