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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Pentecost, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 23, 2010

Acts 2:1-11; Romans 8:8-17; John 14:15-16,23b-26

The fullness of love’

At yesterday’s art class there was much activity, and much of it came towards the end of the session together. One participant said, “I’m drawing on what’s happening around me”. Completing one work after another in quick succession, he was becoming more and more open to the spirit of creativity in and through others. More than that, we were making portraits of each other – a creativity that entailed placing ourselves in each other’s hands. Trust.

The Holy Spirit comes constantly from the ever-loving Trinity. She is present at creation’s birth. She is there – guiding, leading, forming, reforming, transforming – wherever there is wisdom, wherever there is freedom. We are not praying in such a way that perhaps God will breathe again upon creation. We celebrate that we might be open to the Spirit’s work of giving Christ new dimensions, new visibility and new gestures of revelation within us as individuals and as God’s people. We are praying in celebration that God is constantly sending the “breath” upon us. What we do pray is that we may be more open to this Holy Spirit.

During last week’s half-marathon, desperate for oxygen, I drew on Juliette’s wise advice with regard to breathing deeply. A few days later I read these words with regard to Pentecost: “Life in the Holy Spirit is life where Jesus is alive in the company of others … [It entails] something like our lungs expanding to cope with a new atmosphere … the fullness of love” (Rowan Williams).

The challenge of Pentecost, I think, is to really attend to this fullness of love – and not simply huff and puff about supernatural miracles or about our own preferences and prejudices.

What the early apostles heard sounded like a strong wind and Christ breathed upon the eleven in hiding. The Spirit was not inflating, says another commentator, not inflating egos, that is, but incarnating.

The Jewish Pentecost (or Shavuot) is a celebration of the fruitfulness of the land, blessed by the sun, rain and “breath” of God. It is also a celebration of God’s giving Torah to a newly liberated people – fifty days after the Passover, fifty days after the Exodus. In the Christian community, we celebrate how the Spirit or “wind” of God has “in-spirited” human hearts – Jews and Gentiles – to live “highly” of themselves. The work of the Spirit is that all creation, including human beings, radiate Christ. As the Spirit came upon Mary whose faithfulness gave the Word flesh, so that same Spirit hovers over our bodies that Christ might take new flesh.

The early apostles, “air-borne” in a sense, flew outward from hiding into humanity, from amorphous shame into bold figures of faith.

As Jesus went about, blessed by the Spirit at his anointing, so we do not float, huff or puff, but walk, run, limp, wheel, crawl or sit, and give the light of Christ our personal refraction. The Church now, as then, is full of its blessed self when it longs and labours within God’s good creation to bring forth fruits of holiness not hollowness, substance not emptiness.

The work of the Spirit is “incarnation” or visibility, or the revelation in each of our lives that the mysterious God desires to make manifest.

“Life in the Holy Spirit is life where Jesus is alive in the company of others … [It entails] something like our lungs expanding to cope with a new atmosphere … the fullness of love” (Rowan Williams).

Attending to this fullness of love is a simple and demanding task. The Spirit transforms crowds into communities, says Peter Steele. Sounds simple. The spiritual writer, Richard Rohr, says it’s not difficult to discern a person of the Spirit. A child can tell very quickly, he says, if someone is a person of the Spirit: kind, generous, willing the good, open to friendship, curious, good-humoured, gentle, and so on. Seems about right.

And Patrick O’Sullivan, in a little book entitled Prayer and Relationships (now available from St Lydia’s Library), writes about discerning the “will of God for me” from ungodly “spirits at work inside me”. O’Sullivan draws up two lists: Signs of the Good Spirit and Signs of the Bad Spirit. “The way of the Bad Spirit is to lead us away from relationships; the way of the Good Spirit is to lead us more deeply into relationships,” he says.

We’re invited to complete the homily today by reading through these lists – we can do that in pairs (some reading the Signs of the Good Spirit and some reading the Signs of the Bad Spirit) – and then sharing something insightful or striking here at the altar-table … Perhaps something we read together has particular resonance for us or is pertinent with regard to a community or social issue of concern …

Let us be open, together, to the Spirit …



Signs of the Good Spirit

Signs of the Bad Spirit


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