Canon Missioner - The Revd Canon Jay Colwill
Acts 2. 1 -12.
Let me begin by saying again how good it is to be in Southwark Diocese and Cathedral as your Canon Missioner
People have made me feel very welcome. I also want to begin by welcoming Xanthe into the life of the church through baptism and say what a privilege it is to preach on this, their special day! This weekend has seen a momentus event! The world has gathered in one place. They have come to see a bride- beautifully dressed for her husband. There is a palpable sense of celebration and thanksgiving. All in all, it is a very special day! It is…… Pentecost! (Oh, as well as being a royal wedding weekend!)
I didn’t feel that yesterday’s events could go unacknowledged in my sermon. But as I’ve alluded to, there are some theological parallels, which are worthy of note, as we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The church is described as a bride, in Revelation 21.2. In Acts 2, she has her first public engagement in the centre of Jerusalem in front of representatives from all over the known world. (Ok, this wasn’t Meghan Markle’s first public engagement!) The bride’s history has an interesting back-story. Yet, regardless of this, she is still welcomed into royalty.
We know why the whole world is gathered in Windsor this weekend. However, why were people from around the known world gathered in Jerusalem at this time? The reason why Jewish converts were gathered in Jerusalem was in order to celebrate Shavuot. Shavout has a double significance for the Jews. It commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai and it marks the all-important wheat harvest in the Land of Israel . So, Shavuot is time of the giving of the law- to guide the people and it’s harvest time, harvest time! The events of Book of Ruth occur at harvest time. (If you’ve never read the book of Ruth, I do recommend it. It’s a wonderfully constructed, 4 chapter book which is full of emotion, pathos and joy! Ruth, like another bride of the present moment- is something of an outsider. She has no rights to inclusion in God’s royal people- the covenant people of Israel. Instead, it is celebrated an example of hesed (loving-kindness), a major theme of the Torah.
So, here were people from around the known world celebrating the giving of the law, but also remembering the harvest, and retelling the story of Ruth-‘one of their own’- an outsider made good!
Pentecost marks a turning point in the loving-kindness (hesed) of God.
For Jesus said in Luke 24:49
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.
Yesterday, most of the cameras were focused upon Meghan and the dress. Yet, as Spirit-filled believers, we are differently clothed. In the rest of my time, I want to outline how the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost clothes us with a new identity, and a new place in God’s royal family.
Firstly, we are Clothed with Praise!
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
They praised God as the Spirit enabled them!
As I’ve said the Jews celebrated Pentecost as the day that law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was the law- given to the Jewish nation that made them distinct. They had a unique relationship with God because of this covenant. How revolutionary it is that on this very celebration day, God should speak a new word of praise to many nations (and through them to all nations!) Pentecost was transformed from a harvest day for one nation to a day when God would begin his new harvest amongst all nations. And it began with praise!
Do you want to be released to praise?
There is much about our corporate cathedral worship that speaks of praise. Whether it is through the architecture, the liturgy, the flowers, or the music, these and more, are expressions of praise.
Yet, perhaps in our personal lives (and perhaps even when we come to corporate worship) we don’t feel released in praise to God! We can praise and celebrate in other settings- whether it be at a family celebration, a sporting occasion or at the theatre. Yet, we are somehow inhibited in our praise and adoration of God. What could be holding us back? Is it what people might think of us? Is it the tension we feel between reverence towards God and exuberance about what salvation has brought to us? Each one of us will be different.
Yet, the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a fresh opportunity for each of us to ask again to be clothed with the power of praise!
The second transformation that the Holy Spirit at Pentecost offers us is to Clothe us with Understanding!
Language is an amazing thing! Only when you start learning another language do you begin to understand the heartbeat of person. The language that I am continuing to re-learn is French. I take regular trips to France and where I stay, only French is spoken. So, it’s been essential that I speak it better to communicate with my adopted community. In my previous congregation, I had a couple that were fluent French speakers. Carol and her husband Jean were helping me in my French conversation. French from a book or CD is one thing, but a living language spoken to you by someone who knows you and wants to helps you. That is truly the best way to learn. What God did on Pentecost was supernaturally enable Jesus’ disciples declare “the wonders of God in our own tongues!" They helped people see that God was for them, not against them. As fun as it is to learn to speak French- what I would give to just be able to speak French, without thinking about it! That is what God gave to the disciples in order to communicate to these many nations that God was for everyone.
…we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd
Peter – filled with the Spirit- understood what God was doing… He was clothed with understanding of the scriptures and of these times!
God’s spirit can give us divine understanding of the times and circumstances that we are living through.
God’s gift at Pentecost is to clothe us with the Spirit of Understanding, so that we can speak out God’s truth and interpret the times in the language of the culture we are in.
Do you struggle to understand the events of time, or the meaning of the Bible?
You can ask to be clothed with fresh understanding!
Thirdly and finally (for today) the Holy Spirit can
Clothe us with Generosity.
‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
Peter and the other disciples- young and old, women and men- had received this marvelous touch from God. They didn’t want to keep it to themselves. They wanted to tell others, they wanted to demonstrate their new-found encounter with God through acts of service and ministries of healing. In essence, they wanted to give away what they had received.
When we truly understand this wonderful truth, then we want to share it. How can you share with others what the Spirit is doing in your life today, tomorrow, and into this coming week? What can you do in word or deed to intentionally bless others with the generous gift of God? If Pentecost is harvest time, we are called to be gathering and sharing the abundance of God- not keeping it to ourselves.
So, as a response to God’s generosity to you (in the gift of the Spirit), how can you be generous to others?
‘stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
That is what happened on the first Pentecost. The first disciples were clothed with praise, clothed with understanding, clothed with generosity.
What do you need to ask God to clothe you with this Pentecost Sunday?