God, who as at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
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.
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.
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?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
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. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“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.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
24 The sun rises and they are gone
to lay themselves down in their dens.
25 People go forth to their work
and to their labour until the evening.
26 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
27 There is the sea, spread far and wide,
and there move creatures beyond number, both small and great.
28 There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan
which you have made to play in the deep.
29 All of these look to you
to give them their food in due season.
30 When you give it them, they gather it;
you open your hand and they are filled with good.
31 When you hide your face they are troubled;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return again to the dust.
32 When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
33 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works;
34 He looks on the earth and it trembles;
he touches the mountains and they smoke.
35 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will make music to my God while I have my being.
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
Sermon on Pentecost
I wonder whether anyone remembers the Beatles’ song “All’ zusammen nun” – sorry, I should have said, “All together now.” I hope you will excuse my speaking in tongues. This is a wonderful sentiment even if it came from those “long haired crazies” as some castigated that pop group in the ‘Sixties. With that in mind, let’s begin in earnest considering these words from Acts:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”
How can we understand this statement today? Each of us has been isolated since well before Easter, alone in our houses, without personal contact with our extended and dear families, nor with our friends and colleagues. How can we understand being “all together in one place”? – We certainly haven’t been singing that Beatles’ song. That is not to say nothing has happened in the world – the Prime Minister has been struck down with this contemporary plague and he recovered, the economy has suffered and we are now in the midst of another deep recession, many countries are lessening their controls of movement both within and between their international borders and the relaxation of isolation is happening here. Significantly, people have seen how relevant others are in their lives, and how their lives depend on others. There has also been a lot more graciousness in dealing with one another in the little things. More importantly, I think, we have been dreaming more and those dreams have been very vivid. Why, some might say that we have had visions about life! I am sure we have taken our dreams a little more seriously, don’t you?
We have, in fact, all learned so much by being alone – but are we going to lose all that acquired wisdom by returning to the bad old ways, from those days before “lock down” when the pursuit of profit, the bullying tactics of the marketplace in every sense, took control of our lives? I say we should keep this control of our lives now that we are no longer locked up in the artificial, coercive bubble of the crowd. – Now that we have been given the time and space through self-isolation to lay hold of our lives for ourselves, we should not let go. Or will we give our lives back to that crowd which takes them over? Will we abandon the gracious living we have been able to experience in lock down, when we even applauded the work of the NHS? I don’t think that we are happy with what this bullying, anonymous “they” does with our lives, are we? The question is – What are we doing with the lives we have made for ourselves now? Do we really want to submit to the crowd’s sinister influence again? Or do we pursue what is good for life in all its fullness, something, I think, the crowd does not do?
Jesus cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’
This cri de coeur should shake us up. When Jesus proclaims that he can satisfy human thirst, he speaks to that fundamental yearning we all know, doesn’t he? His lesson is always new – it is revolutionary – his message overthrows the bad, old ways. Instead of bottling up the living water within our selves, we should be letting it flow out from our inmost selves to all and sundry. Just as the rain falls on the just and unjust alike, we should be sharing that living water, not choking on it. We should be watering the lives of others so that life will abound in them just as it does in us. I have to say it is a gift we have to share, wouldn’t you?
This cry of Jesus should call us out of the crowd’s old ways of self-absorption, of worrying about my own cares alone, that selfishness everyone recognises in others, but we never see at the very depth of our own selves. Jesus is telling us that our hearts are no longer the hard stones found in the wilderness. I am sure you remember that from those rocks God once let water flow, once Moses struck them with his staff! Isn’t there hope for us now? Aren’t our hearts being shaken by the loving spirit? Can’t our hearts be transformed from the stones of the desert wasteland into the waters of the garden of delight? Can’t the garden of Eden be found in our lives again? – At the heart of that garden rise and flow the four great rivers. Every Friday night we can hear about the paradise garden which Monty Don has created and extols on Gardeners’ World. There water is always flowing to the ends of the world which he has created for us all to enjoy. That water is a balm for healing – that living water will satisfy our essential thirst which Jesus addresses, that thirst for what is good in life. That living water is symbolised in our gardens with our water features and becomes actually real in our lives when we have a true faith. It wells up from within and flows out.
If we slake our thirst at the true water, that living water, which Christ offers all who would go to him to drink, then our lives would be transformed. Instead of an external control bullying us into submission, instead of bowing to the pressure of the crowd, we would offer our hearts up to all who would near us. As I have said before, when we love, we love all. We would be “all together” in a very different way – one of a sharing love, not the selfish domination of the crowd. We would be offering others the living water as Jesus does for us. When we offer life in all its abundance, when we offer that life of our hearts, when that living water flows out to others, then everything is changed.
We read, “All were amazed and perplexed.” When we all eventually come together, won’t we be amazed and perplexed? We will have to make friends anew because everything has changed – we will have to open our hearts afresh to let that living water of love lap over all around us – we will have to foster the amazement and perplexity of everyone being together again.
For those of us who have a habit of The Church in its one holy catholic and apostolic character, our amazement will not disable us, for we will be so glad to see so many join us again, as new and renewed friends. Our hearts will be opened and love will flow like the water from the stones. However, we will be perplexed because we have been away for so long. The legal obstacles of gathering are being dismantled, but will we have become too comfortable in our loneliness? This will cause our perplexity, for the legalistic crowd has forced us into the isolation of a crowd. Social morés and the expectation of peers have always brought us to heel, haven’t they? I think we all “go along” with the crowd in some way, don’t we? The crowd, I think, really does impose its will on us: don’t you?
However, we don’t like this state of affairs, do we? In our inmost hearts, we don’t want this oppression of the crowd. “They” cannot control my heart, from which wells this boundless life, this love, this agape. The source of this living love, what, I think, Jesus called “living water” – this Life in all its fullness expands infinitely in order to supply us all so that we can share forever. This is what the Holy Spirit does with our lives, while we celebrate it today and every day in The Church, – it pushes us out toward others who thirst, just as we thirst, for that water which will satisfy forever. Isn’t that what love does? When we love, we are unstoppable – we have infinite energy for all the things we want to do for everyone surrounding us. Love drives us, like the Holy Spirit, to dismantle barriers, to share joy, to experience life in all its fullness, to live life with others – not isolated and alone, but all together now.
Let us celebrate the birth of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church today, Pentecost. Let us share that mystical potion of living water with anyone who comes our way, when we are truly “all together in one place.” Let us share the loving Holy Spirit freely as the Church has always done on this, its birthday and every day, “all’ zusammen nun”.