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Pentecost

It seems that the American bulldog frog is driving our native species into extinction.  Sold by countless garden centres all over the country our American immigrant is bigger, more powerful and has a voracious appetite for all the food of the native variety.  Our native bulldog frog doesn't have a chance, so, the message goes, please don't buy the American one for your pond.

It's a familiar story.  Many people oo and ah over squirrels.  There are plenty around here and we often see them in our garden, including eating the food on our bird table.  The trouble is the only squirrels you see now are the grey squirrel.  The smaller and far prettier native English red squirrel is almost extinct.  Driven out by its more powerful and grasping immigrant.

It's not that there is anything wrong with the American bulldog frog or with the grey squirrel.  They are highly successful species.  It's just that they are too successful.  Too powerful and they drive others away.

I think there are lessons here on this Pentecost Sunday.  For today we celebrate the gifts of God's Holy Spirit.  The miserable disciples, feeling frightened and alone had shut themselves away .  Suddenly there came from heaven the rush of a violent wind.  And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.  Straightway they went out and started telling others the good news of God and Peter gave a most famous sermon.   They were filled with enthusiasm and confidence on that first Pentecost.  But we should remember that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are many and various and not all of them are noisy or strident.  That's a mistake the charismatic movement sometimes has made..  For the gifts of the spirit are also gentleness and peace, self control, tolerance, wisdom.

It's very easy for the more strident gifts to make the gentler gifts disappear.  Its very easy for dominant individuals to ride roughshod over the gifts of others and drive their gifts and sometimes them far away.  Sensitivity, living together in community, making allowances for one another's gifts and talents - all these are important even if it means you can't always have things your own way.

So, one question we should ask is "In exercising our gifts are we making it harder for others to exercise theirs?"  "Are we sensitive enough to one another's gifts, encouraging the quieter as well as the noisier gifts so that all can work together?"

There is another and rather different danger also highlighted by recent news.  It seems that in many international races the organisers try to stop Kenyans from competing.  It's nothing to do with racialism as such or the fact that they are black.  It to do with the fact that they nearly always win.  In Kenya there are few cars.  Children have to walk or more often run for miles to go to school.  They do not eat many fatty foods.  They are fit and naturally trained from childhood and used to high altitude.  In short they are superb athletes.  And athletics organisers find that sponsors much prefer it if their own nationals win.  There are few if any Kenyan sponsors.  So they try and discourage Kenyans from entering because they are so good.

That also is surely wrong.  Its nothing to do with unfair advantage unlike the American bullfrog or the grey squirrel.  But everything to do with talents and effort.  So also with the Holy Spirit.  We should not resent it when other people have particular gifts, including highly successful ones.  We shouldn't try to drive them out believing in mediocrity.  God has given all gifts to be used and he used the gifts of the apostles spectacularly on that first Pentecost.

Two dangers then, both different, in some ways opposites.  But both reminding us that the Spirit blows where it wills but needs us to facilitate it.  For Pentecost is not imposed on human kind.  It is rather a most precious gift of God, given to us to enable us to live up to our calling.  As with any other gifts we can ignore or misuse or spoil.  Today we resolve to do none of these things, but accept God's gift of the spirit with gratitude and remember that in his wisdom he gives us all different gifts.  We resolve to try to help each other recognise and use our gifts whatever they may be.  For God needs them all for his kingdom to grow and we are all important.  "It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that shows we are children of God."