A Sermon Preached on The First Sunday of Lent
March 21, 2021 at 11:00 am
for an Online Service with The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.. Mark 1.12
This morning I want to talk about the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit comes upon people, and very often they act in unexpected ways, and peculiar things happen.
- In our gospel reading today the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus, and he is driven out into the desert.
- In the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples in the upper room, and they begin to preach the good news in a variety of languages, prefiguring the spread of the gospel to all nations.
- Paul experiences the Holy Spirit and has a multitude of gifts, including speaking in tongues, in the language of angels, as he puts it.
- A thousand years before Jesus Saul the king of Judah and Israel is driven into ecstatic dancing and prophesying.
- Ezekiel in the spirit sees the glory of God descend from heaven.
- And, ultimately, driven or guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus goes to Jerusalem, and is arrested, and dies.
- But even then, the spirit is not done. In death Jesus goes and makes “a proclamation to the spirits in prison” according to the First Letter of Peter.
What is the Spirit Calling Us to Do?
Some of you, I know, have had a very powerful experience of the Holy Spirit.
Others of us discern God’s activity in our lives only after the fact. So, I, for example, experienced the Holy Spirit drawing me
- into refugee work back in Canada,
- into advocacy against legislation that harmed the lives of sex workers,
- into acting to locate a community food bank in the church building,
- into working to establish a centre for at-risk youth,
- into dealing with sexual misconduct and bullying, advocating for complainants and victims,
- and being slightly involved in advocacy for the homeless.
None of this was work that I looked for, but God brought it to me. It was all utterly unexpected. I was driven to it by the Spirit.
My dissertation is called Unsettling Theology. It is unsettling because I wanted to write about how Christians can decolonise their thinking, to stop unconsciously oppressing Indigenous peoples. It is also unsettling because it is not comforting, but rather it causes people to be restless and ill at ease with the legacy of the past and its manifestations in the present. I think the Holy Spirit drove me to write this very unsettling dissertation.
Sometimes the Spirit calls us into conflict – as Jesus was called into temptation, and was with the wild beasts. And yet we are ministered to by the angels with all kinds of unseen help.
Lent is often viewed as a season in which we let of things in order to discipline ourselves. And yet, this year, we have been driven into the wilderness of the pandemic, confronted with: lockdowns; solitude; loneliness; for many, reduced income; and being forced to learn new skills, like Zoom. What, if anything, are we learning in this desert?
- Have we learned to take time to pray?
- Do we notice our breath?
- Do we notice the breath of God in our own?
- Have we appreciated the beauty of creation around us, and the divine reflected in it?
- Have we reckoned with the shortness of life, and the precious nature of each moment, as a gift?
- Are we grateful for the people who have reached out to us?
- Do we appreciate the restless nature of God’s time, which allows us to call into question the ways of the world?
- Have we found our rest in God: the source of all being, the Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit?
My hope and my prayer is that we will be ministered to by the messengers of God.
My hope and prayer is that we know that in Christ we are loved and God is pleased with us.
My hope and prayer for this Lent is that we are all unsettled by the Holy Spirit, and driven to overcome all that threatens us.