Thursday 26 May 2022

If not now, when?

How much longer do we wait for something to happen?

We pray, we talk, we think, but we don’t really do anything more. We don’t act, we just wait, wait as if for something magical to happen. Is that what we do?

I didn’t give that any context, but I bet you’ve already given it some. It could be any number of things in the world today: the unspeakable tragedy of gun violence in schools and communities, racism, hate, war, climate change, inflation, poverty, housing, healthcare - the list is seemingly endless. And the few I mentioned are certainly not in any order of priority because that can change with our experience.

I want to talk about the disciples of Jesus for just a minute, though, and where they found themselves in the story when Jesus leaves them for the last time, ascending to heaven. They’d lived with Jesus for a few years, traveled and wondered and learned with him, experienced him and got to know him. Then he’s arrested, dies, is alive again and now says he’s leaving - again - and tells them that they will soon receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Then he ascends to heaven.

I imagine them, after all that, wondering exactly when that spirit thing will happen. It’s just a few days on our calendar, but what were they doing? Were they just sitting and waiting for the spirit to happen to them?

All that time they’d been with Jesus, learning to be Jesus, the times Jesus sent them out, told them they were to be Jesus to others, to share all that Jesus was about, not just in words, but in action. “As God has sent me, so I send you,” he’d say, and “love each other as I showed you to love.” He’d breathed the breath of life to them, offered them peace (the peace of God, not just a worldly peace) and said “receive the Holy Spirit.” And now, they should just sit around and wait to be empowered?

I’ve always felt that the story of Pentecost, of the disciples “receiving” the Holy Spirit and suddenly being able to communicate to people in their own language (metaphorically, I think, as well as linguistically), wasn’t really about something being done to them, but something finding its way out of them. We’re made in the image of God and of the earth: the divine spirit is already in us, equal with our earthliness, we’ve just not been very good at letting it out. It’s all part of our factory setting being love, not sin.

So why wait?

What if they were already at it, already living what they’d learned, being Jesus to each other and the world? What if they were already following Jesus’ instructions to love as he showed them, to live as he showed them, to be what he showed them? What if the Pentecost story is simply the moment of that being revealed to the wider community?

Let’s give that a different context. Imagine how different the world would be if we didn’t wait for some magical moment of inspiration to solve a problem that could have been avoided if we’d put love, creativity and life before hate, destruction and death - right now. What if we didn’t wait for some outside force to move us or some public opportunity to make a difference, but, instead, loved right now. What if we didn’t let apathy or fear, shyness or cowardice guide us, but instead broke out all the love that is in us and poured it into every moment of our living, overwhelming the culture of power, control, greed and selfishness that seems determined to make our world?