Magazine leader - June 2014

From the Vicar

Fire has often seen as one of the four basic elements of nature in many ancient cultures and faith systems. Long before humans learnt to make fire, fire would have been an occasional and terrifying sight, perhaps set off by a lightning strike. Once the skill of creating and controlling fire had been mastered, to light a fire meant the possibility of warmth, cooking and safety. It later became the basis of melting things and so the basis for the Bronze Age and then the Iron Age. It is not surprising that fire came to be associated with divinity. When Moses comes face to face with God (Exodus 3), what he sees is a bush on fire. The transforming power of fire says something important about God. When Isaiah comes face to face with God, in his great vision (Isaiah 6), it is a vision of glory, with smoke and red hot coals. Fire is part of heaven and the divine word is put into his mouth through a live coal taken from the fire and touched to his lips. For Ezekiel too (Ezekiel 1), his vision of the divine, with its many strange creatures, has at its centre burning coals of fire. For Daniel also (Daniel 7), God is portrayed as being on a throne of fiery flames on wheels of burning fire. There is warmth and vitality in these images, but also something which is dynamic and life changing. These visions do not seek to describe any kind of theory about belief in God. They are not doctrinal statements. Rather they represent the attempt to put deep religious experience into words, so as to make sense of that experience and to share it with others.

Sunday 8th June is the Feast of Pentecost. It is the final day of the Easter season and it represents the climax to the Easter story. Jesus dies on a cross and, for those first disciples, that must have seemed like the end. Yet the resurrection changes everything. Death doers not win. There is a love here which can defeat even death. That love radically changes the disciples and empowers them to be both apostles and finally martyrs for their faith. Easter leads into Pentecost. The discovery that Jesus is risen opens a power of love that sets their hearts on fire with the Spirit of Jesus. They are transformed and empowered to be Christ’s Church.

For us today, Pentecost needs to be more than a strange story of disciples in an upper room with flames over their heads and a strange wind. This is picture language, not a description of what you might have seen if you had been there. We too can discover the Spirit in our lives. She comes with the force of a wind. She sets our hearts aflame with the love of Christ. I have found that the experience changes every perception in life. It leaves us as different people. As we celebrate another Pentecost, it must be our prayer that we too will experience the fire of God’s Spirit in our lives. We are promised that. It needs to be our expectation. And as we open our hearts to the Spirit,so a connection is made, stretching over two thousand years of human history. What once started with an empty tomb in Palestine takes root in our own lives in this present moment and we to can shout with joy – Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Over the coming months we will be asking ourselves afresh just how we can better respond to the raft of ideas that came out of our home-and-away-day last September. A number of ideas are coming to fruit. What is central to any plans for the future is the extent to which we are ready to be open to the Spirit in our midst. If our hearts are aflame for God and aflame with loving compassion to those around us, then that will begin to reshape the people we are and the kind of community into which our church is being transformed. A book that once had a big impact on me was called ‘The God of Surprises’. Its theme was that we should be open to the possibility of being surprised by God. If we put our hope in a future which is already being shaped by God, and if we are open to his Spirit in our midst, then we can live with the expectation that God can and will surprise us. I invite you to join with me in living with that expectation as we seek to be faithful to the wind of God’s Spirit in our lives.

Nigel 


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