Sunday 4 June - Pentecost - Evensong - Clephane Hume

Acts 2. 1-4 Galatians 4 1-7

Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire…

I love the imagery of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit to fulfil God’s purpose.

We see the spirit in the tongues of fire bringing the message of the gospel to all people, as those present in the assembled crowd were given the ability to speak in different languages. To join together in praise. Inspired. Fired up.

A different situation to the lack of understanding and communication experienced at the tower of Babel. Communication is always a complex business. You may not hear what I think I am telling you…

Many years ago I was in Montréal at this time of the church’s year and during the morning Eucharist, we had our own little winds blowing through the cathedral. Small children, bearing red wings, tongues of fire, rushing happily about, albeit in a mostly controlled way. They brought a youthful and free dimension to our worship. Simplicity can hide great depth.

The mighty rushing wind of the spirit!

I’ve recently returned from voyaging round the north of Scotland so mighty winds have been a feature of my life! Slowing up our progress and making the swell of the ocean distinctly noticeable.

And the different landscapes demonstrated the power of the wind – which I’m sure our choir at least, will be well aware of. Trees growing at an angle, eroded rock faces. The ancient Celts and their forebears in the western isles certainly understood these things and acknowledged them in their daily prayers. When a gale force wind forces you in a direction you don’t want to go, it’s quite difficult to resist!

The wind blows where it will. And thus with the Spirit.

The Spirit is also described as water. The outpouring of grace at baptism. Living water. A never ending stream of God’s love. Sometimes, perhaps, a raging torrent driving us forward to go where we never originally intended. Just as powerful an image as that of fire or wind.

And this year we are perhaps more than usually aware of how much we need water. Our farmers and fruit growers, both commercial and domestic, are spending much time irrigating their crops. For water brings life to fruition. Without it, we shrivel up and die.

So we have fire, air – in the form of wind, and water. What of earth?

Well, that’s where we come in, for we are the representative’s of God’s kingdom on earth. And that is a responsibility. We heard how Paul has been chastising the Galatians for turning to other faiths – away from the true gospel. From the spirit to the flesh.

And that’s something we have to pay attention to today.

This is the birth day of the church. A day to rejoice and celebrate. But a challenge to uphold the values and teaching of the gospel throughout the year. And beyond, to continue the work of the first Christian communities. The continuation of God’s purpose in the incarnation, resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Pentecost’, wrote Marcus Borg, ‘is the beginning of the re-unification of humanity’.

Reunification? Just working together seems very important these days of Brexit, and when some nations have difficulty speaking to each other in any constructive way. When there are international differences of opinion, global imbalances of climate, justice, food sustainability.

The situation in the Middle East, the fear engendered by so called Islamic state, the politics of the South China Sea. Europe and America. Interrelationships between countries are very complicated.

And there is no shortage of examples of disunity nearer to home.  Our politicians in the run up to the latest general election. Disagreements within families, carefully hidden behind closed doors.

We need the spirit to work within us.

You foolish Galatians, Paul calls them. Heirs, minors, no better than slaves. Pay attention! Acknowledge what God has done for you. He lays it on…..

And it equally applies to us. We must remember that because of this coming of the Spirit, we are now children of God. We are free. To do God’s work in the world. To make it a better place.

Whatever inspires you, wherever the spirit reaches you, - art, music, poetry, and nature – rejoice in it.  Receive this gift of God’s grace with gratitude and let the spirit work in you.