Sermon for PENTECOST (Whit Sunday) Sunday 27 May 2012
Sermon preached by Fr John Pritchard
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Spirit of God is a gift to us, which can work within us, and bring us through our discipline of prayer and reflection to become more like that which Christ intends for us. The Spirit of God persuades us, to become imitators of Christ if only we can make space to listen, time to be persuaded.
For it seems to me, that the Spirit’s outworking in us, with us, is not a foregone conclusion simply because of our Baptism. The Spirit of God is at work, but it is also for us as followers of Christ to be obedient and open to the mystery of God’s will, which will take us to unexpected, perhaps even uncomfortable places, yet, will lead us to reflect, I hope that in Christ (over our lifetime) we are already being transformed from Glory into Glory through God’s kindness, mercy and love towards us.
I think we have to say every day, “Come Holy Ghost, our Souls inspire”, just as often as we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done”.
It was pointed out to me some weeks ago, that there isn’t an explicit reference to the Holy Spirit in this Church as you might see an oversized Dove in another more typical parish church. If this is correct, it is perhaps because, even this architecture, this decoration recognises that the Spirit of God has been given to us, to dwell within us, not something for us to gawp at and see out there. Just as the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood in this Holy Eucharist, is given to dwell physically within us, that we might contemplate our intimacy with God and his transforming power, as God, through his Son, knows intimacy with his created order. So the invocation “Come Holy Ghost, our Souls inspire” reflects a deep and ancient desire amongst the people of God, to be the followers of Christ and through his Holy Spirit, to be willingly and intimately, quietly, and rightly inspired, that we might through his life, give glory to God in our generation, even raise up our generation to be more Christ-like in its nature.
The Acts of the Apostles account of Pentecost reminds us of the opportunity given to the early church and to ourselves to build bridges with strangers, to make connections with God and with one another and to continue the mission and work of Christ. For just as The Spirit of
God, passed over the waters at creation bringing order out of chaos, so in the early church, God’s Holy Spirit brought order and purpose. For in that first century, a church made up of a myriad of different tongues, and peoples, yet, through a gift of God, was a church able to communicate, to build relationships one with another and all this, because of their shared and common faith in the Risen and ascended Lord.
Pentecost is a gift of God which allowed them to begin fulfil his command given at the end of Matthews Gospel to make disciples to the end of the earth, to make disciples of all nations.
As Archbishop Rowan puts it, “at Pentecost God makes connections. It is the Holy Spirit that connects us with Jesus and through Jesus to God the Father. It is the Holy Spirit that brings communion, relationship between
Christian believers; it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the words we speak to God in prayer, so St Paul tells us. And it’s the Holy Spirit that helps us communicate effectively, Christianly with one another; The Holy Spirit that gives us the words to share good news with one another and even to take that good news into environments which are strange and unfamiliar to us.” And through the Holy Spirit, we are commissioned bearers of that Good News.
The context of our faith doesn’t change at Pentecost, it is still through the Risen Lord that we find our purpose and life. But now it is through God’s Holy Spirit, that we are given the means by which we are enthused to relate to one another. As a community of faith in W1, we are the successors to the early church, who gather around the risen Christ.
And unlike an Olympic fire, ignited every four years, God’s Holy fire,
his Holy Spirit which illuminates the world, and his people with a passion and a hope beyond all telling, has burned as brightly since the dawn of all
creation as it does in his church today, through you and me.
It might be for some, even for many years, a gentle and dim fire burning within us, but the gift of the Holy Spirit which we have received at our baptism and which is renewed in us every day of our lives, is powerful. It is God’s blessing towards us, not witnessed out of any madness or drunkenness, but by our simply recognition of the generous and uncontainable outpouring of God’s love towards his creation, of which we are all recipients, and though which we are to be inspired to love one and other and share that love abroad.
Pentecost or Whit Sunday, (to give it its old English title) is about us getting on with the task of sharing the Good News of God’s kingdom, and God’s Holy Spirit is to animate us, as it did the early church, to stand on two feet as God’s people.
You know that the church began so very simply, in frailty and weakness. No property, no buildings, no money. Just a small group of people – so small they could all fit in one room, so small that they all knew each other’s names. By the gift of the Holy Spirit they were united in
prayer and charity, in love and faith and had a vision which went viral long
before the Internet.
Our Church grows and is sustained not by organizational structures, initiatives and membership statistics, but by those who we call its prophets, martyrs and saints – by faithful, committed people, like you and me, who seek to understand the generosity of God, and to embody in
their lives that nature.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is to inspire us, and engage us with that fire which burns inside, that through God’s Holy Spirit, not only can we be transformed, but his church and creation are to witness to a new day, where the promises of the kingdom are realized for all.
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, And lighten with celestial fire; Thou the anointing Spirit art, Who dost Thy sev’nfold gifts impart.
The gifts of the Spirit, as Thomas Aquinas recognised them are: Wisdom,
Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord. Let us receive those gifts, and practice them, so that we might through God’s Holy Spirit, transform his church, this nation and all things. To him who reigns on high, with the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be Glory and power, now and forever. Amen