Text: Acts 2: 1-18

50 days after Easter, every year, we retell the story Marg has just told us … this story of God’s fresh out-pouring of the Spirit upon human flesh. A new thing was happening … and yet not entirely new.

From the very beginning we are Spirit and Flesh together. In the very first chapters of the Hebrew - Christian scriptures, do you remember we’re given the story of God forming the human creature from out of the stuff of earth and breathing into that form God’s own Spirit, the Breath of Life, and it becomes a living being. Nephesh -- the Hebrew word for Spirit and Flesh together … THIS is who we are given by God to be … spirit and flesh together!

As the story unfolds, we witness the desire among God’s people to somehow gather in and gather up the presence of God. For a time they travelled, carrying on their shoulders, the ark of the covenant … this container that held the sacred gift of the law … a tangible physical expression of the presence of God.
And then with the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, a permanent dwelling place was made for the shekinah glory -- the glory of God-- in the inner sanctuary, in the heart of the temple --the holy of holies.  And so the temple structure became the assurance of the abiding presence of God -- a center and centering place for Jewish people.

But then the temple was destroyed and the people were exiled … cutting them off not only from their homeland but from, it seemed, the Presence of God. No wonder it was such a deeply devastating, disorienting time. But in time they came to see that the Spirit had come with them into exile … in and through the scriptures, and through the means of prayer, and the Prophets who were raised up to speak an inspired word form God.

And in time -- in yet more time -- in the fullness of time -- there was that young girl Mary who said YES to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration that she would bear and bring to birth God’s Word of Love made flesh in Jesus. The fire of God’s love was strikingly present in him … in his speech, his touch, the way he ate and drank with all manner of people, his wisdom, his compassion, his vision of a whole new way of being in relationship with God and with one another.
And then, there was his death … where it seemed, like to the people in exile, he was cut off … until we discover that the Holy Spirit was even there powerfully at work, working a way where there was no way … working a new way into life.  Appearing to them ALIVE!, Jesus told his disciples to wait … for God was about yet something more. This time, in and through them.

Somehow it happened. Those friends and followers of Jesus who at first walked away despondent with his death, who were locked in fear they were infused with a strength, a vitality, an exuberance …
they were filled with the same healing power and compassion as filled Jesus. Whatever Jesus had begun to sow, far from it dying with his death, it was wildly alive.
There was this igniting of a movement that spread like wild-fire. There was something deeply attractive, wildly contagious about the way these early Christians, these Christ bearers-- lived …
the way the associated with and welcomed all manner of people in a culture that reinforced separation and marginalization.
There was the way they ate together and cared for one another, shared with one another across all the dividing lines of race & class, gender and age, slave and free.
The way they tended the bodies of friends and strangers who were sick or dying; the way they handled and cared for the bodies of the dead. They were known by their love … this love that burned in their hearts for a whole new way of regarding life … bodily, material life.

It was St Paul, who himself was stopped in his tracks by the Spirit of living Christ … and who experienced in his own body a change of heart, a whole new way of seeing that moved him into a whole new way of being. It is St Paul who, writing to one of the churches, asks, “do you not know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you?"
Can you hear it? We are the temple … our bodies are the temple. Our bodies are God’s dwelling place.
We are Nephesh … body and spirit together.

On this Pentecost Sunday, I wonder what would it mean for us to pause right there …
If we truly appreciated that our bodies -- this body, your body-- is God’s dwelling place … how would we treat ourselves, care for ourselves? What would we put into ourselves? Ask of ourselves? How would we listen, how would we attend to ourselves?

If we truly appreciated that ALL bodies are God’s dwelling place, how would we treat, how would we care for and tend, feed and clothe, honour and encourage -- how would we regard other bodies?

Nephesh … Flesh and Spirit together.

Our bodies are sacred … these physical, material bodies are sacred.  Regardless of how big or how small; how twisted or broken, how lumpy or lean, how dark or light, how old or young, how strong or frail … our bodies … this body, your body is sacred. REGARDLESS!

Think about how this challenges our social norms that would define for us what is beautiful, desirable, acceptable, worthy!
"Do you not know," St Paul asks us, "that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you?"

It is this vast and varied assortment of people who the Spirit calls and gathers, that make up the Body of Christ.  It is this vast and varied assortment of people who the Spirit equips and sends out to be the Body of Christ in the world.  Not only are we called to live with respect, with deep regard for all life. We are given God’s own Spirit to enable us, to re-ignite this powerful life-giving love.

Which brings us round again to the story that we tell today … that we might once more open ourselves to be filled with the fire of God’s love … that love that can’t resist us.

“Could a spark of your love light a fire in me?
Could a spark of your love light a whole church on fire?
When we care for our neighbour
More than we care for style
When we breathe in hope, breathe in grace, breathe in God …
When we breathe out peace, breathe out justice, breathe out love.
This little light’s gonna shine!
Could a spark of your love light a whole church on fire?
Could a spark of your love light a fire in us?
Just a spark.” [1]

[1] from the lyrics of Spark, by The City Harmonic.  Words by Aaron Powell, Ellias Dummer, Eric Fusillier, Josh Vanderlaan