The Disrupting Holy Spirit
Sermon by the Rev. Claudette Taylor
Deacon, Church of Epiphany St Mark, Parkdale, Toronto
Preached at St Aidan's on July 26, 2020
Today’s reading from St. Matthew Gospel reminds me of something that a friend and I do with each other. We have this ongoing competition to see who has the bragging rights to the biggest, most beautiful flower, or most perfect garden. We exchange pictures of the object from different. This allows the receiver to see the picture from different angles and so be better able to evaluate it. Similarly, each of the parables gives us different aspects of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God appears in some unexpected moments of life by unexpected means. God uses small things to have profound effects on our world and lives.
The Kingdom of God is dynamic. It cannot be confined, and demands us to change our perspectives in a radical way--go out into the world and LIVE the dynamic gospel.
The Kingdom of God is invasive and massively disruptive.
The Kingdom of God spreads love, fellowship, and caring. It moves us to recognize Christ in each other.
A preacher once said that, “signs of the kingdom are found in some moments of life that seem to be the most insignificant.” Who would have guessed a few months ago that a virus that appeared in distant Wuhan, China would have such a profound effect on the entire world? I do not think that the first patient or the attending doctor recognized the widespread effect that this event would have on the globe. As the virus spread and was declared a pandemic, life as we knew it became messy and challenging. Every business, every organization, every person had to find ways to cope with this new reality. The church struggled to remain relevant and had to grapple with hard questions. Is church a building? Is church in the world around us? How do we live the good news? Who is really in charge? COVID-19 forced us to revert to or deepen our spiritual practices. We prayed with a heightened awareness of who really is in charge. The Holy Spirit moved in ways that we could not ask or imagine. We understand with the early church that God cannot be contained or restricted in buildings made with hands “...Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands...” (Acts 7: 48 ref. Isaiah 66:1). We found creative and engaging ways to use technology and in so doing reached out to non-churched people. We ARE living the dynamic gospel.
The Kingdom is massively disruptive. A chance encounter in Central Park, NY between Amy Cooper, a white woman, and a black bird watcher named Christian Cooper (no relations) made headlines around the world when people witnessed via Amy Cooper weaponized her white priviledge. The backlash was amazing. The lockdown resulting from the pandemic freed people from the usual and regular demands and technology had a captive audience. George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white policeman was again brought into homes all over the world and triggered a huge world-wide outpouring of grief and disbelief. The call for the end of systemic racism reverberated around the world. There is a call for all institutions including communities of faith to examine their practices to see how they contribute to racism and find ways to bring change. The Kingdom of God is indeed massively disruptive.
I truly believe that the Kingdom of God is here with us in all the messiness and challenges of the past few months. God has buried treasure where it is least expected. As we recognize the worth of the buried treasure our task as the body of Christ will be to work together with God to ensure that His kingdom will come on earth—His Kingdom that spreads love, fellowship, and caring and which moves us to recognize the Christ in each other His kingdom that demands transformation in our dealings with each other whether seniors racialized groups, the poor or any other marginalized group.
Throughout its history, the Christian church has always been at its very best in moments of massive disruption. Membership in the early church increased when the church faced persecution. The Holy Spirit moved powerfully through the lives and affairs of its members allowing them to speak boldly. During the time of Martin Luther as the church faced a possible schism, the Holy Spirit moved through the church politic producing changes that shook the church to the core and made sweeping changes.
In 2020, the Holy Spirit is relentlessly forcing the church to make massive changes in its role as a good neighbour. We can choose to keep the status quo and remain silent about the injustices that COVID-19 exposed or, we can choose to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church. What do we as communities of faith choose to do?
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”
Let us pray for the leading of the Spirit. Amen