The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.
I love the story of the dry bones. It is gives us a powerful metaphor of the work the Holy Spirit does in and with us bringing life where all we could previously see was death. It is easy to see the dry bones. You only have to watch the news to hear of yet another school shooting in the US as well as the mad rhetoric between the US president and the Nth Korean president, or revisit a multitude of other news items such as ongoing wars Syria or Yemen that don’t make the news; to realise that the world feels like a valley of dry bones. Has the Good News of Jesus made any difference in 2000 years. It is no wonder 2 billion people want to watch Cinderella and prince charming getting married. Good News at last!
But maybe we don’t even see the dry bones because the temptation is to switch off the news and push the big problems off shore, out of sight, out of mind. But then Pentecost comes along!
As I was wondering what to preach about I came upon a comment by Phillip Kosloski.
Phillip Kosloski reminds us of the Celtic tradition:
The ancient Celtic people saw the Holy Spirit not as a hovering white dove but as a “wild goose.” The meaning behind this peculiar choice is because they saw how the Holy Spirit has a tendency to disrupt and surprise. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives in an unexpected fashion, similar to the actions of a wild goose.
So the next time you set out on a “wild goose chase,” it might not be you who are chasing the goose, but the “goose” who is chasing you!
Is that why we nice Anglicans tend to avoid the Holy Spirit? We don’t want the wild Spirit to disturb our settled lives.
A Listener to a Pentecost podcast, I was listening to sent in a powerful comment. She said, https://www.pulpitfiction.com/notes/pentecostb
“The problem with Pentecost is not that it’s a busy time of the year, but that it so unambiguously requires of us that we carry the gospel out into the world, and blow our own covers. It is one thing to adore the infant Jesus, another to mourn the death of Jesus in our insular communities. It is something else, VERY else, and to many, VERY scary, to proclaim the gospel in every action we take, and to publicly proclaim ourselves to be THOSE people, those [insert negative adjective here] Christians. Pentecost gives us marching orders. Christmas is so much easier…”
We don’t want marching orders any more than we want our settled lives disturbed by wildness even if it is a Holy wildness. We prefer the Holy Spirit to be the dove of peace smoothing over the problems and bringing tranquillity.
David Lose the Lutheran pastor tells us of Martin Luther’s addition to the Marks of the Church: proclaim the Gospel, celebrate the sacraments, and he added expect struggle.
The Spirit doesn’t solve our problems, but invites us to see possibilities we would not have seen otherwise. Rather than remove our fear, the Spirit grants us courage to move forward. Rather than promise safety, the Spirit promises God’s presence. Rather than remove us from a turbulent world, or even settle the turbulence, the Spirit enables us to keep our footing amid the tremors. Keep in mind that after the Spirit is given to Jesus at his Baptism, it immediately drives him into the wilderness. The same Spirit!
So as we celebrate Pentecost today lets expect the Holy Spirit to disturb us. We will be able to see the dry bones with clarity and have a deep conviction of the need to bring Good News to the world. Not fairy tale news but News that brings life.
Neither the Apostles on the day of Pentecost nor Ezekiel speak off their own back. They are given the words and authority to speak life into the world. The Holy Spirit desires to give us the words and authority to speak life into our world. The Holy Spirit is indeed working in our lives individually and as a community. Sometimes, however we experience the Holy Spirit more like the pilot light in a gas heater rather than the flame that burns to heat the water. There is an invitation for us today to be open to this wild goose. We are invited to open ourselves so the “hot water tap” can be turned on. Part of the reason for the Alpha course is to go beyond hearing the Good news to experiencing it. Cursillo has been another powerful way that many people have become open to the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to make the most of opportunities like Alpha and Cursillo to create openness for the Holy Spirit. Of course we can just invite the Holy Spirit to come in and disturb our lives we don’t have to wait for a Church programme or weekend away.
But what language will the Holy Spirit empower us with that speaks with authority in the 21st century in Australia. We watched the movie Creation, the life of Charles Darwin on Friday night. The Church came across as arrogant, bombastic and unwilling to learn. An unhelpful dichotomy was set up between the Church and the science Darwin was uncovering. It set up an expectation that new scientific thinking would kill God and make the Church obsolete. But the language the Holy Spirit is giving us is a language that embraces science without fear. It is a language that appreciates the questions science is asking and continues to encourage questions of why this world is as it is. If science topples some of our cherished certainties we will need to enter more deeply into faith with the scientific knowledge alongside us.
The Holy Spirit will also give us language that will speak to the huge problems we face in the world like Global warming and human greed and violence. We will have authority to speak into the fears and anxieties that people live with daily as a result of the digital revolution.
We are being given a language that communicates that God is not merely a clock maker who tinkers with the world from time to time. Yes that god died with advent of the scientific age. We will communicate a faith in God who not only creates with exciting explosions and evolutionary processes but who is completely committed to the whole of creation. We speak of God who shares in the very dust that we are created from and who calls us out of violence into compassion. We speak of the Spirit of God present in every atom starting strange collaborations between bacteria and human beings, between fungus and whole forests, between dung beetles and farmers.
I am reminded of what is written in the 2nd letter to Timothy, chapter 1 verse 7: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline”. My friends, allow yourselves to be disturbed by the wild Spirit of God. The Spirit empowers us to proclaim Good News bringing life to dry bones.