Following guidance by the Diocese, live-streaming from the Church is at the moment not allowed. Prayers, readings and reflections (audio file included) are available below:
Whitsunday 31 May
Today's Sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
31st May 2020
The world is charged with the grandeur
It will flame out, like shining from
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have
And all is seared with trade; bleared,
smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares
man's smell; the soil
Is bare now, not can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep
And though the last lights off the black
Oh, morning, at the brown brink
eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and
with ah! bright wings.
Gerald Manly Hopkins.
God, who as at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Acts 2:1-21, 1 Corinthians 12:3-13, John 20:19-23.
May the Holy Spirit fill and guide the Church and give God's people words of power, words of comfort, words of life.
We pray for our world troubled by divisions, lack of empathy and understanding.
Holy Spirit shatter the barriers which hold people apart.
We pray for the sick and for those who spend themselves caring for them. We especially pray for Charlie Chesser, Otto Lein and Bill Scott.
We pray for those who have died. May we be led with them to the glorious life of heaven.
Pentecost 2020 (available as audio file above)
It’s no surprise that facing the Coronavirus has led to comparisons with the Great Plague of 1665. But remember that in London the Plague was followed only a year later by fire, a blaze which incinerated two-thirds of the city. After that, nothing could be the same again. Yet, even while the ruins were still smoking, there were those like Sir Christopher Wren who saw that a major opportunity was being given, a chance to rebuild and build better.
So, after our own encounter with a pandemic, what fire might follow? What opportunities might be given to burn away national and local habits of pollution, unconcern for the needy, institutionalized greed? How might we build anew and build better, and do we really want to?
If that is going to be more than a dream, then as a society and as individuals we must accept that in order to create something new we must be prepared to loosen our grip on customs which are well-established but destructive. Without that, the new cannot come. This letting go flies in the face of our present Western mentality, whose principle is, “hang on to what you have and try to grab more,” and which fails to notice that if your hands are clenched around something, you can’t actually receive anything.
This may seem an unusual way to begin reflecting on the Feast of Pentecost, but it’s potentially a fruitful one. Pentecost, meaning fifty days after Easter, is when we think of the Holy Spirit being poured out on Our Lord’s disciples. This was the gift for which they had been waiting without knowing what would arrive. In the event, it was not what would arrive, but Who, because the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, God’s Own energy, God’s Own creative power, the power seen most clearly in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
One thing which made London’s Great Fire unstoppable was the combination of flames with a strong wind, and we have both those things on the Day of Pentecost. The disciples have shut themselves away in a room, but suddenly the whole house is shaken by a sound like that of rushing wind, followed by the Spirit seizing on the disciples like flames seizing on wood. The result is a group of people who become as uncontrollable as the wind, people fired-up to proclaim a message, whatever the cost.
When the Spirit-filled disciples tumble out of their room into the street, shouting in ecstatic joy, a revolution begins. They become that most unsettling of things, people with a new vision. “Look!” they say, “God has raised Jesus from the dead! Everything is different now.” That’s a sure sign of men and women who are filled with the Spirit of God; they see the world and what goes on there in a totally different way from other people. They judge by different standards. That’s why they’re seen as dangerous. They can’t be bullied and threatened into submission by those with power.
But there’s more. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of creative energy and vision, but also the Spirit of Truth. Once again, we see why Spirit-filled people are a threat to those who defend their position by lying, by making statements which must not be questioned. The Spirit gives us a taste for Truth, and a revulsion at those who employ untruth.
The first Christians rapidly became seen as troublemakers by those who didn’t want their security and power disturbed. If we’re honest, we must admit that the Church has often been wary of the Holy Spirit, because God’s Spirit can’t be tamed or kept in order. Also, when the Spirit wants to get something done, anybody who’s suitable material for doing it will be chosen by the Spirit, whether they have the stamp of official approval or not.
When we’re baptized, the Risen Christ breathes the Holy Spirit into us. After that, the Spirit is always at work in us, and we’re marked out to live by the Spirit’s standards. Whatever our varied personal gifts and abilities, the Spirit of God is waiting to use them for the good of the Church and the world.
This is where the Christian message speaks to our society with a Spirit-animated voice. With the Spirit’s authority, we can say that things don’t have to be as they have been. They can be changed for better. We can build on a new foundation. But the price of that will be letting the Spirit get to work in us as individuals.
There are many people now who are daring to think that the world might be run on better and more compassionate lines which will benefit everyone, not just a selfish few. That is truly the voice of the Holy Spirit. But as soon as it’s heard, the anti-Spirit voice is also heard. That voice says to us, “How can a few people like you make any headway against the might of mega-corporations, against organized political machinery, against insatiable greed?” And notice that this defeatist voice carefully distracts us from the truth that we might at least work for change in the place where we live.
When that voice sounds in our hearts and minds, we must turn back to Pentecost. Look at the disciples; not a particularly impressive collection, and yet because they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they started a movement which transformed the way people looked at God, at themselves, and at the world.
That movement is rooted in Christ’s Resurrection. You might think that a tomb is the one place on earth where everything is unchangeable, but no. God defeats sin and death by raising the entombed Jesus to glorious life. God is still working to defeat death, and everything which smells of death, including the deathly influences operating in our world. The Resurrection is the beginning of a new vision and a new hope which took over the disciples at Pentecost. It turned them into Apostles, messengers who took this Good News out to embrace the globe. Like them, we are meant to be Resurrection people, apostles who in God’s name will question whatever is deathly, whatever devalues lives and ruins God’s world. Whenever some scheme is presented to us, Christians should test it by asking, “Is this compatible with the Spirit of the Risen Christ?” If it isn’t, then no matter how plausible it appears, it is fundamentally false.
But here’s a warning. There’s one thing the Spirit of God doesn’t have, and that’s a reverse gear. God blesses everything good which we’ve inherited from the past, and we must use our good heritage well; but the Spirit is always pushing us forward, always urging us to look to a wider horizon, to a greater light. If we respond to the Spirit, we will never be able to settle back into what is untrue, unjust, unmerciful and ultimately deathly. The Spirit of Christ calls us to a great mission, filled with God’s eternal life. Let’s take a deep breath of that Spirit and begin.