Rector's Ramblings: Pentecost 2020



    (Do have a look at the Readings and Prayers for today on the ‘Eastertide’ tab as I’ve done an explanation of the festival of Pentecost And perhaps re-read my ramblings for last week as today you see what was promised by Jesus now happening)

   Some of you will know that I love words. I love the sound of them. Two words are in my mind as I write this: ‘magnanimous’ and ‘pusillanimous’. ‘Magnanimous’ means ‘great souled’ and ‘pusillanimous’ means ‘small souled’. Why have these words come to mind? It was listening to Pope Francis on Day 8 of the Thy Kingdom Come reflections as he spoke about the prayer ‘Come Holy Spirit’. He said this: ‘Come Holy Spirit.... enlarge and widen our hearts. We all have a problem and that is that our hearts tend to shrink, become smaller and close up. We can’t solve that problem by ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit can solve it. Come Holy Spirit.’

   Why call on the Holy Spirit? Perhaps we need to remember who the Holy Spirit is. (It’s worth noting that the Greek word used for Holy Spirit is feminine so we could have a she/he debate but not here.) The Spirit has been called ‘The person without a face’: we can put a face to the Father and Jesus but not to the Spirit. The Spirit’s work in this analogy is likened to that of a floodlight: to point us to Father and Son, to focus us on them. When a floodlight is doing its job well, we don’t say ‘what wonderful floodlight’, we say ‘what a marvellous building that is lit up’.

     In our creed, we call him ‘the Lord and giver of life’ –worth savouring those words. Some years ago now a book was written which called her ‘The Go Between God’: the One who is the third person of the Godhead and yet also on our side of the equation.

    Not being able to put a face to her, we have images of the Holy Spirit as a dove, as water, fire, wind. We see where the Holy Spirit is at work by the effect he has, in the same way that we can’t see wind but we can see it blowing the trees about. The work of the Spirit is delightfully promised in the Old Testament: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

  The Holy Spirit indwells us, making us, as the Christian community as well as individuals, ‘living Temples’; he makes us ever more like Jesus. He is the one who strengthens us to do Jesus’ work. The one who guides and teaches us. He is the giver who gives the gifts and fruit of the Spirit to us. The one who is the listening and speaking God: who listens to our prayers and enables us to pray. The one who grows us into great souled people, great souled communities.

   Too often we ignore this amazing helper, who like Jesus tends to shyness and doesn’t force her way in to our lives.  We try to do it all in our own strength. Or we give up trying and are satisfied with the status quo. Then, boy O boy, do we miss out. Pope Francis reminds us we can’t solve the problem by ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit of God.

   Our parishes, our country, our world need the magnanimous and not the pusillanimous. In this time of pandemic, we have seen the most amazing examples of big hearted people. Of people going the extra mile to help others. Being great souled, big hearted people, is the most amazing calling.

   Being magnanimous will involve standing up for the disadvantaged, the marginalised; resisting the smallness of mind that limits generosity because we fear for ourselves or fear others. The call and promise for us to be ‘great souled’ people. Dare we pray ‘come Holy Spirit’ to set us on that journey of transformation, or take us further along it? Do we dare to say to the Spirit ‘Work your work in me. I give you permission. Fulfil in us the promises you made through Ezekiel.’     

   How often do you go out to exercise? Are you exercising enough? Those have been questions during Lockdown.  I want to ask whether we are doing our soul work. Which at the end of the day is the more important for ourselves and our world. That we may be ever more the big souled people God longs for us to be.

  Come Holy Spirit.