Attentive to the Spirit: A Pentecost Sermon

IMG_5306The Day of Pentecost
May 24, 2015
The Advocate at Pondside
The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck, Vicar
“I still have many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
she will guide you into all the truth;

This is one of the most exciting prospects in all of Scripture.

Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
she will guide you into all the truth;

I love it.
Because it means that there is more to be known,
more to be revealed,
more to be enacted
about God and God’s ways.
The disciples could only take in so much.
So Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, the Advocate,
to guide and nudge and teach.

And while the Spirit moved St. Paul in many exciting, challenging and life-giving ways,
the Spirit didn’t retire with St. Paul.
And while the Spirit moved the Church Fathers and the medieval women mystics in many exciting, challenging and life-giving ways,
the Spirit didn’t retire in the 12th century either.
And while the Spirit moved the church to reform
over and again in centuries past,
the Spirit still hasn’t retired.
No, the Spirit of truth is moving
revealing things to us that those in ages past could not bear.

Now perhaps it is because I grew up in an era of tv cartoons of a certain ilk,
but I imagine the Spirit moving around,
swirling around, buzzing around,
trying to get into
our world
our thoughts
our industries,
our governments
our churches.

Moving, swirling, buzzing,
wanting to reveal a truth as yet unknown to us.
And over and over and over again
the Spirit bumps into a shield
or a wall,
or a barrier.

The term “Iron Dome” is a good one.
Sounds pretty impenetrable.
And while the State of Israel coined the phrase,
it is apt for the shields we create,
for the shields we create with
our business, or our busy-ness,
with our gadgets, or our habits,
with out traditions and ways we hold so dear,
with our study and analysis without reflection,
with or our focus on anything we can find to focus on
besides God and our fellow human creatures.
An Iron Dome.
And the Spirit moves and swirls and buzzes around,
looking for a point of entry.

The Spirit is persistent.
And despite our best efforts to keep the Spirit at bay,
(usually unintentional efforts, I should emphasize,
patterns and practices to which we are oblivious)
despite our best efforts to keep the Spirit at bay,
still she manages,
every so often,
to find a crack or a gap,
and work her way in.
Or she drills a hole like a carpenter bee in a mailbox post.

She works her way in.
And it is at once settling and unsettling for us;
unsettling because it is different,
settling because it is true.

There are hallmarks, of course.
Ways we can know if something has been inspired by the Spirit, or not.
And some here who were raised in certain branches of the church can probably recite those hallmarks,
the so-called “fruit” of the Spirit.
(Me, I have to google it…)
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians,
he writes that the fruit of the Spirit is:
love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Not a bad list!
And certainly it provides a good way for us to know
if the action taken,
the behavior modified,
the words spoken
are of the Spirit’s touch,
or not.
Love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I would add another,
revealed in the reading from Acts today.

A fruit of the Spirit is an awareness
of unity in our diversity.
Not a false and forced unity,
but an exciting and energetic unity.

I don’t now about you,
but I have often had an exhilarating sense of the Holy Spirit
when I have been in the thick of a really diverse group of people
relating to one another with love, respect and joy.
Sometimes it is even when I am realizing the diversity of two.
Me and someone else.
An other.

There are times when our awareness of the Spirit and its fruit is frenzied.
That Day of Pentecost we just heard about was pretty wild.
And Spirit-filled music can get downright rowdy.

And there are times our awareness of the Spirit is something very, very calm.
Like a gentle breeze or a sweet, not-humid, stillness.

And here’s the deal.
When we feel it,
We will know it is God.
Or…. We may not.

In fact sometimes I wonder if God is like those people that are so generous of spirit
that they don’t really care if they get credit or acknowledgment for the good deed they have done, or not.
Just as long as the good deed is done.

The Spirit is at work all over the place,
whether we humans realize it or not.
And when the Church and her people steal themselves against her,
why, she finds another way.

Some of you may have heard about the recent efforts of news columnist David Brooks to call our society to a more moral way of life.
He does not speak of the Holy Spirit.
But he shares her language and his writing may very well yield her fruit.
The book is called:
The Road to Character.

My hunch is that because we live in an age when many simply cannot hear the vocabulary of the Church,
the Spirit knows to find another way such as this.

The message will resonate with thousands, or more.
Because when our spirit connects with the Spirit of truth
we human beings feel as though we have come home for the first time.
We were created that way.

Sam Laurent once said,
“Our job as the Church of the Advocate is to respond to God’s graceful, often surprising, presence by paying attention to it.”
That is, perhaps the key.
To pay attention.
Use the prayers, the fellowship, the sacraments.
Develop a practice of silence.
Read what those outside the church are doing
that yields love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
And Unity in diversity.
Pay attention.
And name it for what we know it to be:
The movement of the Spirit.

Now I envision one of those great domed telescopes
high atop a hill.
And when the astronomer is ready to learn and experience the vast expanse of interstellar space more fully,
he flips the switch,
and slowly, steadily,
the hatchway opens.
Heck, I don’t know,
maybe it falters a bit,
but then continues.

“Our job as the Church of the Advocate is to respond to God’s graceful, often surprising, presence by paying attention to it.”
We do well to do whatever helps us
to pay attention,
to take heed,
to listen,
to be intentional,
mindful,
on the lookout.
They all suggest the same thing.

We do well to do whatever helps us
to open the door, the window, the dome,
a bit more.
So that we can receive the Spirit of truth
and let her guide us into the truth.
a truth as yet unknown to us.

That is what this day is about.
Reminding ourselves that the Spirit is alive and well,
looking for a connection,
bidding us to open up.

Holy Spirit come to us.
Kindle in us the fire of your love.
Holy Spirit come to us.
Holy Spirit come to us. Amen.