‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.
As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now Jesus said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive;
(From the Gospel of St. John chapter 7:37)
I’m struck by the extraordinary, but differing talents and abilities which each of my children displays. They were born to the same parents and, broadly speaking, into the same context. We used the same approach for their upbringing, and yes, there are similarities between them, but each of them is unique. They excel and express themselves differently. In part those differences have been informed by the different experiences they’ve known. But that’s not enough to explain the unique expression which is theirs alone. They are each their own person, and the world would be poorer for the absence of any one of them.
Over the past ten days a number of people in our communities have joined together for an act of daily prayer, as part of the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ intiative, conceived just a few years ago, but which has now been adopted by congregations of all denominations across the UK, and by churches around the world.
Here in Western Downland no one person was the leader of those daily opportunities to pray. Instead different people leading in different ways, sharing some words in common, but bringing their own unique perspective, informed and enriched our understanding and worship. As well as the prayers we shared, one other thing we noted in the quietness between the prayers was the birdsong. We could hear birds not only outside our own windows, but magnified through the audio systems from each others’ homes. Those small creatures were doing what comes naturally, yet it always seemed to me they were joining in with God’s praise.
Many years ago I wrote a short story about a preacher. Filled with his own self importance, he had little regard for others and showed little care. When he died he found himself in a beautiful place and heard there the most exquisite birdsong. When he spoke to himself in wonder at the bird’s voice, the bird spoke back – (why not, it was heaven) – about how the bird’s voice was God’s reward to the bird for having sung so faithfully on earth. The preacher was delighted because if God gave such a beautiful gift to a plain garden bird, what extraordinary gift must surely await him; a man of the cloth. And God did give him a gift; a bird’s feather; the only reward and rebuke the preacher was to ever receive.
Jesus promised that the Spirit would be poured out on all believers. And the firstfruits of that outpouring; that river of refreshment, of joy, witness and blessing, was evident to anyone standing nearby on that first Pentecost morning. So too, as I hear the stories of prayer and care, of practical kindness and hopeful faith, I‘m struck by the ways in which you are individually and together, in your particular way, and your particular place, making visible the love of Christ. And I rejoice in it, knowing that the world and the Church would be poorer for the absence of any one of you.