Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Pentecost: Living right to the end of life!

Peter Lockhart
The following was used as a devotional reflection in a retirement complex.

The pouring out of the Holy Spirit described in the book of Acts is an amazing thing: the sound of a rushing wind; tongues of fire; the ability to hear other languages and understand. So perplexing is the behaviour of those gathered that they are accused of as being drunk.

The Holy Spirit comes in power to give the disciples the strength and support to move forward in faith sharing the good news of Jesus with other people. This is a story of hope and purpose and direction in life.

And when we speak of the Holy Spirit we usually use words which describe life and movement.

The Holy Spirit is poured out, it is rushing wind, tongues of fire, bringer of gifts, giver of life, guide, comforter, inspirer and so on.

Tomorrow I am conducting a funeral and it has caused me to pause and think about how we understand this story of the coming of the Spirit and its place in our lives as we get older.

I suppose I can’t really speak from personal experience too deeply yet but I think one thing that maybe some think when they hear about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit is that it just sounds tiring.

The Holy Spirit comes to give life and movement but as you get older life and movement are just that little bit harder.

I imagine it’s far easier to speak of dance of the Holy Spirit if you don’t have arthritis or you don’t have a bung knee or a gammy leg.

I imagine it’s far easier to speak of the Holy Spirit as guide if you’re not stuck without a licence anymore or you’re not living in a retirement village or nursing home.

Yet it could also be far easier when we begin to think this way to write ourselves off as if there is nothing left to contribute and life has just become a waiting game, waiting for the only thing left, which we don’t really want to think about too much: death.

But when I read the story from the book of Acts I am always struck by the phrase “your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams”. Your old men shall dream dreams!

This is no less important than the young men who have visions. To take this point a little further, I would argue that the Spirit comes with different gifts for our age and stage in life. Your old men will dream dreams is an example contained within a prophecy.

I want to share a story I heard yesterday about a man who has terminal cancer. After being discharged from hospital he went home but when he got there he went straight to bed and was refusing to come out.

A young woman, a social worker, went and encouraged him step by step to reengage with life. To move out of waiting for death into living what he had left. The first step was simple to get up and to have a shower.

Step by step the man reengaged in living as best he could and gradually he became involved in supporting other people with cancer. He got involved so fully that last year he ran a Cancer Council Morning Tea in his home.

Not only was he living but he was living for others.

The vision of the young woman to help the man rediscover life turned into a dream for the man, a dream which became fulfilling not only for him but for others.

The Holy Spirit brings new life, helps us discover new gifts and passions and within the context of community young and old, male and female, rich and poor God empowers us to witness to Jesus who promised to send the Spirit to help us live our lives and live them abundantly, right to the end. Amen.

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