• The Rector

Sermon for Pentecost (Year C)

June 5th, 2022

“Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”

In a way, to celebrate today, the Feast of Pentecost – the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on humanity – is to recognize and to admit our own frailty, that alone we are weak and feeble, that we are in need of something else to animate us and to guide us.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus is constantly demonstrating to those around him what love looks like, what divine and godly charity looks like. Over and again he draws near to people who are sick with leprosy, near to the Caananite and Samaritan woman, near to the poor and downtrodden, near to the powerful as well, and all those thought to be unclean.

He does this not only proclaim to them and all who witness his miracles the expansive nature of God’s love for them – that even for them there is a seat at God’s table – but his actions are also a kind of silent rebuke to the disciples who often fail to love those Jesus cares for. At several occasions the Disciples urge Jesus not to bother with those people, but to move on. Jesus’ love to them not only shows us the life-altering love that exists for us, but the love that we are meant to have for others.

That failure of the disciples to love is something that exists all around us still, not something that belongs to the Disciples time alone.

The same kind of gulf between the wealth of the world’s richest and the world’s poorest is still with us as it was in Jesus’ time. What is the difference between people, even in our country, who live without clean water or daily food or shelter when others amass unfathomable wealth, but a failure to love our neighbours as ourselves?

What is the situation in Ukraine right now but a failure to love as Jesus commanded? Where in that is the divine charity that God has for us, the same that we are to show others?

Turn on the news and you’ll see the same: blaming, yelling, pinning the responsibility for every ill we suffer on everyone else, an endless echo chamber of fear, insecurity, and hostility. The last few years have hopefully woken us up to our own frailty and the need for the care and grace of something beyond and above us.

The Easter Season comes to a close today, the season in which we celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour and what that means for us. But a big part of celebrating the Easter season is recognizing – and indeed admitting – that we need a saviour at all. That there are things from which we need saving and we cannot do it ourselves.

In a daily sense what this saving looks like are the ways that we are transformed by God’s divine charity, His love. The kind of love that, when we want to be defensive or lash out in anger, causes us to choose to apologize; it looks like those moments when we choose to forgive when we want to hold a grudge, to pray for our enemies instead of condemning them, to give generously to those in need, rather than to be miserly. This transformation does not happen at once but takes a lifetime, like a statue emerging at the hands of a sculptor, so is the stoniness of our hearts chipped away each day by God’s love that dwells in us.

And that love is God’s spirit, the spirit that we celebrate today, that was poured out on the Apostles as tongues of fire, the same love that moved over the water at the beginning of creation, animated the dry bones in the valley, and came down upon Jesus at his baptism.

In the past the spirit had come calmly but now with a rushing wind, a loud noise, and tongues of fire. Something new was happening there that day, something different than in times past. The Spirit came as a saving fire, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, not to burn those who receive it but to consume the thorns of sin within our hearts. Not to burn and blacken, but to purify and give lustre and brightness to our souls.

The spirit comes to live in us. Pentecost celebrates the fact that 10 days after Jesus ascended to the Father, 50 days after he rose from the dead, God comes back to us to find a home not around us or with us but in us so that He may be with us throughout our lives and that we may be with Him.

Happily, we are also this time of year celebrating the platinum jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth, an event we may at first think unconnected to our celebrations today. Seventy years ago this past Thursday was her Coronation at Westminster Abbey at which the Archbishop anointed her and prayed over her, “…by his holy anointing pour down upon your Head and Heart the blessing of the Holy Ghost, and prosper the works of your hands…”

The Coronation service recognizes that being the Queen is not a job that one chooses but a vocation to which one is called and the service prays that the one who is called to it will receive and be sustained by God’s spirit that they might live out their calling and perform their duties in a loving and righteous way.

It recognizes that the life of the Monarch is not their own, that neither their vocation nor their strength is their own, their duties are not their own but an extension of the life, the love, and the work of God in the world, of whom they are a chosen servant and without whom they can do nothing.

And what we celebrate at the Platinum Jubilee of our Queen is, in essence, the very same thing that we celebrate for ourselves today – that God has called each of us to a particular vocation, a calling, and by giving us the Holy Spirit has given us gifts to live out those callings, to keep us in mind of the promises that Jesus made to us, and to be remade and transformed each day as we are carved out of stone, so to speak, and brought to life through the fire of the Spirit.

May the same Spirit that rested on the Apostles, and that gifted HM with seventy years of faithful, righteous service, also be upon us and in us that we may be renewed, set alight, and live the new life in Christ.

“Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”

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