Peonies are called Pentecost roses - Pfingstrosen - in German. This is their time of year in Europe - even if Pentecost is a very moveable feast. They are one of my favourite flowers - those pictured here are some rather girly pink ones, blousey and over blown but still glorious and perfumed. The petals gradually drifted down onto the table, perfect Holy Spirit roses.
I've been having my usual semi heretical theological thoughts about the Holy Spirit at this time of year - in my second year of ministry in the north of France I famously preached on "La Sainte Esprit" and the congregation were not sure until half way through the sermon whether my French was having a seriously off day or quite what I was up to. Pentecost surely has to be the time for surprises, joy and transformation, and in my book a bit of fun too.
My heretical thoughts this year are partly generated by the retirement party of a good friend this week. Yvette will be much missed on the worship committee of the ecumenical centre and many other aspects of the centre's life (we even wrote her a special psalm). She's simply a wonderful person who gets things done.
Thinking about how to say thank you to you Yvette on behalf of the worship committee a line from a song came into my mind. Not a holy song from Thuma Mina or Agape or any other hymnbook but a rather saucy ditty from Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma which starts “I’m just a girl who can’t say no …”So I've been thinking about the Spirit as the naughty girl of the Trinity the one who doesn't say no - I am sure of course that this is not at all appropriate for the serious theologian that I am not. I think what I like about the idea is that it puts something of the playfulness of the Spirit back into the personality of God. It also puts something of the idea of trangressing boundaries, pushing against norms and calling to a very different way of being.
I suppose I thought of that because for the handful of us still left on the worship committee you have been the person who says yes, often even before the question has been asked.
In my heretical way, I suspect that God’s energetic, creative, comforting, gentle, challenging, spirited Ruach is actually also in part “just a girl who can’t say no…”
Tomorrow morning I shall lead worship here in Ferney as four of our young people ask to be confirmed. They have chosen Bible passages and written confessions of faith that are personal and hearltfelt, something of the Spirit of Christ has touched them, my hope is that the same spirit may continue to help each of them say yes to life and faith as they move through life.
Googling "I'm just a girl who can't say no" I came across not only a load of Youtube renditions of the song but also some interesting academic articles on women and obedience, women and saying yes and no
These results are discussed in terms of their implications for reassessing the role of refusals to resolve some of the contradictions around expectations of obedience and assertiveness, while recognizing the interests which benefit from keeping girls and women obedient.So does the naughty girl Spirit encourage us to be obedient or assertive? Which form of repentance and conversion does the Spirit encourage in you in your context today - resistance or submission? (Interesting that the French title of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers is Résistance et soumission - resistance and submission)
So as I pray "come Holy Spirit" I shall pray for a greater spirit of resistance for those who are too obedient and that the great Ruach may grant all of us discernment about what we are to say yes and no to in life.