May the Spirit give us ears to hear, and hearts open to God’s word for us today.
Today, at Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. It would be easy to think that the Holy Spirit makes this brief and rather dramatic entrance in our reading from Acts, shows up a few more times in the early church, and that’s it. End of story.
But that isn’t the end of the story, and it isn’t the beginning either. There is nothing and nowhere in which the Holy Spirit is not present. The Holy Spirit is in every page of the Bible, and every corner of the world.
In the beginning, the Spirit broods over the deep waters of creation. In the words of the great Old Testament prophets (and many prophets since) the Spirit speaks with awe-inspiring, fire-y inspiration. In the overshadowing of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the conception of the Christ, the Spirit moves to make human the God who is beyond human understanding. And in the final revelation of God’s glory, there too the Spirit will sweep over the whole earth, as the waters cover the seas.
So if Pentecost isn’t our first glimpse of the Holy Spirit, what is so special about it? The Spirit is present to the disciples in a very particular, and spectacular, way at Pentecost. The coming of the Spirit is the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise to his disciples at the Ascension, just days earlier, his very last words to them on earth. It is a powerful reminder that the promises God makes, God keeps.
The Spirit comes to the disciples in power at Pentecost. This is not the still small voice, but rushing wind and tongues of flame. And the Spirit gives the disciples power – the power they need to spread the gospel. God draws near, and they find that they can do things they could never do before.
In the events of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit brings to birth the Church, just as in creation she brought to birth the world, and in the incarnation she brought to birth the Word. And this birthing is important. The Spirit is, above all, life-giving.
The Spirit is still moving in life-giving ways today, within us and among us. Think of the things that make you feel really, truly alive. The people and places and action. The art and music. The freedom and peace. These are the ways the Spirit is moving in your life, in our lives. And we never know what the Spirit will do next.
Like the disciples, we are filled with the Holy Spirit for a purpose, the same purpose: to witness to the good news of Jesus. That is what it means to be the Church. We are the living stones of which the Church is built, inspired – literally, given breath – to tell and to show the world how God is working in us.
As you came in, you might have noticed a heap of stones on the table. This is going to become a cairn, a sort of way-marker, to symbolise the living stones who make up this church. On your way out, I invite you to choose a stone to represent yourself, and add it to the cairn. We’ll be doing the same at the 9.45 service, and the cairn will remain there for the next week or so, for those who use the church mid-week to add their stones.
If we are to be living stones, witnesses to God’s love and to the resurrection of Christ, we need the Holy Spirit, just as the first disciples did. We need to be filled afresh with the power and wisdom and courage and life that only the Holy Spirit can give. We need to keep on turning again and again to God, who is Source of all Being, Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.