Monday, June 12, 2006

Work of the Spirit

Even by my standards, life has been quite busy lately…Two very different but equally excellent training days should get posts of their own very soon, I hope, but before the moment passes entirely I wanted to write something about last night’s Pentecost Plus Trail….
The original plan had been for this to be part of another GD1 ecumenical Youth Service,- but at the last minute this foundered on the rocks of college for the youth leaders of the other churches…There are times when they make me feel so very old as they juggle the demands of college courses, their youth ministry and the incessant pressure to get on with being young and having fun!
So, on Saturday and Sunday evening we laid out the trail for our St M’s youth groups.
It was really interesting to discover the difference that a golden summer evening had on the atmosphere in church…instead of the mysterious pools of light and shade which had characterised earlier trails, the whole church was bathed in golden light and birdsong drifted in from the churchyard till well into the evening….We left the doors open and I enjoyed visits from some random by-passers,- who badly needed a positive experience of teenagers in Charlton Kings, and were both impressed and amazed to find an eclectic group working their way round the stations with a kind of joyful seriousness. I’m so happy at the way those children have become comfortable with the church building and with this type of prayer. A year ago, there would have been horseplay and foolery from the majority…last night, one group in particular took nearly an hour to work their way round seven stations. As always, some worked better than others, but this particular trail was very low stress for me, thanks to our own Youth Leader, who recognised a sinking curate when he saw one and collected most of the material needed for half the stations, bless him.
I don’t think he’d have done that last year either…we seem to have had a growing season.

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks…….
Feel the wind on your face….imagine that it is the breath of God blowing over you, filling you with all the gifts that you most need…
Spend a few moments thinking about what they might be, and talk to God about them. You might like to breathe your prayer, your need, into a bubble and let it float off in the breeze.

They started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
The disciples had an important message to communicate…the message of God’s love.
How we use the gift of language is important…we can damage others or make them happy. We can share Good News or bad…
Use your gift of language to write helpful or hurtful words on the sheets

1That's when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: "Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren't drunk as some of you suspect. They haven't had time to get drunk—it's only nine o'clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

"In the Last Days," God says,
"I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I'll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they'll prophesy……..
……And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved."
Pentecost is part of the way God began to work out his dream for the world…but so much today remains far from any sort of dream come true.
Read through a few of the news stories in these papers and reflect on what God’s dream or your dream might be in those situations. Write a dream on a flame shape….

Don’t be misled. No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God! – harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life!

Now is your chance to plant good seeds in response to God, and ask him to help you to grow in his new life. Plant a sunflower seed and take care of it in the weeks ahead…remember, a sunflower always turns to find where the sun is…in the same way as we need to turn always towards God and follow in his way if we want to grow and flourish in him.

In the Old Testament one of God’s prophets, Ezekiel, had a vision of God’s plans for his people…this is what he heard God say
“I'll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed. I'll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.”
We spend most of our time trying to live life the way that we want, without caring too much about either God or other people…we may not worry that others are affected by our actions, our ways of life. The loving hearts that God intends each of us to have can seem to be frozen by our own selfishness…but all is not lost. God promises to give us new hearts. Think about ways in which you may be hard or cold-hearted at the moment. Ask God to change you from the inside…to make you as full of love as God is.
Then take an ice cube and carry it to the altar rails…place it in the bowl beside the flames and leave it there to melt, as a sign that you have invited him to soften your heart too.

The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples both as a strong wind and as flames…flames can warm and melt, they can guide and comfort,-but they never leave things unchanged.
You may want to light a tea light as a sign that you are asking God’s Holy Spirit to be with you through life…but remember, a candle is changed completely by being burned. It gives light and warmth to others, but it does so at a cost.
To help you pray, if you wish you might use these words from a hymn to the Holy Spirit
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Melt me,
mold me,
fill me,
use me.
Spirit of living God,
fall afresh on me.

At this last station, I’d placed assorted spam CDs around our “fire” (candles of assorted sizes in sand, in a dish surrounded by flame coloured crepe paper,-simple but quite effective), which itself stood in a bowl of the water created by the melting ice hearts. By the time I prayed the trail myself, just before dismantling it, the kids had each left a tea light positioned in the centre of a CD, so that it picked up the holographic effect and made the whole area a rainbow of warmth and colour. Sitting in the cool of the church, with Taize music gently enveloping me, and that sense of companionship that the prayeful candles of other pilgrims always offers, I was selfishly grateful that we weren't involved in madly liasing with quantities of youth from the other churches. GD1 has been great, but always on the frenetic side...and with exams afoot for many of our youth and busy lives taking their toll on all of us, that peace was just what we needed.
By 10.00 last night, there was nowhere else I would rather have been. Just lovely, really!


peripateticpolarbear said...

you win the most creative (and useful) use of a spam CD prize!

serena said...

Sounds gorgeous and very thought-provoking :)

stuart said...

Thanks for the ideas (I seem to be out of them at the moment) they are stored for future use!