Rev Canon Cheryl Collins
May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
It may seem a bit cruel, given that we’re not allowed to sing at the moment, but today I want to talk about singing. I think there is something in all of us that loves to sing. Even when we know we’re not very good at it, in the privacy of our car or our shower we can still pretend that our voice is beautiful.And it is. Even when that is not immediately apparent to the more musical amongst us.
Pentecost is an invitation to sing. And not just to sing in private, but to sing together till we create a swell of joyful sound. Pentecost is about being together not separate and apart. Acts tells us that everyone heard the good news ‘each in their own language’, but it was the same good news, the same message of hope that was shared. Language can be about separation- 6,500 languages in world As way of judging people- class, accent, shibboleth(Ephraimites) As instrument of oppression, as way of making the same
Babel is a story about sameness which is wrong, which is designed to grab power and keep control from the biggest tower in the world. Babel also about declaring independence from God Pentecost reverses Babel- about coming together,about recognising our dependence on God is not a bad thing but the source of all that is good
Last week- Jesus’s prayer that we may be one- Pentecost is the answer to that prayer
Christian disunity happens when we place our trust in something that is not God- tradition, Bible etc. We are called to be united as the Son is united to the Father, to place complete trust in the Father as the source of all goodness and love. The Spirit gives us the opportunity of total reliance upon the love and acceptance of the Father, so that we can keep giving ourselves away as Jesus did. For if we depend upon the Father we know there is always more than enough- abundance, not scarcitybvThis is the Peace that Jesus is talking about in today’s passage from John. Our hearts do not need to be troubled when we place our trust in God
For us, 2,000 years after the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes when we are baptized. When our own baptism re-enacts the baptism of Jesus. It is when we are baptized that God places a song in our hearts, and it is the role not just of Godparents but of the whole Christian community to help us remember that song throughout our lives.
The song that God gives us always has three parts:
- The heavens open- the veil between God and us has been torn apart and therefore there is no limit to God’s purpose for our lives. It is an eternal purpose.
- God’s Spirit is in us- so we become a place where others can encounter God, hearing our song others hear the good news of God’s love
- We mean everything to God ‘We are God’s children, God’s beloved, in us God is well pleased.’
It is in the power of the Spirit that we learn to sing that song back to one another, until we realise that we are the song in God’s heart and God will never forget our tune.. Our song is the language of our hearts and for each of us that will be unique and special, though each song shares notes with other songs too as we discover more of God together. I am particularly fond of Jazz, and listening to Jazz speaks to me of the Trinity. For as the musicians pass the tune around and each added their own unique sound to the music, the other musicians listen, rejoice and respond in their playing, picking up the tune and carrying it in their turn. A Jazz trio became for me the emblem of the Three in One. So our music, our songs are always about embracing, creating and including one another.
We need every language, every song to express God fully. Listening to each other’s song is a way of enlarging our own experience of God’s love.:Until as one of my favourite hymns puts it
‘When we sing to God in heaven
we shall find such harmony
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.
The day of Pentecost is the transformation of the cacophony of Babel into the polyphony of worship. In the very last pages of the Bible, the new community begun at Pentecost culminates in a linguistic extravaganza of ‘a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language’ all joined together in worshipping God. Today God invites us to put our trust in Him and have the confidence to sing our song.
May we be part of that rich polyphonic choir, through our lives and by our songs. Amen.