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Breath of holy fire

by davesandel on May 27th, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost Sunday

John 16:12-13

Jesus told his disciples, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes, the Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

         Jesus, born such an ordinary man from ordinary Nazareth, is about to experience an ordinary death, killed on a cross between criminals.  But Jesus’ words and deeds aren’t ordinary at all.  Jesus has always spoken clearly from his heart about God.  He has called him Father, and now he calls him Spirit.

The “scandal” that God would choose to be enfleshed in Jesus (the word “incarnation” has been used at least since the fourth century to describe God becoming a man capable of suffering and sickness and death) confuses Jesus’ disciples, his brothers and sisters.  They have understood God as essentially separate from them.  Jesus’ life with them challenges that belief.

His words, “I and my Father are one” and then “you will do greater things than these,” insist that his followers know God as he does, from within themselves.  God desires to be known as the true core of their being.

This isn’t just an idea.  For Jesus it has been a life.  He wants that for his flock.  There is so much more for him to say, but they can’t understand it coming from him, the man Jesus.  So when he leaves “the Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth.”

Jesus emptied himself so that the Spirit would pray in him and love in him.  Now we are invited to empty ourselves so that the Spirit of Jesus might pray in us and love in us.

In Too Deep for Words, Thelma Hall quotes a mystic and a poet.  First the mystic:

It’s a risky thing to pray, and the danger is that our very prayers get between God and us.  The great thing in prayer is not to pray, but to go directly to God.  If saying your prayers is an obstacle to prayer, cut it out!  Let Jesus pray.  Thank God Jesus is praying.  Forget yourself.  Enter into the prayer of Jesus. – Thomas Merton

In the experience of our own emptying, it becomes more clear what Augustine meant when he said in one Christmas morning sermon, “God became man so that man might become God.”  Merton continues, “Let prayer pray within you … This means a deep awareness of our true inner identity … (that) by grace we are Christ.  Our relationship with God is that of Christ to the Father in the Spirit.”

We lose nothing.  We gain everything.  All the world and inside me too becomes God …  God … God.  What have I ever lost by dying this way?  Jesus asks rhetorically, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”  And so Hall quotes the poet:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

And only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.  (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh)

The blackberries are still there once I sense the fire.  And what I think is really cool is they way those blackberries taste, eating them with Jesus, shoes off, breathing deep together, turning our faces to the wind.

Bless the Lord, o my soul.  You works are wonderful; we know that full and well.  May your glory endure forever, may you be glad in all your works.  May you be glad in each of us.  Renew the face of the earth.  Thank you for living in us, breathing in us, Being in us.

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