This morning we gathered by Zoom again and celebrated the Church’s birthday as never before!
Missing being outdoors, we began taking a couple of minutes standing outside listening to the birdsong, soaking up the sunshine and feeling the breeze…
Being in lockdown continues to help me see things from a different perspective and Pentecost has undergone such for me this year. For the first time, really, it seems pertinent that encounters with the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit happened indoors, in an upper room – at times when the disciples were locked in!
We had readings from John 20:19-22, 26-27 and Acts 2:1-4
What’s so interesting is that overlap of stories about the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit in different ways at different points – not just at Pentecost! Yet after Jesus breathes on them, we find them just getting on with their old life as if nothing much had changed – 7 of them are back in Galilee and fishing… It’s back indoors, in that upper room again when the breath becomes wind and flames that they are really transformed. Their lives and the life of all believers as the Church are never the same again.
I started Lockdown thinking it would be enough to just get through this time, well and without upset. But now I have come to think that that isn’t enough, I want to come through this changed and for the better – to see this as a gift of time that can change me and change all of us…
And something of that connected with a story Jane shared with me on Wednesday- so I asked her to share that.
Jane shared how many years ago she had gone forward for prayer and blurted out ‘I want may faith to make a difference to my life’ and how she had had a vision of a banner in the sky saying ‘God is good’. From that time on her faith was transformed…
I found myself, like Jane herself, quite interested in that emphasis of God being GOOD as opposed to God being LOVE. Clearly, she needed to hear that particular aspect of God’s nature at that time– as perhaps many do during this time of pandemic.
And along with that thought I found myself revisiting different times in my life when the Holy Spirit was depicted differently. The trouble is, of course, that the Spirit is so much harder to relate to than the Father or Son imagery given to the other two members of the Trinity – or to Jesus, who is the supremely accessible version of God for us. And historically, the Church has struggled to know what to do with this third person. Like me you must have had a wide range of teaching or experiences or at least awareness of the Spirit presented as an essentially irrelevant ‘thing’ all the way across the spectrum to some frankly oddly behaving, worrying if not terrifying aspect of God who could be summoned to do very dramatic things… And for me, there was a mismatch between so much of what was communicated about the Spirit and the other biblical title given to him / her – the Spirit of Christ. I liked and trusted Jesus but was uncomfortable with the Spirit – how can that be right?! Perhaps the Church has forgotten to emphasise that he Spirit of Christ is GOOD, Christ-like, loving and available in locked rooms…
But in ThirdSpace two images have been hugely helpful to me – and I think to many of us.
1. St Brendan, setting off in his coracle, hoisting his sail and letting the Spirit blow him to the right place, trusting in that benevolent wind to guide and to bless… That’s a good image when we don’t know the future and what will happen. The Spirit of God will blow us to the right shores if we let her…
2. The image of the rock pigeon – which is the ‘dove’ that inhabited the Jordan valley where Jesus was baptised and the Spirit descended like a dove. As Fiona pointed out – pigeons are ubiquitous and unvalued – often unnoticed… Barbara and Grayden took comfort and encouragement in seeing them at critical moments in their times of testing over the past 2 years or so, being reminded that the Spirit was with them. And then, of course, on ThirdSpace’s 10th anniversary, on speaking of this and of speaking about our use of Celtic Circling prayers, a pigeon flew into the bandstand (an unprecedented event) and walked around us all, encircling us before flying off… The Spirit is with us in all kinds of unnoticed ways, accompanying us, circling us, caring for us…
So this Pentecost, in our ‘locked rooms’ we prepared to pray that he Spirit of Christ would come to each of us in a new way to bless and inspire and change us for the better. And we held onto the idea that that same Spirit can enter induced comas and those locked down on ventilators, for those locked in fear or in grief – because there is nowhere the Spirit cannot break into.
And we prepared to pray God’s blessing on all those who need the Spirit of Christ now and to know God’s goodness and love and presence.
And we prepared to pray for the Church – that it won’t just revert to how it was before when social distancing is lifted, but will become something renewed and different and more effective and more loving.
So we took time to share the names of those we wanted the Spirit of God to meet now…
And we spoke these prayers:
Holy Spirit, fabric of our being, thank you that there is no place too hard for you to enter. Break into these lives and situations we have mentioned, penetrate the darkness and bring a sense of your presence, goodness, love and calling.
Holy Spirit, fabric of life, thank you that there is no place too hard for you to enter – even those lock-downed disciples all that time ago. Come to the lock-downed church today – those in fear of persecution – those whom defeat and death and demoralisation have imprisoned. Transform us by the renewal of our minds, regenerate and renew in ways we can hardly think of, inspire and strengthen the leaders and the led
After that we shared bread and wine using the Pentecost liturgy written by Steve two years ago – which you can find in our resources area.
Finally we prayed God’s blessing on one another by placing our own hand on our heads and becoming the blessed and the blesser:
As we long for the end of lockdown, we long too for the renewal of all things, when death shall be no more and the land runs with compassion and justice.
May you be blessed with an assuredness of the Creator’s love, blessed with Jesus’ simplicity and blessed with the Spirit’s indwelling.
Know that God is good. You are encircled in God’s love. Open yourself to being blown by the Spirit to the right shores. Receive the Spirit of Christ.