Introduction and Call to Worship
Today we celebrate the birthday of the Christian Church! We rejoice in the gift of God’s Spirit, breath of life and power of love. So we open hearts, ready to receive from him the promised Spirit, that we may be led into all truth.
First Reading Acts 2:1-21
The coming of the Spirit gives the first Christian leaders the energy and courage to proclaim the Gospel.
Second Reading Romans 8:22-27
We and all the created world are groaning as we try to come to new birth. But the Holy Spirit is interceding for us.
Gospel John 15:26-27. 16:4b-15
Jesus speaks of the Spirit who will guide and enable the disciples when Jesus himself has gone.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13)
Today on the feast of Pentecost (Whit-Sunday), we celebrate the gift of God revealed in the third person of the Blessed Trinity – the Holy Spirit known as the Comforter or Advocate who guides the Church and Christians to the truth. Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free, but truth is not something we simply create. It is the gift of God who is the possessor and the giver of all truth.
Truth is a complicated matter, for sometimes we fear the truth; we think it will inhibit our freedom or hurt someone else. There is nothing worse than the feeling of waiting in the doctors surgery in anticipation of ‘The Truth’. Likewise, we often see the truth but choose not to recognise it for what it is. Of course, it is better to know the truth than be misled by a lie. Jesus told his disciples that the truth will set us free (John 8:32). The truth liberates us from doubts, illusions and fears. Since God is the source of all truth, the closer we draw to him and listen to his Word, the scriptures, the more we will grow in the knowledge of him and of his great love and wisdom for us. The Sacraments, such as the Eucharist, allow us to meet God. They allow Jesus himself, the ultimate truth, to be present amidst the busyness of our lives.
Jesus promised his disciples the Spirit of truth who would lead them: “[the Holy Spirit] will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13); he himself being "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), the Word made flesh and the one who dwelt among us. Friends, my fear is that we live in an age rather sceptical of the truth, hence the emphasis by some on ‘fake news’ which I would suspect is often a cover for the truth itself. Sometimes today it is hard to know what to trust – or even whom. Jesus speaks of the Spirit as an advocate, someone who understands the issues and argues for the truth, someone who helps with communication. There will come a time, Jesus tells his disciples, when he will no longer be there to speak to people about himself and about God. That task will then belong to his followers (and therefore to you and me today). But they will not be on their own, and neither will we today – as Christians we need the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.
The story of the day of Pentecost, as read a moment ago from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, shows this working in practice. The disciples have lived through momentous events and experienced strong emotions. They are exhausted, confused and a little afraid. But then something miraculous happens as they wait in the upper room: Pentecost turns their world upside down end equips them with the gift of communication. Suddenly they have words. They can go out into the street with confidence and tell the crowds what has happened, and the crowds can hear them. The Church has found its voice; words that continue today to speak of truth for a new generation as the same Spirit of God continues to reveal the purposes of the Godhead.
The Holy Spirit speaks through the scriptures and reveals the truth. St Paul teaches that "no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, which helps us recognize the truth as well as comforting us, and challenging and changing our lives today; transforming us from glory to glory and transforming the lives of those around us also.
As Christians who are committed to regularly gathering in this place for worship to be renewed, taught and built up for service, we receive the gifts of God, the spiritual resources needed to communicate the Gospel as God calls us to share his Word with others and experience his presence here at St Mary’s and out in the world at large. But it is still easy for Christians to fail to listen, to communicate badly and to end up not speaking the same language. We need to learn to be in the world without being of the world, because our message is extraordinary but our language needs to be understood.
Thank God for the gift of the Spirit, our advocate, who helps us to communicate the truth – in contrast to fake news – as we share God’s love with a new generation! Amen.
1. Good communication is essential in the proclamation of the Gospel.
2. Jesus speaks of the Spirit as “the advocate”, one who will provide the words to make the argument.
3. The coming of the Spirit enables the disciples to communicate their message in language that can be understood.
4. In our media driven world, it is important that we let the Holy Spirit guide us, so that we can proclaim the Gospel in words that are understood by a new generation.