Pentecost – Rev Alison Way – 23rd May 2021

Link to the video reflection: https://youtu.be/wfi6hkLZoCA

Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

In the name of the living God, Almighty Father, Risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen

What happened on the day of Pentecost sounds pretty staggering as well as spectacular, and we have to wonder what it was like to have been there. For the disciples and the crowd gathered inside that day – (it had been about 120 people earlier in the week), a stunning experience and a spiritual awakening through the noise like the rush of the violent wind and with the tongues of fire resting on each one of them. And then suddenly the ability to speak in other languages as the same Spirit gave them the ability. There are things we don’t know about this – did the Spirit give them the words and the understanding of what they were saying. Or were they saying things without knowing what they were saying? It could well have been the latter as it was more important that the people around them heard the message in their native language and could act on it, than they understood themselves what they were saying. We will never know for sure.

I have always been very impressed with linguistic ability in others. This is definitely not one of my best gifts. I do have an O-level in French, but I was much better at reading and comprehension than speaking. (In fact I remember my French teacher being very frustrated with my spoken French with a pronounced south London accent!) I have been particularly impressed with people who can translate readily from one language to another, and particularly when the going gets technical. I remember on a work visit to Evreux in  France looking at different models of ministry, when I was working in Salisbury Diocese. Over one of the meals I had quite a complicated discussion about my calling as a priest with a devout Roman Catholic nun (I was the first female priest she had ever encountered). All our interactions were translated by the then Archdeacon of Sherborne, who spoke French very fluently! It wasn’t quick but it was very profound!

Being able to hear the message in their own language caused quite a stir in multicultural Jerusalem and by the end of the day (though the extract from Acts we heard didn’t get that far) 3000 people were baptised… That’s 25 people for each person originally gathered if there were 120 people but it could be there were far less than that in the room at the start of the day! – whatever all that was going on here was really quite impressive! Imagine if we spoke and 25 people turned to Christ if it helps!

The gathered crowd who heard the talking said they were talking about God’s deeds of power. Though not everyone gathered were caught up in this (accusing them of being filled with wine!), it is still a huge number who were inspired to become followers of Jesus. I have never known drink to improve people’s linguistic abilities and it was also as we hear from Peter a little further on in this reading – much to early in the day!

Over these past months in lockdown and gently moving out of it, we have been hearing about God’s deeds of power worked through the life and times of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  From Jesus birth, through his life with healings, miracles and teaching, to as we drew closer to Easter, his death and then rising again. Changing the world, once and for all and forever as I often say, conquering death – and opening the way for the coming of the Spirit in power. Our gospel reading also touched on how it had to be this way – Jesus saying ‘If I do not go away – the Advocate (Another word for the Holy Spirit) will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you’.

The Holy Spirit is how we connect and know God’s love for us in Jesus. It is the sense we have of God’s presence with us and one of the ways we are guided in the chances and choices of life, alongside exploring the scripture, handed down tradition, wise counsel and our sense of calling. In this week when we are giving thanks for the work of the Spirit in us and the work of our churches through our annual meetings, it is right to pray for the Spirit to fill us afresh for the challenges ahead of us. The knowns and the unknowns of opening out as the time comes. For some this will be too quick, for others too slow – whatever we will maintain our safety first approach and move forward at a pace where we can do the necessary safely. We will definitely need the Spirit’s guidance and no doubt do quite a lot of work too – to make this possible.

There are a set of prayers which encompass how the Spirit works   – where we pray for the different aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. If you are watching this on the video, I pray the prayers after this reflection and I will also include the text of them on the Pentecost post on the Wincanton parish church website. The aspects are: –

  • The strength of the Holy Spirit in our service of God.

  • The wisdom of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s will for us.

  • The peace of the Holy Spirit for confidence to follow our calling.

  • The healing of the Holy Spirit where we need it to bring reconciliation and wholeness.

  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit to equip us for the work we have ahead.

  • And the fruit of the Holy Spirit, so that God’s love is what people see in us.

I have been particularly focussing on praying for the Spiritual fruit of joy and patience in recent weeks to help us in these strange times in which we live. The Holy Spirit is with us as our breath too. At the end of John’s gospel it says – Jesus breathed on them and said – Receive the Holy Spirit.

One of the techniques in today’s world of mindfulness is to tune in on our breathing and reconnect with it or take time to breathe in and out deeply. The centering strength of this is something Christians have known for many centuries. And I will always recommend it as a simple and effective way to reconnect, and move us into a more reflective and open space in the way God would have us travel.

To finish I do think we need to concentrate on being open to the Spirit’s stirrings and for our Spiritual fruit to be uppermost. This will help our message of love for everyone to be what people see in us. so let’s particularly focus

  • on the strength the Spirit can bring,

  • the healing the Spirit can work in us,

  • the gifts we need from the Spirit to face the challenges ahead,

  • the fruit with which we can be blessed,

  • and knowing God through the Spirit in every breath.

Amen

We pray for God to fill us with his Spirit. Generous God,  we thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit. We ask that we may be strengthened to serve you better. Lord, come to bless us.
All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to make us wise to understand your will. Lord, come to bless us.
All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to keep us confident of your love, wherever you call us.Lord, come to bless us.
All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness where there is division, sickness and sorrow. Lord, come to bless us.
All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to equip us for the work which you have given us.
Lord, come to bless us.
All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit. We ask you to reveal in our lives the love of Jesus. Lord, come to bless us.
All: and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the breath of your Holy Spirit, given by the risen Lord. We ask you to keep the whole Church, living and departed, in the joy of eternal life. Lord, come to bless us.
All: and fill us with your Spirit.

Generous God, you sent your Holy Spirit upon your Messiah at the River Jordan, and upon the disciples in the upper room. In your mercy fill us with your Spirit. hear our prayer, and make us one in heart and mind to serve you with joy for ever.  Amen.

 

Copyright acknowledgement – Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020, New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989

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