Pentecost 2015

Sermon: PENTECOST 2015

Date: 24th May 2015

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar Date: Pentecost Sunday

Liturgical Reading: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:26-36, 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13, John 15:26-27, 16.4b-15

Two Sundays ago, on the front of the pew sheet there was a tree with the words around it in a circle saying: ‘In Jesus, Go deep, Grow strong, Bear fruit.’

And you may remember that I suggested you put it next to your kettle so you can read it, starting with a different word: Go deep, Grow strong, Bear fruit, In Jesus…etc

Jonathan did as his wife said J and put it by the kettle and I have for the past two weeks been reading these eight words and they are sinking in!

In our liturgical year, after today, the Day of Pentecost, we now move into the days after Pentecost… a period of time, taking us right through to Advent. These days can be known as days after Trinity or ‘ordinary time’ as our colour will change to green…and really it’s more than ordinary because we continue to learn more about who Jesus is and who we are meant to be as a result.

‘Grow strong, Bear fruit, In Jesus, Go deep.’

So here we are on the Day of Pentecost.  Pentecost is observed by us Christians, and is associated with the Jewish observation of Shavu’ot. A festival occurring fifty days after the first day of Passover, traditionally this was when the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the Temple. It also commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses, and the day’s reading in the synagogue included the Ten Commandments.

During one such festival, according to the account given in Acts chapter 2, Jesus’ disciples were gathered together when there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, tongues of flames appeared to touch each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

We know this story well…and the result was that they could be understood in their own native tongue…it was as if the reverse was happening from the story of the tower of babel, in which human ambition resulted in the collapse of the tower and the breakdown of communication: (Gen 11:1-9)

The Holy Spirit, or paraclete, or Advocate (each are the names given to the spirit) was there from the beginning, breathing new life and a new way of creation being together through love.

Like many of the stories in the New Testament about who Jesus is, what he did, how people related to him, can often be only an intellectual exercise working out the context, the translations from Greek or Aramiac, and so we make an academic statement of faith…rather than anything by way of feelings.  The Christian faith is about relationships.  Ours with God and with each other.

Many people are afraid of showing their feelings…we might get too excited by our faith in God! We might start to want to whistle a hymn around the house! Or start praying and sharing our feelings with God..‘thanks God for being here… I’m feeling so full of joy and love I want to burst!’ I want to yell out ‘thank you, thank you’.  Can us fairly conservative Anglicans really do this? If you are saying to yourself ‘You won’t catch me doing that’ I would ask…well, why not you?’  What stops you?

‘Bear fruit, In Jesus, Go deep, Grow strong’

When we read this passage and others about the day that fledgling church began, when the disciples were frightened, felt abandoned, coming to terms that one of their close friends betrayed Jesus,..and now are in fear of their lives…I wonder if we can sense for ourselves any of their experience?

When that Spirit blew in, it wooshed away their fears!

This rocked their socks!  Whatever happened that day in that locked room changed them.

I’m sure you have experienced the Holy Spirit in your lives. Maybe not in such dramatic ways (but maybe!) but most often in very subtle, ordinary ways. The Spirit makes you bold; stand up for what is right, have courage and resilience in the face of difficulties. The Spirit helps us know that God is our companion.

I wonder if you can name a time when you knew the Spirit was with you? That it impacted your life in some way…maybe it was through nature; or an experience during worship: your confirmation; maybe you were reading the stories about Jesus and you suddenly realized he was really who he said he was! Maybe it was a time of great challenge and there was a sign that confirmed to you about your direction in life.

I’m sure Sue and Andrew Flint as they hold their first grandchild will be filled with awe, wonder and love at this miracle of life!  Is that not the spirit moving in them?  Will that not change them?

At the funeral on Friday for Marj Pitt, we heard many stories of her love and devotion, her knitting, (here is one she made), a quiet willing worker, her non judgmental attitude to parents who forgot the time to pick up their children from school…those stories moved me…her faith…moved me. ..isn’t that the Spirit working and changes me?

It’s the Spirit that changes us… makes our hearts grow big!

Let me give a simple explanation of the action of the Holy Spirit in a simply analogy.

Here in my hand I have a few small corn kernels: they are closed, tight and hard. You can fit them in a small space.

They remind me of the first disciples: although they had witnessed the resurrection, encountered the risen Christ and seen firsthand the power of God, they remained small, frightened, unsure and (literally) dis-spirited as that sat together in the place they were staying.

You now need to use your imagination!  I am putting them into a popcorn machine!…

To these small items, we add something powerful: the word of the Holy Spirit: a mighty wind (pretend I have turned on the machine!) and we begin to see a transformation: we cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the action she has on the disciples.

(The corn begins to pop… pop… pop)  an explosion of energy! A rapid expansion!

Beyond the confines of the upper room and into the world, the disciples are no longer tight, hard, withdrawn, but open, fluffy, delightful! *

Some are spread far and wide into the world as the Holy Spirit brings Christ very present in their midst and they go out to love and service the Lord.

The Holy Spirit is here with us today and every day, and can transform you and me in equally dynamic ways as we have seen. The Holy Spirit can take any inner hardness, reticence, fear and doubt and help us to be open, fulfilled, released into the world to make a difference.

We then see the world differently.  We let our feelings come to the fore… rather than keeping them locked away because of  fear.  Knowledge is good but we need the connection of both head and heart.

The Psalmist wrote: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8)

For it is through experience, not deduction or logic that we know this to be true.

Taste and see, and you will know that by the work of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed, we are like those first disciples; we are bursting with the energy and the love of God.

(eat popcorn) we have tasted, and we know.(yum!) Come Holy Spirit. Come-

‘In Jesus, Go deep, Grow strong, Bear fruit’           The Lord be with you.