THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners – Isaiah 61.1
Thus spoke the prophet Isaiah, looking towards the Christ who later, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, quoted him! – in company with millions since.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. This is what it means to be a child of God. This is what it means to be religious:
Sent to bind up. Sent to bring and to be good news. Sent to speak of freedom. Sent to open the jailer’s gate. Sent and Anointed to anoint.
All’s well and good then, we might say, or even pray: the Spirit of the Lord is upon “me”.
But what makes this good news? – for the oppressed, or for the broken- hearted, or for the imprisoned, as well as for “me”?
Pentecost gives us our answer. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon “me”, certainly, but also upon every other human person:
Here we are “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia” – Acts 2.9
Rather like one of Pope Francis’ sermons, the Spirit of God, Creator and Christ, rests upon everyone and wanders where She wills.
Pentecost, the new life, the multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-religious, universal life makes Divine appeal to all the world.
The Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, recognised as being at work in all persons, in every time and place, opens the jailer’s gate.
Cue for the critics: “They’re drunk! – At 9 in the morning. They’re histrionic. Take no notice. Stick with the old rules”
And the critics are still around. But so’s God’s Spirit – now and ever shall be, world without end. Blessed be God!
Happy Pentecost – for all the world.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES (16:16-34) spoke today of a young slave girl’s mental health problems (as we’d probably describe her condition today) being grossly used to earn a living for her “owners” who pressed her into “fortune-telling”.
Leap forward 2000 years to Bangladesh where, on Friday, 19 years old Reshma Begum was pulled from the rubble of an eight-storey sweat-shop, the collapsed Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh, where she had been trapped in the basement since the 24th April. More than 1000 others lost their lives there.
O, dear God, grace humankind we pray with a new ability to turn from hardness of heart. Teach us the truest and highest meaning of “religion” wheresoever and in whomsoever it is applied: teach us, after the pattern of anointed “Christs” throughout history, that to be humanely human, to be religious, indeed to be “Christian” means primarily being one who “binds up”, offering healing and compassion for all humankind that, as Jesus of Nazareth prayed, “they may be one”. Help us to see that withholding such grace creates planks in hypocritical eyes altogether more offensive and blinding than mere splinters in the eyes of those we too often feel minded either to “turn a blind eye to”, or to direct.
And may the tears of joy that greeted Reshma Begum’s “resurrection” also wash the wounds of those who mourn the heedless and needless destruction of over 1000 of her colleagues – and many more worldwide. May care and compassion for our brothers and sisters always take precedence over “making a living” out of “fortune-telling” …
TODAY WE ENCOUNTERED Jesus at the Pool of Siloam in Beth-zatha or Bethesda. The name means House of Mercy and it is sacramental sign and symbol of our vocation today as the Body of Christ now on earth. Humankind is called by one of her own, by Jesus of Nazareth, to be merciful.
Encountering a “paralysed” man with “no-one to help” him into the healing waters of the pool, Jesus asks the “obvious question” that’s so obvious no-one asked it before. “Do you want to be well?”.
And it was the asking of that question, the showing of mercy, rather than a dip in the pool, that restored health and wholeness to a man who’d lain waiting for 38 years. Jesus of Nazareth is a House of Mercy in his own person. And we – all humankind – the “Body of the Anointed (Christos)” now on earth are equally and wholly to be Houses of Mercy in just the same way.
Bramhall Parish Church is hugely proud of Rachael Elizabeth, who, together with her friend Florence at University in Lampeter has been “Living Below The Line” on just £1 per day – having sought sponsorship for the merciful works of Christian Aid. Between them they’ve raised £735 to date. Houses of Mercy. Models. Christ-like. Sometimes it’s obvious things that change the world in the biggest and best ways. Sometimes it’s just plain mercy that’s required. Please click Rachael’s photo if you’d like to offer sponsorship. And please take a moment to offer thanks in your own special and personal way for the gifts of life and of love in your life and in mine.
The Pool of Siloam – Homily for Easter 6 is here
Living Below The Line – a word about Mercy is here