When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place...
I love the Acts account of the day the Spirit came. It must be one of the most exciting narratives in all Scripture – one that simply BEGS to be used for a sustained meditation, as it invites us into the story to share in the heady excitement, the chaotic joy that fills every line.
Place yourself there for a moment.
Here is the Spirit coming in transforming power...the wind of God blowing so strongly that it all but sweeps us off our feet...the fire of God's love resting on each of us, warming us, and filling us with courage.
In contrast, the gospel we've just heard gives us a much quieter picture of the giving of the Spirit...an advocate who speaks on our behalf, a teacher who ensures that we will remember all that Jesus has told us...a Spirit of peace –
I wonder which story you'd rather be part of....the drama of Acts or the peace of John.
I wonder, too, which story our church most NEEDS to be part of.
The power of the Spirit IS hugely disruptive...extraordinary...a force that shapes existence in ways that cannot be predicted...
Do you remember how Nicodemus visits Jesus by night and asks what it might mean to be born again?
Jesus tells him
“The Spirit blows where she chooses, and you hear the sound of her, but you do not know where she comes from or where she goes.”
The Spirit blows where she chooses...through our world and through history.
Across the face of the waters in Genesis, blowing Creation into being...
Across the Red Sea, holding back the water so that the Hebrew people could escape from Egypt.
She blew life into Ezekiel's dry bones and transformed them.
The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to spend time alone with God.
The Spirit blew through the church in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, through political events like the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage, as the Berlin wall fell and the apartheid system was demolished.
And still she blows...and when the Spirit moves and the wind of God blows, everything changes!
We're not in control – though we can open ourselves to her action – or, if we choose, resist and turn away.
We may not see the need for change...may resist being blown along...prefer to follow more slowly, under our own volition.
And generally God won't force us...but think for a moment of what that means.
Visualise a sailing galley – high decked and splendidly rigged...but with her sails furled so that the only way she can proceed is through the efforts of hundreds of oarsmen, sweating and struggling to drive her forward.
Doesn't it seem rather sad to continue with the back breaking effort of rowing alone when there is a power available that can send that same vessel gliding over the water, the wind filling her sails
Many in the western Church are tired.
When I look at our congregation here, it seems to me that some of us are quite tired too.
We've been faithful...we've done our best but the world around us has changed faster than we have, and seems for the most part uninterested in our church and the faith we treasure
It can be hard not to feel disheartened as it seems possible that the familiar ways of being church, ways that we value, ways that we love, may not survive our lifetime
But...before we turn out the lights and walk away disconsolate – remember there is an alternative.
God hasn't given up on us yet.....indeed, God never will.
We can open ourselves to the power of the Spirit – unfurl those sails - EXPECT God to act
Joel predicted this centuries ago...Peter recognised it as he stood among the crowd on that amazing morning in Jerusalem...
They knew that God's Spirit was at work – and will always be at work...yes, gentle as a dove but strong as the mighty rushing wind as well...
The Spirit will always be at work..She will not rest til she has renewed the face of creation, swept us all into God's great dance that gives visions to the young and dreams to the old, new life to the weary and salvation to all.