The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:
s013g05 Taize Service Cathedral 19/2/2005 Lent 2
"The wind blows where it chooses .. you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3.8
This evening we are to consider the time of Lent. It hasn't been easy for me to get my mind around Lent, because I do not have a green thumb and every effort I have made to be a gardener has proved to be disastrous for the poor plants involved. Lent for us comes in precisely the wrong season for us in the Southern Hemisphere to get many natural clues.
Lent in the real world; the Northern Hemisphere; is the beginning of Spring, so I suspect that it is the time when plants begin to sprout their roots prior to the stalks and leaves sprouting above ground.
So what happens in Lent is that we too put our roots down, prior to the inevitable flourish of above ground activity that the increasingly warmer weather brings about.
So Lent is a time when we don't see lots happening, but what is actually vitally important for the later life of the plant. The so-called "parable of the Sower" with which we are so familiar, is actually the parable of the different soils, which help or hinder the growth of the roots. This growth, by it's very nature, hidden from us.
I remember vividly many years ago speaking to a colleague about a parishioner who suffered from schitzophrenia. He was a lovely man and very devout. The priest, who also had lots of time for this man, said he was a very patient person. He would put down his roots, but every so often he would dig them up to see how far they had grown! All that good work was lost.
So in Lent, what we do might seem mundane and unexciting, yet it is vital for later on. I recall that it was the people who were mending their nets that Jesus' called to be his disciples. When we are caring for ourselves we are likely to be of more useful than if we don't.
Now the traditional disciplines associated with Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And these are good. But the gospel for tomorrow begins with these words from John about the Spirit blowing where it chooses, and I want to suggest that there are a multitude of ways of caring for ourselves and putting down our roots, limited only by our own imagination. If we are caring for ourselves we are likely to be more use to others than if we don't.
One of the things I have been doing recently is walking on my day off. My golfing partner has not been able to get away recently, so I thought, I might be waiting for a long time. I don't walk with a "walk-man", but spend the time enjoying the scenery along linear park, thinking and meditating.
Traditionally Bible Reading has been a thing that people do more of during Lent. But God can speak through books other than the Bible. If you are a reader, then this is an easy way to care for yourself. It might even be a good exercise to read something of a different theological perspective than you are used to.
I think that I have already said that I've been doing Yoga and I'm off on a Yoga Retreat in May before joining the Ministry Development Council's pilgrimage to Kangaroo Island. These will be times where I meet other people, spend time in congenial surroundings, and learning of different things. This will, no doubt, be a very valuable time for me.
One of the things I do a lot of is visit other people, it comes with my job. And each and every time I come away encouraged by the person I am supposed to have been helping!
But I really wanted to focus a little more of that text, the Spirit blows where it chooses, for there is one thing about wind, is that it blows everywhere. You will be aware of the phrase; the lazy wind; it blows right through you. I don't know where the Spirit blows. Lots of people want to suggest that there are some places where the Spirit doesn't blow. Some Christians believe that the Spirit doesn't blow through non-Christians, or through people who relate intimately with someone of the same gender as them selves. No, God's Spirit blows everywhere, and tonight I want to say that most importantly it blows through you and through me.
So you don't actually need me to tell you what particular spiritual discipline is "right" for you this Lent. Chances are you are already doing it, for the Spirit is already blowing through you. Just the fact that you've come here this evening to this service, shows that you want God's blessing in your life; and God is faithful. It might well be that just coming to this service is your way of having "time out" for yourself, your way of caring for yourself, your Lenten discipline.
Each and every person here who is a parent, will I'm sure remember times when it seems one or other of our children have grown an inch overnight. (2.54 centimetres; for those unused to inches). Much of our physical growth occurs when we are asleep, when we are doing least to bring it about. Similarly I would testify to how much I grew while I was on pilgrimage overseas last year; it isn't just the hair! :-) I cannot tell you how it happened but happen it did, while I was doing least.
And it is strange, as I have returned to my "normal" existence (or what passes for normal being a member of the clergy :-), how during this time after Christmass when things have been quiet, I have become anxious that I should be busy. I haven't learned the lesson of the pilgrimage and rejoiced in the growth that is still taking place.
As you look back at those things I suggested might be thoughts for you, how each and every one of them involve us relating to the creation around us and other people. Just to take the Bible reading one, what we are doing is having a conversation with the evangelists and ourselves. It might equally be one of the writings of the Church Fathers or a modern theologian. In each and every case we are opening ourselves up to outside influences, not always agreeing, but taking on board different perspectives. Nothing is ever wasted. We learn as we are part of a community and a part of creation; rather than separate from others.
And what we do this evening, just coming to this service of choosing to come up to the front and light a candle, is that we are praying to God for some other person or for ourselves. Or we may choose to come up for prayer and or anointing. Whatever we choose to do we are acknowledging that we are part of creation, and part of a community, that we are made for one another and sustained by one another.
We are called together this evening, each and every one of us, by the Holy Spirit, who blows as gently and effectively through you, as through me, to be gifts for one another, to encourage this unseen yet vital root growth in each of us.
Now just where will this root growth lead? I'm not sure that it really matters. If we have our eyes open to the contribution that every one else can make to our lives -- we are much more likely to be of a happy disposition than if we spend our lives complaining about the injustices of life; politicians, the President of the United States, Osama bin Laden or Senator Amanda Vanstone! And if we are of a happy disposition then we are likely to be someone who others might turn to for encouragement also.
This Lent, may we all be encouraged to put down our roots a little firmer, knowing that the Lord has people for us to encourage as well as to be encouraged by.
There is little point speculating on where God's Spirit might not go or how strong our roots are. These things achieve absolutely nothing for our selves, or for anyone else.
The promise and the good news is for us and for all, that God's primary purpose is our fulfilment in life.
Psalm 27 ends with these words: "O wait for the LORD; stand firm and he will strengthen your heart: and wait I say, for the LORD."
Back to: "A Spark of the Spirit"