In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.
This morning, we celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the young church. Jesus had told the 11 Apostles not to leave Jerusalem but to stay and wait. On the Day of Pentecost, 40 days after Easter, the Spirit came, like a rushing mighty wind, with tongues of fire, and 3000 souls in Jerusalem joined the New church, we are told in the second chapter of Acts, and the Spirit was everywhere.
St Paul may or may not have been present but he can’t stop speaking about the Spirit, which he had experienced and which was powering the Church in those early days. In Romans 8, for example, Paul tells us,
the Spirit is a living thing. The Spirit lives in you…Anyone, who does not have the Spirit, does not belong to Christ.
Paul expects all Christians to have the Spirit.
I have asked here before: Do you ever feel you have been short changed by Church life? Is ‘Church’ really all about PCC, flower rotas, parish share, diocesan quotas, choir practice and raising money for new boilers? The church, of course, is not a building, the Church is A FELLOWSHIP OF THE SPIRIT. God, in his love, wanted to create a people to enjoy Him, and for Him to enjoy, you and me, together in a fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The NT knows nothing of individual Christians. We are members one of another because God, in his Spirit, pours himself into our hearts. If you are baptised, St Paul tells us, in Corinthians, The Holy Spirit lives in you. You may not FEEL it, but the Holy Spirit has been living in you since your baptism. In that wonderful hymn, ‘Come down, O Love Divine ‘ we ask the Spirit, Love Divine to come down on us,
For none can guess its grace
Till he becomes the place
In which the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling
That word ‘dwelling’ tells us the Spirit lives in every baptised person. In you. In me.
Many of us are not aware of the Holy Spirit living in us. If he is, He is more like a lodger who might live in our house, but doesn’t come down and see us very often, and join in our family life. For some of us, these days, these lodgers are likely to be our teenage or even older children, living a self-contained and very private life of their own; technically, they live with us, but we rarely see them, sometimes for days. But they are there.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:
Do you not know your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, which you have received from God.
This Pentecost, and in prayer, shout up your own stairs and ask, or tell, the Holy Spirit to come down and spend time with you. Come down, O Love Divine. Come down, Holy Spirit!
You know, we don’t treat Pentecost as very important, compared with other festivals like Christmas and Easter, do we? We don’t anticipate Pentecost with the same excitement, do we? Not like those disciples who were waiting, anticipating…
But Pentecost is our own festival, just for the baptised – supermarkets can’t make money out of it – no Christmas presents, no hot cross buns, no Easter eggs. Ask children what Pentecost is all about and it’s unlikely they can tell you. But Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church. Some churches bring out a birthday cake today. Others have started Vigil Masses on the Saturday evening before, building up that expectancy, praying for the Spirit to descend. Veni, creator Spiritus, Come down Holy Spirit!
At the original Creation of the World, as early as Genesis 1 vs 2, we read
the earth was without form and void and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
In other words, the whole Earth was expecting, very pregnant at that moment, Waiting to give birth to life itself, and the Holy Spirit acted as midwife. We read:
When the Spirit of God moved over the waters, the waters broke – and formed dry land.
The Holy Spirit comes down, the waters break and there is birth.
And today at Pentecost, it’s another birthday – the Spirit gives life to God’s new creation, the Church, the renewed Israel. St Paul uses the image of pregnancy again, when he tells us in Romans:
we know the whole Creation has been groaning in labour until now..waiting to give birth..and we, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for our redemption.
Waiting! expectantly! because No Holy Spirit, then no Creation, no world, no New Testament. No Christians, no Church. It seems to me these days we are too often like those Christians in Ephesus we read about in Acts 19. Paul asks them: ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were baptised?’ And the reply was: ‘No, we have never even heard that there IS a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul baptises them again, and we are told: ‘when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and they prophesied. ‘ So often, it seems, we are more Bi-nitarians, we are not Trinitarians at all. We say we believe in God, and in Jesus Christ his son. But where is the Holy Spirit? Has He shown up yet? Come, Holy Spirit!
The Greek word for Spirit – Pneuma – and the Hebrew word Ruarch – mean both Spirit and breath, in both languages. Spirit, ‘spiration: We speak of respiration meaning breathing, and we speak of inspiration meaning creativity. That’s how basic the Spirit is to our lives. Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples and turns them into Apostles. – or you could say, Jesus spirits His Holy Breath on them.
So, at the creation of the world, and on the day of Pentecost, there was an air of expectancy. May I ask: What did you expect when you came to church this morning? Did you expect anything? Should we expect anything when we come to church? Did you expect to enjoy the service this morning? Or did you expect to be touched by the Holy Spirit and transformed into a new creation? Indeed, we ready for that?
When we wait for the Spirit, we are not waiting for the next big thing. I have seen people ‘ slain by the Spirit’, falling over, laughing uncontrollably. I have seen manifestations of the Toronto Blessing in the 90s. In Kenya, I have seen miraculous hearings. I know some people love all that stuff and it’s great television, isn’t it? But, as Elijah found, the voice of God is not always in the rushing, mighty wind, or in the storm.
God gives us The Spirit for a purpose: to make us holy, just as He is holy. To transform us into his Children. Into a new humanity. Therefore, much of the work of the Spirit is quiet, softly, gradual, year in, year out, as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ. The writer to the Hebrews calls it ‘ that holiness without which we cannot see God.’ We should take that line thoughtfully – it’s quite frightening.
In Galatians, Paul identifies the fruits of the spirit as: ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ Those are not noisy qualities. The Spirit is at work in the ordinary, in the normal, quietly transforming us. These Gifts we tend to expect from others. They are all things we criticise others for not having. We expect others to show love, peace, forbearance, kindness, gentleness, self-control to US, but so often we do not show them to others. Yet they are all Gifts from God, given to us by the Holy Spirit at our baptism.
Today, is a wonderful occasion. Easter is over. The resurrected Lord Jesus has ascended to his Father. Jesus promised we would not be left orphans, we can do all things, in the Power of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, We are now called to grow up, because each of us are now Temples of the Holy Spirit, Temples in which the Spirit now lives.
Happy Birthday to you all