This morning after a long weekend of celebrations in the UK, celebrating the 70 year long reign of Her Majesty the Queen, we wake to the news that there will be a confidence vote taken, as 54 or more letters of no confidence have been lodged by Tory MP’s, goodness what a turn around, bringing us crashing back to earth. It isn’t really unexpected, there has been dis-ease stirring in the nation, and in the Tory Party surrounding the Party-gate allegations, and the fact that the Prime minister broke his own Covid lock down rules!
But, I am not really writing about politics, but about our humanity, following a weekend of celebration we are back to work, back to school, and back to life as normal, whatever normal is! Maybe that is the question we need to be asking, what is normal, and how should we be in these days, I wonder if those questions were being discussed among the new believers as they gathered to listen to the teaching of the apostles, and in many cases to live differently following their baptisms?
We are told that they held all things in common, the rich sold good to support the poor, they shared food, and ate with glad and generous hearts, in a country where food bank use is on the rise and fuel poverty is a real problem for many, it is into this that normal living resumes, and I wonder how many simply ignored the weekend with its flag waving and displays of trestle tables filled with food and went to bed hungry? How does their plight challenge those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus these days? Of course I see many churches engaging in community action, running food banks, making collections for the Ukraine, people offering hospitality to families etc, but the challenge is deeper for it calls us to see that all have value, and that God’s image resides in everyone.
I wonder if it was only at Pentecost that Peter and the rest of the gathered followers in that upper room truly knew who they were as the Spirit of truth filled them with all truth, and they began the journey to incarnational mission the mission they had previously only seen in Jesus. From the day of Pentecost healings were seen, lives were changed, and the followers of Jesus were changed! They were also challenged, imprisonment, beatings, and even martyrdoms met them, Stephen was the first, he was stoned, Stephen who was leading the team who shared the goods among the poor. I suspect we won’t expect stoning, but we can expect criticism from those who want to be the church to be a nice place to come to, I have had many conversations about keeping the riff-raff out, and maintaining a nice place etc, etc, and have even been accused of reaching the wrong sort of people, my response was to invite them for dinner, the wrong people that is!
The church is very human, we know it isn’t a building, but rather a group of people trying to be as Jesus was in the world, we stumble and fall and fail so often, we make up rules for ourselves and for others, and of course as we read further into the book of Acts we begin to see fights break out, from minor disagreements to the parting of ways among the apostles and the groups following them. Church history is no different, it is littered with inglorious acts and woeful pronunciations, and yet always as a golden thread running through it we somehow catch glimpses of Jesus at work, of the Spirit stirring, we catch glimpses of hope in our own lives.
I believe that this is the incarnational work of God among us, drawing us, stumbling and falling though we may be, into the eternal dance of life, to be and to become those who share the God colours and God flavours with the world around us, to move in the unforced rhythms of grace, to lean into them, with God there is no normal, no ordinary, nobody and nothing is excluded for all burst with potential and possibility, even though it may be deeply buried in some places.
We live as Jesus lived in a world that is far from perfect, in a world that needs to see a different way, I am struck that God in Jesus chose to as John’s Gospel in the Message Version puts it ” move into the neighbourhood”, to be touchable flesh and blood, with needs and wants and desires, understanding our human condition, and yet John goes on to say, and we have seen his glory….
Just ponder this passage:
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
That is exactly what the Spirit wants to enable in us, for us to be signs of God in our neighbourhoods, showing and sharing the glory of God, each expression and situation unique, tangible and touchable. We often want to be more, we pray and sing songs that ask God to come down and to fill the earth and miss the fact that they are already here, alongside us and within us, longing for us to catch up with that truth! You and I are channels through which God longs to pour their grace, we are called to walk with them, and work with them to bring about the renewing of the earth and all creation. To bring show the kingdom emerging in and through our lives….
On the day after Pentecost everything hand changed, we are called to be agents of that change!