In my former employment I used to interview teachers who wanted to become Heads of Department. Every one of them had a CV as long as your arm – captain of inter-house needlepoint, president of a local drama society, in their holidays they had taught English in Sao Luis. To be impressive, it seems, you must have achievements. So, it is odd, that there is one, strangely anonymous, member of the Trinity:
God the Father, we know,
Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
God the Son, similarly, has history (it is, indeed, exactly what he has)
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and buried…
The Spirit, however, can sound like the poor relation of the Trinity,
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints…
In the Roman Catholic Catechism it suggests that the Spirit never speaks of itself. It is very unusual never to speak of yourself, but it is what the Spirit does. Like a thief in the night you cannot see the Spirit, but you can see where (s)he has been. Which is why Jesus said:
This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. John 14:17
I might suggest that the Holy Spirit is not for those who like their lives, and everyone else’s to be tidy, and want everything to be labelled and boxed in. We tidy at our peril, because much of the work of the Spirit is done through the messiness of life.
When the thief in the night passes through (s)he leaves behind one thing – disorder. Where the Spirit has been what you get is abundance and variety. Read Genesis and you will find that the Spirit gives abundance. Genesis starts with a formless deep and the Spirit which brings out of the deep this, which is different from that, and then something else. It is the same Spirit that has the apostles speaking in all those different tongues at Pentecost.
The point about life in the Spirit is that it is rich and abundant, and we should learn to enjoy that. More importantly we should learn to trust it. Because, in the Spirit everything holds together and does not fall apart. The great challenge is not that we should all end up the same, the challenge is that we should be different and enjoy it. The day of Pentecost is the day that we celebrate the fact that God gives us variety. Gives us the gifts, the imagination and the language to love both.
In the Spirit we can forgive, explain, argue and be reconciled, we can co-operate, sympathise and love. The day of Pentecost is the day of variety and the opportunity to see that this is where the Spirit has been.
As we come further out of lockdown let us look back and see where the Spirit has been working in the past year and we may be surprised. (S)he has not been idle but has been working in all of the most difficult and trying circumstances we have experienced. So let us not waste that work by trying to forget or ignore what the last year has taught us about resilience, hope, community spirit, mutual care and care for the natural world.
Let us pray that the Spirit will guide us as we come back together and look to the future.