Below the sermon audio is the text of the sermon; well, it’s what I carried into the pulpit!
Sermon preached at Trinity Church Newport RI
Sunday June 4th 2017
The Reverend Alan Neale
“Drink, drink, drink…”
“Go forth into the streets and evangelize, proclaim the Gospel. Remember that the Church was born to go forth, that morning of Pentecost. Let yourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, with that same freedom. And please, do not cage the Holy Spirit!” – these words were spoken by Pope Francis. Whether or not His Holiness and this Messiness share a physical similarity I am not convinced but this I know we definitely share resemblance in our theology of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit is crucial, fundamental, integral to the life of the Church and the Christian. The Spirit is alive and potent today and yet, all too wretched and poignant, the Spirit can be, is being, “caged” by the Church, by the Christian. How vigorous is the that metaphor… a roaring, dynamic, pacing lion “caged” merely for occasional observation and slight interest!
“Do not cage the Holy Spirit” – yet we seem to abound in POPs, power/plastic outlet protectors as if we are children, unable to cope, to manage with the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit!
The Pope’s words are a clarion call; they need to be heard today as much as when St. Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church “Do not grieve, do not quench, the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30).
The Pope’s words are a relevant call as today is the Feast of Pentecost, one of the three major festivals of the Church’s Year alongside Christmas and Easter.
And yet… it is an understatement of classic proportions to say that this day is generally overlooked, neglected and ignored.
Our Prayer Book omits any special opening salutation, contains no special final blessing and our Hymnal allots seven hymns to Pentecost, one less than Ascension.
But today’s Gospel records one of only three instances when Jesus cries out/shouts… John 7:37 “On the last great day of the Feast, Jesus cried out, ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink and out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water and this He said about the Holy Spirit”.
Here is what is on offer… water/Spirit that is fresh, alive, vital; water/Spirit that is overflowing; and water/Spirit that reaches to the very depths of our being (koilias – bellies).
To a profound extent we need that Spirit; to an overwhelming extent London residents and London tourists need that Spirit. Paul writes to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) “God has not given us a spirit of timidity and fear; but of power, love, self-control and sound judgement.” O God lavish upon the dead and maimed, the bereaved and anxious, those who work to eradicate evil and the workers of evil – the spirit of renewal, courage, endurance, light and hope.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink and out of his deepest being will flow rivers of living water.”
This is how we appropriate this Spirit of power… humbly acknowledge the thirst, intentionally come Jesus and drink deeply, swallow often.
What does it actually mean, what is Jesus asking me/you to do when he cries out with urgency, “Drink”.
Earlier this morning the words of a Mario Lanza song come to my mind “Drink, drink, drink…”; the antique nature of this reference softened a littlewhen I viewed an Aquafina water commercial using the same song!
I resorted to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (the last refuge of the befuddled)
to take in or suck up : absorb “drinking air into his lungs”
to take in or receive avidly —usually used with in “drank in every word of the lecture”
to take liquid into the mouth for swallowing
to receive into one’s consciousness
Drink –the Pope prayed that we would experience an “holy intoxification”.
Drink – of this effervescent, sparkling water liberally freely flowing.
(In 1985 I chose to withdraw from parish ministry for one year; not a crisis of faith in God but in institutional religion. There was so much my soul missed during that year – the constant variety (planned and not so planned) of parish life), preaching (but then I can do that anywhere) but most especially, above all else, I missed the opportunity to baptize babies – thoroughly dependent, thoroughly gracious, always thirsty.)
We pray for so much for Addison and George baptized today; I pray especially they will seek and find, yearn and discover the unquenchable gift of God’s Holy Spirit and no fear, no pain, no strength, no joy will ever cause them to “cage the Spirit”.
Please, to use the Pope’s plaintive word, … do not cage the Holy Spirit. AMEN