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Life Giving Spirit

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104
1 Corinthians 12:3b-25b

Three readings this week–each with diverse metaphors of the Spirit. The Psalm is jam-packed with metaphors of the Creating Spirit who births Creation and manifests through it. One of my favourite lines from this Psalm is “ But when you send out your Spirit, they live again, and you renew the face of the earth.” The Spirit breathing life into death; giving life when it seemed it was all over, and death had the final word; The Spirit renewing the face of creation.

This is surely an image of the life-giving Spirit with which we need to connect in our times. We need to partner with the Spirit and embody this Spirit in our work of renewing the face of the earth. For people of faith, environmental concern is not just a political or social agenda. It is God’s agenda; God’s holy work that demands our partnership. You will hear more of this over the year as this congregation adopted as one of its key goals for then next few years “To live with Respect in Creation”. No doubt we all have a lot to learn about what that means and we will need the help of everyone here. Send your Spirit upon us God that we might live again and participate in renewing the face of the earth.

A different image of the Spirit in Acts, the image of the coming of the Spirit as powerful wind and flames descending…power which, whatever else it did, transformed fearful fugitives into bold public proclaimers. One commentator on this passage says that” Indeed, after what’s been done to Jesus, you’d have to be either crazy or drunk to be shouting his name in the streets and pointing accusing fingers at the executioners. But this is what they did.

Peter’s speech is a wonderful example of how the Holy Spirit can “embolden: someone who has known betrayal and disgrace. He finds the courage to speak the hard truth to his own people in order to bring about renewal and transformation.

•The winds of Spirit broke through their fear and paralysis. But that is not all that the Pentecost Spirit did.

•The winds of God broke through boundaries of race and ethnicity, and language….Each one hears and understands. Language and culture, which can often be walls of misunderstanding and even of hate, were broken down. And there’s even more.

•The winds of God broke through rigid class structures. The cosmopolitan visitors of high standing are being instructed by rural, uneducated but suddenly polyglot Galileans. That was certainly a reversal of the normal order of things.

•The winds of God broke through the boundaries of gender. Luke has made it clear that women are part of the group and Peter’s argument confirms that women are participating in this prophetic revival. In other word, boundaries of race, class and gender are being transgressed by a church empowered by the Spirit, and a new “community without walls” is being born.

The outpouring of the Spirit is disruptive to our traditions and institutions, in church and world alike. For Luke, the Spirit empower the church to cross established (and enforced!) boundaries of gender, of race and of class. It certainly speaks to our Affirming process as we work to break down walls of discrimination, homophobia, fear, lack of knowledge that have kept the church from being a place of welcome to the GBLT community.

And it led to a new economic way of being together as well. It led to sharing common life; People were being brought into a community where they shared all things in common.

Paul in the letter to the Corinthians church gives us more insight into what a genuinely Spirit-filled church would look like. He speaks of many gifts which are a manifestation of the Spirit. It’s interesting to look at this list of gifts Paul speaks about. Wise speech, putting the deepest knowledge into words, faith, miraculous powers, prophecy (which means speaking God’s truth into the world NOT foretelling the future), ability to discern, gift of ecstatic utterance, gift of interpretation of tongues… In the United Church, we may not have too many people who speak in tongues, though there are a few. But what would be the gifts of the spirit that would manifest in the modern church…Gifts of truth-telling, gifts of generosity, gifts of insight, gifts of teaching, gifts of healing, gifts of justice, gifts of administration, gifts of caring for the health and well-being of the community, gifts of music and art and dance, gifts of open hospitality, gifts of speaking to the powers, gifts of reaching out to those who are on the margins, gifts of leadership, gifts of inspiring, gifts of nurturing, of encouraging, and supporting, gifts of prayer, gifts of hope. Ann Weems has written a poem to celebrate the Spirit-filled church. On this Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday when we celebrate the birthday of our church, I’d like to share it with you.. .

I celebrate the Church of Jesus Christ from Reaching for Rainbows by Ann Weems.

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