Pentecost C 2010 – Taking the easy way…

There is within our DNA, an irresistible temptation to take the easy way.

It marks our path through history –

it accuses us in the midst of our journey –

it beckons us into an uncertain future.

It says “do what you know; ask only the essential questions; work to your strengths.”

No doubt those early wanderers described in Genesis 11 were lured by such voices.

There is promise here – promise of something new and wonderful.

This story is offered after the flood in what scholars call biblical pre-history in Genesis.

Humanity has been given a fresh start – and yet,

our tendency is to do what we’ve always done.

Settle – build – make a name for ourselves.

It’s easy. It’s what we know.

And in no time there is a tower built of sun-baked brick;

scraping the sky – dominating the landscape.

And then God wanders by. Not your average job-site supervisor.

Even then, it seems, the Lord had a plan for this people

but it did not involve simplicity, sameness, or a lasting human legacy:

And so Genesis tells us how the people were scattered, and confused,

and we can presume – for the Scriptural narrative is full of examples –

that the search for simplicity begins again,

in dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of separate locations.

These lessons from the history of faith remind us

that the easy way is not always the best way.

The path of least resistance in us, often meets the most resistance in God.

How much different would our history have been, if those wandering ancestors of ours,

instead of settling down to a project that suited their particular skills,

had stopped to ask the question; “what would God have us do here?”

A vast, open plain. A new and glorious chance to serve – to worship –

to experience the things of God.

And we chose to gather and build and exert ourselves on the situation.

Not easy, perhaps, but easier than seeking out God’s plan –

easier than pausing and wondering aloud

what good God might have in store for us.

Surely we have learned our lesson by the time of Christ.

After His resurrection and his ascension to glory

Jesus friends and followers gather to wait

and wonder what else God might have in store for them.

Jesus promised them a helper, but that help comes in a most unsettling form:

Wind and fire and an overwhelming urge to give praise to God.

In the midst of it all, language barriers are blasted away –

and from the outside it looks like pure chaos…

The easy thing to do is assume that you are witnessing a fools gathering.

Such outrageous public displays of faith

are not the sort of thing that people accept as good behaviour –

it’s too hard to explain – too difficult to control.

There are segments of the Christian church (Canadian Presbyterians among them)

that harbour a secret fear of such an outpouring of the Spirit that is described in Acts chapter 2

because it may cause us to do and say things

that are quite beyond our control and outside of our understanding.

It is that fear of the unknown – that illusion of lost control –

that prompts us to take up our trade and build bricks

when there are finer and fiercer tasks to be done.

And it is our fears that Jesus addresses when, with those fearful disciples,

we wonder what we will do without him.

We need a ‘resurrection reminder’ – something to inspire us –

to lift us from our fear and dread –

and on this day we remember that God’s wisdom has provided us with just that.

The Spirit is a poorly understood concept

outside the hand-waving, ecstasies of ‘some other’ denominations

but the Spirit that has come to us

is more than just a source of curiosity and occasional ridicule.

God’s Spirit powers our ideas, and inhabits our imaginations,

allowing us to continue in faith where our path is confused

and when public opinion seems to run against us.

The Spirit provides courage in difficult decisions and wisdom for delicate conversations.

Without the Spirit’s help, there would be no worship, no music, no point in our sacraments.

This helper – our promised Advocate – is part of what motivates us to follow the way of Jesus – to seek communion with God.

There is nothing easy about this.

In choosing the path of faith we have, in truth, abandoned what we know –

what is safe and within our control – and set out on an unfamiliar road.

But Jesus has walked that road before us –

and with the Spirit’s help, we will discover new gifts, gain new strength,

and welcome the challenges we encounter

as God calls us forward. Amen


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