The Inside Column 29/10

Posted in: Uncategorized- Oct 30, 2017 No Comments

Good morning and welcome to St Barnabas Stoke. If you are visiting today we hope you encounter God’s almighty grace for you and loving presence as you join us in worship. Please feel free to chat with us afterwards over a coffee and meet some of our people.

Every child learns to live in at least two worlds, and learns also how awkward it can be when the two worlds collide. Here we are at home: we are with the family, where we speak in a certain way, behave at table in a certain way, and order our lives in a particular routine.

But then here we are at school: there are different routines, different topics of conversation and ways of speaking about them, and perhaps even subtly different table manners. But then comes the dreaded time when the parents come into school; and when children speak of being embarrassed at that moment.

I think the embarrassment comes because here two countries, each in itself normal and liveable-with, overlap; and the child, who is knows the language of both countries, the individual and corporate body-language as well as the verbal language, isn’t quite sure which one to speak.

And of course it isn’t just parents coming into school: a similarly strange moment occurs when you’re out shopping with a parent and, lo and behold, there is one of the teachers from school, buying groceries in the supermarket just like anyone else. And you don’t quite know what to say. The two worlds aren’t supposed to meet in that way.

Many of us find that we live in several different worlds, each with its own expectations, its own individual and corporate body-language and spoken language.

The point of Pentecost is that it’s the point at which two worlds collide. The two worlds are of course Heaven and Earth; and in the first century as in the twenty-first many people supposed that these two worlds were supposed to stay firmly and safely apart. We live on earth; God lives in heaven.

In ancient Israel the place of that commerce was of course the Temple, the spot on terra firma where Heaven actually overlapped with Earth; and the Temple thus functioned to the rest of Israel rather like the fireplace functions in a living room, the place where that which is normally dangerous can be safely located and dealt with.

But if you think of the Temple as the fireplace, providing warmth and light to the room while being in a safe spot, then the imagery of Pentecost stands out in all its starkness: here are the tongues of fire, touching down not on the Temple, or the priests about their normal activities, but on the disciples in the upper room! The fire has leapt out of the fireplace and seems to be setting light to the rest of the house!

And as the book of Acts proceeds that is indeed exactly the point. In Jesus the two worlds have met, without embarrassment and awkwardness and we are invited to be set on fire.

Have a great week
Phil

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