Love is powerful! The Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, is a Christian festival celebrating the power of love. 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, who preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, “Love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over sentimentalise it. There’s power, power in love.”
I love that phrase, “Don’t underestimate it!” Love is present and it’s real. And it’s 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, this 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? That 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 had such a moment last week. I was in Melbourne for an Anglican schools’ conference. I arrived the night before the conference and staying with one of my sisters, Alex, who lives in St Kilda. The conference was in the city, so in the morning I caught the tram with Alex into the city. If you’re catching the tram at 7.45am, 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 Alex said, “Let’s grab those” so we did. Alex had to get off several stops before me; I’m slightly unfamiliar with Melbourne, so I was studying Google Maps on my phone, so I knew which stop to get off. 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. And that was a gift to me. I was wearing by 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.
When I watched the royal wedding, I was struck by the symbolism of love, in all its transformative power. It wasn’t so much the fact the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were getting married, although they did look very happy. But it was the sermon by Bishop Michael Curry. He preached an extraordinary sermon. Just think about this: here we have an African American bishop, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America (the Anglicans of America), preaching in St George’s Chapel in Windsor, in England. I’m guessing that’s the first time that’s happened! And he quoted the great social reformer Dr Martin Luther King at the start. Those two things are powerful in themselves, an African American preaching in St George’s Chapel and quoting Dr Martin Luther King.
But just listen to what Dr 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