The Parish of Sutton with Seaford

(photo is of Seaford Primary School a year 3 class who created this mobile on Pentecost, it will hang in St Leonard’s for a week)

Come Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit and visit us this morning that we may encounter more of your love and power today.  Amen,

 

This is the moment, Pentecost, when the first Apostles and Disciples find themselves radically changed, made alive, emboldened, filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

The noise of this commotion – of the sound like a roaring wind, of the flashes of fire – brings together a crowd who each start hearing their own local language being spoken

 

There’s something quite wonderful in being in a foreign land and suddenly hearing someone speaking in your mother tongue and for a moment you feel the comfort of being home. Here’s God breaking down the barriers and making sure that we can each know God, know that He calls to us.

 

The Change that came upon those first disciples. It was not the change that comes about when you finally realise you must make some proper decisions.

My Dad was told to eat ‘Less Cheese’ which he said Was a terrible thing. It was easier to eat No Cheese than less cheese! No this Pentecost moment doesn’t emerge out of human strength, or human will, this is about Gift and about Encounter.

 

This is more like a transforming moment of me holding my first born Ruth and realising that life would never be the same again – yes there was joy, but there was also some awe and fear, and an infusion of love.

 

This moment for the disciples was a moment of encounter when the Gift of God came to them and changed their lives.

Now, I need you to cough or something every time my sermon starts to sound a little bit historical, as if I am teaching you about what happened at that first Pentecost moment, without making it clear that God continues to do this.

 

I was at my Confirmation aged 13 I suppose and the Bishop said “Do you turn to Christ?” And I thought – ‘I don’t really know!’  I’m only getting confirmed because my older brother told me to, he said Get it out of the way now, don’t leave it until you’re at the next school.

It was I suppose, good advice but you might think it was lacking something.

Anyway the Bishop says ‘Do you turn to Christ’ and I thought – well there was that time when God helped me with this and with that and so Okay Yes I turn to Christ – and something happened in that service that changed me.

We might in hindsight say – I received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then began to work on me in changing my language and behaviour and a whole bunch of issues that you don’t need to hear about.

 

Here in Acts we read of the Holy Spirit coming upon these first Friends of Jesus and there’s plenty of people in this room who could point to either a moment where they know that they encountered the Holy Spirit, or to a time in their life that now as they look back on it they can see yes that was God at work in their life.

 

Sometimes when we talk about the Holy Spirit we talk about the Fruit of the Spirit – this is God helping us to be the person that God is calling us to be, changing our character so that we increasingly show God’s love joy peace patience and so on.

 

Sometimes we talk about how the Holy Spirit helps us to be a blessing to others – through the gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, discernment, miracles – but remember that the greatest of God’s gifts to us, and the first of the Fruit – is Love.

God in the Holy Spirit in us gives us His Love.

 

So the first thing we learn about God’s Holy Spirit coming to each of us as a believer, as a receiver, is that the Gift is the Giver. The Gift is the Giver. God doesn’t give us fruit or gifts, God gives us Himself.

The Gift is the Giver. The more you reflect on that, the more awesome you should feel.

 

And then you should realise that the God we worship is a Giver not a Taker. Look around certainly at the ancient religions and see the sacrifices that they required you to make if you were to make their gods happy. But Jesus comes to us and shows us what God is like, and gives and gives, and so on Pentecost we find again that the God we worship is a giver not a taker.

 

The Holy Spirit is described as an Advocate. Its so good this idea that God has your back, that God believes in you, is there for you.

The Greek word is Paraclete – meaning One who draws alongside. This is God who comes alongside us as a Comforter – and in the anxiety and distress that we see in the world and around us today, that’s never been more important.

God comes to us as a Counsellor, as one who will guide us into Truth.

 

Jesus said “I have more to tell you – more than you can bear”. Can you imagine Jesus trying to tell this little lot that they would each tell a bunch of others and that the goodnews of Jesus would spread – across the known world – even as far as India, even as far as England – but it would travel beyond that – there were Bishops in Afghanistan long before the arrival of Islam.

 

Can you picture Jesus trying to explain how the effect of this Gospel would be that unwanted Babies would no longer be left out for the wolves, that Old people would be cared for, that young people would have an education – not just the rich,

 

Would those disciples have been able to cope with being told that they would bring about a global change in seeing slavery abolished? – oh we could keep this list going.

 

The transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit upon Christians is about more than God helping little me to have a little more patience and goodness in my life – though that is a good thing – its about me being part of a worldwide family that seeks to challenge the powers of darkness and oppression and injustice.

 

I wonder what Jesus would was thinking when he said “I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear” – but the Holy Spirit will come and lead us further into truth.

 

It rather makes me think of that prayer of St Paul when he prays that we might be strengthened in our inner being so that we might receive more of God’s love – it’s a prayer that prays that we might be able to cope with receiving more of God.

 

But the Holy Spirit is going to upset some people along the way. It will challenge the world, the “common sense” thinking, about sin and righteousness and judgement.

Sin – the world is so easily wrong about sin – for some people this word just means some sort of Killjoy – or sin is about being found out.

The best definition I heard of sin – you hear it every time we do a baptism – Do you repent of the Sins that separate us from God and Neighbour? I repent of them!

Sin is that thing, attitude, word, deed, that separates us from each other, from God, even from ourselves. But the Holy Spirit wants to come and work in us and that will lead us to a right repentance – and that could lead to us bringing healing to ourselves, to our relationships with God, with others.

Oh What would happen if that happened to Putin? If he felt the conviction of sin? It’s a good prayer.

 

The Holy Spirit will not win friends by showing us that we are wrong about righteousness – perhaps because we’re quite pleased with ourselves and our own self-righteousness – and we forget that Righteousness is actually about justice and mercy, its about right living with the world, and with people. It’s a challenge to our blind spots and our prejudices and no one likes that.

 

The Holy Spirit will point out how we are wrong about Judgement. I like judging as much as the next person, not least because I consider myself to be an above average driver, unlike the rest of you idiots.

But it turns out that I am wrong, badly wrong, because judgement isn’t my job.

And if I will allow the Holy Spirit the space to work on me, I will realise that this is a good thing. Because it is actually a great relief to discover that the weight of judgement does not rest on my shoulders but on Jesus. And I would prefer to trust His judgement over mine.

 

Jesus is interested in judging the only one who really needs condemning – as Jesus calls him here, the Prince of this world, also referred to elsewhere in the gospels as the Satan, the accuser, the liar who comes to kill, steal, and destroy.

Look at your newspapers later today and say to yourself, I wonder what this world would look like if there was a little less killing, stealing, destroying.

That’s who we need to know is condemned, that’s who we need to be praying against.

 

Its easier for us than for those first disciples. They needed to get their heads around this exchange.

Moving from a Jesus you can poke and hug – to an internalised spirit of Jesus at work inside of me.

 

The bad news is that God inside of you is likely to wait until you’re able to bear it and then say – You know that Sin, that thing that you do, pushing other people away, refusing to forgive, that – well maybe We could do something about that?

 

So the bad news of Pentecost, of having the Holy Spirit come alongside us, is that from time to time God will point out stuff we do and say and think – but its been my experience that God does that one step at a time. And God helps us each step of the way.

 

The good news is that as you notice this, you’ll notice that God is with you, that God is keeping His promise to open His scriptures to us, to open His heart to us, to be with us always.

 

So when you come up for HC, what I would like to do is to anoint you with holy oil and pray the same prayer that the bishop prays at a confirmation –

God has called you by name and made you His own. Confirm O Lord your servant with your Holy Spirit.

 

And then having received from me, go to the next person who will have the bread and then on to the wine ok.

IF you are thinking – no that’s a step too far for me – then come to me for a blessing. Just cross your arms and I will know that that’s what you would like. And if at the end of this service you would like further prayer then please do stick around because there are others here who would be glad to pray with you.  I’ve got to nip off to St Leonard’s where we will have The Meeting Place service and we will be doing some more anointing there.

 

That first Pentecost has changed the world. Not by being a one-off event, but by being the turning on of a tap, so that more and more of God’s Spirit is being poured out on us, on even you, even me.

 

So we find that the God we worship is

a giver not a taker,

that the gift that God gives us is Himself,

the Gift is the Giver. Amen.

 

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