Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Power of the Spirit - Individually and Collectively

Our prayer reflection this week plays on the two dimensions of Pentecost - the individual and the collective, bringing together lines from two Pentecost hymns - one intensely individual, the other powerfully collective.

Breathe on me
Breath of God

O Breath of Life
Come sweeping through us

Fill me
With life anew

Revive your church
With life and power

That as you love
So I may love
And do what
You would do

In your tenderness
Remake us

Seven weeks ago today on Easter Sunday we adorned our Cross with flowers – a sign of the hope of resurrection.

On the fiftieth day, the day of Pentecost we share those flowers from the cross – the resurrection hope of Chrsit let loose in all the strength of God deep in our hearts.

At the Federation’s Assembly in Bristol we were given a lovely book of pictures, prayers and htoughts about the Holy Spirit, Let the Flame burn.

Three years ago our then President, Brian Grist challenged us with the following words:

“We are all called as followers of Christ, gifte by the Holy Spirit to serve God in the placees where we live and the work we do.  And so let us commit ourselves to seeking God and being people of good news in our own communities.

Jonathon Hemingway created a flame sculpture for the Federation, representing the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Each of the flames that made up the sculpture then was taken round the churches and in a book people recorded thoughs and prayers.

I thought we would draw from those thoughts and prayers and from those pictures over the next few Sundays as we seek from God the strengthening power of His Holy Spirit deep in our hearts.

The first thoughts and prayers that are shared speak of the Power of the Holy Spirit.

That strength we need from beyond ourselves that comes from the very presence of God.

Reflecting on our celebration of Pentecost today, I was struck by the way that strength, that power of God works at two levels.

That insight is prompted by the flames of that sculpture itself.   The eight individual flames make up one flame that is in the shape of the individual flames.

The thought to share is this.

On Pentecost Sunday our thoughts turn to the Day of Pentecost and what happened in that Upper Room.

It was a scary, frightening time for the followers of Jeus and they found strength in meeting toegehre, drawing on each other for the strength they needed.  They met together.

And it was as they were meeting together that the Power of God came upon them – it was beyond description: the best you could find to describe it was that it was like the sound of a mighty rushing wind, it was like flames of fire touching them all.

Empowered and strengthened, they rush down the stairs on to the streets and that day the church is born.  A wonderful birth day.   3000 are added to their number.

The strength of God’s Spirit comes upon them together.

At our Church Meeting we came together to reflect together on the shape of our church, the direction we should take.  We thought of the things we would love to see flower and flourish here at Highbury – we though t of those resurrection flowers.  And then we reflected on the way for the flowers to grow they need leaves – and we reflected on the things that we need to draw on for the flowers to flourish.

And then we recognised we needed our roots deep in the presence of God.

It is only as we are rooted in the strength of God – the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fellowship, the coming together of the Holy Spirit that we can hope to see the flowers grow.

Come, breath of life come sweeping through us, revive your church in life and power.

But it is not just together that the Holy Spirit works on his church.  The Holy Spirit is at work individually in each one of us.

There is another account of the outpouring of the Holy  Spirit.  This time it is seen not as wind or fire, but as the breath of God.

The risen Jesus on the day of resurrection breathes on each of his disciples and says, receive the Holy Spirit.

Breathe on me breath of God.

That individual coming of the Holy Spirit makes for each of us a world of difference.

Karen, our Discipleship Ministry Leader shared her Christian story of an upbringing first in a Congregational Church and then a Baptist Church and then joining a church that one evening she fully expected to be very familiar only to find that it was for her something that impacted on the rest of her life.  She had after the service when someone prayed with her what Karen described as a feeling of warmth flowing through her that left her seeing the world so much more vividly.  It was a filling of the Spirit that has continued to shape her life of faith as she has received gifts from the Spirit, not least the gift of encouragement.

The two dimension s of the Spirit’s work working on each one of us individually and working on all of us in the body of the church are captured as we put together these two short songs…

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me
Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me
Spirit of the living  God, fall afresh on me

Spirit of the Living  God, move among us all;
Make us one in heart and mind, make us one in love
Humble, caring, selfless, sharing –
Spirit of the living  God, fill our lives with love!

We then had a few moments of quiet and people were invited to share a time of prayer.

Focus your thoughts on your life of Faith and Prayer.

Think of the way you are called to be a disciple of Christ.  You may think of wonderful blessings you have experienced, of things to give thanks for.  You may be conscious of weaknesses, things that you would love to be different.

In your mind’s eye, picture a flower or maybe more than one.  Flowers need leaves to enable them to flourish and roots to enable them to grow.

Think about what you would like your life of faith and prayer, your life of discipleship, to grow into.  How would you like to see it flower and flourish?

You may find it helpful to write your thoughts down around the flower.

Now think of the things you need to draw on for those flowers to grow - and write your thoughts on the leaves.
 Finally, think of the roots.  And delight in the way the roots that have given us that life of faith and prayer are deep in the love of God the Father, as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and as we draw on the strength of the Holy Spirit.

We then moved into our prayers of concern led by Janet Partington.

PRAYERS – 08/06/14

Grant us, O Lord:
to know what is worth knowing
to love what is worth loving
to praise what delights you most
to value what is precious in your sight
to hate what is offensive to you.

Do not let us judge by what we see,
nor pass sentence according to what we hear,
nor be influenced by all that dazzles.
Rather, may we judge rightly between things that differ,
and above all, search out and do what pleases You.

Lord Jesus, you showed us a way to live
That goes against all we know
All we have experienced
All our understanding of how the world works
And what it is to be human.

Amidst our struggles, and the struggles of those around us
You showed us another way
A better way

And in spite of the taunts and incomprehension of the world
We find ourselves wanting to follow you
Seeking to live as you lived.

Help us to understand what it means to live foolishly
And when we understand
Give us the courage to act
For this is no easy path.

Teach us how to pray for those who harm others
Through war, street violence, abuse and harsh words.

Teach us to see the humanity in those we would rather avoid
And those we would find it easier to judge

Teach us to care for the unwashed and the unkind
The doubter and the drunk
The distressed and dispossessed
The sick and the successful
The caring and the criminal
The rich and the ridiculous
The weary, the wary and the wise.

For you taught us that we are all your children.
Lord Jesus, may we judge rightly between things that differ,
and above all, search out and do what pleases You.


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