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Friday, 2 June 2017

Haere mai, Kaiwhakamārie-Wairua, haere, haere

PENTECOST  (June 4th) 2017

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
    Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa
ki te whare oranga,
te whare karakia te pou herenga waka o te whakapono,
                nau mai, piki mai, kake mai,

Ki te Atua - tēnā koe
Ki a Papatuanuku –  tēnā koe
Ki a Ranginui  –  tēnā koe
Ki te whare karakia  – tēnā koe
Ki te tipuna, ki te hunga mate
Ki te hunga ora
haere, haere, haere.

 Ko mihi ngā minita ko nga pirihi o te rohe
      o te whakaminenga tēnei
Ko mihi ngā kaumātua
Ko mihi ngā pākeke ko ngā tamariki ko ngā mokopuna

Nō reira
tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa



Acts 2: 1-21
Psalm 104: 24-35b
1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13
John 20: 19-23


Lord, Holy Spirit,
You blow like the wind in a thousand paddocks,
Inside and outside the fences,
You blow where you wish to blow.

You probably have not come to know me well enough yet to know that I am a fierce fan of literature, and perhaps especially poetry. It is a love I have too little time or discipline to explore, but a love nevertheless. As a teenager I wanted nothing more than to be Hemi Baxter redivivus, to set the world alight perhaps with his eccentricities but certainly with all the power of his vision as a social outsider. He was a prophet in exile, dwelling on the fringes of Awa Whanganui. That is the awa that I identify with when I offer my mihimihi. Ko Whanganui toku awa. Though to be honest I should probably identify with the Thames: ko Thames toku awa. And there on the slopes of the Whanganui at Jerusalem, at Hiruhārama, Hemi Baxter pricked, irritated the Pākehā conscience, te hinengaro o nga Pākehā, and a teenager I became aware of him and admired him. And it was of course Baxter who penned the “Song to the Holy Spirit” that I just quoted:

You are the sun who shines on the little plant,
You warm him gently, you give him life,
You raise him up to become a tree with many leaves.

Baxter’s was an unorthodox but profound vision of the Spirit, Wairua Tapu, whose coming we celebrate today. He saw God’s Spirit in nature, saw Wairua Tapu as personal and universal, as the enabling presence of God in nature and in our own wairua. His was the same vision as Ezekiel, who saw the spirit revivifying dry bones. His was the same vision as that other great poet hero of mine, T.S. Eliot, whose vision takes readers from “rats’ alley / Where the dead men lost their bones” to, after a long, long journey, a place where our bones begin to sing  again, now in the presence of God, beneath a Juniper tree. There the bones are “scattered and shining,” because God’s light transcends all darkness and death, not least our own. It is the job-description of the Spirit to carry God-light wherever the darkness dwells.

Whatever happened in the weeks after the resurrection Jesus, words were, as I said last week, simply not enough. John and Luke for example tell the story in different ways. In Luke’s Acts the disciples gather in an upper room, and the languages that have separated humankind since we attempted to ascend to the heavens by means of our own architecture, since we attempted to earn our way into God’s eternities by our own brain power, those languages separated at Babel are now united and as one voice tell out the mysteries of God. It’s a poetic image designed to tell us of new, unified beginnings, though over two thousand years we haven’t done too well at maintaining the vision of unity.

Similarly John too takes us back to the Book of Genesis, and tells us of the Risen Lord breathing new life into the disciples as God the Creator once breathed life intro the first human beings. Surely one of the great gifts of Māoritanga to the world is the gift of hongi, where we breathe in one another’s sacred space, breathe together the ha, the life force with which God empowers and enlivens us. God gives ha to Adam in the garden, Jesus gives ha nōu to the disciples on the lakeside. When we hongi in liturgy we exchange that life-force again, knowing it is God’s life force, the eternal energies of God in which we dwell.

But – leaving aside the impossible, incomprehensible mechanics of how trinity “works,” what, who is this Spirit we adore this day. What does she – yes, she because in Greek and Hebrew she is described as feminine and why not? – do, and how do we experience her?

You are the mother eagle with her young,
Holding them in peace under your feathers.
On the highest mountain you have built your nest,
Above the valley, above the storms of the world,
Where no hunter ever comes.

If in a sense the “job” of the Son is to make known to us in comprehensible terms all that we ever need to know of the Creator[2] (and, strangely, to make our experience known back to the Creator, but more of that another time), then the “job” of the Spirit is to make known to all believers throughout space and time the things of the Son. His love, his compassion, his justice, his peace, his entrance into darkness and death, his bursting into light and life.  These are made known to us by the one John calls Paraclete, “One Called Alongside,” Comforter, Kaiwhakamārie: “O Comforter draw near, within my heart appear, and kindle it,  thy holy flame bestowing,” as fifteenth century mystic Bianco de Siena prayed: “O let it freely burn, ’til earthly passions turn / To dust and ashes in its heat consuming.” Her job is to make the things of Jesus known to us, and simultaneously, as we let her, to transform us to be more like Christ. Most of us will feel there is a lot of work to be done before that part of her task is complete, but eternity is a long time.

So it is the touch of the Kaiwhakamārie-Wairua when we feel the power of God in times of fear or suffering, or when we participate in the justice work of God in welfare or politics, or feel the peace of God that is beyond understanding in liturgy or nature or music or the closeness of a friend or a lover.  These are not the completeness of God-in-Christ, but glimpses that we are given of the eternities the work of Christ opens up to us, and the work of the Spirit is to engender them, birth them in our consciousness, our being. The little motivational moments that keep us moving more or less forward on our faith journey: these are the nudges of the Kaiwhakamārie-Wairua leading us forward. The transformation of bread and wine into body-and-blood-for-us – this is the work of the Kaiwhakamārie-Wairua.

 Lord, Holy Spirit,
You are the kind fire who does not cease to burn,
Consuming us with flames of love and peace,
Driving us out like sparks to set the world on fire.

Lord, Holy Spirit,
In the love of friends you are building a new house,
Heaven is with us when you are with us.
You are singing your songs in the hearts of the poor
Guide us, wound us, heal us. Bring us to the Father.

The language of the Spirit of Pentecost must be the language of poetry, not science, for this is the language of that which is way beyond human understanding. It is the language of mysticism and love, not dissection and analysis. But the Spirit is the one who enflames us, and to that enflaming we open our hearts anew.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.
Haere mai, Kaiwhakamārie-Wairua, haere, haere.

[1] The Baxter quotations are from James K. Baxter, "Song to the Holy Spirit," in Collected Poems (ed. John Edward Weir;Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 572.
[2] "Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image.  But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God ... and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled." John Damascene, De Image. 1, 16. PG 96: 1245-1248
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