Vicar’s Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost

Today we recall the long awaited day when Jesus’ promise to His disciples was fulfilled. Pentecost is a Greek word meaning ’50′, so we celebrate Pentecost 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. For forty days He taught and encouraged His followers, then after His Ascension they waited another ten days for His promised gift of the Holy Spirit to arrive.

So here were the same disciples who had run away when Jesus was arrested, who had been visited by Him since the resurrection, now gathered together – all in one place – with the addition, we are to understand, of Mary, the mother of Jesus, His brother James and the other women who had followed Him. They were all together, all awaiting the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon them. I wonder what exactly they were expecting – we will never know but I’m sure that when it came, it came as something of a shock.

The Holy Spirit up to this time has been variously described as a dove descending and as a wind amongst other things. There is a wonderful Iona piece that refers to the shadow of a dove flying untiring – the Holy Spirit of love, bringing healing and peace.

But here at Pentecost, we have a violent wind which filled the whole house and tongues of fire.

This is not a gentle descending of the Holy Spirit – this is whirlwind of power, which in anybody’ imagination sounds really frightening. It’s almost as if Christ were saying – “you thought the Garden of Gethsemene was scary and you all ran – well how about this?”

Here was the Holy Spirit not descending upon them gently but seemingly in a mood to disturb and to unsettle. But I think that was the intention – this time the Holy Spirit came to fill the disciples with fire – with passion – to galvanise them for the task ahead. They’d sat around long enough – now it was time to get up, get out and get on the work they’d been called to do. And the responsibility being placed upon them was awesome.

As to what it felt like being filled with the Holy Spirit in such a dramatic way, not many of us will ever be privileged enough to know.

I know I’ve referred to this before but I cannot think of a better analogy than from the film Billy Elliott – Billy went to audition for the Royal Ballet and when He was asked by the interviewing panel what it felt like inside when he danced he thought for a moment to find the right words and then he described it as being like electricity.

Electricity – passion – passion that drives the human soul. This is what filled those who gathered together in Jerusalem that day of Pentecost. Oh, if only that was what filled disciples who gather together in His name today.

As we recall the dramatic events of Pentecost, we can see the transforming power of the Spirit and the way in which He breathed new life into those who had waited.

Should we not expect and allow the gift of the Spirit of Pentecost which brought new life and vibrancy to the disciples over 2000 years ago equally to bring new life to us today? To every Christian – individual and in community – surely it’s a process which should be continuous.

At Pentecost, the boundaries of race, wealth and language were shattered. The process whereby people from all nations were to hear and connect with the Word of God began. The Holy Spirit brought connection, communication and a sense of belonging to a wider global community in Christ.

At Pentecost, the Spirit inspired and provoked the disciples to go out filled with the power and conviction to prophesy and testify in the streets of Jerusalem. And we are told that many joined their numbers as a result. I firmly believe we are called to do the same.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit united people in purpose and mission, causing them not only to witness in words, but also in their actions. We are called not only to speak, but to act each one of us using the gifts we have been so graciously given.

On that first Pentecost God sent the Holy Spirit to a community and it was with His inspiration that they went out to spread the Good News as Jesus had taught them. And through this they amazed people to such a degree that they wanted to be part of it all, they wanted to join with them and so the church grew.

Pentecost inspires us to ensure that our church is constantly fresh, vibrant, colourful and inviting.

On Wednesday we had our APCM and as we move forward into a new PCC year we might ask our selves what kind of church we want people to experience when they come here.

Are we a church where we come in humility – empty but expect to leave filled – a church where we are nurtured and nourished?

Are we a church where we come expecting to meet personally and collectively with God?

Are we a church where there is an expectancy that something will happen?

A church where every member is in fellowship with the other?

A church where people bring an excited spirit to worship?

A church where people show a hunger and passion for Christ?

A church with a totally positive attitude believing that with Christ we can do all things?

If we are to fulfil all that Christ requires of us then we must allow the Holy Spirit to be at work within us, amongst us and through us in our fellowship, in our mission and in our ministry

We are all called to be involved

We are all called to serve

We are called to make new disciples and to grow the Kingdom of God

It’s quite a task and like those first disciples we would be right to feel nervous and challenged by its  enormity!

But we can do it if we allow Him to fill us so that we are recharged, so that we too are driven by the electricity that’s inside of us, a passion which drives us on and sustains us today and every day in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen