Toorak Uniting Church

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Pentecost

Acts 2: 1 15
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
8 June 2003

The first time we hear about the Spirit of God in the bible is right at the beginning, in Genesis 1 where the Spirit of God is pictured as a bird, brooding over raging oceans covered in darkness.
Right at the beginning when creation starts.
God calls forth light, and light appears, he separates the earth and sky, land and water, night and day. It is an ordering that takes place in the story of Genesis 1, out of the chaotic primordial soup God calls, step by step the world and all that is in it and on it into being.
The story ends with breath, God giving mouth to mouth to a shape formed from clay calling it to live on the rhythm of His own breath.

Pentecost in a way is a re-enactment of creation.

Again we find the Spirit hovering.
At the beginning of Jesus ministry a dove descends from heaven, symbol of the spirit, and a voice calls out from heaven: "This is my son, my beloved…."
And throughout Jesus ministry, the Spirit is at work, creating, renewing the world around Jesus. Reordering, rearranging the world as it is to something new, standing old truths on their heads, breaking boundaries to make way for a new understanding of God's love and care for the world and it's people.
Here is one that truly lives with God's breath going in and out of him with every step he takes and every deed he does.

But He dies, the breathing stops, his life put to an end. And for a moment it looks like the world will end up as a place where violence and murder will forever have the last word.

However, again the Spirit of God hovers over the void of darkness, chaos and death. And again, like in Genesis 1, new life is brought forth where there was none, light called from darkness, order from chaos. A whole new order is founded and God finds a new way to bring the world to rights.

All the believers are gathered in one place when suddenly there is a noise from the sky which sounds like a strong wind and then they see what looks like tongues of fire and from there on what happens is like a firebrand that is impossible to stop. They all start talking, all at the same time and with infectious enthusiasm they turn to the streets. Gone their fear of the Romans, gone their confusion and sadness at Jesus' departure. They see the light, quite literally and cannot but act upon it.

Now, just imagine that it would happen to us, now, gathered in this place, together, praying like they were.

Would we be ready? Would we let it happen to us?

In other words: Are we ready for recreation?

Apparently they were. Apparently 50 days of praying and being together had prepared them enough to be able to change, to turn around and do what they had never done before: share the gospel, start a new creation.

We should not forget those 50 days I think when we talk about Pentecost and changing and the Spirit bringing people to a new life in Christ.

We must not forget what happened before Pentecost. How the disciples lost everything. How they stood empty handed at the foot of the cross. Spent three days believing that it was all over. Spent 40 days with glimpses of the resurrected Lord, but unable to take the next step, to come out, to jump up and do something, to brave the threat of Roman soldiers to share their discovery of God's ongoing love.
And last but not least the 10 days of nothing. The Lord gone to heaven on a cloud, and them looking up, after him, still paralysed, still not moving into anything remotely useful to God or the world.
Waiting, sitting together, praying…

Something had to happen! Somebody had to kick them into action!

And somebody does - God; and only then does recreation and renewal start. Only after a lot of waiting and praying, confusion, and hesitation, inaction and fear does the Spirit of the Lord, who has been hovering over their heads for some time, come down and grab them by the scruff of their necks. It is the spirit of the Lord who kicks them out of the stuffiness of that room where they've sat. With their memories of Jesus, stuck in the past and afraid of the future, into the world to testify of the love and mercy of God in such a way that it catches like wildfire.

Something has to happen.
With us, in this Church, in this world.
Isn't that what we feel sometimes? Wouldn't you want the rafters of this Church suddenly to start creaking, a strong wind blowing the doors open, tongues of fire inspiring us with new energy and enthusiasm? Bringing us to our feet? Ready to go out and tell the world what a wonderful God we have?

I would. And yet. I know there is still part of me that is quite comfortable with the way things are. That likes the present order and doesn't necessarily want something quite so spectacular as that to happen. Something in me that resists being taken too far out of her comfort zone. It is only human. I suspect at least some of you probably feel the same: New creation very well, but not with too much fuss please.

The Holy Spirit hovers. Again. Brooding. Here in this place, over us.

Giving us dreams to dream, opening visions to us of a future much better than the present we are so comfortable with. A future where peace and justice, love and mercy flow like a river. A future where God's order reigns and has conquered the oceans of chaos that cover the surface of the earth right now.

The Spirit hovers, waiting for us to come to life, God's life, to move and be moved to a different way of being. Gently pushing us, and some times, after much preparing, when God feels we are ready for it, the earth will move under our feet. The sky will come alive with energy. The roofing will start to rattle and the walls will begin to shake. A storm will rise and sweep away all that hinders the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Let us pray that we will be ready and prepared to go with that moment when it comes. It might be now.

Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2003


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