Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day of the breaking in and breaking out of the Spirit in the lives of all who live a life of love and compassion in Christ. To be en christos is to be empowered to live and love in a manner which challenges the accepted ways of the world.
To, in fact, be Christ in the world. You. Yourself. No-one-else.
No longer is there a Jesus to turn to for direction, teaching, hope, advice and spiritual comfort. You are on your own. You are to speak as if you are Jesus and to act as if you are Jesus because, for John, you are. And you will experience life just as Jesus did. For you are mystically one with Christ.
John writes about the coming of the Spirit at a time when we associate Pentecost with miracles, speaking in tongues and other super-natural events, and yet that seems far from what John has in mind. No where in this farewell discourse does he mention the doing of miracles or speaking in tongues or ecstatic experiences s being the lot of the those he was writing, his community which was beginning to feel the wrath of persecution and the struggles of remaining faithful even within the synagogue.
One would have thought if these were to be the tools of a disciple’s life, John would have spoken strongly and clearly about the power available. He doesn’t. Instead he links the disciples lives and experience of life directly to that of Jesus and stresses that the Christ is now in them as God was in him and that is all they need.
Jesus is saying that even if I go away, the meaning I came to bring will not disappear. What I have done is to open to you a new understanding of what it means to be human. Trust it. Now that it has been opened, it cannot be closed again. Spong write that Jesus continues with; ‘The spirit of truth, which proceeds from the father, will come to stand where I have stood.’
David Ewart suggests “Whatever else we may want to say on this day of Pentecost about the Spirit, it is important to notice that Jesus always refers to the Spirit as theSpirit of truth. And in John truth is always the way, the life, the light, the joy, the friendship.”
Here we discover a mystical and mutual indwelling bringing into existence a new being in relationship. It is no longer one of authority but of indwelling friendship. It is a new way of engaging with the divine. The divine is no longer up there, beyond the clouds, but has entered life, your life, my life in the form of the very spirit of truth. This was the spirit we saw in Christ and now will be visibly evident in the lives of those who form the ‘body of Christ’. Us.
William Loader, of Murdoch University says,”Jesus is not left behind that we might soar into spiritual fantasy and relish the prospects of more magic and more religion. John promises no such flights and is silent about future miracles. The task of the disciples and disciples after them is to bear fruit, to let the seed sown in death rise to new life. Transitional events are minimised. What matters is life and love.”
Our life and lives are transformed by the indwelling Christ.
It is our actions, thoughts, experiences which become the visible presence of God in the world. Pentecost is not about the supernatural crashing into the world in the form of special effects and magic tricks, it is the empowering of ordinary people to do ordinary things so that extraordinary changes take place in people, places and things.
John’s Jesus speaks to the ordinary person, saying I know what it is like to be a human who is different to those around me, to be alone and lonely. Jesus says I also know the spirit is sufficient for all your needs, not only your physical needs, but your need to make decisions, to live in a certain manner, to endure hardships and persecutions.
It is perplexing when we see the Spirit at work, and adults even Christian adults, respond with questions and doubts, unable to accept that God is at work in ways and in people outside of what we perceive as the normal spiritual way. We simply shut down Pentecost.
Here we sit in the midst of a local community of people who are open to possibility. People maybe caught up in their aspirations and the responsibilities for family, children, mortgage and career but they do all this because they believe in the possibility of becoming more than they are to day. One of the challenges of our strategic plan is how do we hold out our hand and support them as they struggle with the complexities of life? How do we give of the Spirit as Jesus did for us? How do we let them know that the abundance of God’s compassion and wholeness is available? How do we give of our finances and resources to ensure this parish is able to take the power of the Pentecostal spirit into the lives of the young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick?
The recent incident in Western Australia should make us aware that there are people all around us on the edge of despair, lonely and alone, crying out of recognition and welcome. Are we mindful enough to see and hear what is there and to work with the Parish network to do what is necessary to support them? Our giving will allow us to broadening our connections with the community and families and help us to develop the resources to make a difference. It is not solely the responsibility of agencies such as Anglicare. These people live amongst us. They are our responsibility and we are working to develop strategies to making such a difference.
It is about awakening the spirit with in, going beyond the mind that is. It is the mystical ordinariness of the incarnated spirit of God alive in the daily activities of human beings.
We are challenged on this Pentecost Sunday to see the supernatural possibility in the natural, to see God’s spirit already at work in those around us and to find ways to engage and to be en christos with them. We are not to demand that they change or convert to our thinking but to find ways to befriend and compassionately be one with them. In doing so we open up the miracle of Pentecost and bring about a new world for all.