The readings on which this sermon is based are found at: http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r032.htm
s032ba03 Lockleys Pentecost 8th June 2003 YAF reunion long weekend.
"Indeed these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only 9 o'clock in the morning", and we need a bit more time to get properly inebriated É :-)
Alcohol has differing effects on different people. Some who drink to excess become argumentative, some become legless, others become sleepy, others become chatty, and others become affectionate. Each of these, in their different ways, indicate a lifting of care, a reduction in the natural inhibitions that we all usually have. Some people are allergic to alcohol and cannot enjoy partaking. I suspect that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit didn't make the disciples argumentative, legless or sleepy &endash; such behaviour would not have attracted the crowds. But it is clear that the disciples became chatty, if not affectionate.
This particular long weekend is the reunion of those many people who met through their involvement in the Young Anglican Fellowship. I have to admit that one of the reasons I am a priest was that I met a couple of scantily clad female type persons on Brighton beach and they invited a friend and I to join the local YAF. While I had been a choir boy, singing at the morning communion service and then at Evensong each Sunday - in my early teenage years I got involved in scouts and cadets. They were not wasted years, I learned a lot during that time. But I did take up the invitation on the beach &endash; how could I refuse such an offer &endash; to go to the YAF, and back to Church as well? So I do warn my boys regularly to be careful of scantily clad female type persons accosting them on the beach. One never knows what may eventuate :-) ! I am hoping that they will both get extraordinarily high paid jobs and keep Catherine and I in a manner to which we have never been accustomed! :-)
So I do have a lot of time for such organisations. The first persons of the opposite gender with whom I kept company were members of the YAF. It fulfilled an essential element of growing up - to begin to spread one's wings and to have relationships beyond family members &endash; to learn to relate to others and perhaps to begin a lifelong relationship. It can of course be done equally well by scouts and cadets, particularly these days when such groups are mixed rather than single gender organisations. Schools too, now focus a lot more on interpersonal relationships, and a good thing too.
The effects of reduction in inhibitions, the chattiness and the affectionate, are the things I want to focus on for a while. For while some inhibitions are good, it is also good to let down one's hair occasionally. "Everything in moderation" even moderation. We are not meant to be bound up in our inhibitions.
I know that many of us of the "older" generation marvel how the modern education system encourages young people these days to stand up and "perform" in front of others. The ability to get up and speak or whatever, in front of others is a real asset, and it is God given. The old dictum of children being seen and not heard has long since gone, and good riddance!
And the importance of being affectionate is incalculable. By now you will have realised that I more often than not wear jeans rather than trousers. This has lead to some amusing things happening to me. I once went to take a service in the local old age village, this day for once wearing "proper" trousers. One lady immediately expressed her surprise and approval to her neighbour in a whisper able to be heard by everyone in the large hall who had normal hearing: "O look! - the Rector's got trousers on today!"
But wearing jeans immediately "says" something about who I am &endash; or who I would like to be. I want to be friendly. I don't want to stand on ceremony. And I have found this particularly helpful in ministry where people, often who have never met a minister and unsure of how to behave, are immediately put at ease. I am not, of course, criticising those who wear more formal attire.
Filled with the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost - the disciples in their chattiness are enabled to speak in the language of the hearers. It has been my observation that so often the Church hopes the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the un-churched to enable them to understand the language of the Church. No, the Holy Spirit operates, not to educate others and make them like us - but to help us to accept others who are different, to make them feel comfortable, to put them at ease.
One of my favourite quotations from the letter to the Romans is not in chapter 8 actually. I find St Paul's words today terribly depressing &endash; groaning in labour pains &endash; sighs to deep for words É It's all a bit much. No, my much more favourite bit is chapter 12 verses 6 and 8: "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us É the compassionate, in cheerfulness." The word for cheerfulness in Greek is actually precisely the word from which we get "hilarity" &endash; ilarion. Hilarity is more than cheerfulness, hilarity seeks to put the other at ease. If St Paul can ask us to be merciful towards others "with hilarity"; God obviously must do this infinitely better than us. So when we solemnly sing the Agnus Dei, Sunday by Sunday, before we come to receive the blessed sacrament: "Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us. Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us. Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us your peace" - we do well to hear God laughing, God trying to put us at ease, God saying "Of course, of course É - just get on and do likewise!"
If you are like me and looking back with rose-coloured glasses on the days of your youth &endash; good on you. It was the time when we began to lose some of our inhibitions, to find our voices and start to become affectionate. This is truly the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - for we are meant one for another. And if, in the meantime, we have taken back some of those inhibitions, become less chatty and more reserved, we do not have to be so. The Holy Spirit is given that we might not be so.
As I have gone through life, I am now beginning to realise that the ability to be at ease with oneself helps other people relax in our company. (I say this as one who has spent a life time ill at ease.) Surely this is what life is all about - being at ease with ourselves and at ease with others. It is really what "at-one-ment" is all about - a word which theologians use to express the effects of the Cross and resurrection. In the sixties we had to "get it together - now" :-)
I find great comfort in the realisation that the gospel is all about getting on with one another. We often talk in high - faluting terms like loving our neighbour, and we can get bogged down working out whether this means we have to convert, correct, educate or make others more charitable.
Whatever we do to try to understand the other, to "speak their language" we are being inspired by the Holy Spirit. As we try to understand our partners, whether they be from Mars or Venus (or some other alien place :-) we are being inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As we try to understand the language of our children and the completely different world that they face, we are being inspired by the Holy Spirit.
I was interested to hear our Archbishop speaking about art in his Pastoral Address for Synod - and how he saw art in a vast range of activities, on just in paintings suitable for galleries or music suitable for Church. He sees art in the everyday lives we lead. "Cooking a fine meal, to making a business decision, from painting a picture to counselling another person; from creating an opera to a footballer lining up to kick a goal; from the work of a poet to the work of a landscape architect; the writing of a symphony to the writing of an icon; the sculptor producing a major three dimensional work to a person engaged in flower arranging; the work of embroidery to the writing of a pop song; designing a new car to the ceramicist making pots; the print maker to the weaver; the fitter and turner in metal or in wood; to the public speaker and the parliamentarian preparing a speech; bringing up children to a judge making a decision. The list of creative activities is endless." He sees art as inspired by the Holy Spirit, about it being partial rather than complete, about its importance being in the production not in the product.
So as we look at art and find some relevance in our own lives, we are being inspired to learn the language of another, to appreciate the contribution another can make to our lives, to appreciate that others journeys and expressions are as incomplete as our own, and that we all have more to learn and to travel, we are being inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.
It is a great joy to me that I don't have to be perfect, nor does anyone else. We can be affectionate rather than critical of others, we can engage in dialogue without thinking we have to be entirely correct all the time.
Living the Christian life is a life of joy, richness and community, not of careful and barren solitude. It is a life I have no difficulty commending to one and to all.
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