Pentecost Sermon RexHunt 2006
PENTECOST: A DAY TO SEE GREEN AMID THE RED!
A man whispered, âGod speak to me!â
and a kookaburra laughed. But the man didnât hear.
So the man called out, âGod speak to me!â
and thunder rolled across the sky. But the man didnât listen.
The man looked around and said, âGod let me see you!â
and a star shone brightly. But the man didnât see.
Despairingly the man said, âGod show me a miracleâ
and a life was born. But the man didnât notice.
Desperate now, the man said, âLove me Godâ,
and his wife smiled at him. But that was so normal, he missed it.
Feeling completely alone he whispered into the heavens,
âTouch me God and let me know you are here!â
God reached down and touched the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and went sadly on his way.
Today is Pentecost Sunday.
A day when most Christians see red!
A day for being surprised and fully enlivened by creativity - âGodâ.
For Pentecost is about allowing the breath of creativity - âGodâ,
to fill every fibre of nature, and of our being,
in every moment of our matter-energy, space-time, existence.
Like a movie director (Wm Loader web site), Luke, the storyteller
we traditionally claim as the author of the Acts of the Apostles,
which we now reckon was written in the early 2nd century,
creates an imaginative scene of wind and fire... and noise.
A script full of symbolism which can not be taken literally,
whatever historical events may or may not lay behind the story.
On the other hand, Pentecost is also about hearing and experiencing
that creativity - âGodâ - in a language we can understand.
Not just in Australian or French or German or any of the
Asian or Pacific or Aboriginal languages,
but also in the language of such social issues as
un- and under-employment,
and the ecological crisis.
What a difference a day makes!
Well, during the past few weeks I have read a couple of interesting articles,
published nearly 40 years apart, which I reckon can take the Pentecost story
beyond the âlanguageâ game traditionalists are want to play,
into some of these real and important social concerns.
One article was on âReligious Naturalismâ and our understanding of nature.
The other was on the ecological crisis as a âspiritâ-ual problem.
Unlikely subjects to be linked with Pentecost? Perhaps.
So let me weave some random thoughts
I gained from these articles. And on Pentecost.
Lynn White, in what is now his famous 1967 article called
"The historical roots of our ecologic crisisâ, suggests that
Christianity's attack on so-called pagan religion
effectively stripped the natural world of any spiritual meaning.</blockquote>
Indeed, Christianity replaced the belief that the âsacredâ is in rivers and trees,
with the doctrine that God is a disembodied spirit
whose true residence is in heaven, not on earth.
âBy destroying pagan (religions),
Christianity made it possible to exploit nature
in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objectsâ (White 1967).
Mmm. What an interesting thought, I thought. So I read on.
The impact of Christianity's teachings has tended to empty the biosphere of any sense of God's presence in natural things.
God, in terms of traditional theism, is pictured as a sky-God.
And in turn, human beings, as bearers of God's image,
are regarded essentially as âsoulsâ taking up
temporary residence in their earthly bodies.
So, White says, in this sense the ecological crisis:
irreversible ozone depletion,
massive deforestation, is fundamentally a spiritual crisis.
Because... certain Christian teachings have blunted our ability
to experience co-belonging with other life forms.
And this has rendered us unwilling to alter our self-destructive course
and plot a new path toward sustainable living.
Simply put: we have fogotten the earth is alive,
filled with creativity - âGodâ - and worthy of our respect.
The second article, written by Roger Gillette, a retired physicist and
system development engineer, suggests the term ânatureâ should now cover:
âthe whole complex, interrelated and interacting unitary universe of
matter-energy in space-time, a universe of which humans are an integral part...â (Gillette 2006:1).
That is, the universe as a whole is, and must be, of intrinsic value, and each part:
participates in that intrinsic value as it participates in the universe.
Rather than separating one bit out as more important than the rest.
Again my interest was sparked.
But I admit to being slightly distracted at the time as I read this article.
Five white, sulphur-crested cockatoos, were feeding
in a large Chinese Elm tree just outside my study window.
And they were having one giant Pentecost party, squawking, and eating the seeds,
and snapping off the ends of the branches, resulting in
a ton of yellow tinged leaves and twigs
falling all over the lawn and paths below.
Tempting me to go get my trusty Autumn rake!
So when Gillette goes on to suggest that we can no longer think and feel
that humans are separate from the âenvironmentâ... He says:
âWe must think and feel that we are part of and at one with
the whole holy system we call the global ecosystemâ (Gillette 2006:4) ...
I reckoned he was challenging me to rethink
my thinking and feelings about my relationship with those cockatoos!
But Gilletteâs article pushes on.
For this thinking and feeling to genuinely happen, it will require all of us
to take the findings of modern science seriously, resulting in a
ârevolutionary change in world view (by) the world religious traditions...
(for) it requires a radical spiritual transformationâ (Gillette 2006:6).
So, how is Pentecost moved beyond the traditional âlanguageâ game?
As a progressive religious thinker, I would want to suggest...
Listening to both White and Gillette, Pentecost is
living with, rather than against, nature.
And listening to both White and Gillette, Pentecost implies love,
and love implies concern - for the well-being of the beloved...
for the whole of that 13.7 billion year old,
complex, matter-energy in space-time, called ânatureâ.
Why, I reckon if we were to passionately live this,
others looking at us just might claim we were drunk!
Pentecost is more than a so-called past event.
It is the story of creativity - âGodâ - who indwells and sustains all life forms.
Not âincarnateâ in just one person, but becoming incarnate in all of us.
As we dream dreams and see a vision of
justice and compassion and ecological responsibility in the world.
Not in the babble of tongues, but in the gift of tongues.
The ability to hear and speak the hard word,
to understand it, to celebrate it, and to tell it in the
uniqueness of our own passionate living.
So how might Pentecost be understood today,
in 21st century Melbourne? Perhaps by remembering:
"God the Spirit enfleshed in creation, (experiencing) the agony of
an earth under siege. (For) the Spirit as the green face of God
has become in our time the wounded God" (Wallace 2000).
And one of the ways we could take the initiative in all this, is to shape a more
honest openness to nature... in all its fragility and variety.
For to live in harmony with nature
is to live inspired (in-spirited, in-the-Spirit) lives.
Itâs a different twist on Pentecost, I know.
Yet even the traditional story encourages and celebrates a certain freedom
âto set out on new, open and uncharted roadsâ (S Guthrie/web site) .
So such a twist on Pentecost would be worth naming and celebrating, I reckon.
On any day. But especially on a religious day when
we need to see a touch of green amid all the red!
Rex Hunt, Pentecost 2006
St James Uniting Church, Curtin ACT, Australia