Sunday, June 9, 2019

Re-Visioning Ministry: Breathe, Wind and Fire!

Re-visioning ministry — that was the title of our Beltane retreat this year. What a fantastic weekend it has been. This morning the community received a new novice, two people were ordained to the priesthood and one to the diaconate. For each of them it is a new step in their life and ministry. Others at the retreat shared about the way their personal ministry has been re-visioned as their journeys have twisted and turned with each new stage of life.

Today it is Pentecost Sunday — the time when the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. A very important day in the church’s calendar. Surely, for those early disciples, this was the ultimate re-visioning of ministry. They had been followers of Jesus, going where Jesus chose and doing what Jesus suggested, now they were thrust into a new phase of ministry. The time for grief and retrospection had past. The time for moving forward and stepping out in new directions had arrived.

Scripture gives us two accounts of the giving of the Holy Spirit— both are full of wonder. They are surrounded by mystery, in many ways they are unfathomable. A mystery that cannot really be defined in only one word. It was breath, it was wind, it was fire. Pulsating with life. So vibrant that lives were changed and events, previously unimagined, were experienced.

One account of the giving of the Spirit is in the Gospel of John (20:18-21). Imagine the scene. The disciples were sad and scared. The text reveals that they were behind locked doors because of their fear that they too would be captured and, I suppose, crucified. Then amazingly Jesus came and stood among them. What a mystery! Not only was he there but he spoke to them, “Peace be with you.” Imagine being so scared that even the room had to be locked and the first thing given was a blessing of peace. It was exactly what they needed. Then Jesus breathed into them and uttered a second phrase — “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And something happened, something changed. The disciples were no longer huddled scared in a room, they went out on the lake fishing.

The other account is in the book of Acts (2:1-4). Those verses were the lectionary passage for today. Again, I can only imagine the fear and sadness as the story tells us they were all together. Suddenly something happened. Here too something was seen and felt. It was described as a violent wind and tongues of fire. Again, the story of the giving of the Spirit is full of mystery. It feels like the author of Acts was trying to find words to describe an experience that was really beyond the limits of human language.

Whichever way the Pentecost experience is described, it caused a huge change. People who were scared and sad were suddenly re-vitalised. What a re-visioning of ministry! I wonder if any of those people who walked with Jesus would ever have thought where they would end up. What a roller-coaster ride they had been on. Now the disciples were ready to begin the new phase of their ministry. They were passionate about their calling. They could bring about change. The disciples went out ready to fulfil the ministry they were called too.

All this weekend we have talked about re-visioning ministry. I find the ideas contained in these two accounts helpful. They were key as the disciples prepared for their life’s work.  Perhaps they are important to consider every time ministry is revisioned. 

The quietness of peace — an inner state which is reflected for others to see in the outer being. 

The vibrance of experience — the breath, the wind, the fire which keeps the life and vitality in ministry.

The commitment to the work of one’s calling — keeping going, following a calling is not always easy. 

Blessings this Pentecost as ministry is re-visioned and new steps of the journey are begun.