Sometimes we can become so familiar with a word, that we forget what it originally means. When we think of ‘Pentecost’ we might think of the Holy Spirit, or the birth of the church, or those brand of churches that model themselves after the experience of the charismatic gifts, especially speaking in tongues, for example. But when the disciples met on the Pentecost that we read about in Acts 2, they were there to pray and remember the mighty deeds of God in the past and the more recent amazing works and influence of Jesus. They celebrated the great Jewish feast, which gave thanks for the new harvest of wheat, when they offered the first sheafs of wheat in thanksgiving and in anticipation of the harvest still to come. They also remembered the very first Pentecost, which was celebrated by the newly liberated people of God newly released from slavery in Egypt and now gathered around the mountain of Sinai.
They remembered how Moses had left the people and ascended the mountain of God to be in his mighty and awesome presence, and how he had returned with the tablets bearing the ten words of the Lord. Now as the disciples gathered in prayer, this amazing thing happened – this wind broke out around them and among them. This wind brought new life to them and they realised that they now had the power to actually live the teachings of Jesus and the commandments of God. This Spirit was somehow changing them, making everything real and wonderful – perhaps something like the Spirit first did when it hovered over the waters of the ‘Tohu va Bohu’ – the waters of chaos and disorder in Genesis 1:2.
The Spirit broke through and came from ‘heaven’ to bring new life to their experience of ‘earth’. It first broke into just who they were and gave them the ability to forgive past hurts, to overcome prejudice and hatreds, and to be empowered to boldly proclaim the tangible presence of the risen Lord among them. God wants to do no less among us; within us; through us. Let us continue to pray for the Spirit of God to come, to fall upon us, to breath his life into us – so that he can rock our world too! Come, Holy Spirit…
Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am (11’05”)
Ascension of the Lord (Year B). Acts 1:1-11
Many movies that we watch are sequels – the follow up to an earlier story. One of the things we notice at the moment is there are movies that now take us back to the origins to tell us what happened ‘in the beginning’ (Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Men). In beginning Acts, Luke is very clear to let us know that this is a sequel, the second part of the story of Jesus the Messiah – the Acts of King Jesus II if you like. And for Luke it is clear that this is more about the acts of Jesus than the acts of the apostles. Sure, at one level, this is the story of the early church. But it is also clear that Jesus is one of the central characters in the story, even if he is not always visible on the centre of the stage. We also quickly realise that we are not mere passive observers of the action that is unfolding – we are invited to be a central part of the action as well. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Acts has no real ending. Perhaps Luke leaves Acts with no great finale because he knows that the story will continue to unfold as we work through the grace of King Jesus in the power of the holy Spirit to bring and make the kingdom of heaven present in our world right now. Only then are we really living the reality of verse 8 – proclaiming the good news of the reign of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.
Only then do we discover the power of God’s continuing presence – represented by the cloud of God’s Shekinah that Jesus disappears into, reminding us that he has not gone off into space, but simply moved into God’s space, the place where the reign of God is always present – which we call ‘heaven’.
Recorded at Sacred Heart, Bomaderry (12’19”). Thanks to NT Wright!
A great new book by Brisbane-based author Pat Keady, one of the leaders of EmmanuelWorship, has just been released. I received my copy on Friday – it is great to finally hold something that you have helped a friend to prepare. This is the blurb that I wrote for the book.
“In Worship: the Activity of Disciples Pat Keady presents a deeply personal, passionate and profoundly challenging account of a subject that is often debated in today’s church, but rarely with the deep insights, love and wonderful humility that Pat brings to the table. Along the way, as Pat leads us on the journey into a richer and truer understanding of worship, there are many beautiful surprises and insights that emerge from his heart and many years of experience as a youth and worship leader.”
Fr Richard Healey, Diocese of Wollongong
Order the book here.
6th Sunday of Easter (Year B)
In the Gospel (John 15:9-17) Jesus beautifully illustrates one of the key distinctions of Christianity – that it is not about our striving to find God, but about his choice of us to be his disciples and to live under the commandment to love. I discovered this personally some twenty years ago when my parish priest strongly proclaimed this gospel of grace and the power this has to radically change the way that we follow the Lord and live our lives in Christ. In a similar way, the first reading (Acts 10) shows the desire of God to work in any life that is open to him, and to pour out the power of the holy Spirit on any who say yes to him.
Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am (7’37”)
Happy Mothers’ Day! 5th Sunday of Easter
The image of Jesus as the vine giving life to the branches offers great possibilities to reflect on the place of our individual lives in the midst of much deeper realities. It also allows us to understand how we are connected with the whole church, especially as we pray for the missions today and offer them practical assistance.
Recorded at Sacred Heart, Bomaderry (6’15”)
Easter 4B (John 10: 11-18)
In the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd many people have taken great comfort over the centuries. Yet if we examine the image closely within the context of the broader scriptural story, we can see a deep challenge by the Lord to trust in his leadership and care as he leads us out of the safety of the yard into the broad and wide lands of the world beyond. The Lord is always looking for a people who will be the signs and bringers of his kingdom into the world so that all people can hear his voice. Perhaps if we are too comfortable in our own little worlds and never venture beyond the confines of the yard – then the Good Shepherd will have to look for another people – another Church – to be his flock and his covenant people.
Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am (8’28”)