Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bus-Stop Basics

Pentecost Sunday (B)

Picture: cc Daniel Lee

Sisters and brothers, do you remember the last time you went to a bus-stop? What was it like? And even if you don’t frequent bus-stops, because you travel in your own car, you can probably still remember what bus-stops are for, right? And how they are meant to be used. Of course, bus-stops can be used in many different ways. We can meet a friend at a bus-stop. We can go there to seek shelter from the rain. We can even choose to spend a whole day sitting quietly at a bus-stop. Watching the world go by.

Yes, it’s possible to use bus-stops in all these different and interesting ways. But that’s not really what they are for. We all know that bus-stops are built for one purpose: transportation. We are not really supposed to remain at a bus-stop for an extended period of time. No. We go there to catch a bus. To be transported to another location. Bus-stops are all about movement.

And in order for us to use a bus-stop effectively, there are at least three things that we need to know how to do. The first is recognition. We need to know how to identify the right bus. The one that will take us to our intended destination. We need to know the service number of the bus we’re taking. And, second, when that bus arrives, we need also to know how to flag it down and board it. But that’s not all. A third thing we need to know is, of course, how to wait.

For there will usually be other buses arriving at our stop. Buses that won’t take us to where we wish to go. When these wrong buses show up, we need to know how to ignore them. How to calmly and patiently let them pass us by. Which can be frustrating. Especially if we’ve been waiting a very long time for the right bus. While watching all the wrong ones go by.

Movement and recognition, waiting and boarding. These are what bus-stops are all about. And, strange as it may sound, these are also some of the things that make up Pentecost as well. Consider, for example, the first reading’s description of what it was like when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. Very likely, our attention will be drawn most of all to the impressive sights and sounds. We’re told that the Spirit’s coming sounded like a powerful wind. And that it appeared… like tongues of fire. But what’s even more important than the sights and sounds are the powerful effects of the Spirit’s coming.

The reading describes these effects in terms of movement. Of transportation. When the Spirit descends upon them, the disciples are transported out of the room in which they had gathered. They are moved. Not only to leave the room. But also to speak powerfully and passionately. Preaching… about the marvels of God.

And not only the disciples, but also their listeners. We’re told that, at the Spirit’s coming, all the devout people living in Jerusalem, people from every nation under heaven, were moved to come together. They all assembled. They were also moved to amazement and astonishment that they could understand, in their own respective native languages, everything that the disciples were saying.

Not unlike a bus-stop, Pentecost is all about movement. Movement from fear to courage. From silence to speech. From division to unity. From confusion to understanding. From being scattered to being gathered together again. Nor does the similarity end here. Also like a bus-stop, Pentecost requires recognition. For the Holy Spirit is not the only thing that moves us. It is not the only bus arriving at our stop.

The second reading presents us with a contrast between two different movements. That of the Spirit of God on the one hand, and that of self-indulgence on the other. And we are taught to distinguish these movements by their opposing effects. By the different directions in which they transport us. When self-indulgence is at work, we’re told, the results are obvious: sexual irresponsibility… idolatry... jealousy... disagreements... envy... and similar things. In contrast, what the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Like a bus-stop, Pentecost is also about learning how to recognise different movements. Different impulses. Different bus services, if you like. The right ones to board. The wrong ones to ignore. And even to resist. But why do we do this? What is our ultimate intended destination? Where exactly do we wish to go? The answer to these questions is found in the gospel. And what an awe-inspiring answer it is. When the Spirit of truth comes, Jesus says, he will lead you to the complete truth. But what is this complete truth? What does it look and feel like?

The gospel reading is taken from the 15th and 16th chapters of John’s gospel. A little earlier, in chapter 14, Jesus had already told Thomas that Jesus himself is the way, and the truth, and the life (v. 6). So if Jesus is himself the truth. And the Spirit leads us to the complete truth. Then, it follows that where the Spirit is leading us is to Jesus himself. The Spirit recreates in us the life of Jesus. The Spirit reproduces in us the Mystery of the Lord’s Dying and Rising. The same joyful Mystery that we have been pondering most intensely in this great season of Easter that is now drawing to a close. This is the wonderful destination at which we all hope to arrive. The Lord Jesus himself. Present to us. Present in and among us. Present even to the rest of the world.

Isn’t this, my dear sisters and brothers, what Pentecost is really about? Recognising different movements. The wrong ones to ignore and to resist. The right ones to accept and to follow. But, if this is true, then surely Pentecost doesn’t just happen once a year. On the last day of Easter. Although we may celebrate the solemn feast on this particular day, Pentecost actually happens every day of every year. For, at every moment of every passing day, we all find ourselves at our respective spiritual bus-stops. Waiting for the right bus to arrive. So that we can allow it to take us to where we are meant to go.

Of course, we may not see and hear spectacular sights and sounds. No roaring winds from heaven. No dramatic tongues of flame. But what is more important are the movements. The impulses we experience. Some transporting us in the direction of selfishness and sin. Others in the direction of love and service and sacrifice.

Sisters and brothers, if Pentecost is indeed about transportation, then what are the buses arriving at your stop? And which ones will you be choosing to board today?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord of the Pentecost,

    Please help me to RECOGNISE YOU each time You come to me - lest I miss Your coming and become like a lost sheep in a strange pasture.

    Come O Holy Spirit - come and lead me always to Jesus and never let me be parted from Him. Amen.


    Sih Ying
    Pentecost Sunday 25 May 2015


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