Happy birthday Christian Church. The year is AD, not even AD 1. You are just one day old. You have emerged from hiding. The disciples are no longer hidden in locked rooms, praying, remembering, planning, piecing together all Jesus had told them during his life and since his resurrection.
Talk about a birthday with a bang. More like a flash. The tongues of fire which rested upon the apostles and the speaking in tongues which followed must have been amazing to witness.
Let’s have a look at the readings more or less in chronological sequence. First of all, Jesus appears to the disciples and after he greets them, Peace be with you, and he repeats the greeting, sensing a tad of apprehension amongst those gathered.
He breathes upon them saying receive the holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, or retain the sins of any they are retained.
In Acts we hear of the outworking of that event, of the tongues of fire, the speaking in tongues, and how two thousand new Christians bought into the Church that day. And we hear in 1 Corinthians of the gifts of the Spirit Wisdom Knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy Discernment tongues, interpretation of tongues
How they are the product of the same spirit and that we are all part of the same body, the body of Christ, many members, one body.
The psalm we look at not in chronological order for it is a voice from the ages attributed to David so around 1000 years BC and there is much apart from the great leviathan which resonates with people to this day, . The opening line, O Lord, how manifold are your works, in wisdom you have made them all. Wisdom is a synonym for the Holy Spirit. Whether David knew that or not, it has been proven by the ages.
I was bought up sharply by the wisdom of the ages a few days ago, when Richard Rohr reminded us in his reflection that it was not Israel’s qualities which motivated God to persevere with training and refining them to be God’s people as God would want. Ezekies 36;22
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.
It was in the context of thinking about God’s love for us which was first demonstrated to his people Israel. That God is doing all he does, including loving Israel, (us) is for the sake of glorifying his name. You old narcissist I thought, Old in this case being a recognition of wisdom and experience.
This led me to think about the nature of human love. It is usually an act of giving to another of ourselves because we hold great value for that person. A response to the value we hold for them
Not for God, His love for us is based on God wanting to glorify His own name. Hmmmph. I resent being used as a tool.
But, let’s look a bit more closely at this.
Firstly, I have no doubt about God’s love about which I will talk more. But as God came in the person of Jesus and undertook the passion and death of the cross; to do that cannot be a response to anything but love for humanity, for creation humanity included. answered prayer, guidance, healing, miracles Looking more deeply at God, God is good, God is the author of Goodness, God’s laws whether the ten commandments, or the new commandment through Jesus Love one another as I have loved you, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus behavior demonstration love till his last breath. Lo God is goodness.
In some respects, it is much better that God loves us for his purposes rather than as a result of our value to God. If it were earned love, there are many times that my love account with God would be empty, unearned love, like grace is always present regardless of our qualities.
What sort of a world do I want to live in?
do I want a world where refugees are locked up like criminals
do I want a world where ten percent of people own 90 percent of wealth and use it in a way which keeps the poor, poor.
Do I want a world where greed and power and lust do the same thing, keeping the marginalized in the margins.
Or do I want a world where Twiggy Forest gives 400 million Dollars to relieve the ills of the world, where the Gates foundation aims to eliminate diseases in the world, I want a world where neighbours’ love and respect each other, where wars like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq do not happen, where Australia’s indigenous have justice and equity, that is the kind of world I want and if it means that God is trying to polish me up a bit to reflect his love and values for the world then so be it. Keep polishing Lord, I am with you all the way,
Your love is important for me, regardless of your motivation for holding that love. And that was very real for me a few nights ago.
One of those dreams you can do without, my wife died about nineteen years ago, she is often present in my dreams and it is nice to be in touch. On this occasion it was different. I was waiting at an airport to meet her. Trouble was, I did not know which flight she was on, she had obviously missed the intended flight, no phone contact so I was at my wits end. Waiting at the airport was senseless so I found myself at night, in the centre of a big city with wind howling down empty streets, barely lit, cold, lonely lost, searching. The thought came to mind. What if it is like this for Margaret? What if all eternity is like this. Bleak miserable. This was enough to jar me into wakefulness, at least enough that I could bring myself to a prayerful state. That state where God’s presence is evident through love. That was 3.30 am and I reckon I spent the next few hours wallowing in the presence of God. Knowing that my loved ones are safe in God’s hands and that God’s Spirit is with me always.
So here we are at Pentecost, Do I have the gift on Tongues? No. Prophesy? Who knows? Maybe a little on a good day. Discernment can’t say knowledge pops into my head when I look someone in the eye or weird stuff like that. Knowledge. Sometimes as a result of prayer and so on, which brings us to wisdom. Well I can skite about wisdom because as the psalmist know, wisdom is the Holy Spirit. The same wisdom that was there in the beginning. Whether I manifest any of those spiritual gifts and God promises we will have what we need when we need it, is small compared to the best gift of all, the presence of the Holy Spirit with us always. We all have that gift and what a blessing. Let’s celebrate our birthday, that of the body of Christ today and every day and may we be so filled with that gift that we cannot help but share it with the world for the glory of God’s beautiful name. AMEN