Sunday, 27 May 2012

Pentecost Sunday

Today is surely going to beat some record for Shetland! I was out walking the dogs first thing this morning in a T shirt and I felt quite hot!! YES! The dogs were even panting too.
The Relay for life was just coming to a conclusion at the Sports Ground and the music was penetrating the peace of the morning with songs of life and living. I thought what better way to start Pentecost.
A Tall ship was just sliding into the harbour and the waters were calm and the light was fantastic.

I have learned about a shop down in the southern part of the Island that sells bottled English beer, so I hope to be able to discover that for myself later on. Maybe after the evening service I will be able to sit out and drink some?


“We are not drunk, as you suppose”

It is becoming the case quite considerably, that our worship, though familiar to us is alien to the majority in our society. Whether it be hymn singing, versicle and response, or just plain standing sitting and kneeling. What we do naturally is peculiar to the majority.

Weddings and Funerals clearly make this issue apparent. Where the amount the congregation actually connect with what is going on and play any part in it is minimal often.

As has been said many times now “Liturgy” means the work of the people so for our liturgy to work we all need to feel that we are fully engaged with what is going on… nobody is “audience”.

Opinion about what actually happens “at church” would probably leave many of us regulars somewhat bemused. Perhaps even insulted at times. We like to think , at least that we are understood, even if not agreed with.

For the person who attends our worship for the first time, for whatever reason the difficulties are indeed numerous. We have a responsibility to ensure all people feel included, welcome and as comfortable as possible.

The image we get as the disciples gathered in the one place, is that the known world was gathered in Jerusalem, presumably to celebrate Pentecost, that time that God made himself ever present with his people by giving them the Law. The Law being the one thing that completely united the people, gave them identity and purpose.

And just as Jesus took the festival and meal of Passover and made it something new for the disciples and the church, so Pentecost was to be re invented for the church and given new impetus.

Just as we find today the world is a varied and rich place. Language is but one small way in which we perceive difference. We also have many other things by which we discern who is “on our side” and who is not!
We are all too quick to jump to our conclusion, without listening to another.

We are very quick sometimes to draw lines of distinction on ever shifting sands, thinking that doing so we make ourselves safe, or safer.
We do like to feel safe don’t we?

The disciples had done this by gathering together. They were fearful but at least safer together.

Outside, the world in all its vastness, with all its competing philosophies and even “directions” for good living, was a bewildering place, and they had no place there so they felt. They felt excluded from the world. (A sort of self exclusion)

You and I do this even today when we gather together, wherever it may be. Today we do it in church. Almost every day we will also “gather together” we choose the people we feel safer amongst.

But the lines we draw, wherever they are and whoever lies on the other side of the line, are not drawn by God who is God of all nations. (something the Jews had difficulties in realising and then the church too as we noticed a few weeks ago in our readings)

The celebration of Pentecost if we are truly to enter into it, should wipe away the lines we draw. The whole world can and may recognise the calling of God, and I expect this will mean that our way or experiencing and showing this recognition will not be someone elses and that this does not matter.

“We are not drunk as you suppose”

the life we now experience in God is for you too.

Pentecost was world breaking news, and at times this news felt quite threatening to both religious and political authorites.

I would hope that we who are comfortable in the church will constantly find ways, even amongst each other, to wipe away some of the lines we draw.

We have to find ways of proclaiming God… not the church or even us, or even our version of the church.

If we had even ten teenagers here today how would our worship be different, or the decision making processes be changed?
(even if we had ten new adults we may wonder how things may change!)

If we more people with very poor mobility, and perhaps arriving with wheel chairs how would we ensure their sense of welcome and comfort? A question which I hope you have not forgotten about.

If this church, or the church we usually go to were to be closed would we really bother to go anywhere else Sunday by Sunday?

Who of us would be here if there was risk involved.

The story of Pentecost will inspire us to be emboldened with love to witness as a united church in a world which is still in so much need. By this “love” the world will know that we are disciples. It seems to keep coming back to this…. And the loving is our witness, and at Pentecost the fearful disciples were able to break out of their self exclusion and feed the world.

Very quickly things began to change.