Pentecost sermon by Caroline Longley (Lay Reader)

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 13:11

Reflection for Sunday 31st May 2020
The Readings for this Sunday are John 20 19-23 and Acts 2 1-21

Gracious God, open our hearts and minds to receive your love and to hear your words to us today. Amen.

Recently I have been enjoying spotting young fledglings in my parent’s garden. Sparrows, Starling and Blackbird have so far made an appearance. Each look well fed and sometimes they are fatter than the harassed parents. The starling was still sporting the yellow gape “the feed me here marking”. They are also identifiable by that look of uncertainty at the world they inhabit. Whilst the adults come and go from the bird feeder with confidence, the youngsters land clumsily on the ground and then look up at it quizzically. Or they perch – slightly wobbly - in the nearby crab apple tree and wait for the food to come to them.

Making my first supermarket trip after quite a few weeks in self-isolation I felt somewhat similar to one of these fledglings. Slightly wobbly, and uncertain at this different world that I now had to face. Quizzically trying to work out the protocol for socially distanced queuing.

This seems in stark contrast to Peter’s confident emergence in our reading from Acts. As he moves from the fear of the upper room, and that time of waiting into a confident, Spirit filled speech to the waiting crowd.

The commonality though, is in the movement, the changing of circumstances and this something that we can perhaps identify with. After a long period of waiting, of sticking, as it were, to the safety of our nests, some of us now see the first signs of being able to cautiously poke our heads out. Although please remember those who must continue to shield themselves.

And quite rightly, we will need to move with caution. Quite rightly it will be a while before we can meet together again, and when we do, aspects of the way that we do church together will have to be different. And that will be a wrench. I suspect we may all be peering about quizzically for a while and trying to make sense of this new and different world. As our Primus +Mark has said, we closed the doors of the church out of love, out of a desire to keep everyone safe. And that must continue to be our overriding concern.

We often identify God with the safety of the unchangeable, with traditions that we know and love, with the stability of our buildings, the music and hymns that connect us with previous generations of worshippers. We think of the God who was and is and is to come, whose good character is certain. God who is perfect and who therefore does not have need or reason to change.

And yet at Pentecost we see a different facet of God. We see God in motion, God in the symbols of fire and wind. God who runs like a flame over a field of dry grass, or who dances like a candle flame. God who, like the wind, sets our whole world in motion. God whose touch moves the disciples from hiding away to proclaiming the good news. The God of change.

The earliest descriptions we have of Christian baptism specify that the water used should be running water – a stream or river. The living water as a symbol for God – again we have running movement, ripple and change and travel.

So we celebrate today, the birthday of the church and more personally, perhaps, the memory, or knowledge of our own baptism. The moment when we changed into one of God’s own, gradually or suddenly, however and whenever we consider that to have happened. And in the external changes that we continue to face, we can know that we

have a God who, is not only ‘back there’ in the familiar ways of doing church but who actually, is OK with change, is sometimes the agent of change, and who will fly and run and dance along with us as we go.