Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’ ... a peaceful scene at the cliffs and the sandy bay beyond the North Strand in Rush (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Sunday 12 June 2011: The Day of Pentecost (Whit Sunday)
Kenure Parish Church, Rush, Co Dublin:
9.30 a.m., Morning Prayer.
Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; I Corinthians 12: 3b-13; John 20: 19-23
May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Quite often we think the gift of the Holy Spirit is something to consider only at ordination or at confirmation, or it’s just left as a gift for Charismatic Evangelicals to talk about. But the gift of the Holy Spirit does not stop being effective the day after confirmation, the day after ordination, or the day after hearing someone speaking in tongues.
The gift of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning, the birthday, of the Church. And this is a gift that does not cease to be effective after Pentecost Day. The gift of the Holy Spirit remains with the Church – for all times.
Indeed, in the Orthodox Church they speak eloquently of the Church being the realised or lived Pentecost.
We celebrate the Feast of Pentecost 50 days after Easter and on the Sunday that falls 10 days after the Ascension. Pentecost recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. But it is also the Birthday of the Church, founded through the preaching of the Apostles and the baptism of the thousands who on that day believed in the Gospel of Christ.
This morning, we read the story of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. They were gathered together in an upper room, full of fear and hiding, when suddenly, a sound came from heaven like a rushing wind, filling the entire house. Tongues of fire appeared, one sat on each one of Apostles, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 1-4).
When the people in Jerusalem heard the sound, they came together and heard the Apostle speaking in their own languages (Acts 2: 5-6). Some even thought the Apostles were drunk (Acts 2: 7-13). But Peter, hearing these remarks, stood up and spoke about the Biblical prophecies about the coming of the Holy Spirit, about Christ, his death and his resurrection (Acts 2: 38-39).
On that day, about 3,000 people were baptised. The newly baptised continued daily to hear the Apostles’ teaching, joining the early Christians for fellowship, the breaking of bread, and for prayer, and the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2: 42-47).
At Pentecost, we see the fulfilment of the promise of the Holy Spirit that the Risen Christ gives his disciples in our Gospel reading, the Holy Spirit sent down upon the Apostles who will teach the nations and baptise them in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Because of that gift at Pentecost, the Church is brought together and sustained in unity through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit that is to guide the Church in our missionary endeavours – not just throughout the world, but here in this diocese, in this parish, in Rush too.
This is the Holy Spirit that nurtures the Body of Christ, the Church, in truth and in love.
This morning, we should all be thankful for gift of Baptism, for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, received at Confirmation, for the gift of the Spirit that brought the Church into being, and for the creative diversity and unity of the Church, held together by that same Holy Spirit.
And so, may all our thoughts, words and deeds be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
who on the day of Pentecost
sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles
with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,
filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
By the power of the same Spirit
strengthen us to witness to your truth
and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin. This sermon was preached at Morning Prayer in Kenure Church, Rush, Co Dublin, on the Day of Pentecost, 12 June 2011
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