Pentecost Text: Acts 2: 1-18
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts that arise within us now be received by your tender mercy O God that we may rest in you, as you rest in us.
Many of you, though perhaps not all of you will know that this is my last Sunday before I go on my sabbatical leave. And I have to tell you --or maybe I don’t!-- that I’m ready for it. Not that my bag is packed and everything’s in hand … not that kind of ready. But rather my body is ready. My spirit is ready. My mind is ready. My heart is ready. “Ready” meaning pretty well spent, not a lot of reserves. I can feel it in my bones … my need for replenishing.
Some time ago it occurred to me that our last Sunday together for a while would be this day of Pentecost, this celebration of the Spirit’s outpouring, and I’ve wondered now and again what that would mean … what this story might have to say to us at we step into this sabbatical time.
But now that this day has arrived, here’s what I’m hearing that the Spirit is saying in and through this dramatic story in the Book of Acts.
First of all what I’m hearing is to let go of what I think we’re supposed to hear through this story today … how the Spirit turns us outward enabling unthinkable connections with people with whom we wouldn’t relate --which all may be so very true. But when I let go of insisting on that on this day, what I begin to hear is my heart’s desire, my prayer simply for the Spirit to come … to come to this body of mine, this heart, this mind, this spirit of mine … to rest upon me, to stir in me, to move me.
What I hear is my heart’s desire, my prayer for the Spirit to come, to be with this Body, your bodies, to be at work in you, with you … gentling, renewing, resting upon YOU.
What I hear in and through this story is that Jesus’ promise to the disciples is true, that the Spirit will indeed come, to a people waiting, together -- trusting Jesus’ word, and so placing themselves in a posture of openness, of readiness, of expectation, even though they don’t have a clue what the Spirit’s coming will mean or what that will look like.
This is the thing … that powerful transformative experience, it came to them. Their part, it seems, was one of radical receptivity. Their part was to return to Jerusalem … in other words, instead of scattering, they took Jesus at his word and came together, stayed put, and prayed … waited on God like it mattered, like they weren’t wasting their time … and perhaps in those days when it may well have felt like they were kidding themselves, they waited anyway.
This posture of openness, of readiness, of expectation … resisting the relief of distraction, of getting busy about other things that might have felt more important … it seems that’s an important piece of this story. Trusting that in unseen ways there is wisdom in God’s timing. Notice how this great outpouring of the Spirit happened on the day of Pentecost, during that Spring festival, when people from all these different places were in the city … as though the Spirit is at work with an awareness of a much wider dynamic.
So I’ve been thinking about the plans that are coming together for James Bay United and beyond in the course of this Sabbatical time … plans that center around gathering, not exclusively but primarily for worship. And your readiness to embrace those plans, some of which are completely outside our normal practice, like the summer evening services. I’m recalling the sense of enthusiasm that day when we met downstairs, the crowd of us, to talk it through. When I asked folks at my table “can you see yourself inviting friends and neighbours to these evening services?” without a breath of hesitation, there was this full on “yes!” … and that’s without really knowing what to expect -- except that it will be different!
I think what I’m sensing there is that posture of openness, of readiness, of expectation that seems so key to the experience in the Pentecost story … trusting that something good, something powerful is afoot. I can only wonder at what the Spirit is already up to before we ever get to July! Or June. Or August. Or next Sunday … or today!
I wonder what is the prayer the Spirit is praying in your for this time?
And I’ve been thinking about my own plans for this Sabbatical time … and how they too reflect that element of staying put … beginning with a time of retreat at a Cistercian monastery, a few hours west of Dublin, gathering with the community for those 7 times of prayer each day and night; taking that rhythm with us as we move on to spend a week here, a week there, another week there … taking life in slow time, at a walking pace that allows for listening, noticing, tuning in. And I’ve been thinking how this Sabbath time comes at a point when I’m so ready for it … emptied out … thirsty … available.
I’ve been thinking about our plan to go with only small backpacks … travelling light … releasing me from the temptation to pack a load of books that might end up being distractions, escape hatches, when my need is to listen to the voice of my own soul, and to be met by Love’s tending right there.
Maybe you can see it in me … something of that same posture of readiness that I see in you.
There’s no telling at this point what’s going to become of us -- you here, me there -- as we enter into this time … because we enter into this time.
What we do have is the promise that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, does indeed come … comes to us, to our bodies, and we are changed … caught up somehow and infused with this untameable energy of Love that is all about bringing God’s dream of that new day, that new way of being in our bodies, in our world -- into fullness.
So, “make ready for the Christ, Thomas Merton urges us,
Make ready for the Christ, whose smile, like lightning,
sets free the song of everlasting glory
that now sleeps, in your paper flesh, like dynamite.” 
Why don’t we just take a moment to marinate in that!
 Thomas Merton, “The Victory,” The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions: 1977), 115.