Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost (Whitsun) 2020

After Christ’s ascension the Apostles were still gathered together. Jesus had promised them that he would send the Holy Spirit, the advocate, and that he would be with them always, even to the ending of the age. So they remained gathered together praying, celebrating the mysteries, and awaiting what Christ has promised.

It is a situation with which we should readily identify. Gathering together praying, celebrating the sacraments and holy mysteries, and awaiting the fulfilment of Christ’s promise. And suddenly in the room where they were gathered there was a mighty wind as the breath of God came over them, flames settled upon their head, and they were equipped to go out into all the world preaching the gospel.

People were not ready for this at first. The first thing that happened was that they were accused of being drunk! Peter, having obviously never been to a university town on a carefree saturday morning, or to Liverpool before a noon kickoff protested “It is only nine in the morning, how can we be drunk!? But people listened, and all heard in their own language the apostles speaking to them about the works of God.

“God says I will pour out my spirit upon you, I will show wonders in the heavens above, signs on the earth below, and all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Now, unlike the apostles, anyone who has tried to teach me a new language can attest to the fact that this gift of languages. But whether we have a gift for languages or not, God has poured his spirit out upon us, and equips us for the mission to which we are called. Some of us are called to preach, some to teach, some to pastoral care, some to administration and finance, some to maintain buildings, some to groundskeeping, some to dusting, some to hospitality. There are as many vocations and gifts as there are Christians. But whatever our vocation is, however God has equipped us, we’re all called to use our gifts to the glory of God and the building up of God’s Church.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll all be considering together how we can begin to resume some activities, how we can begin to gather again, indoors or out, for corporate worship of some way, shape or form. And our villages and communities are going to open back up a bit, shops and pubs and restaurants are going to re-open, football is coming back, thank God(!). But while it’s all coming and it will all happen, it will all happen in ways that are different to what we have known.

On the day of Pentecost there were the Apostles, a few more disciples, and the women who kept the whole thing going, and they were the only ones who knew the world had changed and history had turned. But God equipped them to go out and change the world in the name of Christ, to draw people to Christ, to preach the Gospel, to proclaim that the kingdom of God had drawn near. There are a lot more of us than that, and God has equipped us just as the apostles were equipped.

Like them the world we will find when we emerge from the rooms in which we’ve locked ourselves will be a very different one from what we knew. It will require of us creative thinking and an ability to reimagine, not re-create but reimagine, those things that are most central to our life of faith, those things that make us who we are, that make us whole. The world is changing, just as it always has. But today especially we remember that God has breathed our life into us and has breathed his spirit over us, and has empowered us, so that we can go out faithfully proclaiming this good news! The kingdom of God has drawn near, all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved, Christ is alive!

It will be a new world into which we emerge, just as it was for them. But also just as it was for them, the ground is fertile and the harvest is ripe, so let us prepare ourselves with prayer, Word, and sacraments, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, let us, when our doors open, go out into all the world and preach the Gospel!

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