“Fuelling Our Spirits”
Ps. 104 & Acts 2:1-21 ~ Northwood UC ~ June 5, 2022 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook
I was fueling up my car with gasoline the other day, watching the price on the meter go up and up and up…and up. I don’t know if any of you have noticed that the price of gas has increased? (oh you have too) Well, perhaps that’s a subject for another conversation. But as I filled my vehicle with gas (and counted to ensure I had enough cash to pay my bill), I got to thinking about how we fuel things, and the cost we pay for that fuel. We place fuel (or electricity and perhaps other creative energy sources) into our cars and they drive. We place food into our bodies in order for them to run, rejuvenate and be healthy. But, have we ever pondered what we place into our soul, into our spirit, into our heart to recharge our spiritual being?
Part of who we are is, of course, physical. We are human machines who need food and oxygen in order to move, grow and live. But, we are more than just flesh and bone, aren’t we? There is also a non-physical part of our being: the spiritual part. And must not lose sight of the essential spiritual essence of our being. In fact, the French Jesuit theologian from the last century, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, proposed that ‘we are spiritual beings having a human experience’. We so naturally think about our physical life: how healthy we are; how we are taking care of our body…but do we also consider our spiritual life? Do we consider how we care for our spirit, our heart? And so, on Pentecost Sunday, there is this deep opportunity for us to consider our whole selves, asking the question, do we ‘feed’ all aspects of our being? (not just the physical)
Pentecost Sunday presents a shift in the Church year as we move out of the 7 Sunday season of Easter into the consideration of God’s gift in the birthing of the Holy Spirit. And when I think of the Holy Spirit, I think that an apt analogy is that of fueling our spirits. The text that Betty read (and God bless her for agreeing to read the most challenging text of the church year) is a gathering of all the lands, both near and far. We could modernize this reading as we might begin to imagine the varied peoples from all the seven continents coming together in ways that they honour and understand one another. It is this powerful dimension of God’s spirit which allows us to unite in mutual understanding even though we are so varied in areas of wealth and privilege, or sexuality, or religion, or any of the other earthly boundary which prohibits us from seeing past all those divisions, and seeing one another as sister / brother.
So, how do we accomplish this mammoth task? How do we see past the flesh and blood differences, and see one another as sister / brother in God’s blessed Creation. The way that this is fueled is through the coming of the Holy Spirit. The text describes it as being “like the rush of a violent wind” fueling us, empowering us to be people of love, care and forgiveness. It is a helpful reminder for us that the word translated as ‘Spirit’ in its Hebrew roots is ‘ruah’, which can be equally translated as ‘wind’, ‘spirit’, and ‘breath’. Pentecost is that reminder of the essence of our humanity that is filled with God’s breath. We might think all the way back to the second story of Creation, and God’s action of creating the first person. After shaping and forming Adam, God breathed a Spirit breath ~ ruah ~ and the person was alive!
On Pentecost Sunday, we think about the coming of God’s spirit, not just of old, but also to us today. God’s breath, God’s Spirit coming upon each and every one of us. The question for us is ~ are we taking time to breathe in and fill ourselves with God’s spirit? Are we, fueling up with the Spirit? Or are we running on empty?
Running on empty, for our body, is easy to detect and quite dangerous in the long term, isn’t it? If we do not supply our body with adequate nutrition and sleep, and all that it requires, the body starts to break down. We get weaker; we do not heal as quickly; we are lethargic; and as the hunger pains remind us of how depleted we are, we get ‘hangry’ ~ an anger deriving from our hunger pains. I believe that there is a spiritual equivalent to this: if we do not feed our spiritual self, we also become weaker spiritually. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt very warm and close to God? Compare that experience with a time when you felt very distant. The difference tends to be the spiritual work that you are doing…or not doing? Have you ever felt less forgiving than you wish you were? Less accepting? Less grace-filled? These are signs of the spiritual tank running low. It is important to note that we don’t, necessarily, feel close to God when things are all ‘wine and roses’. Look at the lives of Dietrich Bonhoffer, imprisoned by the Nazi regime. Julian of Norwich, writing from behind a prison cell. The Apostle Paul, and the life of Jesus. The common element shared is one of consciously feeding their spiritual being. I think this is why Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s wisdom speaks so strongly to us: ‘we are spiritual beings having a human experience’. Are we human beings? Are we spiritual beings? The important consideration is that we hold in tension that we are both! We need to fuel the physical and the spiritual for the journey ahead. This is Graduation Sunday, and it represents a significant ‘stopping point’ for our grads: Anna, Jay, Eric and Ella. At the end of a long road, we stop and celebrate. Dinners, parties, dry grads, convocations as high school diplomas and University degrees have been successfully completed. And one of the things we do as we ~ stop ~ is we pause, and consider the next steps ahead. We consider what ‘fuel’ we will need for the next chapters ahead. What will make me the best Anna, Jay, Eric, and Ella for the next leg of my journey. What ‘fuel’ will I need to make the next destination ahead? Fuel for your body? Fuel for your mind? Fuel for your spirit?
And this is not just a Grad Sunday conversation, this is a conversation that all us are going through, in this journey of life. We are transitioning through so many dimensions of living; however, so few of us are mindful of what ‘fuel’ we need to make these shifts well. We shift, they say, through multiple careers in our lifetime. Gone are the days of one career that we work at until 65 and receive a golden watch. Now we shift through multiple careers, in various sectors. We go through journeys of work, re-education, new expressions of employment…how are we ‘fueling’ ourselves for that journey? In our personal lives, families change through the journey…how are we refueling? New members of the family are added; beloved members are gone…how are we refueling? We shift through so many transitions in our personal lives as relationships deepen, some end and others begin…how are we ‘fueling’ ourselves for the journey? In our senior years, the changes (even then) continue…and through ALL these ages and stages on the journey, we need to stop and consider…how we are refueling?
Getting back to the gas pump and refueling my car. It is now successfully topped up at $2.20 per litre and I grimace at the total. The wonderful news that I have for you is that the cost to fill up your spirit hasn’t ever changed since the Pentecost story that Betty read for us! The gift of God’s spirit is one of pure grace; it is evidence of God’s love; it is a sign of God’s promise to be with us to the end of the age. The only ‘catch’ is that we need to stop, in whatever spiritual way feeds our soul, open our hearts, and receive the gift of God’s spirit breath that will fuel you for the next leg of the journey.
May God’s Spirit breath be in each of us, fueling us with grace, granting us compassion, empowering us with wisdom. Now and always. Amen.