On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there,
he cried out, "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
hall flow rivers of living water.'" Now he said this about the Spirit, which
believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because
Jesus was not yet glorified.
This year Pentecost and Reconciliation Sunday are both celebrated on the same day. Today, I spent some time talking with one of the many wise people in my congregation. I was reminded of my first experiences of the Spirit and how those experiences were expressed in reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. As the Holy Spirit touched peoples’ lives many who had been virtually enemies stretching back for generations were transformed by the presence of the Spirit in their lives. When I came to Australia in 1987 I was disappointed or at least I could not relate to Christians who emphasised the power of the Spirit but who seemed to have no concern for reconciliation between the Indigenous peoples of Australia and those who had come since 1788. While my experience in Ireland was one of communities being transformed by love; my sense here was that there was still a long way to go before Christians would open their eyes and hearts to the suffering of the Indigenous peoples, much of which was caused by Christians who were sure of their own rightness before God and that they held the truth and knew God’s will. So much damage has been done to others by those who claim to know God’s will and act in God’s name.
Jesus stood at the Temple at the centre of Jewish religion and instead of calling people to the Temple, he called them to himself. Jesus said,
“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.'" Jesus was referring to the Spirit.
Jesus described the experience of the Spirit to be like rivers of living water
flowing from one’s heart. I wonder what that might be like, to have river
s of living water flow out of one’s heart? My greatest experience of the Spirit
is that of being overwhelmed with love. Imagine a river of love, a river of
kindness and compassion, of understanding and acceptance, of inclusion
and oneness, of repentance and forgiveness, of grace and justice flowing
from the hearts of all people. What a wonderful world that would be -
where even enemies become reconciled, where the dispossessed are
restored to their land, where their cultures are treasured and protected,
where their spirituality and wisdom are woven into the lives and actions
of those who have dispossessed them.
May the Spirit flow like rivers of living water from all our hearts.
God of love, you are the Creator of all things.
We acknowledge the pain and shame of our history
and the sufferings of our first peoples,
and we ask your forgiveness.
We thank you for the survival of Indigenous cultures.
Our hope is in you because you gave your Son Jesus
to reconcile the world to you.
We pray for your strength and grace to forgive,
accept and love one another,
as you love us and forgive and accept us.
Give us the courage to accept the realities of our history
so that we may build a better future for our Nation.
Teach us to respect all cultures.
Teach us to care for our land and waters.
Help us to share justly the resources of this land.
Help us to bring about spiritual and social change
to improve the quality of life for all groups in our communities,
specially those disadvantaged.
Help young people to find true dignity and self-esteem by your Spirit.
May your power and love be the foundations
on which we build our families, our communities and our Nation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Wontulp Bi-Buya Indigenous Theology Working Group 13 March 1997 Brisbane, Qld).
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation