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Thoughts for Pentecost Sunday 2013.

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday 2013 

 Little Paxton and Great Paxton Church

 

 Yesterday morning upon awaking, I found that I had rolled onto my new glasses and bent the arms. No longer did they sit comfortably on the bridge of my nose, but were decidedly skew whiff – as my mum used to say.

 So off I went to Spec Savers, trying not to drive in a skew whiff fashion, and presented them to a lady there who said she would mend them for me. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to bend them back into shape, they broke completely. Very apologetically, she said that they would make me up a new pair within two hours. So, off I went into High Street, wearing no spectacles and feeling that everything and everyone around me was very blurred indeed.  Without glasses, I am short sighted. I can see shapes and moving things quite well, but not people’s faces.  I felt confident I could cross the road safely and so set off to complete several tasks and in the process of doing so met  people from our parishes to whom I explained my two hour predicament.

 Those minutes without proper vision reminded me how precious good eye sight is, with or without glasses. It is very disorientating not to be able to see well, I felt cut off to some extent from the world around me, unsafe and not really on this planet. I found I was using hearing more acutely and watching where I was talking a lot more. Ordinary, everyday life was not in focus though I knew it was all around me. My connection to other people was impaired and I can’t say I liked it much.  Once I had picked up my new pair at 12 noon everything became bright and vivid again, a bit too sharp for a while, and off I went to drive home.

 For some of the two hours I  sat quietly in a local church.  I thought about the experience of not being able to see properly, not being able to focus clearly on people or my surroundings. Not being able to fully make sense of what was going on.  I thought of a dear friend  who is going through another phase of depression which  makes it hard for her to focus on life, certainly means she can’t engage with her  work and feels she is on another planet. All the insights she usually enjoys have gone and she finds it hard to string a sentence together, to find words to express how she feels. Her usual bubbly vocabulary has for the time being left her.

 As well as being Christian Aid week this week, it has been Mental Health Awareness Week.  Many organisations working with mentally ill people have been trying to get the message across that depression and other conditions are real illnesses and people who struggle with them should not be stigmatised or be told to pull themselves together and get on with life. I listened to my friend  a lot on Friday and perhaps for the first time realised just how disabling these bouts of depression are for her.

.Whilst I reflected in the upper room  my thoughts ran to Pentecost and the extreme emotions of the Jesus followers over a period of 50 days  since Easter. I’m not suggesting for one minute that any of them suffered from what we would call now mental illness, though we can guess that they were a group of men and women who had different temperaments and personality traits.

 Pentecost as you will know means 50 days, and on Pentecost Sunday, the church remembers the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ followers 50 days after his resurrection.

The Festival of Pentecost was by the way a key date in the Jewish year and many people would have gathered in the Holy city of Jerusalem to celebrate. The feast for the Jews had two meanings.

Originally it was one of the three Jewish harvest festivals and was held seven weeks of fifty days after the Passover.

 The anniversary was also thought to be the date of the giving of the Jewish commandments on Mount Sinai.

So when Jesus’ followers  were gathered together in a house waiting, as Jesus had instructed them before his ascension, they were in prayer and in anticipation.  Outside in Jerusalem, the city would have been in festival mood.

 They had endured a variety of emotions in the recent weeks as Jesus was tortured, crucified, then rose from the dead. He had appeared to many , come and gone in  highly significant ways which had left them in no doubt he had overcome death. Then he disappeared  in a cloud on an hill top and left them waiting. It was as if they could understand many things, but the final revelation of God’s plan was not in sharp focus.

They were hiding away from the outside world, they had no words to say or speeches to make beyond their own number. They were fearful and uncertain though hope must have been in their hearts as they waited for power from on high.

Then, as St Luke records in Acts:

 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 It is as if the whole experience was so overwhelming that Luke struggled with the words to describe what happened and used  the picture language of doves and fire instead.

But, as we read, one of the effects of the coming of The Holy Spirit was that Jesus’ followers dramatically found their tongues, literally and could speak in many languages, the barrier of foreign tongues being broken down. It was their leader Peter who spoke on behalf of them all, and told them that God’s prophesy, revealed through the prophet Joel, that God would pour out his spirit upon his people had come true. It isn’t long before he is doing the earliest preaching that we have in the Christian Church – telling others the Good News – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Greek word for Gospel or Good News is euangelion – from which we derive the word “evangelical”

 For those early followers of Jesus, on the day of Pentecost, everything suddenly came into sharp focus. In God’s power they saw directly into the truth of things, the last pieces of the puzzle of God’s saving act in Jesus life, death and resurrection were put in place. No longer would they hide away. They found their voice when they found the power of the Holy Spirit flooding their lives. We can read the outcome of this life changing and life giving day in the Acts of the Apostles and the other letters of the NT.

 Subsequent theology of the Holy Spirit offers many different pictures and images of how we too can engage as Christians in this life transforming power of God. The Greek word for Spirit in  Acts is “ parakletos”   and this can be translated variously as:

 counsellor (as in the passage in John 14 ), advocate, encourager, comforter, and helper.

 We are all at different stage in our life with various abilities and strengths. Each of us in our own way have our vulnerabilities and hopes and fears. Each of us will be in a different place in our understanding of faith and how God works in our life. Each of us may have a need for healing in body, mind or spirit – or indeed or three.

My thoughts today on this Pentecost Sunday conclude with three hopes.

 

Firstly  that each of us may find comfort and encouragement from the same spirit that so empowered Jesus’ followers on the first Pentecost. That in prayer and worship each of us may find the presence of God more clearly focused in our hearts and minds.  That we are encouraged to share his presence with others in the way we live our everyday lives.

 

My second ongoing hope is that as a group of Christians in this place we may continue to focus on what we believe God is calling us to be and do here. 

 My final hope is that in our prayers and practical support we gently encourage those we know who struggle with the highs and lows of life.

  All it might need is for us to be with someone, giving our time and presence in a gentle way.

 In God’s time and grace perhaps the care we give may help someone to find 

God’s love for them comes more clearly into focus.

 

 Spirit of God, as strong as the wind

Gentle as is the dove

Give us your joy and give us your peace

Show to us Jesus’ love.

 

O God we come to celebrate

That your holy spirit is present deep within us

And at the heart of all life.

Forgive us when we forget your gift of love

And draw us into your presence.

Amen

May 18, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Thank you for your reflection on focus and the gift of sight. May you have a blessed Pentecost season. Donald Whipple Fox / Hushasha
    Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

    Comment by hushasha40 | May 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Many thanks for your kind comments and thanks for reading.
      Every blessing
      Annette

      Comment by paxtonvic | May 25, 2013 | Reply


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