Sunday, 4 June 2017

Resisting the call of the Spirit

Our faith journey takes place within two communities both of which often display signs of distrust and envy.  The two communities that we are contending with are the community of faith to which we belong and the wider community in which we work out the lived expression of that faith.  Elements of the one may be contained within the other but this is not necessarily the case.  In both cases we are asked to live our calling and display the gifts that God gives to us in our faith journey.  Paul quite rightly says that those gifts are multitudinous in their occurrence (1 Cor. 12.4).  Quite often we overlook those gifts which God has given to us preferring to live our lives in obscurity as part of the general background of both communities. The alternative reading for today demonstrates how we often misinterpret God's effective call as we are not open to exploring God's communication with us (Numbers 11. 24-30).  We close ourselves of within the faith community by not recognising or dividing God's gifts into categories (This is from God, this is not from God).  In our non recognition of the gift as being part of God's bestowal we close ourselves of from God and then get frustrated as it seems we are not progressing in our faith and in our community. Yet, the release of the Holy Spirit into the community on Pentecost opens up and enables us to explore new territory and new horizons of possibility when we faithfully journey as members of the faith community.

Exploration of anything takes courage and communication to those around us.  Any exploratory work demands of us an open mind otherwise we will not be able to take up the challenge that we are called into through our growth in faith.  Ask any scientist with regards to seminal breakthroughs in their fields of expertise.  You will be told how there had to be an openness to new thinking in order for the breakthrough to occur.  That thinking has to be communicated to those within the community and also to those outside of the community so that we are all brought along with the new paradigm.  The Corinthian congregation was stuck in a pattern of thought that reflected the community and society in which they lived.  A society of Roman patronage that increased the welfare of those that conformed to their patron's way of thinking and doing, even if this tended to bring despair and poverty into society.  Paul is communicating a new paradigm, a new way of thinking within the faith community that will ultimately be reflected in general society.  The Corinthians' open themselves up to God speaking through Paul and the notion of many gifts coming from God not just the elite few.

If we do not look for assistance we will never get out of our rut

In closing down the exploratory mindset we narrow the ability to communicate God's presence in our lives and fail to hear God's offering of the Spirit, which comes through gifts and communication that we do not want to hear or deal with.  We do this in our everyday lives as much as we do it in our own faith journeys.  In becoming comfortable with the status quo we often fail to move out of the comfortable rut into which we have fallen.  God continual calls us into something new.  The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost was unexpected but opened up channels of communication that expanded the incipient Church in many ways.  However, look at the reactions of society.  There is an accusation that the disciples gifted with the Spirit are drunk (Acts 2.13).  We do the same thing when there is an idea or an inspiration that is either not ours or outrageous.  We dismiss it and resist the change that takes us into a new place.  Only when we take on an attitude of openness and trustfulness to God do we begin to realise that God is pulling us out of the deep ruts of comfort that have bogged us down.  The act of communication is a two way process, we are often very good at the speaking part but very poor at listening to God.  Our prejudices and our own comforts blind us to the openness of exploration that the Spirit brings at Pentecost.  Like Joshua (Numb. 11.28), we want to close down those who have not been selected or those who are speaking differently to others.  The Spirit opens our hearing to a different voice, an exploratory voice that communicates a new thing, however uncomfortable that may be.  Let us open ourselves to the gifts of the Spirit and recognise that they may not bring the comfort that we think we deserve.

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