Monday, 21 May 2018

The Cut Glass Tumbler - A Pentecost Sermon


It's coming up to my brother in law’s birthday. He’s impossible to buy for, and I am grateful that my sister has sent some suggestions for him this year. It would be all too easy to send him a gift voucher. Apparently many Gift vouchers often lie dormant in dark recesses of the recipient's cupboards, never to emerge. "10% of the value isn't used - it ends up being transferred from the giver to the retailer" Like cheques which are never cashed. As Christians we have Hope in a hopeless world - that’s the point of the resurrection. That’s what we have been celebrating in these days, not a hopeless end, but an endless hope and assurance, a confidence that all is well and will be because Jesus has the final word on everything.

I remember being given this glass as a 21st birthday present. At the time I could recognise that was beautifully made, but there was only one of them, so it was a gift only I could use; I didn’t drink spirits at the time and certainly not whisky so what on earth was I going to use it for. I can remember still feeling quite upset and confused. The giver clearly didn’t know me or care about me to give this to me and so it sat on display in a unit in my lounge for many years gathering dust. A gift - unwanted, unused, misunderstood. Apparently, after Christmas more than 200, 000 unwanted gifts are listed on Ebay to be sold on. There wasn’t eBay back then, and my parents would have been sad if I had sold it or given it away. So it sat there, gathering dust.

I am convinced that this is how we feel about the Holy Spirit. It was a gift given a long time ago - we hear the story in scripture this morning; and we get resonances of that story as we ourselves are baptised or confirmed or as we gather for the Eucharist. We treat the Holy Spirit, like it treated this tumbler for years - we don’t understand why it was given to us; we’re not even sure it was meant for us - maybe it was meant for someone else and our parcels got mixed up; stories of the way the Holy Spirit changed people’s lives are awesome and amazing - beautiful even - but that doesn’t happen to me, it’s not for me, it’s not my thing. And a bit like the glass - what on earth am I going to use the Holy Spirit for anyway? I’m not that sort of Christian…

I have come, 24 years later, to love this glass. To appreciate it; to enjoy it; and when I say I use it regularly you can interpret that however you like. And when I do use it - I am so grateful to those who gave it to me - because in some way - they knew one day that I would get it and that I would use it.

It’s like that with the Holy Spirit. We forget she is Jesus’ gift to His disciples still. We receive her at Baptism and Conformation; it is her work that makes Jesus present at the Eucharist and it is her work in us that transforms us from being individual church goers on a Sunday - to being His body in the world. But like that glass, we are unsure what to do with the gift. I want to reassure you friends - the Holy Spirit of God is living and active in our world and in our church today. I have seen her and know for myself that this is true. Paul and I have been going to a conference for a few years now where we testify to that fact. Last night at St Albans Abbey - thousands were there who can testify to that fact. The glass I was given had only one function - not sit on a shelf gathering dust - but to be drunk from. The Spirit has one function - to renew the face of the earth, to fill God’s people with love, and give us each courage to be witnesses to the resurrection - to be have the courage to tell others, to grow the church.

St. Bernard told his novices that they should not flow as does a water channel, which constantly flows and empties itself; rather they should be reservoirs of God’s Spirit, so that they can only give as God fills them.

 So come and use the gift as it was intended - it you would like to be filled as those disciples were come. If you would like to learn to appreciate the gift we’ve been given come; come, if you would love to tell others about your faith but are terrified to do so, come. The glass isn’t for looking at but using - the Spirit isn’t for reading about or hearing about but being filled with and trusting.

Prayer:

Creator God, we live in a world which rarely acknowledge you as the Lord of life; for if we did, then we would have to recognise all people as our sisters and brothers. How differently might life be lived if we saw the world through your eyes of compassion? (Silent reflection)
Loving God, more often than not, when we hear ‘God’ pronounced, it is merely as an exclamation or a swear word. How might our thoughts, words or lives be changed if we gave more thought to your reality in the world and in our lives?
(Silent reflection)

Merciful God, we have been told by Jesus that whoever believes in him will have a heart from which will flow the Spirit’s ‘rivers of living water’. As we reflect on our church community’s life and our individual lives, have we been streams of life-giving water or arid deserts to those around us? (Silent reflection)
God of Pentecost, your gift of the Holy Spirit gave the first followers of your Son the ability to tell of the Good News to peoples of different nationalities and tongues. How often do we falter in telling and showing the Gospel to those we know well and see daily?
(Silent reflection)

Almighty God, the coming of your Holy Spirit brought the courage to face animosity, to preach openly and the power to heal. How often, Lord, do we doubt your power in our lives today and consign your gifts of the Spirit to the dustbin of history?
(Silent reflection)

Eternal God,
send once more your Holy Spirit upon us,
ignite our faith and empower our lives.
Forgive us our shortcomings and misdeeds
and remake us to be the people you have envisaged us to be;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen
.