Rev. Alex Wilson
May 31, 2020
Rev. Alex Wilson

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          We’ve made it church, we’ve made it 40 days since Easter, 10 days since the ascension of our Lord and 76 days since we closed the church building due to COVID-19. Surreal isn’t it, to look back and think of what we’ve accomplished? We learned how to livestream, how to gather for worship, how to create community together from a distance, how to stay in touch differently. We learned the importance of the presence of this parish in our wider community as a destination for many on their walks, or quests to enjoy nature. We’ve learned how to support our friends on the streets during these days of isolation, and we are learning how to speak about the impact our ministry is having in our world in a different way than before. So here we are, the day of Pentecost, that moment when the purpose of the church, its growth and its mission in the world became clear to the gathered community through the descent of the Holy Spirit among people of all backgrounds. But what do we do with this new purpose for us? What is this evolving mission we are hearing? Well it’s got something to do with dreaming about new wine and the razing fire of the Spirit ablaze in our lives.

          The animation of the Holy Spirit in our lives is more than just a random renewal of our ability to live our lives, like changing the batteries in our watches or that second cup of coffee in the morning. The coming of the Holy Spirit cut across many different lines in society, in ways that our Lord was only getting started with in his ministry when he died. Suddenly, this inner group of followers was being expanded beyond the confines of Galilee which was represented by the speaking of tongues. More than just the speaking of tongues is the important action of how these tongues or languages were shared. Sometimes we get so stuck in the wisdom of languages that we miss the action, the Spirit made each of the languages audibly understood to everyone present. It was more than just subtitles, it was as if everyone was speaking the same language, hearing the same words, and understanding exactly what was going on. This began the expansion of the church, a church we are still in today which traces its roots back to that very day, because suddenly it wasn't for the few, but for all. All of our readings this morning focus us on the action of the Spirit as the animator of the church, of us, of our ministry, which is something we can neither contain nor is it something we can create on our own. The Spirit is a gift given to us, which dwells deeply inside who we are, refining what and who we are with its nudges into new life, a life we have been exploring in this pandemic. The difference of this new life in the Spirit, however, is that what was before cannot be returned to. The Spirit only moves forward into a future which is blazing with the gusts of the Spirit, a future which feels full of new wine.

          The disciples of John needed proof, to see the marks of our Lord’s crucified body in order to remember who he was, before the breath of the Spirit came upon them. The followers of Acts, a book of scripture which is focused on understanding how the church was formed post crucifixion, had a violent gust over them before the tongues of fire rested upon them. It's helpful to remember that fire has both a tending and destructive quality to it. It can keep us warm and also destroy property and lives. We gather around fire at Easter, a symbol of our Lord's dominion over death, because through fire something new is created. So the razing fire of the Spirit this morning created something so new, so outlandish, that people would think we are crazy if we were to fully admit what we are and what we are called to do together in our Lord's name in the world post COVID-19. But you see, that's what's meant to happen. Not to be ignored like we are drunk, but to dare to dream dreams, dreams which we convert into action so outlandish the world thinks we are drunk.

          I giggle a lot at the Acts passage about being drunk on new wine, because of the response. It's only 9am! How can they be drunk? But it's always more than just writing off someone's actions as inebriation, I think it's pointing us to that deeper understanding of new wine. Think about it for a second, when we find something new, some piece of information or a passion for that new hobby, we tend to go all in to understand it, and slowly the conversations we have with friends, our social media, and our whole lives are taken up with this hobby. It's all we can think of and it begins to form how we see the world. This lends us then to be full of zeal for our hobbies or passions, a zeal which can often feel like being drunk on new wine because everything is so exciting, everyone needs to know about what's happening. This passion, this zeal, is the bedrock of our movement of this institution, and looking at the world today I wonder if we’ve lost that zeal. And that is uncomfortable. I mean, we are feeding the hungry, tending the sick, clothing the naked, visiting the shut-ins so aren’t we doing what's required? Yes, yes we are. But I often wonder where is our zeal for the ministry of Jesus in a world where we’ve allowed care aids to be forgotten and underpaid, where we’ve allowed immigrants to be seen as enemies, where reconciliation is a dirty word, where we’ve allowed economic needs to overpower God’s command to be stewards and caretakers of creation, not abusers, where we’ve allowed phobias, isolation, wars, and hate to exist. Where we’ve allowed black men to die at the hands of white cops, Where Asian Canadians are being blamed for COVID-19. Where has our zeal gone for a world of radical justice, of Kingdom values, of human dignity and economic compassion? Where is our burning zeal that says we are willing to confront the powers of this world for the sake of our neighbour? Where is our zeal to follow Christ in our lives gone and how can we reclaim it?

          I think that sometimes we lose our zeal because the dreams we dream and the prophecies we speak make us seem drunk to the world around us, like we live in some kind of utopian world. But it is only 10:30 in the morning, there's no way for us to be filled with new wine every Sunday at 10:30 for the last 67 years in this place, or the last 2000 years as members of the Jesus movement. Over this pandemic we’ve been wrestling with what normals are worth rushing back to and the key answer here for us is it's not our normals but God’s normal which are what we must rush back to. A normal where we are totally dependent on God and God’s grace to do everything in our lives. A normal where we desire everyday to live in right relationship with our world. A normal where we desire the equality of all, a normal where we don't settle for the false narratives of salvation from economic forces, or social media influencers, but from the salvation of God gifted to us in the razing gust of the Holy Spirit visited upon us this morning in order to empower the forward movement of humanity in our post COVID-19 world. Our job is to never give up on the zeal of that message.

          So church, this Pentecost, let’s get drunk with the zeal of Christ’s new wine of hope, love, inclusion for all people, and carry that message into our everyday with everything we are. When we see hate, stand up to it. When we see isolation, call it out. When we see the degradation of another human being or this planet, act as if it was your own life or your own home that were being attacked, because it is. We are all connected in Christ, so what is done to one of us is done to us all. God made us for good, to be a people of his Kingdom in this world, prepared to stand tall for the values of the gospel following his son Jesus to the end of the world. And that work starts this morning, in the razing of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What was is now dead, what is to come is the Kingdom, a Kingdom we are sent out to embrace today. The world needs your witness even more today than ever before church, how will you respond with the zeal of new wine this week?