Preached by Revd Vicky Maunder on 31 May 2020: Pentecost
Acts 2:1-13 / John 20:19-23
Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God at work in the world; God’s way of being with us and how we experience the presence of Christ.
As I reflect on the last couple of months the Holy Spirit has been at work in so many ways. Through the NHS staff and keyworkers who have selflessly put the needs of others above their own. They have gone to work and nursed the sick, stocked supermarket shelves, collected bins, taught children and buried loved ones. We see the Spirit at work in their selfless actions.
Through the Thursday evening NHS claps, where so many people across the country have shared in a spirit of love and thankfulness and appreciation. Through the local Coronavirus Support groups, where people in the local community have worked together to support those in need and to care for others.
Through the Food Bank box in my porch filling up with donations each week. Through the caring phone calls of the buddy system. Through the card pushed through my door this week that lifted my spirits.
God is at work in all these things through the Holy Spirit, speaking to us of his love, his goodness, his hope.
The Spirit is at work in me when I come to prayer full of anxiety and I’m given the gift of peace, when I read the Bible and I’m given a new understanding into my situation and my faith.
The Spirit was at work when a parishioner told me that the last days she spent with her father before he died recently were so precious and positive and she found she was given an inner strength to get through and to cope.
In all these ways the Holy Spirit is at work, making Christ present to us; through others, through scripture and the sacraments, through the created world and through our own lives, often in surprising ways and surprising places, bringing hope out of despair.
This continues to be such a difficult time, but God is at work all around us through the Spirit if we have eyes to see.
In our readings today we see how the Spirit empowers and transforms the disciples to do God’s work. In both readings they are dispirited, frightened, gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem looking back to when Jesus was with them. Then the spirit comes. In the Acts reading we are told the Spirit comes like the rush of a violent wind and in tongues of fire. In the Old Testament both wind and fire are associated with the presence of God so the writer is telling us this was an overwhelming experience of God’s presence for the disciples. And they are empowered; galvanized and equipped to continue Jesus’ work. The Spirit brings out gifts in them and enables them to do more than they could ever have believed. Peter is a fisherman; he is not educated but he stands up and preaches to the crowds. All the disciples are enabled to communicate with the diverse people around, and they tell of all God has done.
In the gospel reading Jesus breathes the Spirit on the disciples, a much more intimate experience, as he offers them peace and sends them out to do his work.
The Spirit is both immense and powerful but also intimate and peaceful. And the Spirit is given for a reason, to equip and empower God’s people to share the good news of God’s love in word and action.
Today our service ends a little differently. We will commit ourselves afresh to this calling in the power of the Spirit. The Easter Candle which was lit at Easter to celebrate Christ’s resurrection will be extinguished. We have celebrated Ascension Day. Jesus has returned to God the Father and now at Pentecost, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we carry on his work. Before we extinguish the Easter candle, we will light candles from it to symbolise how we now carry Christ’s light and take it to our needy world, empowered, equipped and sent by the Holy Spirit.