Sunday, May 24, 2015

Divided united and sent

A sermon preach on Pentecost Sunday - Blarney Church of Ireland - Sunday 24th May 2015 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer amen 

Today is one of the  3 main feast days of the Christian Church … on par with Christmas and Easter but to the outside world there isn't the festivities associated with today. BUT we are celebrating.

When we think of the Holy Spirit -I wonder what do we think of? a dove, fire, a guide or our own particular experience the Holy Spirit … perhaps it was it a church experience, was it alpha away day. 

For me it was seeing the Holy Spirit at a Christian event - Summer Madness - where people started falling down and also others speaking in strange language - bizarre … I remember asking a friend about it … and he said … that’s God showing up! 

Luke’s account of Pentecost shows us two great signs of the Spirit: first, the divided are united, and secondly, order and purpose are imparted so that the united are driven into a world  where they change world views, communities and eventually the empire and the world . 

And both are so needed today in our world at large and in community .

The divided are united 

On that first Pentecost - Jews from all over the Roman empire  and beyond came together for a purpose … doing their duty …  but something happened God spoke to them through this group of disciples in their own language. 

There is a deep longing to be together - the call of the belonging place. The place where they could be together in one place always has been an important part of humanity when events are happening. We see it here in Blarney…with our own community - sunday by sunday, we saw it in dublin yesterday the coming together of people to celebrate. When something momentous happens people want to be together. 

In the passage in acts we see the effect of the Holy Spirit … Throughout Scripture & history - once sworn enemies becoming friends … the lion will lie down with the lamb, the apostle paul, 

We see it here in front of our eyes … In this community where churches which used to be seen to be opponents are working alongside each other for the sake of the gospel - not diluting who they are but working together on the things which unite and being honest about the things which they cannot agree. 

In our world today something is stirring - the old dividing walls are coming down and that can only be a good thing. Right throughout scripture there is a call for barriers to be broken down … in the psalms - where brothers dwell together in unity there God commands a blessing. 

We see in the face of opposition there are no divisions  - did the ISIS murders say to the egyptian christians which branch of the church do you belong to … no they did not. One Lord, One faith, One Baptism. 

On a local scale … we’re called a body … different people, with different gifts - different generations but the call is to a unity and when there is unity then there is blessing and we need to find that unity, work towards that unity and defend that unity. 

This is not a natural unity - but a hard fought and won unity - a unity that takes will, that takes sacrifice and that only finds itself complete in Christ as the head and empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

We are a people divided by all sorts of things - In the church we see that we could divide again and again over our disagreements. We could divide over liturgical preferences, music styles, how somebody does something, interpretations of certain passages of scripture, different pastoral issues, theological opinions, clothing worn, historical differneces - but being a part of being a church is that we choose to be together - and these issues when allowed to be discussed and understood have the potential given the right soil provide a richness and a God given creativity which could possibly point others to the beauty that is the kingdom of God.  

We are called to set a pattern for the world by disagreeing in love, and settling our disputes in the unity of the Spirit.  Sometimes we get this right and when we do it is a beautiful thing - sometimes we do get it wrong and it becomes ugly

In Pentecost we see people from all the provinces of the empire hearing the same message in their language … hearing the words of Peter despite their differences and responding in faith 
Justin Welby - Archbishop of Canterbury said this of Pentecost - “God’s  work is unity, and the clearest sign of the presence of the Spirit is the integrating chaos of His power, bringing vision, dreams and calling that enabled scattered people to have diversity without enmity.”

Somehow … whether we like it or not … God is working in our divisions and in our frustrations and somehow we can say - as unlikely as it seems we look at Christ our head and with him in that position we can hold together diverse and seemingly opposing views in a creative way - without diluting truth. 

With the Referenedum result yesterday there may well be in some quarters of the church confusion, there may well be anger, be frustration …  there also will be in other quarters delight of the church and a sense of delight, relief and joy over the issues of the referendum yesterday - 

but folks … we’ve got to remember God is still God - he’s still in control - he’s still working his purposes out. His Holy Spirit is still at work and still moving throughout this land - that does not change because of a vote in a ballot box.

At Pentecost Those who were divided by race and language - heard the gospel in their language - as Christians we believe that all will hear the Gospel preached in their language - and God still does that today. He’s doing it and we’re called to join him where he is at. As unlikely as it seems - Peter spoke up and the spirit worked - it was God’s doing - the divided and the different heard good news in their language, responded to it and saw the possibility of unity despite of their differences

When issues divide - the Spirit is able to unite - history tell us this - Northern Ireland, South Africa, salvery, womens rights  issues down through the years  - I believe this to be so - We’ve seen it down through the years … we can have diversity without enmity … but it does take courage, peace makers, restraint and also boldness and prophetic words. 

He Unites but he also sends out 

Pentecost wasn't simply a nice display of force for the people gathered that day … it was an empowering for those sent … it was the beginning of a world wide mission … to the ends of the earth. And we are a part of that movement. A movement which began on that Pentecost and which continues to the very end of time. 

You and I are called to use our gifts and skills, our passions and our energy living out the message we proclaim where God has placed us. 

Within the Gospels Jesus uses various images for this - we’re to be salt, we are to be light, we are to be seed, we are to be yeast … all of which are small but have big impact. 

Bishop Henderson at our Clergy quiet day on Thursday used an example of the seed … it’s comfortable being seed in a packet with other seed … but seed need to be planted out there - exposed to the birds, exposed to the rain, wind … in the world. 

as one contemporary song states “A boat that’s in the harbour is safe from harm … but it wasn’t built to be there it was made for wind and storm”

Salt is no good in the seller, yeast that’s in the packet … not much use! 

and the gospel was proclaimed 

The life changing news was proclaimed throughout the land … news that changed the lives of those who heard … a radical and life changing message. 

The opportunity to reach out speak up for God is there for each and every one of us … are we prepared to get on and do it. 

Yes it might be frightening, we might feel we’re not good enough, not young enough, not old enough, not equipped enough but folks …we have the Holy Spirit … get on and do … let your yes be yes and get on and do it!  

The challenge that faced the first Christians gathered in Jerusalem at the birth of the church still faces the church today. That challenge involves remaining faithful to the substance of the Gospel, while translating and applying it in all the languages and cultures of the world. For that we too need the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And so on this Pentecost we must say, “Come, Holy Spirit, come!”

two great signs of the Spirit: first, the divided are united, and secondly, order and purpose are imparted so that the united are driven into a world  where they change world views, communities and eventually the empire and the world .

Confirm O Lord each one of us that we are sent by you to love and to work to your power and glory. Amen