Pentecost Sermon by Jane Barnicoat-Chongwe.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost… the coming down of the Holy Spirit.. the breath of God, breathed upon the people of the world.
Pentecost is both an auditory and a visual experience. Both wind and fire are associated with God’s self revelation. Particularly apt for the coming of the Spirit. Wind both in Hebrew and Greek is closely associated with `spirit’ (wind often being described as the breath of God). The image of fire, links to the work of judgement….. whilst the metaphor of tongues… links with the fact that the result of this appearance of divine power is inspired speech.
In Luke’s account written in the book of Acts.. we are told ALL OF THEM WERE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Parthians, Medes, Jews, Asians, Egyptians, in today's world we might say, peoples of all faiths or none. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Last week Fr John reminded us of how we today are as much part of the events of Ascension and Pentecost as the Apostles and those present were, over two thousand years ago. I have been thinking about just how we see and hear the Holy Spirit working in the world today.
A quick internet search under the heading ‘in the spirit of kindness’ …. Reveals the many and varied ways in which kindness can be shared….. Kindness is simply an act of goodness. An act of Love… ….. hold that thought for now..
As we return to the events of Ascension day, we recall Jesus, ascending into heaven, returning to his Father, And if you use a little imagination here, imagine a simplified version of the events of Ascension and Pentecost, perhaps written as a story to be shared with young children. Just Imagine the setting, Jesus is back home… sitting with his Father and they are chatting about the journey that Jesus has just returned from… What stories Jesus has, first hand accounts, no fake news here, Jesus is sharing the facts with his Father, of all that’s happening down on planet earth.
I venture here to suggest that God had probably already been pondering on all that’s happening to the planet and the people of the world. God would have known that with Jesus back in heaven, it would take something pretty powerful to make sure the people on earth did not lose their way entirely…!
And so at Pentecost as people gathered in Jerusalem, suddenly for just a short while, a new togetherness prevailed… we read of tongues of fire, perhaps a great explosion of sound, a great wind, blowing through the temple and the courtyards, and then suddenly, everyone looks around and they see a likeness in each other, they understand each other, the people literally became as one, it doesn’t last very long, but it showed those present, just how very different their lives could be. How, no matter where we are from or what religion we follow, we are all the same, all one, all God’s people.
The Tongues of fire, could well be described as that (moment of judgement) that wake up call… a moment to pause and reflect on past deeds as well as words spoken…
Back to the present day, the internet is full of fake news, and yes some truths.. and that sharing of news, true or fake has recently included possible reasons for the coming of the coronavirus….
I have read….. God has had enough! God has called time on us all! some say the virus is man made, others believe it to be heaven sent?
And what about the affects on the planet? Less planes in the sky, fewer factories turning out deadly emissions, less people on the roads and on public transport and for a time fewer people visiting our beaches and green spaces.
So is it all part of God’s plan? maybe? but maybe not! Because as we know, God our Heavenly Father is a generous and kind God and he has always given mankind a pretty free hand, when it comes to managing our planet, most things that happen in the world today can after all be attributed to the activities of humankind.
But what we can be certain of is that YES God is still very present in the world and God is still sending his Holy Spirit down into the world. That Holy Wind, that Heavenly Breath… AND IT FINDS ITS HOME IN US… God’s people.
We were reminded of that in our reading from Acts… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
And if you want to for a moment think of some true news that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic…. Surely it has to be the many acts of kindness, the coming together of strangers, volunteering to help our health and care providers, those helping to pick vegetables, food banks and catering establishments providing food and free meals for the most vulnerable and the weekly clap for carers, another moment of coming together, a moment of recognition.. of giving thanks..
So yes, thank goodness, God is with us in many ways, seen and unseen. God is at work amongst us as we live through these uncertain times… and God is with us, because the Holy Spirit dwells within us….. all we need to do is to acknowledge and to recognise the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.
When we speak, we should speak as Jesus speaks, with words of kindness and with love, it does not matter who our neighbour is, or where they come from , what faith they follow, because we are all the same, we are all God’s people.
In the month ahead the Winchester Diocese is leading an initiative called Generous June.. and its aims to make us think about acts of kindness and generosity, of things that we can do, perhaps supporting our Church and its mission, or it might be a charity we can be support, nationally or internationally, this was touched on in a recent edition of our Locked in Newsletter..
And yes its easy to think, OOH I already do my bit, I am on a limited budget, I can’t get out at the moment…. the excuses can be endless..
And yet the act of kindness and of generosity can be anything at all, it might be a kind word, a small donation, a conversation, a chat with with a friend or neighbour, an acknowledgement of a difficult situation.. what ever we can do.. when we do it with a good heart and a right spirit…. We do it for God and for each other….
Kind and generous spirits coming together, speaking together as one, will bring us closer to God’s heavenly kingdom.
So this Pentecost as ALL are filled with the Holy Spirit…..let us pray that together with all peoples in all places… Thy Kingdom Come. Thy Will be done.