The Acts of the Apostles today introduces us to a scene in which people of a variety of nations and languages are all assembled in one place. It’s not describing something like the European parliament or the Eurovision song contest. This is a multitude of people who are gathered for the purpose of worship, each with their own language and customs and nationality. Normally their languages would have been incomprehensible to one another, but on this occasion something remarkable happens. The apostles who are all gathered together in one room experience something akin to a rushing wind and to tongues of flame. It is as if they have received a gift that drives out their fear and fills them with courage, enabling them to speak of God with a new boldness and sense of purpose. In fact that is exactly what happened. Even more amazingly, they managed to communicate with and be understood by a variety of people from different nations and who spoke unfamiliar languages.
A few weeks ago it was a pleasure to worship in a church in Wales. Although the service was almost all in English, the occasional bit of Welsh was there too. I hardly understand a word of it, but being the liturgy, I was able to grasp what it meant. Our worship of God introduces us to something bigger: something greater than ourselves and much wider than the barriers of language and culture and nationality. We become part of something worldwide… the Body of Christ. Within this company of people we find all kinds of variety, but what we do not, or should not find, is division, suspicion and alienation. In Christ there are no such barriers and as members of the one Body, the Holy Spirit unites us in the one God of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Difference will always exist between people and God does not call us to be all the same. Instead of this we are led to discover what it is that draws us closer together. The powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit which is described in the Acts of the Apostles did not leave people unchanged. Their own spirit was stirred to make connections with their fellow people. The apostles had hidden away up to that point, afraid of what might happen if they emerged from the walls that surrounded them. Now they were filled with joy and confidence and a desire to communicate with others about the gift they had received. In this way the Church was born: a Spirit-filled community of people not working out of their own human limitations alone but enabled and empowered by God. We might wonder what would happen if we were empowered to leave behind the walls that hold us in and prevent us from being all that we could be. What would it be like to overcome our reluctance and self-doubt and to walk out into the light?
We are called together to worship in one place in order to be strengthened and inspired to live lives that speak to others about the presence of God among us. The Eucharist – the Mass – is for us the Sacrament of unity. Today people are receiving the sacraments of Christ’s Body and Blood in London, Glasgow, Rome, Rio de Janiero, Seoul, Harare and almost anywhere you care to mention across the world. We might not necessarily be able to understand their speech, but I hope that we would be willing and able to understand their love of the Lord who has called them together into one Body. We are members of a Church of many different peoples and languages but we all receive the same Holy Spirit of God.
So what difference does this make to our lives? The more we are tuned into the things of the Spirit, the greater our love for God and the greater our desire to walk in the ways of Jesus. As he told his disciples:
“If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make our home with him.”
Jesus speaks about the gift of the Paraclete – literally the one who comes alongside us, to inspire us, to support us and to strengthen us. This is the Advocate of which Jesus speaks, the one who pleads on our behalf… the presence which reassures us that we don’t have to go it alone, but that God is with us always on our journey.
We reflect the love of God through our words and by the way we live. This doesn’t mean that we have to find clever words to persuade people or that we have to do amazing things. The most convincing thing of all is when the fruit of the Spirit is apparent in the life of Christ’s disciples: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the hallmarks of a life lived in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It follows that some of the opposites would be described by St Paul as evidence of a life which rejects that same Spirit: hatred, joylessness, dissent, impatience, unkindness, meanness, unfaithfulness, harshness and self-indulgence. These are incompatible with the new life which the gift of the Holy Spirit imparts. The gifts of the Spirit break down the walls which separate one person from another and which impede our approach to God. Then people begin to notice the change.
The Holy Spirit is a gift received in baptism and which is confirmed within us. At the same time we can pray for the renewal of that gift to us: a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We cannot always live perfect lives, but with God there is always a new beginning and a better way forward. So on this day of Pentecost, let us pray for the renewal of this gift within us:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Amen
From 10.00am every Tuesday throughout the year.
Thur 13th June 9.30am Said Mass.
Sun 16th June 9.30am Joint Parish Mass. (for the Benefice held at St Peters at 10.30am)
Next Parochial Church Council Monday 8th July.
Summer Fayre: Saturday 27th July 2019, St Andrews Community Centre from 10.00am.
Summer Outing: Mon 19th August 2019. Dinner at the Rockingham Arms Wentworth.
WW2 Brass: Thur 5th September. Themed Concert to coincide with the start of the Second World War. Will also include a pictorial presentation. More details to follow.
Xmas Brass: Thur 12th December. Usual mix of seasonal and contemporary music.
Both concerts will feature Worsbrough Brass.
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I am a rather old Saint.