A Sermon for Pentecost

You may listen to this sermon at https://www.facebook.com/mark.ham.520/videos/1645633185585724/?sorting_setting=CHRONOLOGICAL

Can you imagine what it must have felt like for the disciples that day in Jerusalem?
I would guess that they would have been anxious and frightened and unsure about their futures and were waiting to see what would happen to them next? They had been through much, they had journeyed with Jesus through his earthly ministry and had witnessed his crucifixion and resurrection, and then on that day they were greeted with a sound like the rushing of violent wind. Divided tongues and all of them filled with the Holy Spirit. A sense of bewilderment and confusion perhaps was with them while others sneered that they were drunk and “…filled with new wine.”
But change happened that day; this transformation of people, of God’s people, was prophesied by Joel in the Old Testament, and the events on that day in Jerusalem were to spread across the world. Understandably, the Disciples had been fearful, and they needed the power to act and the authority to speak in the name of Jesus. And the Spirit changed them all and empowered them to do so; Peter was transformed from a sometimes frightened and fearful person, possibly with a very restricted world view, into a bold church leader. Jesus breathed on the disciples and they like Peter became his messengers of right-relatedness with God. Although they may have felt not up to the task, they became galvanised and strengthened, and as the reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us “…the Spirit gave them ability.”
I once heard a Bishop describe the Holy Spirit as “our spiritual sat-nav.” When we think about it, sat-navs do give us direction and keep us on course when we go on journeys, and the Holy Spirit too functions as our divine guide in our lives; it helps to keep us on track so that we can be true to God and ourselves. It deepens our faith, strengthens our
commitment to discipleship and helps us to discern our unique role in
God’s Kingdom. In the Spirit we find the enduring source of life too.
The noun ‘pneuma’ is Greek for Spirit or breath, and as the Disciples
received the breath of Christ at Pentecost, we do too as disciples of
Jesus today and we celebrate and give thanks to God for this wonderful
gift.
Our churches are direct consequences of the work of the Holy Spirit, and
across our planet, there are countless churches called into being by the
Spirit’s transforming power. Churches are places of witness, prayer,
worship, compassion and outward expressions of community too, and
they show glimmers of the Kingdom of God. The Spirit enables, helps
and works in us and it brings us together breathing new life into us, and
it offers comfort in times of need too. Aslan, the lion in C.S. Lewis’ “The
Chronicles of Narnia” breathes upon the children of Narnia whenever
they need the strength for the tasks given to them. And today, we need
to be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit too and for Jesus to breath
on us, and our hearts are open to receive him afresh. Our world today
overtaken by Covid-19, our country not quite knowing where to step
next, national economic problems, and global tensions too, that are
increasing by the day, are sure ingredients for hopelessness and despair
in our times. But the Spirit prays through us and gives us hope too.
Many years ago, Martin Luther King despaired as he fought for civil
rights in America. He received many threats to bomb his home and he
feared for his wife and daughter and he wondered if the struggle was
worth it. I can imagine that he would have felt tired and dispirited. But
one night when he was restless and could not sleep, he sat in the
kitchen with a cup of coffee and spilled out everything to God. His fears,
doubts and his despair. Martin Luther King then felt the presence of the
Divine which encouraged him to stand up for righteousness and truth
and he knew once again that God would be at his side. God’s spirit
touched Dr King and that renewed his strength and commitment to the
cause which would go some way in changing the face of the United
States of America.
We too have our own concerns; we despair at times, may feel
despondent or lacking in hope, we have our ups and downs, and we
may not be sure about where the future is heading. There are anxieties
about the future shape of the church and worries about our future lives
as well; we anticipate what the ‘new normal’ may look like and wonder
what post-Coronavirus society will be like. Will we return to what we
were, or will the Spirit of God enlighten us to be different? But we know
that Christ is always present through his Spirit during change. He has
walked before us and knows where we are now, and where we are
heading. But what is the Spirit saying to you as we ponder the way
forward?
We carry many burdens in life, but we are assured through the
Pentecost experience that the gift of the Holy Spirit means that no one
must carry their burdens alone. God’s Spirit is always available to guide
and to lead and it is present in all circumstances and situations. We
can open ourselves up to God’s transforming spirit and live from the
knowledge that we are not alone. We can turn to God’s Spirit and let it
guide us in each moment.
We live in volatile times, but we pray that the Spirit will bring us new
visions and dreams of what we can become as God’s people once we
can move forward and be freed from the grip of this destructive virus.
But we must open ourselves up to God and listen to where he is calling
us.
The Spirit gives us the strength to know that we have been changed and
that God loves us unconditionally. And just like the Apostles in their
transition from dedicated followers of Christ as his disciples into
ambassadors for God’s mission, we know too that we are sent out into
our communities to make the love of God known to others. In all aspects
of our lives God is present – in our communities, neighbourhoods,
families and relationships and as Acts chapter 17 verse 28 reminds us:
“We live and move and have our being in God.”
As we celebrate today, the Holy Spirit prays in us, offers us the gifts of
love, forgiveness, goodness, kindness, gentleness, peace and joy and it
gives us life. It strengthens our hope in God and so let us always pray:
“Come, Holy Spirit, come!”
Amen.