EPV – 18 May 2024

The space for God's work

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey

MP3 media (Extended Vigil)

Today I explored the profound impact of the Holy Spirit on our church, particularly through the lens of Pentecost. We delved into the disciples’ anticipation and the electrifying moment when the Spirit descended, transforming fear into joy and doubt into conviction. I emphasised our need for desperation and openness to God’s work within us, acknowledging our limitations and inviting His boundless grace. We reflected on the unity and message of love that we, as a church, are called to embody. Let us remain open and hungry for the Spirit’s transformative power in our lives.

(00:00:00) – I think when we ponder the place, the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. That one of the dramas, one of the issues of why we don’t see the Holy Spirit at work within the church, is what you’ve just been sharing about. It’s until we get to that point that we are so desperate, so in need. We’re so wounded and hurting. That we realise there is no space; there is no capacity; there is nothing that I can do that will solve this; that will provide any kind of answer. And so there’s this space, this capacity for God to work. But when we’re self-sufficient and when we’ve got everything together and when we feel like we can do it ourselves. And unfortunately, for so much of the history of our church, that’s exactly where we thought we were. We thought, we’ve got it all sorted. We’ve got it all sweet. And there’s not the space for the Holy Spirit to do that work. 

(00:01:35) – And as I was kind of pondering this space between the Ascension and Pentecost. And it kind of feels like it’s more than just the ten days that Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles, because there’s so much there that is preparing the ground for that woundedness, for the emptiness, for the space that God can fill. And I began to kind of wonder in the story that Luke tells, whether there’s this whole kind of gap that is missing, because when he tells the story of the disciples and in chapter one, he tells us there’s 120 men and women, of different ages, different people that have come together. All of them simply united because they’ve encountered the Lord Jesus when he was alive, and hopefully in the resurrection. He doesn’t tell us whether they all saw it. But they’re all there. And Luke tells us that they gathered together in prayer. And it really struck me today that I’m sure a lot of them were still just freaking out. Like, what are we going to do now? Jesus has risen.

(00:03:08) – Yes, he’s appeared to us. But he’s nicked off. He’s gone back to be at the right hand of the father. How on earth are we going to do this work? He’s told us to go, to evangelise, to share the good news of his love, to proclaim this message of salvation. Look around. We’re broken. We’re wounded. We’re doubting. We’re concerned. We’re confused. How on earth are we going to be the ones that are going to break this message into this, this world, into these people that are still so full of anger and frustration and annoyance at us. They still hate Jesus. They still can’t believe that we are here, that we still exist nearly 50 days now since the death. You know, if they put that guy to death. And as they gather to pray. We don’t know exactly what structure that is. It’s not in the synagogue. So they’re not doing a synagogue service, but they’re doing something. They’re opening themselves.

(00:04:26) – They’re trying to make sense of what’s happening. And as I’ve prayed through this, I kind of imagined that, you know, at the beginning it would have been just this gentle noise. This little kind of thing and starting to kind of notice that, hey, this room isn’t quite the way that it was a few minutes ago. And there’s the sound begins to increase, and you begin to feel the movement of the air around the room. I suddenly begin to realise that no one in the room, he’s able to deny that something extraordinary is now unfolding. And I realise that there is the sound of this wind. It’s not outside. It’s not the sound of a gale blowing against the wall. It’s here, right inside the room. And it’s the air and the sound of this storm that’s beginning to brew and to grow within the room. As it begins to swirl. As it begins to move. And I kind of imagine that it’s beginning to kind of coalesce into the centre of the room.

(00:05:45) – And that’s where the fire begins, with the flame begins to grow. It’s just there. All this, this fascination, this, this storm, this fire, this flame, the sound, the kol (Hebrew word) of the voice of God as they realise this is the Sinai moment. This is what Shavuot is all about. This moment of Pentecost, this moment of the celebration of the harvest. The first fruits as they, the people, were all gathering, assigned to bring the first offerings of the harvest. And suddenly, within this space, all of this was beginning to happen. And then slowly, bit by bit, the central flame begins to divide and begins to move out into the room. And one by one they see these people beginning to be affected by the Holy Spirit. Now some are going to react in quite extraordinary ways to that manifestation. And when the spirit is at work, I’ve seen some people just fall down on their knees. They’re so overwhelmed by that presence. They’re so aware of this sin, so aware of all of the things that they’ve done wrong.

(00:07:05) – But when the spirit comes that the first experience in that is to just to fall on the ground, so overwhelmed by their unworthiness, so overwhelmed by the mercy that they feel within the depths of their being, they feel that sense of acceptance, that sense of forgiveness. Others begin to cry. Because that experience of being loved, being accepted is so overwhelming. And how could a God of holiness and grace come into someone like me? How is that possible? Others are so overwhelmed by what’s happening that they begin to laugh. They begin just to be so filled with joy at this, this experience, this the tenderness of God being at work in their life. Others begin to sing. All they want to do is just to. To begin to cry out, to express these words of thanks. And sometimes our words are never enough. And so our songs are so helpful to carry us and to carry and to shape and form those messages. Others are able to go into the arenas, to go into those experiences of just speaking forth the message of glory, the wonder of what God is doing.

(00:08:42) – I imagine that all of that is going on for some time before they realise that, hey, we can’t contain this spirit just to this room. We need to go out into the square. We need to bring this, this gift of his grace, that transformation that has done its work to heal, to forgive, to restore, to unify this group. I mean, there would have still been the divisions, those divisions that we know in our own lives, those divisions that we still see present in our church have been there the whole way through all of this. Jesus spent so long in John 17, you know, praying for unity, praying that we might experience that gift. Because what we heard in Genesis 11 of that story of Babel and the divisions that happen in that. It’s again, it’s been there right from the very beginning. And yet into all that God is simply longing that we would hear that call to be his covenant people, that we would respond and that we would begin to to speak of the wonder of God, to announce the gift of his love.

(00:10:12) – We so need to hear that again and again. We need to hear that message of love and acceptance, to be reminded that no matter where we’ve been, no matter what week we’ve had, how many, how many times we’ve been frustrated and annoyed and anxious and overwhelmed that God is there. And the only qualification that we need to receive the Holy Spirit. His desire. The realisation that I can’t, but the spirit can. And the spirit will do that work of breaking through our lives and breaking into ours to transform us so that we can begin, indeed, to announce the wonders of God, that we can speak that into the world. But no, the real miracle, the real gift of Pentecost, is not the gift of tongues. It’s not the ability to speak in a way that everyone is able to understand. But there’s a transformation that happens in the hearts of all those who are listening. That they were able to hear that message of salvation. That they were able to be open as well to see their own need.

(00:11:46) – They weren’t so caught up by their self-sufficiency. They didn’t make space for God to do that work. God will do wonders whenever there is that capacity. Whenever there is that hunger, whenever there is that longing and that desire. And God will do that work. And we need to be that community. That is in such a beautiful state. That we’re able to open people to that hunger. The others can look at us and say, yes, there’s something there. There’s a vulnerability, there’s a beauty, there’s a love and there’s an acceptance. And in that space, there’s room for me. In that place, there is that capacity for that transformation, that hunger that only God can answer. So let’s indeed just be aware of our woundedness. Be aware of that hunger. Be aware of the thirst that we have. Because God wants to fill us. He wants to be the drink that satisfies. He wants to be that food for us that will allow us to experience his gift and his grace.

(00:13:13) – Take that time just to let him be present to us, to transform us, to shape us, to change us and to fill us and flood us with the love and the power of His Spirit.

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