Readings And Sermons or Talks

This week’s Prayers and Readings :

The Collect for Pentecost Sunday

Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire; strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The Post Communion Prayer for this Sunday

Faithful God, who fulfilled the promises of Easter by sending us your Holy Spirit and opening to every race and nation the way of life eternal: open our lips by your Spirit, that every tongue may tell of your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 104, verses 25 – 35

Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. 31 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; may the Lord rejoice in his works— 32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. 35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord! 

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and shall be forever. Amen

The First reading for this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2 verses1-21

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.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13 But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is the Word of the Lord Thanks be to God

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is taken from the Gospel according to to St John, Chapter 15, verses 26 – 27 and Chapter 16, verses 4 to 15

Hear the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, according to John Praise to You, o Lord !

‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the 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. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

This is the Gospel of the Lord Praise to You, o Christ

The sermon this week is delivered by Rev. Chich Hewitt

There was a story I was told about a regular prayer meeting attended by a stranger. During the time of prayer he offered a prophetic word, saying it was important to obey local leadership as it had been set in place by God. the message was sound and accorded with scripture; yet somehow those in charge had an uneasy feeling about this message. It transpired that this person was a kind of loose canon, who moved around, under authority to nobody, and could be a disturbing presence.

I may also have mentioned the story of a church member with a ;pantechnicon’ ministry. This term is used in South Africa describing a large furniture removal van. The town where this happened, Welkom, is a gold mining town where there was a lot of movement of people. Moving is always unsettling, even if there are new opportunities involved. This parishioner would watch out for removal vans, and visit the family, welcoming them to the town, and saying there was a church community which would also welcome them.

There is a common thread to both these stories. Both involve spiritual gifts, one mentioned in scripture and the other not. The first involving a seemingly correct message coming from a suspect character involves the gift of ‘discerning of spirits’ mentioned in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12. There are no ‘pantechnicons’ in the Bible, yet this man was exercising a gift, as a Christian and a member of a congregation. This gift could probably be aligned with that of ‘service’, mentioned in Romans Chapter 12.

I will return to the Gifts of the Spirit, but let us look at their origins - the Holy Spirit whose special day it is today. Acts 2 is a frequently told story and we will have heard it many times. Those in the upper room experienced a mighty wind, and something likes tongues of fire. The wind represents power as might bring movement to a becalmed yacht in the ocean. Fire represents warmth and comfort, but also cleansing and purifying, as would happen to dross being removed in the making of steel. Both wind and fire out of control can be devastating. We have just finished reading a book on the cataclysmic forest blaze which destroyed the town of Fort MacMcMurray in 2016. Ironically this was a town whose function was to produce oil from tar-sands, contributing to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere which results in the new phenomenon of fire tornadoes. The Holy Spirit is a person whose presence we do not pay enough attention to, but whom we can abuse as a person of the Trinity with terrible effect. So do we shy away from the Spirit as a person to be avoided, and continue with a mundane faith, or do we engage with a person who can be unpredictable. Only a couple of days ago I was listening to a speaker who was referring to what is sometimes called the Gentile Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on Gentiles to whom Peter was speaking. This lesson was read only a couple of weeks ago. Normally in church life, people come to faith and seek baptism. In this case God’s Spirit had his or her own ideas. The Spirit came down on those listening to Peter preaching about Jesus, and then they were baptised! Peter had to justify what he had done before the church assembly in Jerusalem. This faith, they taught, was only for the people of Israel. God had other ideas.

There is one further aspect I wish to mention about Pentecost before returning to the Gifts of the Spirit. Much of Christianity is now celebrating ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ in this period between Ascension and Pentecost which is a wonderful new development. But what of the feast of Pentecost itself?

In other Anglican - in fact Christian - traditions, including the one in which I grew up, Pentecost was celebrated with an Octave. Like Easter, the day of Pentecost was followed by a week of celebration or at least a series of Bible readings relating to the power and work of the Holy Spirit. In the Church of England we seem to prepare tentatively for Pentecost, but after it comes we drop it like a hot potato. The Alleluias drop out of the liturgies from tomorrow onwards. How much does our thinking reflect our liturgy or in turn, how much does our liturgy inform our thinking? Do we want to celebrate the Holy Spirit or do we want to move on? Whatever the case, if we try to move on without the power of the Spirit not much will happen.

Think of that early group of believers in the upper room. They had witnessed the joy of meeting the risen Lord, which would in its own right have been enough to proclaim to others. But the proclamation began after the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them. Time and time again this has been the case in the history of the church. At our discussion during the Coffee Morning last Tuesday the Moravian Church came up. That group of dispirited refugees formed a worshipping fellowship, but it was only after an event in the 1730s, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the community at worship that a movement began which punched far above its weight. The earliest Dutch settlers in South Africa came with chaplains to minister to their needs. The first missionary outreach in South Africa was Moravian. A small gathering of believers in Topeka, in the state of Kansas, experienced the Spirit’s power on New Year’s Day, 1901. This and a subsequent meeting 5 years later in LA is considered to be the start of the most rapidly growing Christian moment today, namely Pentecostalism.

The Holy Spirit is key to the growth of the Church. Next week is Trinity Sunday, and of course there can be no growth without the loving presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet I still think we shy away from being in the presence of the Spirit, whose activity and path we cannot predict or determine. ‘The wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’

The celebration of the Holy Spirit is not a one day event, or even a week-long event. It needs to be a continuing endeavour. Waiting upon the Spirit in prayer is essential. Yet there is another way of engaging with the Spirit and that is to find out more about how the Spirit operates in our lives and in the world. And so I return to the gifts. These are considered different from the fruit of the Spirit, although there is a common element to both - Love. The gifts without love are like that noisy gong or clanging cymbal. But surely we need to find out more about the gifts of the Spirit and what it is individuals and fellowships could and should manifest. In past years I have led a series on the gifts of the Spirit and am open to that again.

In the early years of the Renewal Movement within mainline churches during the 60s and 70s, there was enormous interests in the 9 gifts of the Spirit outlined in Chapter 12 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. These include some of the more dramatic gifts like healing, prophecy and tongues. Discernment of spirits is another, and I gave an example of this when I began. While mentioning healing, we have renewed our oils in Holy Week, so who not consider the laying on of hands, accompanied by anointing. It is advocated in the last Chapter of the letter of James.

But there are further lists such as those in Romans Chapter 12 and Ephesians, Chapter 4. The author of a book which I have found helpful has said that he has found 27 gifts in the pages of scripture, and has suggested that this need not be exhaustive. There is room for the man with the Pantechnicon ministry! There is no hierarchy of gifts and so hospitality and helping rate as importantly as those in the 1 Corinthians list. Paul stressed this in his discussion on parts of the body. It is also vital to remember that as Paul discusses these in Chapters 12 and 14, he devotes the whole in-between Chapter 13 to the subject of Love. That is deliberate and not some sidetrack.

When I was first ordained it was at the height of the Renewal Movement, and I have seen some bizarre things in and beyond worship where I believe the gifts of the Spirit have been abused. I have also witnessed things which can only suggest that the Spirit was at work, accompanied by enthusiasm and expectation. While being critical of the way we spend one day on the Holy Spirit, i believe our liturgy teaches us something good. AfterTrinity Sunday we enter the long Trinity Season, where the liturgical colour is green. We miss the point if we think this is a boring period of marking time. It is a time when we have to consider our growth in the faith, and the colour of green is deliberate. Perhaps this is a good year to grow in our understanding, and experience, of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

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