Saturday, June 11, 2011
Good News for the Bald...
Radical transformation is possible in the lives of balding, fat and ugly people like me but there is nothing that will cure any of the above ailments overnight sadly! Yet our celebrations today do centre on the reality of utter life-changing, radical transformation.
I have been musing and reflecting on the last 7 and a bit years as today approached and I remembered being invited to tea with the then Archdeacon about three weeks into post here. Sitting in her lounge with her best china she asked me, ‘What is your vision Simon?’ I replied that I wanted to do myself out of a job, at which she nearly spat out her tea, but I qualified what I said by saying that when I left Leverstock Green I wanted to leave behind a community that was thriving - pastoring and caring for itself, nurturing and deepening her faith and generally being the church. Today as I leave as your Vicar I see in you God’s radical transformation and the realization of that Divine vision.
God’s divine vision, revealed through the pages of the Scriptures, in the life of the church and the Sacraments she celebrates is a simple love song - I love you; I want to be with you; will you be with me? This vision was personalized by the coming of God in Jesus of Nazareth who emphasized his and God’s love - ‘love as I have loved you’ and ‘No-one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’
But he also made it clear that whilst this special relationship was hugely important, it wasn’t the end of the story. Jesus was going to leave them, but he would send the Spirit to enable them for the very thing he had prepared them for: to go out into the world and tell everyone the good news about what he had done for them. They were to carry on what Jesus had begun with them…. growing out from their personal and very special relationship with him was their mission to the whole world. So let’s look at the effects the Spirit did have as they began their task……
First of all the barriers of language were broken down. Strangers, foreigners, outsiders, a crowd of many different races and nationalities heard the disciples talking to them in their own language. And such was the conviction with which they spoke that many people trusted their good news and were baptized.
Secondly, their lives were changed. We read in Acts that the believers shared their belongings and made sure distribution was equal according to need. They met regularly to worship and eat. Every day, more people joined them and barriers of class and nationality were broken down.
And thirdly, as a result of the Pentecost experience they were filled with a new power and confidence. Suddenly, ordinary people found they could do extraordinary things, things they had never dreamed of.
But Pentecost is a never-ending story. It didn’t happen just once. It happens whenever and wherever people live empowered by the Spirit of Jesus. But if it’s not rooted in our own experience, then it is a flame that will soon die. If the Spirit of the living God has not burned a path down into the depth of our experience, then Pentecost still awaits us.
If Christmas is the festival of the Incarnation, and Easter is the festival of Resurrection, then Pentecost is the festival of liberation. Because Pentecost is about freedom. It is about the Holy Spirit setting people free. Not the kind of freedom that means no more responsibility or suffering, nor freedom from having to make decisions, but a freedom to live in the truth of the promise that we are loved eternally and unconditionally. It gives us a freedom to live the personal relationship with God. But the Spirit too, is free. It cannot be contained or possessed or locked up and it is free to move in the lives of those from whom we are divided or alienated, or those we have hurt or been unjust towards and those who have hurt or been unjust to us. We need Pentecost daily in our own lives and in the life of the world. The freedom of my own personal relationship has to overflow into a passion for the world. Jesus is my saviour because he is the saviour of the whole world and the Spirit has set me free, set us free to be part of God’s mission in that world: to spread the news, to teach others about God’s saving power, to tend the earth and treasure it, transforming it into God’s kingdom.
Back in the Book of Genesis the Spirit of God breathed life into dust and created a human being. Today we celebrate radical transformation, that that same Spirit of God breathed life into those first cowardly disciples and created in wind and fire new men who had the gift of bold speech. The same Holy Spirit of God breathed on us in our baptism, in our confirmation, and continues to breathe on us when we pray, when we read the scriptures or gather for worship in fact whenever and wherever she wills, calling us to follow Christ and make Him known.
As I walked home from the cashpoint last night, the sky almost refused to be night - filled with a dark glowing blueness. It hinted at the coming dawn in a few hours time. As I walked, the street lights, seemingly in great number, stood erect, their warm orange glow lighting the street as I walked, their light reflecting off signs and into windows. What the church celebrates today, we have been celebrating afresh together here in Leverstock Green over the last 7 years. We have seen the light of Christ dawning around and amongst us, even in the darkest of nights. We, in growing number, through us, the Holy Spirit sheds the warm light of Christ wherever we are, we sometimes unaware who will come into our paths. That light, the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, reflects onto and into the lives of others, not because of what we do or what we are, but because of who Christ is and what he does in loving God’s world.
The Spirit of God has no favourites and pulls no punches. Christ himself uses the Holy Spirit as a vehicle of Ministry and by breathing it over his disciples he further equips them for Ministry and Service, giving them authority, his authority over sin.
As this chapter of the story of God's church here closes and before you begin writing a one together with Him but without me and my family, we should therefore ponder for a moment what it is that Christ is calling us to for we should continue to reflect on Christ’s call in our lives:
Where he wants us to deepen our journey, our faith, our engagement
Where he calls us to action
Where he calls us to make a difference in the lives of others, bringing them hope and comfort and healing
Where he calls us to bring the Good News to all people
To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted and proclaim that (in the words of Christ himself) the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Amen