Come, Oh Holy Spirit

The following links will provide you with additional activities for the whole family for this Pentecost Sunday:

Readings from the Scriptures  (NRSV)  Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.
 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.
 And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
 The sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Come, O Holy Spirit Rev. Chris Fickling

Last week’s story sets up this week, so we need to start with the story of Jesus’ Ascension – his last moments and last prayer for his disciples before his mysterious disappearance in the clouds. If you’ve had a chance to check out the Amazon Prime show Upload, imagining a future ‘without’ death, it’s kinda like that – he’s both not here and yet here – dead and alive – gone but present.
The day of Pentecost is a continuation of this paradox. We’ve talked about this ‘both and’ paradox these last couple of weeks, that life can both be amazing and terrible at the same time in this time of quarantine. Jesus is both with his disciples and not. The divine does not abandon us though it can feel like we’re alone. We’re to walk the Way of Jesus, even though his life challenged authority, and he was put to death by those supposedly responsible for protection.
There are two retellings of the story of Pentecost. One is found in the reading we shared today from Acts 2 (believed to be written by the same writer of the Gospel of Luke) and the second passage in the reading we shared on the Sunday after Easter (John 20). In the latter text, Jesus appears to his disciples and breathes on them (moistly ) and says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus’ breath is the breath of life, and the way and the truth of Jesus gives way to a life, a breath, we all share. In the former passage, the story is a little different. The disciples are quarantined together in a home, when the sound of a rushing wind, and the image of tongues of fire danced on their heads. In both tellings, the disciples have a profoundly mystical experience. They’re fired up and encouraged and challenged to share their faith with the world. They discover their purpose in sharing this faith with others.
We may not be able to start at their end point. Sharing our faith needs a motivating force – something felt both as a part of us, yet beyond us. We can describe this feeling as ‘being fired up’ that deep within there’s a well of energy – passion – fire – that is based on your true the self – the self that God has created to be – knowing that there’s never been a you like you on this planet before. Getting fired up is realizing who we are meant to be(come) and sharing that gift with the world. We’re going to play a game – I’m going to show you some pictures – and I invite you to pay attention to your emotions – what these pictures make you feel – and where you see yourself. Go with your ‘gut’ reaction – as we normally have a reaction in less than a second.
There are people that if they saw our lawn this month would be fired up (I think a few of those people live on our street). Now they don’t necessarily know that we’re trying to do the ‘no-mow-May’ to try to help the bee population, (and clearly it gave a home to a little rabbit this week) but for some, it just looks like we’re dragging down the collective house values on the street! So are you the lawngrower or do you find yourself uncontrollably compelled to cut my grass? (That was an easy one…)

What about this famous photo from last week at Trinity Belwoods park in Toronto? Many people had a visceral reaction to this photo…for those of us able to choose quarantine, this seemed like a slap in the face.

Or how about this picture? This is from 1918 during the Spanish flu when people were forced to wear masks – or go to jail it says in one person’s sign. There have been protests (then and now) and altercations over the use of masks, but how many people’s eyes jumped right to this person who wasn’t wearing the mask correctly? For some the very sight of this, both then and now, fires them up.

Already, you’ve found yourself in these photos – these pictures cause feelings to well up within us, to see ourselves on one side of the issue or the other.

How many saw the countless pictures of George Floyd under the knee of a former police officer who took his life. On this day of Pentecost, when the sound of the wind rushed, and Jesus breathed on his disciples to impart the Holy Spirit, to hear George Floyd say he is without breath, is an indictment on all of us who freely breathe, as are the ensuing riots …and complaints about property destruction as somehow more important than the life of person…or the arrest of a black and latino reporter for CNN, or ‘one on Twitter’ that seemingly implies that the President of America is supportive of protests depending on the colour of your skin, and violence for the rest.

Or this picture of a woman who called the police on Christian Cooper, a bird watcher in New York City. I wasn’t surprised that the woman turned out to be Canadian – in fact I was glad – because we have the same propensity for our own racism just like our American sisters and brothers. Just talk about First Nations people and that fire within us will get ignited, in one way or another.

You see, there’s a fired up that incites our anger – but from that same place – the place deep down that touches our passion, our energy, our spirit we find the strength to offer what we have to the world.
I don’t know about you, but when I saw that video of Ace and Archie singing ‘I am the church,’ I was moved to tears. At one point we were all blank slates taught to love one another or fear our neighbour (or our neighbour’s lawns). At one point someone in our lives decided that we should learn the way to be in the world, the truths of the world, and what it meant to share life together. And I love that Ace and Archie might not get all the words but they’ve got the most important parts…I am the church…you are the church…the church is not a building…the church is not a resting place…the church is the people.
I asked a couple kids from our church to send me pictures about what they loved (no staged shots, or putting on a show for the camera – just doing what they loved)…And I’m sure if I asked you for your pictures of what fires you up – what enlivens your life – what passions remind you about your unique calling upon this earth – I’d be flooded with pictures of everything from apple picking to zebra walking – for there’s so much in our lives that connects us with our true selves, and the life that God has called us to live.

The church is not a resting place…the church is a people…for two months we’ve lived Pentecost lives, listening for the Spirit’s urging, pushed in new and uncomfortable ways. As people of God now dispersed into the world, we have been called to live out of the passion that God has ignited within us, that proves that we don’t need our buildings to be the people of God.
Two thousand years ago, a band of disciples felt lost and leaderless.
Their leader, rabbi and teacher had been executed.
They held to the hope and joy of their Easter faith,
But they also questioned: What now? What next? Where do we go from here?

In the story of Pentecost, the spirit moves amongst these disciples like the wind.
The disciples were energized, strengthened, and mobilized.

Like a fire, a conviction took hold of their hearts.
The Spirit moved in the disciples.
They were able to understand in new ways, with deep passion, and with strongly felt faith.
Where once there was despair and apathy and disillusionment,
their hope and energy and purpose and meaning was reignited.
The Spirit’s fire was burning.

In the pattern of Pentecost, the winds of God blow us out of apathy,
helps us to make changes, and enables us to take action.

On this day of Pentecost, people from many lands
And of many languages come together.
That there might be a miracle of understanding and unity.
Holy Spirit help us to listen to one another.
Spirit of Pentecost grant us the ability to respect each other.
God of Possibilities enable understanding in our midst.

The power of Pentecost is that the divine presence enlivens that which is inside us, that which is good, that which speaks to our passions and fires, and compels us to share it with the world.
For as William Blake wrote,
Unless the eye catch fire,
God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
God will not be known.
William Blake (1757-1827) from Pentecost
May our eyes, ears, tongues, hearts, minds catch fire with hope and justice and peace for all that can be seen, heard, named, loved and known. Amen

One Comment

  1. Thanks again Chris and everyone involved. Having just about stopped ‘Going down to the river to pray’ now we are ‘Marching in the light of God’. The Chicago choir in particular was/were wonderful.
    Another irony about these strange times – we have been able to ‘attend online’ two funerals in Scotland recently which we would otherwise not have been able to but which many people close to home couldn’t attend in person.

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