Psalm 104: 23-35, 1 Corinthians 12.3b – 13, John 7.37 – 39
The Holy Spirit makes it possible for disciples of Christ to be who Jesus wants us to be, which is a light to the world. The Holy Spirit empowers us as individuals, and the Church as a body of disciples, to be this prophetic voice.
The idea of the Holy Spirit is not new in the Bible. The breath of God moved over the waters of chaos and brought the cosmos into being. (Genesis 1.2) Psalm 104 refers to this in v.30 “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” And in the Book of Job, it says, ”But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding.”(Job 32:8)
The Holy Spirit is the fulfilment of the promises of God and Jesus Christ, which are now openly given to all of us as gifts so that we become the Spirit-filled disciples of the Kingdom.
Paul refers to the various gifts we have been given by the Spirit. Some of us are blessed with wisdom; some can understand complex issues and explain them in simple terms that we can all understand; some by their sheer energy and enthusiasm can bring about many good things in our society even if they have not been blessed by these other gifts.
But there can be problems with the way that we use the gifts of the Spirit.
When as Christians we exercise our prophetic voice we may do this in a number of ways. Some try to do it spiritually, but this can be a problem when it is done so carefully, so quietly, and so meekly that they are never properly heard.
Conversely, there are some shrill voices who speak dismissively about the ‘other’ or even ‘enemies of the people’ whilst at the same time playing to the faith gallery as the ‘good guys’.
Others may apply their voices in intellectual, abstract ways that are lacking in practicality. So for most of the time, we have to try to strike a balance, find a compromise, deal with things sensibly and realistically.
Pragmatism is a particular gift when applied to achieving results.
There may be occasions when the soft option is tempting to keep the peace; when the small gain may attract a lustre that suggests this is the only effective solution. However, we should not feel uncomfortable, when in the end we have to say something in the name of integrity when we have to say something which is God’s challenge to our modern society.
We may squabble among ourselves, and often we do but are one in Christ, whether we agree with each other or not. We are one in Christ whether we like one another or not. God desired unity with us so much that God became one of us. That is the mystery of the incarnation. And in that moment, we were drawn into the oneness of God, the Creator, the Son, and the Spirit. It is with God’s help through the Holy Spirit that we live into that oneness.
Today is Pentecost and Jesus reigns in heaven.
The Holy Spirit lives in us. We are called to celebrate a spirit filled life, rooted in love. The spirit of Pentecost promotes unity and prompts us to resist the forces of division.
We are living through a time in which there are so many challenges in our world, a time in which the prophetic voice of the church needs to be heard. There is growing disillusionment with politics, people are feeling alienated, and populist politics is on the rise. And what is often referred to as the public square, or political arena, has taken on a new virtual dimension, the world of social media, with its dark arts of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’.
But then, “What’s new?’ one might ask, when two thousand years ago, Truth was put on trial and judged by people who were devoted to lies.
Politics, in its broadest sense, is what we understand to be the way that we should live and organise ourselves in the community to preserve order; and bring about responsible management of God’s creation.
This is our calling as a people of God.
As individuals, we are called to play our fullest part in the political life of the world; whereas the church is limited to organising itself as a servant member of the community, be that at a local, national or international level.
So what does that mean for us politically?
God with us is not a political promise to provide a balanced budget over the next decade, or a fully serviceable NHS, or an education system worthy of our children’s future. God with us is to be present now with those in poverty, the disadvantaged, the forgotten and the oppressed. As we sang in our hymn by John Bell, ‘Jesus Christ is raging in the streets, where injustice spirals and real hope retreats’.
We have a General Election that will take place on Thursday. We must choose a candidate to represent us in Westminster and our choice will significantly affect our neighbours near and far.
It’s a big responsibility. We may seek to place all the blame for societal ills on political leaders but our choices, be they for political, economic, or ideological reasons, matter.
Our voices as people count: as does our engagement or lack of political engagement. We might hope that our political leaders will “execute justice and righteousness,” in the United Kingdom for the next five years. But it’s the choices that we make that will impact on whether issues of justice and righteousness prevail.
May we, therefore, rejoice in the assurance that Christ is with us, and the Holy Spirit will be our advocate when we place our cross on the ballot paper. Amen.