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2018 - From our Priest (Pentecost sermon)

Well today is Pentecost, when we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit, descending up the disciples after Jesus had ascended into heaven to be with the Father.
As Christians, today is a day we should get really excited about, because without the Holy Spirit there would be no sacraments, no Christians, no church. If there was a church it would probably be a few frightened, inward looking people who gather together in secret. The gospel wouldn’t have got very far in the world. In fact, we would as this small insignificant body, be a bit like a group of lost children, who take comfort from the stories of Jesus in the gospels, but at the same time feel a bit lost without the physical presence of Jesus to guide us and lead us.
Thankfully, this is not so. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon those disciples, which we hear about in our reading from Acts, was an act of empowerment from God. If you like to kick start those first Christians into action, so that they were able to do God’s work on this earth and establish the church as the Body of Christ on this earth. The Spirit of Pentecost was the electric current to get things moving and it happened in a dramatic way.
As we hear:
‘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.’
The speaking in different languages wasn’t just to be impressive, but rather indicated that the church would become a universal church, which the disciples would take to all nations, peoples and tongues. They now had a strength, power and confidence which they never could have imagined only a few minutes before.
And it didn’t just stop there. Throughout the ages the Holy Spirit has given God’s people the boldness and courage to live the Christian faith and evangelise the world.                  Bit of a wow factor there!
The act of Pentecost was very powerful and dramatic and we may say many great Christians, saints, martyrs, have done a fantastic job. Many thanks to them for getting us to where we are!  But it doesn’t just stop there, because the Holy Spirit is not elite and selective for a small special group of people. The Holy Spirit is for all who believe and follow Jesus. That’s hopefully us here today.
As Jesus says in John’s Gospel:
‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all 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, I will take what is mine and declare it to you.’

Great words of encouragement that Jesus leaves his followers to hang on to and remember. Great words of encouragement for us for we are his followers today.
The Holy Spirit, in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, may have come down upon the disciples in dramatic fashion and we might think, ‘Well I’ve never had tongues of fire resting on me, driving me out and speaking different languages.’
But the Spirit of Pentecost comes to us in all ways.

In the bible the Spirit is represented as Fire, Wind or Rain. If we haven’t had a dramatic Holy Spirit experience like those disciples, it doesn’t mean the Spirit has not and does not work in us to further God’s work in the world.
Fire for instance can be a fierce and raging inferno, or it can be just a spark or a gentle flicker. Wind can be gale force, or it may just be a gentle breeze on our foreheads. Rain may be a torrential storm or more like a gentle dew or a few refreshing drops of rain that land on us.
All are different expressions of the same thing.
Perhaps we have had an all of a sudden experience of the Holy Spirit, not so far removed from those first disciples experience. Or maybe it has just worked in us gradually over the years. Or possibly we don’t realise the Holy Spirit has touched us at all. But that doesn’t mean to say it hasn’t.
The Holy Spirit is for all who believe in Jesus. As Jesus says:
               ‘Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me
                                will also do the works that I do,
                   and in fact will do greater works than these.’

Really! Is that too beyond us?
Well not if we believe in the Lord and praise his Holy name.
Not if we rejoice in our relationship with Jesus who is in the Father, and the Father in Him. And if we open our eyes to that mystery of God that comes to us in the power of the Spirit, because Jesus died for us and kept his promise, for the people he loves.
In Him our hearts can never be troubled. And we need never be afraid.

Fr Carl Peters

     The Clergy House
     Sawmill Lane,
     Brandon
     Durham
     DH7 8NS

     Tel: 0191 680 3875


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