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Pentecost 27th May 2007,
Rev. Rob Lamerton

including a description by Liz Drysdale of her visit to Taizé

A couple of weeks ago, on our way to clergy conference, the discussion in the car was about people who had been influenced by the Pentecostal or Charismatic revival which had its resurgence in the 1970s. The discussion was about how various people were affected by God's Holy Spirit. The discussion focused on the powerful and dramatic!

I suggested that we had neglected the quieter more gentle aspects of the presence of God's Spirit in the lives of believers and I referred to the gospel passage we have before us today where the gift of God's Holy Spirit is linked to the Peace of Christ! I note also that in the second reading today Paul makes the connection between the Spirit and our intimate awareness of God as "Abba" — Father. So God's Holy Spirit is about relationship — about our closeness to God! It must also therefore be about our relationship with one another!

I don't want to play down any of what Paul calls "gifts" of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, but the purpose for his writing is to emphasize that they are to combine together for the good of the whole Body of Christ. Once again they are relational! In fact Paul concludes there that love, faith and hope are of utmost importance!

In fact even in the reading from Acts chapter 2 the emphasis is about communication and courage! The ability of the believers to speak about God's deeds of power! It was also about Peter's courage to stand up in front of a crowd. Something he was not keen to do at the time of Jesus trial!

As I thought about these issues and as we prepared for a Taizé Pentecost I realized just how well they went together. So often we sing Taizé chants in our worship that I thought I should put them in to context by telling you about the Taizé community.

Let me first say that the Taizé Community seems to be a living modern example of what we hear in the Acts of the Apostles about Pentecost.

In August 1940 Brother Roger, then 25 years old, settled alone in Taizé. It was wartime, and he wanted first of all to help people going through difficulties. He began to offer hospitality to refugees, Jews in particular. He intended to create a community that would be a "parable of communion". After two years, his first brothers joined him. Today the community numbers more than 100 brothers, Catholics and of Protestants of differing backgrounds, from twenty-five differing countries. Small groups of brothers live among the poor in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Since the end of the 1950s, tens of thousands of young adults from every continent have come to Taizé. The intercontinental meetings held each week enable them to pray, to reflect on the sources of the faith, to look for meaning for their life, to prepare themselves to be creators of trust and reconciliation in the places where they live. The European or intercontinental meetings held in large cities are stopping points on this "pilgrimage of trust on earth" undertaken by Taizé.

To illustrate, I asked Liz Drysdale to give me some thoughts about her visit and experience. Liz writes "Here are a few impressions of my four days in Taizé in November 2006". Liz also contacted Dimitri Markotsis who had visited a Taizé couple of years before, in the European Summer.

"Four autumn days in Taizé: Dimitri's experience and mine were a bit different because of the time of year (as well as our ages!). He was there in summer with thousands of young people. Iˇwas there with an Australian friend from Wednesday to Sunday in the third week of November, and until Friday there were only about 40 of us there. This was a lovely intimate experience (as he had suggested it might be) and perhaps for an old girl more congenial than the summer thousands (though that must have a power of its own).

"One thing that especially resonated with me from Dimitri's email was sharing the experience with people from all over the world In our small dormitory over the 4 days there were Aussies, Germans and Chinese, and I quickly became close to a group of three 'Asia Pacific' religious from Rome — a Papua New Guinean nun from Rabaul, a Korean nun and an Indonesian priest. When they left, I became part of the Spanish gang, and also became very fond our Polish volunteer who took care of our meal times, and of a 'Taizé couple' — an Italian and a Croatian who had met at Taizé some years earlier, are now married and go back often. We were led in singing practice by two Dutch girls, and in Bible introduction (much more fun than I expected!) by a French Taizé brother.

"When it was time for us to meet in national or language groups with one of the brothers, we two Aussies were sent to meet with Brother André from Indonesia because we were from the Asian region, and not with the Americans or the English.

"The group I belonged to for discussion after Bible introduction (we were indeed the 'elders', and we had so much fun) were nearly all Spanish, and a lovely woman called Susana interpreted for the 2 or 3 English speakers in the group. There was something wonderful about sharing inner feelings with these people across a language barrier.

"One of the things I loved was the slow and careful rhythm of the talk in both Bible introduction and the discussion ('sharing') sessions, with pauses for translation after every few sentences. For some reason I found this very moving.

"The rhythm of the day was another lovely thing: moving from the glorious singing in the church to the simple but tasty and friendly meals (and powdered hot chocolate and powdered lemon tea!) preceded by a sung Taizé grace, and then on to some group activity — Bible introduction, discussion, singing practice, a video about Brother Roger or Taizé, or a group chore like washing up (never was a chore so hilarious!).

"There were times in between for walks in the lovely garden with its 'source' (waterfall with healing properties), its lake, its little chapel hut and its glorious late autumn leaves. I always felt that these walks were very private times of reflection for people, so we would smile and exchange a word but move on quietly.

"One morning after getting up early to say goodbye to my 'Asia Pacific' friends from Rome (and seeing their bus take off just after I got to the bus stop), I walked into the village to the little church and the graveyard where Brother Roger and other brothers are buried.

"Another place I spent a lot of time in was the 'Exposition' — the shop where the brothers display and sell things they have made — pottery, art works, cards, music, books. The revenue from these sales is what funds the community, which does not accept donations.

"A favourite thing of mine was the bells (a row of five above one of the buildings); not just to hear them but to see them swinging as we walked from the dormitory or the garden to the church.

"One of the hardest things to put into words is the experience of being in the church. So many things are indescribably beautiful: the orange 'sails' that soar into the sanctuary; the ingenious honeycomb-like sanctuary structure with a candle in each opening, and the sight of someone putting out each of the many candies one by one at the end of the service; the column of white-robed brothers processing into and out of the church; the voices of the brothers, solo and in chorus, and the female solo voices; the words of the songs and the sound of us all singing them; the silence at the end, when those of us who can't bear to leave have stayed sitting or kneeling on the little wooden stools, the brothers and most of the others have gone, the candles are out and the singing has finally stopped…

"And like bookends to the four days, the arriving and not knowing what to expect, unable to believe you are actually there, and then the leaving, with such memories, only being able to bear it because of the parting message of the brothers that it would be OK to leave, even though we might not think so: "It's OK: go back to your Galilee. Il est l… (He is there)", and the lovely bus ride through the hills and villages."

Our own son, John, has been to Taizé a number of times and attests to the wonderful 'spirit' of internationality of it all. Surely the spirit of relationship, of diversity, of the gospel message being communicated in many languages reveals God's Holy Spirit at work!

I would also like us to see God's Holy Spirit at work in the wider world and particularly in the steps towards healing and reconciliation between the traditional Aboriginal owners and inhabitants of Australia and the non Aboriginal latecomers! Remembering that aboriginal culture and presence can be traced back over 100,000 years!

It would seem to me that God has been prompting us over many years to bring justice to the Aboriginal people and that the events observed this week — the anniversary of the referendum including aboriginal people in the Australian census, the week of prayer for reconciliation with aboriginal people, and the observance of Sorry Day, when we reflect on and apologize for the stolen generations and separation of so many families.

This Pentecost, may God's Holy Spirit make the Peace of Christ real and give us a closeness to God, unify our diversity, and help our communication of the Gospel of Peace.