Saturday, 23 May 2015

Unless the eye catch fire - Feast of Pentecost

Unless the eye catch fire,

The God will not be seen.

Unless the ear catch fire

The God will not be heard.

Unless the tongue catch fire

The God will not be named.

Unless the heart catch fire,

The God will not be loved.

Unless the mind catch fire,

The God will not be known.     William Blake

Central to our relationship with God, is the desire to catch something of that flame of life, the Spirit itself. This is what we are here to catch with ear and tongue with our hearts and minds this morning in our Pentecost celebration.

On the first Pentecost the Spirit descended in tongues of fire. Elsewhere the Spirit is described as a dove, a breath or wind. Each description catches a particular sense of that Spirit of God which underlies everything and, what St Paul speaks of as awaiting its birth in the lives and actions of humanity – the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains writes St Paul, ready for the moment when the fruits of that Spirit can be set to work. Romans 8.22

It is the Spirit deep within the heart of humanity made in God’s image, which enables us to pray and to engage with God himself. And, as we have been reminded time and again in the letters of St John red in these last weeks of Easter, God is love and through his spirit we are able to encounter, engage and live in that Love.

At times the Holy Spirit is like a fire, like love that is a burning passion enflaming us with a sense of God’s loving presence, a fire that purifies us from the death of self love and selfishness.

At times it is like a wind that blows where it will – we know its power and presence even though it cannot be seen. Like the winds that blow across the Sahara molding and giving form to the landscape of blown particles of sand.

At times it is just like breath, a thing so small, faint natural and almost unnoticed – yet essential for life. Like a softly spoken word “I love you” that can change our reality for ever .

At times we picture it as a dove – a sign of hope and promise landing in our midst as it did in the story of Noah when the dove brought a leaf in its beak showing the flood was ended.

Today we celebrate the gift of that Spirit of God, promised by the Risen and Ascended Lord.

But we should not see the Spirit just as an extra boost, something we call upon to help us do what we want. It is rather the very presence of God deep within his creation and therefore deep within our communities and indeed deep within each one of us. The invitation of Pentecost is to open ourselves to that presence and embrace his presence.

Yet if we do this, let us be aware of what it is we are letting ourselves in for. This is a Spirit that will not just support our ambitions for the Church or for our world or for ourselves. This is the Spirit of God which will lead us in his ways, to fulfill his will for his church, his world and us his people.

In his book, A World to Love, author George Knowles tells about a party of explorers who found themselves perplexed by something they found in a remote  African jungle. In a clearing, they discovered 35 carefully laid fires that had never  been lit. They had the appearance of 35 little tepees, with dry leaves surrounded by small, dry twigs and, finally, larger pieces of wood arranged in a good Boy Scout  fashion.

Who built the fires? Why had not even one been lit? The mystery cleared up  when the explorers saw dozens of chimpanzees watching from the trees. The  chimps had watched campers and copied the art of fire building. But they had no fire.

Many people say the same kind of thing is true of the Church today. We
have been trained in fire building, but we have no fire. If we are going to reach people today with the Christian message, faith must involve the head and the heart.

The gift of the Spirit bequeathed to us by the Risen and Ascended Christ offers us not just extra support, but leads to a radical change. We are  placing ourselves in the hands of the one who created us, and who invites us to choose to live our lives in his way rather than ours.

But this Spirit cannot be controlled, it shapes changes and defines us - not the other way round. We are the clay not the potter to borrow an image from the Prophets of Old.

The feast of Pentecost is an invitation to live in God’s grace. It is something we wrestle with every day, abandoning ourselves to God, following the path that he has for us. But a stronger passion for control, especially when we loose faith or allow our selfish desire to dominate our choices, works against this invitation to live by God’s grace.

Part of the story of that first Pentecost is the gathering of  nationalities Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia,  and all the rest who heard the first disciples speaking of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

They were surprised that each heard in their own language – but what they heard was human speech, human imagination set on fire, inspired by that Spirit of God  and they were united in responding to God’s love.

We are called as followers of Christ to allow the love of Christ to become real in the lives of this broken world. It is to enable those imprisoned by violence, oppression, need or greed, to find that Spirit of God’s love deep within themselves bringing  freedom from their captivity. It is to enable those who are blinded by their power, their success and their comfort in this world, to have their eyes open to the needs of all around, to change and be changed, to live differently.

It is to find the Spirit of the living God breathing new life into the dry bones of our society and our world, that all may have life, and have it abundantly; life that is both here and now, and lasts into eternity.

So we must catch the fire of the Spirit to live each day.

Unless the eye catch fire,
 God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
 God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
 God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
 God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
 God will not be known.

May this Pentecost enflame our eyes, ears, tongues, hearts and minds, that God and his love may be seen and heard, named and loved, and known by all his children in every part of his world.

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