Sunday 31st  May – Pentecost


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 the native language of each.  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 20.19-23

 It was evening on the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.  Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

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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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Pentecost – Reflection

The disciples of Jesus experienced, fifty days after his departure, a radical change in their lives.  They started – after the fire and the wind touched them and entered them – to do things that they had never done before.  The Spirit of God – that breath that proceeds from the Father, through the Son – creates and makes all things new – it makes them all that God intended them to be.  The Day of Pentecost ushered in a new age, the age of the Spirit – the age of new life – for all people.

We very often hear about beginning new eras and new periods in human life.  Real human newness cannot be a building, a landing on the moon, nor can it be a psychological theory, a new communication system, nor even a new set of laws or a more rigorous enforcement of old laws.

A real evolutionary step can only be made if attitudes change; real progress can only be made if outlooks and judgements change.  That is what happened at the moment that the Spirit of God descended, at the moment that all the disciples of Jesus became not only capable of speaking all kinds of languages, but were willing to use those languages to contact people they never would have thought of addressing before.  It happened when they went from believing in forgiveness to showing forgiveness.  It happened when they went from believing that God would protect them to actually venturing forth from the upper room into the danger filled streets of Jerusalem.  It happened when they went from thinking about what Jesus had said, to proclaiming what he said – in word – and in deed, and reaching out to heal, to serve – and to love – all those around them.

e is a mysterious moment in our all of lives – a moment when belief comes alive – a moment when our thinking about the promises that God has made becomes in us a transforming faith – a moment when ideas and concepts suddenly move our minds and our hearts, and through these, move our feet and our hands and our lips in a new and a life giving way.

That moment is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  That moment is the fruit of the Holy Spirit which now dwells in us, and seeks to bring us closer to God – and closer to one another.  For the first disciples that moment happened with a rush of wind and tongues of fire – and it still happens that way for some people.  Indeed the Spirit does all that Jesus said it would do.  It brings to mind the words of God – those words that allow us to bring real comfort to a friend who is lost – those words that allow us to really communicate forgiveness and love to someone in need – those words that convict – and exhort – and at last – when surrendered to, bring peace to the soul.

I would like to end with a story.  It is a very simple, but true story about a sheep farmer, but who could be you and me, or a thousand and one other persons.

The story is told of a sheep farmer who, during the depression, owned a sheep ranch in Texas.  He did not have enough money to continue paying the mortgage – in fact he was forced like many others to live on government subsidies.  Each day as he tended his sheep he worried about how he was going to pay his bills.  Sometime later a seismographic crew arrived on his land and said that there might be oil on his land and asked if they could they test drill.  After a lease was signed they went ahead.

At 1,115 feet, a huge oil reserve was struck.  The sheep farmer owned it all.  He had the oil and mineral rights.  He had been living from hand to mouth – yet he was a millionaire.   He owned all that oil with its tremendous potential, yet for many years he did not realize it.  How often are we like that sheep farmer?  All the while unaware of the extraordinary power that we have available to us – that which is lying just below the surface in our minds and our hearts.

It is often said that as Church we are an Easter people.  I’d like to suggest that we are a Pentecost people too.  The Spirit has been and is being poured out upon us.  The gift of God is just below the surface in our minds and hearts, and to the right and to the left of us – above us and below us – all around us.

The Spirit flows in us, and through us it flows to others.  It is like the wind, it is like the gentle flapping of a dove’s wings.  It is like fire.  It is like a river.  It is like a still small voice within.  And this is the age we are in, the new age that was born on the day of Pentecost, an age that allows for a true transformation, for a new way of living.  It allows for it – it makes it happen – it brings it to reality and all we have to do to enter that age is to reach out for it.

Amen