Friday, 29 May 2009

Sermon - first draft

I'll come back to this tomorrow, I hope - but I think it's getting there...

Pentecost (Ezekiel 37: 1-14, Romans 8: 22-27, Acts 2: 1-21)

I have to confess that there are certain films that I still think of as ‘Sunday afternoon’ films – the ones that seemed to be on time and time again on Sunday afternoons in my youth. Even when I watch them today, many years later, I can almost taste the tongue sandwiches and tinned peaches. One of these films is Jason and the Argonauts – which is packed with truly fantastic sequences, thanks to Ray Harryhausen’s stop-frame animation. One of the most memorable scenes is where Jason & his men fight skeletons brought to life by the baddy with the beard.

Perhaps when you heard the story of Elijah and the valley of bones you were imagining something like that – I know I always do. God tells the prophet to prophecy to the bones, and they come together as whole skeletons, and then the breath of God – God’s spirit - comes into them and they are fully alive and stand as an amazing army.

There the resemblance with Jason & the Argonauts ends, because this army is not there to fight, but to be an illustration of how the Spirit and power of God will take a scattered people and bring them together again, breathing new life into them, and making them one people. The Spirit makes many, one.

In Acts, too we have examples of many, of diversity, of variety – many tongues of fire are seen, many languages are spoken and understood by people from many different places. Many different classes and ages of people are promised that God’s spirit will be with them. Yet again the Spirit makes many, one: as all are enabled to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Today we celebrate the coming of the Spirit. We are many and varied – from different churches, different villages, different backgrounds. We are each unique and rightly so, God has created us to be an infinitely varied species. Yet God has sent us his Spirit – to make us one. One in Christ, one church, one faith, one in purpose.

On Ascension Day we were left, with the disciples, looking for the vanished risen body of Jesus Christ. Waiting…. Today we see the body of Christ is here again – but the shocking news is, it’s us! We are called to be the body of Christ, to chosen vessel for God’s Spirit in the world. We who were scattered and lifeless and many are pulled together into one people of God, one body of Christ.

We have seen a small example of how this might happen for our seven churches – the prayer for healing network, with the cards and boxes for people’s prayers in all 7 churches, is a god example of how, when we listen to the Spirit, we can be pulled together in God’s work. It is a small start, but it has been amazing to see that work grow from vague thoughts of what we might do, to a growing sense of working together.

And what next?
I have no idea.
Just as when we started out on exploring the healing ministry we had no idea what we might end up doing together. But we wondered what to do…together: we explored as one church, listening for the one spirit to tell us how we were to be pulled together in God’s work.

Of course it isn’t always easy to hear what the spirit is saying to us – we have to listen together and listen to one another – we have to remember that the prophet Joel taught that God’s spirit would be poured out even on the lowliest and the least. Peter states on the day of Pentecost that this prophecy has now come true – God’s spirit is poured out on all people. We need to learn to trust that when we listen to one another and seek God’s will, God’s way will open to us.

And if all that sounds too difficult – relax!

It is the work of the Spirit to help us – Paul says in his letter to the Romans that we do not even know how to pray as we ought – but the Spirit himself intercedes for us. When as one body we seek God’s will, the Spirit is there among us, breathing new life into us, empowering us to be Christ’s own for the world.

And to God by the glory, in the church and in the world, now and forever. Amen.

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