Thursday, June 05, 2014

The falling of the Spirit

Readings for Whitsunday or Pentecost, June 8 2014; Numbers 11:24-30; *Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34,I Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23
Anglicans like candles! In fact people like candles
they are such a warm symbol
and so multi-layered in imaginal links

At Easter a principal symbol in many Churches
is the Paschal or Easter candle
which is marked in various ways at the Great Vigil.
With Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) , the number of the year, the sign of the cross,
and often including five nails.
It burns for the great 50 days which conclude today 
with the feast of Pentecost 
when we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 
on the first disciples
What to do with with this very rich symbolic candle 
at the end of this season?
Well of course the logical thing to do is 
extinguish it!
though we do not want to give the impression 
that everything is now over and done with,
because of course it isn't!
In a way it has only just begun.
So in our churches today 
as the large candle is extinguished
individual worshipers are invited to light a personal candle of their own.
The simple idea is that the Easter Commission
is deliberately transmitted
to each individual 
as part of their baptismal responsibility.
This is, indeed, 
the movement that we trace 
in the readings today.
God pours out the Holy Spirit 
to renew the world
and to encourage 
and bless the community of faith
in order that they may bring 
the hope of Christ to the world.
The way this Spirit works 
is that it is given to individuals
whether it be (as in Numbers) the elders of the Church
or as in Acts and I Corinthians on the individual baptised;
we are invited to appreciate 
that the gift of the Spirit
apart from being a numinous spiritual blessing
to the world or community of faith in general
is also, in practice, worked out 
in the individual giftedness of each of the baptised.
So, St Paul's idea is that
the Holy Spirit gives to each of the baptised 
an outpouring of the Spirit
which manifests itself in particular gifts
He cites a number of gifts..teaching, hospitality, prophecy, prayer, deep faith
and so on (some number these as many as 75 specific gifts)
His implication is 
that every baptised Christianis gifted in some way
and that we are to use those gifts
for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.
That is, the presence of the risen Christ
is committed to you and me
and we are gifted by the Holy Spirit
to carry on Christ's work.
We are not expected 
to pass an exam
or do a whole pile of learning
in order to do this work
we are rather required 
to use the gift that has been given.
We each need to think about
how the Spirit has lit our personal candle.
Far from the work being over 
when Easter is finished
and we extinguish the candle
it is not so much over as transferredto each of us individually.

So we can ask,
what is my particular gift?
and how am I to use it 
to further the kingdom of God?
We are given gifts, our candle is lit,
not to hide (Jesus uses this sort of image)
but for a purpose.
We do not have to get a qualification ourselves
it is more that we need to take the gift out of the box and use it.

So there are two questions for each of us
the second more important than the first,
First, what is my gift
and the second important question 
how might I use it?
The kingdom is weakened in so far
as we hide our light
or ignore it.
Our gift, be it prayer, teaching, 
almsgiving, hospitality
prophecy or what ever is to be used.
Paul is clear that not everyone has the same gift
we are not all teachers or prophets,
but we are all gifted 
as individuals and as community
with all the gifts necessary to do what God wants us to do
and to be what God wants us to be.

This week
  • Give thanks to God for the Easter mystery, and the promise that Christ has given to be with us always
  • Ask the Spirit to show you how you ahve been gifted by God, and what you are to do with that gift?
  • Pray for imagination, opportunity and courage to use the giftedness that God has given me.
We pray, this today and every day:

Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me
Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us

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