Member of Sunderland Circuit of the Methodist Church.
I love TED talks, I think they are a brilliant example of the power of words and in so many respects they are the modern day sermon for the non church society, and of all of the TED talks that there are this is by far my favourite. One of the things that love about the clip is actually the freedom expressed by the guy who dances, he simply doesn’t care about what those around him think. The guy that begins the dance, displays a free abandonment that is full of joy and is lost in the moment. It’s not even that the one who joins him is called over, he simply sees the joy and through his response demonstrates that he, “wants a bit of that”
I wonder, have you ever watched a child at play, or a child when they are drawing a picture, they are lost in their immagination and the world around them simply disappears, There is something so immensely attractive about this state of being, something that in later adult years we often long to rediscover. That freeness, that loss of inhibitions.
Of course as we get older we become wiser, we understand that there are rules to society, there are societal norms and ways of behaviour that allow us to fit in to conform, to disappear as an individual and take on the corporate identity to become part of the wider gestalt body. It takes courage, it takes an inherent madness to step out from the established agreed away of being to re-establish our own individual identity, and even those who attempt this can often find themselves moved simply from one agreed norm to another agreed norm. To start a movement requires guts, it requires a thick skin and a confidence in who we are and where we come from.
The concept of how to start a movement takes on a special significance today as we look at the theme of Pentecost and the formation of the church from it’s initial days.
It would be easy for me to focus on the classic passage of Peter’s sermon and the transformation of those original listeners to the good news, but as I began writing this I was taken by the way in which we so often overlook the accompanying passage that we have just heard from John’s gospel and yet it provides for us a real insight into the way in which this Jesus movement works and grows and develops.
Once again I find myself preaching on a passage that I often use in funeral services, and if you look at the beginning of the passage, this forms a part of the famous “In my Fathers house passage” that is so often used. But our focus today is not on that but on the movement of the Spirit and the way in which the disciples learn about the future movement of which they are to be a part.
Our passage begins with the request from Philip that Jesus shows them the father, this again demonstrates the limited nature of the English language as, Philip is not wanting to see God face to face or even asking for some miraculous sign, The word “show” here is the same verb that John uses to describe Jesus showing the disciples his hands and side after the resurrection. This then is a request for Jesus to demonstrate to be the illustrate the divine character of God, to show the manner in which God acts, to teach the mindset of God and to show those gathered how God would respond to the situations of the world that are facing the disciples at that time.
It is worth remembering at this time that this passage does not stand in isolation of the events that are occurring around the disciples and the ministry of Jesus, this is a worrying time, there is I imagine a sense of foreboding in the air as Jesus describes his betrayal, as he talks about the journey to the cross. There is in the air the shadow of Peter’s insistance, probably at the urging of the other disciples, that Jesus avoids the conflict of the Temple authorities in Jerusalem and the rebuke that he received. There is I am sure a sense that at any moment Jesus is going to be taken from them, that they will lose their teacher and that they will be scattered and be forced, by societal norms, back into the arms of their former social standing.
Philip, like the rest of the disciples yearns for more. This is non conforming to the extreme, and there is a genuine desire to participate in God’s transforming mission as Jesus has already laid out. I think what Philip displays in this passage is a hunger for more, a desire to see clearly the way forward.
For me the encouragement that Jesus gives about the father being in him and he in the Father is a central tenant in John’s gospel, it runs as an undercurrent throughout John’s account of the good news, and it speaks to a more mystical message of the Universal Christ that exists throughout the whole of creation.
John goes on to speak of the Spirit that Jesus leaves behind and it is here I think that John comes into his own.
We find it difficult to read the message of Acts 2, and what is viewed as the supernatural event of spiritual outpouring in tongues of fire resting on the heads of the disciples. We struggle with the language and the imagery. But here in John’s discussion of the Spirit I think we get an understanding that transcends the supernatural and supports the argument that EVERYTHING is spiritual. The Paraclete, the Helper, the Spirit, that is left behind, taps into what is already within each of us, the spark of God’s creative love.
The Creation of a movement is essential to the furthermost of the church, the ability to look beyond the societal norms and break out of the structures which constrain us is essential to the continued existence of ‘Church’. When Jesus talks of leaving behind a helper, we need to realise that within each of us there is that still voice, that speaks to us in our own tongue. All that we do that is loving, all that we do that is kind, all that we do that is sacrificial. All this comes from the Spirit of God that dwells within each and every thing that is created. God is not a God that sits above us and rules humanity through a set of divine moves on a heavenly chess board. God is a God that dwells within each and every one of us. This Universal God isn’t bound by the rules of behaviour made by humans but loves to break out of the moulds that we create. He loves to be the one that dances in the fields and fills those around him with joy and hope.
The TED talk we saw right at the beginning of the sermon, demonstrated the way in which movements form around the response of the first follower and the way in which the groundswell increases until it reaches Critical mass. These men gathered in that room, or later on who had the tongues of fire fall on them, or who took the message of love, grace and inclusion to the whole of the known world did so because they saw the love, joy and hope present in Jesus, they saw the divine within him, and the Christ that had existed from the beginning of time and which will exist right to the end of all things. This Spirit, this Paraclete, this helper is that Christ-ness that permeates the entire universe and to which we are called to channel in our own dealings with others, to channel in the choices we make and the attitudes we hold. Just as Jesus and the Father are one so we too must become one with the father and break out of the constrains that society places upon us, liberated from more that the rules and regulations, but liberated to live for Joy, and Hope and Love and to infect this world with enthusiasm in the same way that young man on the video did.
We need to look to the extravagant exuberance of Jesus and trow off our shackles and join in.
So, may we be a people who see the joy in the world and embrace it, may we look for the Christ in all things and in all people, and may we break out of the moulds of society to live in the Spirit of Christ.
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