Love is powerful! The Feast of Pentecost (which we celebrated on Sunday 28 May) celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit. It’s about recognising the power of the Spirit in our lives, or, to put it another way, the power of love. In the words of Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA, “Love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love.”
I love that phrase, “Don’t underestimate it!” Love is present. It is real and it is transformative. The power of love can transform individuals and it can transform whole societies.
There are moments in our lives, when we experience this love (the Spirit) and they can change us and provoke us to be better people.
These are the God moments, or, to put it another way, these are the moments when we see with our Jesus-eyes. Have you ever experienced that? It’s a moment when you see someone else, or even part of the natural world, not just through your own eyes, but as if you are looking at that person or that part of nature in the way that Jesus would look at them: with compassion and love.
I’ve had a number of those moments. I remember when I was in Melbourne for an Anglican Schools’ Conference a few years ago, I arrived the night before the conference and staying with one of my sisters, who lives in St Kilda. The conference was in the city, so in the morning I caught the tram with her into the city. If you’re catching the tram at 7.45am in Melbourne into the city, it’s pretty crowded! We were standing up, surrounded by people, holding on for balance, and, in my case, I was also juggling my backpack with my clothes for the trip. We were really jammed up against everyone else and people kept moving past us to get off the tram. Finally, a couple of seats were vacated and my sister Alex said, “Let’s grab those!” So we did. Alex got off several stops before me to go to her work. I’m slightly unfamiliar with Melbourne, so I was sitting on my seat, studying Google Maps on my phone, so I knew when to get off to go to the conference venue. A young woman got on at the next stop, using two walking sticks to balance herself. I thought, “That’s interesting” and looked back down at my phone, selfishly, because she then said, “May I have a seat please?” I immediately sprang up, and won the seat-offering competition from the two other people who stood up as well.
It was a Holy Spirit moment, it was a Jesus moment.
“Hang on, Father Theo,” you might say, “If it had really been a Holy Spirit moment, a moment when you looked at someone else with love, through Jesus’ eyes, then you would have got up straight away, not waited to be asked!”
Yes, that’s true, but I wasn’t talking about myself.
The Holy Spirit works both ways. The young woman just thanked me quietly – without fanfare, without resentment that I’d been slow to get up – just with gratitude. That was a gift to me. I was wearing my clerical collar, so she really did give me a gift, because the priest on the tram was given a chance to show his manners. What a gift from her!
The Feast of Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit, is about believing that love is truly powerful and that it is transformative.
Just read what the Rev’d Dr Martin Luther King had to say: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”
The Reverend Dr Theo McCall