Sermon 15 May 2016

Sermon for Sunday 15 May 2016, Westbourne Church

Pentecost 2016  Acts 2:1-21    Romans 8:14-17    John 14:8-17

From time to time I receive a catalogue of cruises. These would take me to various parts of the world for varying amounts of time – and money. Sometimes it is the Mediterranean, pictures of balmy shores and exotic cities with pictures of laden tables and sumptuous accommodation tempt the reader. They make good picture books.

The event described in Acts is a bit like that. All those strange sounding names belong to places around the eastern end of the Mediterranean. As they are read the mind goes round the map, visiting each place in turn. That is quite deliberate of course. This was more or less the known world and the early reader would have wondered big-eyed at the spectacle suggested. It is a cruise of the imagination. 

The peoples' minds are blown away by it all. This news is astounding. God has changed or they have suddenly seen more to God than they had ever done before. The time of their bewilderment is over. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus suddenly begins to make some sense. That is what the prophets were talking about – God was going to offer renewal to people and it has happened. In these weeks since that confusing early morning the connections had been made. Understanding is born and it crosses all the cultural and lingual boundaries. This religion business is not about the learning of systems and history and how-to, but it is about relationships, those between people and between peoples and peoples and the earth but especially between people and God. Suddenly it rushes into the space where the questions had been and moves from religion to faith, something exercising and mysterious, drawing the explorer on to discover himself and his context.

This moment is often called the giving of the gift of tongues but it is much more a gift of ears. They all heard in their own language. The message for each of them was culturally appropriate.

The challenge for you and me is just the same. We have to find the language, the ways to let our faith show that people out there might see and hear in a way accessible to them. It means scrutinising our language and choice of words, it means a close look at what we do, it means getting our relationships with each other in train and that with God in peak condition. Then we may be inspired.

When we become Pentecost people others will think we are mad, drunk – they do anyway but we must prophesy, we must use our God given gifts to interpret what is going on around us and point out the way forward for truth, compassion and mercy. Our responsibility is to make the God at work in the world visible, wearing our hearts on our sleeves. Sometimes that will be quietly and demurely but often noisily and as a nuisance as we point out what we believe to be God’s way for the world.

The biblical image is wind. We have seen only recently what strong wind can do. Wind is destructive and will enable and magnify all else. Look at the wild fire in Canada, driven by the wind. Look at the trees outside and see its destructiveness.  What a destructive wind leaves behind is the chance to rebuild, renew and re-establish. The wind of God, the Spirit of God blows with that purpose, to blow away the dragging weight of degraded humanity and blow in the new humanity, known and forgiven and reborn. As our past is destroyed and gone the future opens up where hurts can be healed and divisions drawn together. The gift of listening becomes more important than having our say and grinding our axes.


© 2016 Frank Wright

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