This morning we were very grateful to have David, Bishop of Basingstoke leading our Parish Communion – this is his sermon:
2000 years ago the disciples were hiding in an upper room – bewildered and frightened, but also obeying Jesus final words – Wait in Jerusalem. In 2020 we too may be bewildered, with an unknown future – gathered in households – maybe even in upper rooms. We are not quite sure what comes next? But God does know! And He offers us his Holy Spirit this morning – will you ask that he fill you with his Spirit this morning?
What happened 2000 years ago was beyond their wildest expectations. They received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus!
What are we asking for? I believe we are asking for the breath of Jesus…… the Hebrew word ruâch and the Greek word pneuma translate the same: wind, breath and spirit. I think we can say the Holy Spirit is the breath of God, the wind that whips around us, and the air we breathe in.
Wind is easy to explain. I can feel it on my face, hear through the leaves, watch it kick up dust, and cause ripples in the water. Breath is also something I get. On cold days I can see it, I can smell it, and when I’m on a brisk walk I can even hear it. Breath is a part of every human being. So much so, that we rarely even think about it until it is hard to breathe.
That’s very poignant during this Covid-19 pandemic when the struggle to breathe is really painful and frightening. At the beginning of April Helen and I had to help our daughter use steam inhalation as she struggled to get her breath – Oh for an easy breath.
As Jesus exhaled his last breath on the cross, it rejoined with Abraham’s, Jacob’s and all of our ancestors. But God took that breath, that last sacrifice, and strengthened it into a mighty wind that shook throughout creation. Like a holy hurricane, it blew through the upper room on the Day of Pentecost; igniting sparks that burst into flames above the disciples’ heads, it was as if “God wanted to make sure that Jesus’ friends were the inheritors of Jesus’ breath.”
Picture them…standing there in awe, all the disciples inhaling God’s breath, filling themselves up with God’s Spirit. They begin to speak in tongues; in different languages. Like a room full of children vying for attention, they created such a racket that they attracted others who were just passing-by. By the end of the day the church had grown from one hundred and twenty to more than three thousand. To think what we could do in our community by sharing the breath and Spirit of God!
The Holy Spirit is described as the ‘shy’ one in the Trinity, not because it’s quiet, but because it never seeks direct attention. Rather the Spirit always points back to Jesus. The Spirit is the heartbeat of the Church. It blows through us and around us, above us and below us, calling all people to faith and comfort. It calls us into community and challenges the Church and her people to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth. The Spirit’s presence among us, acts as the church’s guide so that we may live and act as faithful servants of God and as witnesses of Jesus Christ.
In the unity of the Holy Spirit we are one body, the Body of Christ. Young men, old ladies, each from different cultures, races, and economic levels, and today in separate houses – but all dreaming the same dream together; each of us living and worshiping side-by-side for one common purpose.
On the Day of Pentecost, God’s Spirit filled the Earth in a new way: with peace and love and justice. When we breathe in, we breathe in God’s love, peace and justice. Therefore what we breath out should reflect the same. Just as God renewed the face of the ground with a single breath…in the same manner, God’s Spirit transforms and renews us.
In Romans Paul writes, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption, by which we cry, “Abba!”
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Pentecost is not just a one-time event. The Spirit, like our own breath, is an on-going gift.
The Spirit of God is our life force. It is our peace and conscience. It is the part of God within us who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and joy. It is the Holy Spirit who offers us the very life that death cannot destroy.
The Holy Spirit, fills us with hope and purpose It stretches us…and pushes us to uncomfortable places. This is why so many of us still resist and push back. We don’t want to change. We would rather hold on to the things that keep us from truly embracing the uncertainties of a life of faith. There are things we hold on to that…can deflate us, distract us, and of course wear us down.
They may not change who we are, but they stop us from being what we are to become. Christ called us to a life of faith; which means trusting in God. It was Christ who emptied himself of his last breath, so we could be filled. As the Body of Christ, we too have to empty ourselves…in order to breathe in the breath of true life. God invites us to exhale all our pain and fear and anxieties…and to fill ourselves up on the peace and assurances of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2 1-12
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
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, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”