Sunday  23 May – Pentecost


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.

Collect

Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and renew the face of the earth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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First Reading

Acts 2.1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.  And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in their native language.  Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’  All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’  But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.  And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.  The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.  Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” ’

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 Gospel

John 15.26-27; 16.4b-

Jesus spoke to his disciples:  ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.  You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.  I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.  I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.  Nevertheless I tell you the truth:  it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement:  about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.  I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine.  For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’

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 Post Communion Prayer

Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation
the way of life eternal:
open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Sermon

During the past few weeks, the weather conditions in this part of the world, have taught us quite literally what is meant by rushing mighty wind.  It didn’t herald the coming of God quite as much as the coming of a mighty, rushing rain.

Weather which is usually benign even when windy and cold and wet, can become quite frightening if it reaches extremes. Wind, for instance, can move through all stages from a gentle breeze to a towering hurricane, when it becomes utterly terrifying. Similarly, sun is wonderful up to certain temperatures, but anything above that becomes quite horrendous.

Although we may be able to accurately forecast the weather for a few days ahead, we can’t yet do more than that. Long-range forecasts are not yet very reliable and the longer the range the more we can only talk in terms of general weather patterns rather than specific conditions.  And we certainly can’t tame the weather. So although we may go for months or even years feeling that the weather is almost under our control, it has the capacity to surprise as at any time and to produce freak weather conditions which are almost always dangerous for someone.

No wonder then that in Old Testament times, God was associated with unusual weather conditions. In the very first story in Genesis, God’s spirit is associated with wind, for we’re told that the Spirit of God breathed over the waters and Creation began (Genesis 1:1-2).

Later, in Exodus, Moses became aware of God’s presence through a bush which appeared to be on fire but which wasn’t burning up (Exodus 3:1-6). And these two natural phenomena of fire and wind were associated from then on with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.

Perhaps weather sums up how we might feel about God. The varying weather conditions of sun and rain and so on are necessary for our very existence, and we can usually live comfortably within our weather conditions, just as God is necessary for our existence and we usually live comfortably with him. But we can never control our weather just as we can never control God, and occasionally we glimpse the weather’s terrifying power, just as occasionally we’re brought face to face with God’s overwhelming power.

When Jesus emerged as a new religious leader, it became very clear even during his lifetime that he was very special indeed. But it was after his death and resurrection that people began to realise quite how special he was. All the gospels were written some years after the death of Jesus, and St. John’s gospel was written several years after Jesus had died. And so St. John’s gospel incorporates several  years’ reflection on the meaning of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus clearly identifies himself with God and talks about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of truth, says Jesus, and will guide the followers of Jesus into all truth. And that truth is from both Jesus and from God, for Jesus and God are synonymous, “All that the Father has is mine,” says Jesus, “…he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Perhaps Jesus’ friends didn’t expect the arrival of the Holy Spirit to be quite so powerful. Although they’d seen glimpses of Jesus’ power, particularly in his healing ability, they hadn’t seen power unleashed to quite this degree. The coming of the Holy Spirit on this one special occasion was accompanied by wind and fire to show quite clearly that it was from God, and the effect was intoxicating. So much so, that the onlookers accused the recipients of the Holy Spirit of being drunk.

The Holy Spirit is the God within every human being, and is accessible to every human being. The Holy Spirit, the God within, is still full of power. There is immense potential within each one of us to move mountains, to achieve the impossible, to rise above ourselves and to become glorious, just as Jesus promised.

It is quite possible for any and every human being to tap into that power of the Holy Spirit and to use it both for themselves and for humanity in general. But the difficulty is that tapping into God’s power means relinquishing control.  Those who wish to avail themselves of God’s power can no longer be like the onlookers, trying to control what they don’t understand in order to make it more manageable.

I came across this poem, I don’t know who wrote it, I’m afraid, but to me it captures something of the essential qualities of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit, the God within, can be described like this:

The light is abundant
Omni directional in nature
It has no point of focus, it has no source
It is within and without
Everlasting, ever giving,
Encouraging, nurturing
And always leading the way.
The light can be found in only one place.
In no church, in no steeple,
On no sacrificial altar,
In no circle, in no stone
In no tree or sacred grotto.
The light exists in one place only –
In the heart of every man and woman
Who has the wisdom
And knows to seek it there

May God continue to grant us wisdom to seek and be attentive to the promptings of his Holy Spirit.

Amen