Sunday, 9 June 2019

‘If you want to know me,
come an’ live with me’

‘Come Holy Spirit’ … the holy water stoup in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 9 June (The Day of Pentecost, Whit Sunday):

11.30 a.m.: Pentecost Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

Readings: Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; Romans 8: 14-17; John 14: 8-17.

The Gate of the Holy Spirit in the walls of the Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

May I speak to you in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Rabbi David Aaron opens one of his books with a story about the comedian Henny Youngman, the ‘King of One-Liners,’ who once said, ‘I tried being an atheist, but I gave it up. There are no holidays.’

There are three great holidays in the Calendar of the Church when the Church of Ireland says the Eucharist must be celebrated in every cathedral and church: Christmas Day, Easter Day and the Day of Pentecost, this day.

Each of these holidays or holy days is a day that celebrates how God has come among us and how God invites us to be with him.

They are just like our own holidays.

How often do you remember a holiday as a time when someone came to visit you, or you went to visit someone special in your family?

I have fond memories of long, extended holidays spent on my grandmother’s farm near Cappoquin in West Waterford.

How many of us know Christmas would not be Christmas without visiting the homes of family members, or special people in our lives and families coming to visit us, or even stay with us?

We have tried to make the Rectory in Askeaton a place of hospitality, where people can come and visit us, stay with, live with us, even if only for a short time.

We have cousins from England coming to stay with us this week. They have seen how we live in the Rectory. They know it is a place of welcome, of hospitality, of love, and they know all this is possible because of the life, witness and generosity of the church, of this parish.

These principal holy days or holidays in the life of the Church – Christmas, Easter and Pentecost – are holidays to celebrate how God comes to dwell with us.

1, At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation: God comes as Christ to live among us, as one of us.

2, At Easter, God invites to us to come and dwell with him, to become what we are truly made to be.

3, At Pentecost, God as the Holy Spirit comes and dwells with us.

In a typical American way of telling it, David Aaron in that book, Inviting God In (Boston and London: Trumpeter, 2006), makes a distinction between a vacation and a holiday.

He argues that a vacation is a time to get away, such as time on the beach, time playing golf or going to a good concert.

A holiday, on the other hand, is a time to celebrate. ‘A holiday,’ he says, ‘is not an escape from everyday life to paradise. Rather, it is a time to infuse paradise into everyday life.’

Playing with the words celebrate and celestial, he says a holiday is a holy day in which we see the celestial within the terrestrial.

The Hebrew name for a holy day, moed (מועד), is used especially for the three great Biblical festivals of Passover, Shavout or Pentecost, which began at sunset last night, and Sukkot (Booths). This Biblical word describes special days set apart from non-sacred days. It actually means ‘date,’ ‘appointed time’ or ‘meeting.’ In other words, these great holidays are actually times to meet God, they truly are dates with God.

And a date, with someone special, involves getting dressed up, going somewhere special, perhaps having a special meal together, all with the hope and promise of getting to know each other better, and of enjoying each other’s company.

David Aaron points out that each of these holy days is a date with God and celebrates a critical ingredient in the recipe for a loving relationship with God and with our fellow human beings – freedom, responsibility, fallibility, accountability, forgiveness, spontaneity, integrity, wholeness, intimacy, anticipation, hope and trust.

Those great holy days are about recalling the great encounters, dates with God in the past, making them real in the present, and looking forward to the promises that they are imbued with, that they may become real in the future.

David Aaron points out that each of these holy days is a date with God. Each holiday is an opportunity to relive the dramatic events that occurred on those days – to remember and celebrate God’s timeless love for us.

In the Feast of Pentecost, we remember how God the Holy Spirit comes to dwell with us, and the Church is formed on the Day of Pentecost.

Until then, they were a small collection of followers of Jesus. Now they become one body. And the Holy Spirit is living in this body.

There is a wise old maxim that you do not really know someone until you live with them. As Sean O’Casey has Joxer say in his play Juno and the Paycock (1925), ‘if you want to know me, come an’ live with me.’

Have you ever watched that television programme First Dates on RTÉ? When people have their first dates, they behave so nicely to one another. They put on their best clothes and finest perfume or aftershave, they are polite, they try to have the best table manners, show they know the best wine and food, and are o so courteous, considerate and caring.

But when you live with someone, you get to know that person really. Their highs and their lows, their habits and their fads, what they really smell like, how short their fuses may be … even what they really think.

Pentecost celebrates how the Holy Spirit comes to dwell among us, how God wants to live with us and wants us to live with God.

This is the promise of Jesus to his Disciples at the Last Supper that we hear in our Gospel reading this morning (John 14: 8-17, 25-27):

He tells them first that he is alive in God the Father, and that God the Father is alive in him, and that he will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit, who ‘abides with you, and he will be in you.’

It is the promise at our Confirmation, it is the promise at my ordination. But it is God’s promise to all, at Pentecost.

Because of Pentecost, God lives with us, and we live with God. We have been formed into one body, the Body of Christ. There are no more barriers, based on social class, gender, birth, job title, language, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity … or any of the other barriers we search for to separate us one from another.

The Holy Spirit breaks down all those barriers.

It sounds crazy.

It is crazy … by the normal pushy standards we see all around us. No wonder some people who saw what happened that first Pentecost in Jerusalem sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine’ (Acts 2: 13).

But then, God loves us, and wants more than a first date. God wants to live with us, and wants us to live with God.

Like a holy date, our Pentecost Eucharist or Holy Communion this morning includes some of the elements we might expect on a date with God. We dress up nicely, we tell stories, we ask about one another, in our prayers we share our hopes and dreams and sorrows, we eat with another.

God has come to live with us, and now invites us to share his love, and to show this love in how we care for one another, pray for another, and how we now look at the world through the love-tinted glasses of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Pentecost breaks down the walls and barriers we build to separate ourselves from God and from each other … the walls of an old olive press in a monastery in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Acts 2: 1-21 (NRSVA):

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13 But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

14 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. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 “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.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Pentecost or the Descent of the Holy Spirit, by Titian in the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

John 14: 8-17 (25-27), NRSVA:

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

‘Come down, O Love divine’ (Hymn 294) … sunset on the beach at Platanias near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Liturgical Colour: Red

The Greeting (until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The Penitential Kyries:

Great and wonderful are your deeds,
Lord God the Almighty
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You are the King of glory, O Christ.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
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.

Introduction to the Peace:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.
If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5: 22)

The Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
according to whose promise
the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us,
making us your children,
and giving us power to proclaim the gospel throughout the world:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

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.

The Blessing:

The Spirit of truth lead you into all truth,
give you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and to proclaim the words and works of God: …

The Dismissal (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Hymns:

386, Spirit of God, unseen as the wind (CD 23)
294, Come down, O Love divine (CD 18)
293, Breathe on me, breath of God (CD 18)

‘Spirit of God, unseen as the wind’ (Hymn 386) … an early morning in late autumn on the Straits of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

‘Come down, O Love divine’ (Hymn 294) … sunrise on the River Slaney at Ferrycarrig near Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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