Pentecost – A Spirit-Filled Community

Collect Prayer

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.
Amen.

Reading

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2.1-13)

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.’

Homily by Nigel Blease

Today is my first sermon, it just happens to be Pentecost which was also St Peters first sermon, and we are having the service outdoors. What could possibly go wrong and no pressure then.

Joel prophesised “I will pour out my Spirit on all”.

We certainly can see and feel this in todays reading, the power of God, described as a hard gale or the blowing of a violent wind. In Hebrew the word Ruach means breath or wind, and in the old testament Ruach is used to describe the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God.

In John 14:15 Jesus promised the Holy spirit “If you love Me, you will keep My commandment. And I will ask the Father and He will give another advocate to be with you forever-the Spirit of the truth”. In the King James version “advocate “ is described as “ comforter” , I prefer this thought of the Holy Spirit as a comforter which is always there for us.

We also are told there were tongues of fire, fire from God, these are an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual reality. They represent the power purity and passion of God. If we experience the Holy Spirit, She brings a new fire and passion to our life.

In this room on the day of Pentecost, where all of this is being witnessed by the early followers of Jesus along with fellow Jews from all the regions around the Mediterranean and beyond.  They witness the tongues of fire descending from heaven, the Holy Spirit precipitates another miraculous event. The disciples begin proclaiming the good news in different languages so their fellow Jews may hear the message in their own language.

This is often interpreted as a reversal of the chaos and disunity of Babel described in “Genesis 11:1-9”. But I think the meaning is more than this, God is not speaking to us in His language but in multiple languages. God is speaking in Greek, Aramaic, and other ancient languages. This is God showing us that in our diversity we are united, despite our differences we are the same. The good news must be taken to all the peoples of the world speaking all their different languages. We must remember we are all born in the image of God, and follow the commandment to love our neighnbour. This is the mission set out for the disciples and all the early followers of Jesus. This would prove to be a great challenge which would be extremely dangerous and would ultimately topple empires. The disciples are being asked to pick up their cross and follow in the footsteps of Christ, some would be martyred for this mission.

Sometimes the Church has not been successful in this. In an interview Justin Brierley who hosts Unbelievable on Premier Christian radio was speaking with a Pastor from Uganda. The pastor was telling how in the time of Idi Amin in the 1970’s the percentage of Christians in the country dropped to only 15%. But since the fall of Amin there has been a miraculous revival in Uganda and now 85% of the country claim to be Christian. What really saddened me was that early missionaries would not allow the tribal drums in worship claiming they were evil and pagan. This did more harm than good, who is to say what is the correct way to worship God and it should be a joyous event. This may also be the case of people who attend more Charismatic churches, how would we react if someone in our congregation started speaking in tongues and was intoxicated with the Holy Spirit. Would we also be guilty of missing these miraculous signs. Christianity is very diverse; it has been estimated that there exists 31000 different denominations. What we share is so much more important than our differences.

There were three reactions to the events that unfolded in that room;

  1. Amazement
  2. Perplexity
  3. Ridicule: as humans is this not a significant flaw that even when witnessing something miraculous, we are blind to it. Things we do not understand we ridicule in our ignorance.

People mocked saying that they were filled with wine and at this point Peter starts his first sermon with an explanation of what people had witnessed. This was not intoxication with wine but sober intoxication of the Holy Spirit.  Peter full of the Holy Spirit goes back to the Old Testament, consider the quote from Joel that I started with. The Holy Spirit is the author of the word of God. The Holy Spirit brings a Hunger for the word of God.

Whilst filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter is setting out the message for the early Christians.

In a part of Acts 2 ver 22-24 after our reading:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through, him in your midst as you yourselves know- this Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God , you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death because it was not possible for him to be held by it”.

Is this not wonderful, this would have been part of the Early Christian creed that he would have shared with Paul when they met.  He is affirming the miracles of Jesus, Jesus was crucified and he conquered death and this was all part of Gods plan. Is this not truly a wonderous message for us to share with others. Peter also states in a later part of the passage that I witnessed this I confirm this is the truth.

So how can the Holy Spirit help us ; we can call on the Holy Spirit in prayer, we may approach the Holy Spirit in quiet meditation, we need to listen and trust in the Holy Spirit.  In one of the ten minute talks you will see a video on dealing with Stress. I was fortunate to do a short course with Michael on this topic and I found it really helpful in stressful situations at work . Michael encourage us to Lament to God and the Holy Spirit, share you burdens with them. I found this really therapeutic it centred me, days you anticipated as being fearful became manageable and enjoyable. I often now prey for wisdom, the courage to face difficult situations and the words to deal compassionately and truthfully with my colleagues.

Another example of the Holy Spirit at work in us I would give would be when our small group ran the service last year. Some were quite nervous about speaking or taking part in the service. Everyone took part and supported each other but I would say after everyone felt exhilarated in the experience.

A Challenge for All

At Pentecost we celebrate the disciples being given authority from God to go and spread the Good News to the ends of the earth. They were given the gifts of healing, prophesy and tongues.

Like them le us today use Pentecost as our own platform to share the good news of Christ.

 Acts 2 verse 32-36

This Jesus, God raised up , and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit he has poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says. “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet”. Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

This is our message to share we can do this in many ways; Messy Church, Job Club, SPOGS, our Online Services, Ten Minute Talks, how we lead our lives but also as simply as talking about our faith.

It is also important that we do so respectfully and compassionately, respecting people of different faiths or of no faith. We can still work at sharing the message, planting the seeds, and letting God do his work.

I recently attended an online Christian Conference; at which Tom Wright, the ex- bishop of Durham and Historian spoke. A lot of talk centred around attracting young people to Church. Part of this was about Western Christianity had watered down Christ message and thus it was no longer appealing to young people also we need to engage with young people on their own territory ie Social Media and also we should trust young people in our Church and give them challenging tasks. This seems even more pressing now post Covid.

Tom Wright emphasised that our message should be more in line with what the early Christians believed; Christ died for our sins but our aim is to create heaven on earth. Heaven Is not a distant place up in the sky but we can create it on earth by living our lives committed to Christ.

Amen

Prayers

We pray for God to fill us with his Spirit.
Generous God,
we thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit.
We ask that we may be strengthened to serve you better.
Lord, come to bless us
All   and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to make us wise to understand your will.
Lord, come to bless us
All   and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to keep us confident of your love wherever you call us.
Lord, come to bless us
All   and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness
where there is division, sickness and sorrow.
Lord, come to bless us
All   and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to equip us for the work which you have given us.
Lord, come to bless us
All   and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to reveal in our lives the love of Jesus.
Lord, come to bless us
All   and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the breath of your Holy Spirit,
given us by the risen Lord.
We ask you to keep the whole Church, living and departed,
in the joy of eternal life.
Lord, come to bless us
All   and fill us with your Spirit.

Generous God,
you sent your Holy Spirit upon your Messiah at the river Jordan,
and upon the disciples in the upper room:
in your mercy fill us with your Spirit,
All   hear our prayer,
and make us one in heart and mind
to serve you with joy for ever. Amen.

Closing Worship

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