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The Holy Spirit

Wellington, our first cocker spaniel loved the wind as much as I do: On blowy days we would walk together to the top of a hill and Wellington would turn his head to the gale and with his ears flapping out like airplane’s wings and a broad doggy smile and wagging tail he was clearly relishing every moment. Those days when I am in the graveyard in cassock and surplice with my black reading scarf flapping around are good days and I always think of the Holy Spirit being with us as we carry out our burial service. For the Holy Spirit was there at the very beginning:

“The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the deep while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

As Paul points out the Spirit is with us, given to the church for the common good. It is a long way from Genesis to Paul and much has happened in between.

In the Old Testament we read of the Spirit being given to particular people, notably the prophets. You will recall the words of Isaiah:

“The spirit of God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted.”

In Scripture there are many other examples of the Spirit resting on those who are called to be heads of the people of God. We reflect this today in services of ordination and licensing when we all sing “Come Holy Ghost our Souls Inspire.”

But into these Old Testament thoughts of giving of the Holy Spirit sporadically and temporarily to quicken the work a particular person came Jesus Christ. And as we heard last week in a moment of transformation the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism – he was as it were clothed with the Spirit, empowered and led and as we hear in Acts “he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed for God was with him.” God is changing his relationship with us; the Holy Spirit ais permanently present in his person during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Following Jesus’ resurrection he fulfils his promise sending the Holy Spirit at Pentecost upon the Apostles in the upper room. The Spirit is sent at the very birth of the church directing it and acting through it. [You will have noticed that Paul and Peter both attribute power and the conversion of many not to themselves but to the Spirit] We are as Jesus told us not left alone, which brings us at last to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. To them he explains that there is but one Spirit and it is the same spirit present in Jesus Christ. He explains that the Spirit gives gifts to enrich her church. (Were they perhaps arguing among themselves about which activities were most important?)– gifts to those who need them and can use them. This giving is neither capricious nor sporadic for at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to all of us and as Paul says the Spirit chooses.

This is important for at different times in our lives we need different help and support, different gifts to use and to sustain us – perhaps to cope with caring for a relative, to nurture children or grandchildren, to live the Christian life in an ever more challenging world. I believe we will be given the gifts when the church needs us to have them and when we need them for ourselves.

For the Holy Spirit is abundant and everywhere. It is interesting I think that our readings today combine Paul’s understanding of the gifts of the Spirit with the miracle at Cana, the water turned into wine in such quantity, tens and tens of gallons and of the highest quality an image of overflowing generosity, abundance fruitfulness and joy.

All of which take me back to the wind, limitless, invigorating, exhilarating, abundant blowing where it chooses and filling us with life.


Amen



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