Preached at Croydon Minster on the Day of Pentecost, 23rd May 2021
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people;
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
I have been watching the wind blowing, these last few days.
We’ve seen the trees swaying, litter blown along pavements, rain coming down at unfeasible angles.
This is nothing compared to hurricane or cyclone zones; yet we’ve seen the power of the wind to knock things over, send things up in the air, leave things looking dishevelled.
Of course, I haven’t actually seen the wind gust, but I have seen its effects. The wind is a mystery, an unseen yet tangible force. And Jesus says of the Holy Spirit:
‘The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ (John 3.8)
Today, on the Day of Pentecost, we reflect on the pouring out of the Spirit on the Church and ponder what it means to be ‘born of the Spirit’.
On that first Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit is sounding like ‘the rush of a violent wind’ (Acts 2.2).
The Spirit sweeps in to that upper room: present and empowering; equipping and kindling a flame of God’s presence over each one of the disciples. Unlike the wind we have experienced these last few days the Spirit does not scatter but draws together.
It’s worth spending a minute here pondering this. The Spirit draws together; the Spirit is the healing, anointing presence of God.
But we often see people and situations torn apart. That is where the breath of Holy Spirit is shut out and not allowed to blow.
In Biblical terms there is a name for the one who does not draw together, in Greek ‘the diabolos’ in other words diabolical, the devil. That name comes from the word meaning ‘to scatter and to throw apart.’
An ill wind destroys people and communities, exploits differences, drives apart people of different languages, tribes and nations.
That’s utterly contrary to the vision of the Church described in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 7.9) where people of all tribes and languages and nations gather around the altar of the Lamb of God, those ‘born of the Spirit’ through baptism.
The Spirit binds and weaves together diverse and disparate people - men, women and children - to form the Church as one, as holy, as catholic, as apostolic. The Spirit, which brought Creation to birth, began weaving us together on the Day of Pentecost and continues today. Here. Now.
In that room Christ had broken bread, declaring, ‘This is my Body’ (Mark 14.15, 22-25; Luke 22.12,14-20). In that room the same Crucified and Risen Lord had breathed on them his gift of peace; his shalom (John 20.19-23, 26).
And the Spirit blew them out of that room, as the Spirit blows us out, in the sense of sent not extinguished.
At the words, ‘Go in the peace of Christ’ we go onto the streets to live this out and honour the Father and the Son, together, in all we think and speak and do.
The uniting power of the Spirit is shown in the way that when the apostles speak they are understood by everyone who hears. The differences and distinctions between peoples, represented in the languages of the earth, melt away, or rather, are formed into a new identity and language in Christ.
We will hear that in action later in this Eucharist, as our prayers are led by members of this congregation speaking in their mother tongue. That will express our diversity in human terms and unity in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, as we come together in ‘the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, [in] the breaking of bread and in the prayers’ (Acts 2.42).
Here I must share a typo I made when writing this homily. I wrote ‘the Spirit unties’ – right letters wrong order: the Spirit unites.
The Holy Spirit of God draws together and unites and invites us to be agents of reconciliation. The same Spirit sends us out as witnesses to the holiness, unity and presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the world.