Pentecost (Year B)    Acts 2. 1-21     John 15.26-27 & 16. 4b-15     31 May 2009

Prayer: O God, giver of all good things, give us humble, quiet, patient and loving minds. And may all our thoughts, words and deeds be guided by your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is the day we celebrate the festival of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, the Sunday we call Pentecost, an ancient Greek word meaning fifty or fiftieth. And I can almost here you thinking – what on earth has that got to do the coming of the Holy Spirit. But originally, for the Jews, Pentecost had quite a different meaning and signified the Fiftieth Day after the Passover. In Old Testament times this was a time to celebrate the harvest and later on it became a commemoration of the giving of the Law to Moses. But God chose this day to send his incredible gift of the Holy Spirit on the disciples after Jesus had left them and returned to his Father at the Ascension, and so in time the name became synonymous with the arrival of the Holy Spirit to all believers.

Pentecost almost immediately became a time for Baptisms in the early Church and it was a usual thing for the newly baptised to wear white robes on that day. White has become traditional at marriage services, denoting purity and in the case of Baptism also cleansing with water and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Thus Christians started calling the day ‘White Sunday’ and this was eventually reduced to Whitsunday and then to Whitsun. Whitsun became an ever more secular holiday and these days has been pretty well lost altogether in both the church and society in general. The name Pentecost has remained as the festival we celebrate today - The coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, literally the Birth Day of our church. And we will be celebrating that with many other friends this afternoon at 4.30pm round at the Towers, do come along.

In John 15, that we have just heard, Jesus says that he will send the counsellor, the Holy Spirit from his Father, to be with us forever. And again, a little further on, in verse 25 he says - ‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send, in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you’. The Spirit comes to us through the intervention of Jesus, to be with us and to continue teaching and guiding us throughout our lives.

But of course the Holy Spirit has always been, just as Jesus has always been, and always will be. ‘I will be with you even to the very end of time’ says Jesus at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus talks of being one with the Father from the beginning. The Bible begins and ends with the Holy Spirit.

The book of Genesis opens with these wonderful words ‘The earth was formless and void; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters’. God and the Holy Spirit are there at the very beginning of creation. Then at the end of the Bible we find John in his Revelation talking of Jesus coming with the Spirit (Revelation 22:17). The Spirit was at the beginning, is here with us now, and will be to the end of time.

Now I believe there are four important truths to learn about the Holy Spirit:-
First, He, and yes Jesus always refers to the Spirit as a person - He. He is the Spirit of Power. Certainly there is no question about that. He was with God from the very beginning. Here is one of my favourite readings from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament:-

‘The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old. I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans I was given birth. Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon of the deep and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in the whole world, and delighting in mankind’.

The Holy Spirit gives power. The word ‘power’ or ‘force’ comes originally from the Greek word Dynamikos from which we get the word Dynamic and of course Dynamite. A very appropriate word for the Holy Spirit it seems to me! The spirit’s explosive power is in full action in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles we have also heard a few moments ago.

Some would say we have lost that power today, I don’t believe that. Christ had to be seen to be at the weakest possible point, crucifixion and death, before the power of the resurrection was made evident. However weak we may feel the Spirit is the same as ever and can still make us strong. We take God’s Spirit with us when we go out from here – He is the Spirit of Power and of life itself.

And yes, when we go out from here – The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Mission. He acts here on earth in the pushing forward of the work that Jesus started in establishing His Church. He can only act in and with us. We are his Church, only we can bring Christ to every new situation and to every age, as we have been commanded to do.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Church. He acts in Baptism by bringing us together as one family under God. Without the Spirit there is no church. No one can be born into God’s family without him. He indwells all Christian people and he is the centre of our unity in Christ.

And of course - He is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Although the Spirit has a distinct personality his role is never to proclaim himself but to glorify Jesus, to light up the work of Jesus. It is not surprising therefore that there is some overlap between the work of the Spirit and the Son. Jesus said he will be with every Christian - I will be with you for ever - remember Matthew 28, but the Spirit is there also. This overlap simply emphasises the central point, if we are to become more like Jesus we need his Spirit to be with us. We say – ‘The Lord is here - his Spirit is with us’ and we will say that today, right at the beginning of our Eucharistic Prayer.

The Spirit of POWER, the Spirit of MISSION, the Spirit of the CHURCH, The very Spirit of JESUS himself. We must never ignore the Spirit. On the other hand, we should never exaggerate His importance so that He overshadows the Father and the Son. It follows that a balanced Christian Faith will want to rest on the whole Trinity. But we do need to allow the Spirit room in our lives to make us more Christ like, and allow the Spirit room in our churches to bring new life, change and development. The Spirit is always on the move and we should not be afraid to follow.

And so to finish I am going to use the words that we will hear again at the end of our service today and which seems to me sum up perfectly the Spirit’s work

‘The Spirit of truth lead you into all truth, give you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and strengthen you to proclaim the word and the works of God.’

‘We indeed ask this in the name of the Trinity –
The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


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