Sermon for Pentecost 2021

Listen to a sermon for Pentecost, Sunday 23 May 2021 – today is the birthday of the Church!

Today is the birthday of the Church!

Today is the day, some 2000 years ago, when followers of the risen and ascended Jesus Christ received the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Today is the day when humble, uneducated men from the cultural backwater of Galilee – men who were mocked for their unsophisticated local accent – were empowered to articulate and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world.

Today is the day when we remember the power of God descending on humanity in the form of fire and wind.

Today is the birthday of the Church!

So, how are you marking and celebrating this great day?

In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of the coming of the Advocate. In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of that promised moment.

The promised Advocate is come among us. The Holy Spirit – that witness to the truth, that Counsellor – is here.

The promised Advocate, who goes before us, and works alongside us, is here.

The promised Advocate, God the Holy Spirit, has come to do for us what we saw in Luke’s account on the original Day of Pentecost … Like Peter, we are now empowered to confidently and courageously proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

Peter – the one who so often got it wrong, the one who denied Jesus, ran away and hid – now stands before us fulfilling his destiny as the rock upon which Christ’s Church would be built.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter’s true potential is being fulfilled.

And that is important for us … Peter’s powerful witness to Jesus Christ is not rooted in his own strength. Rather, it is rooted in the power he has received from God, the power of the Holy Spirit we rejoice in today.

Today is the birthday of the Church!

Where are the party hats and balloons? Where is the joy that should be overflowing on this great day?

In our gospel reading we heard of the promised Advocate, and in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the coming of that Advocate. Then we also heard the famous reading of The Valley of the Dry Bones from the book of the prophet Ezekiel.

The dry bones that were given new life in order that they might set aside their despair and enjoy the new life of resurrection joy – a new life that they are called to share far and wide.

So … today is the birthday of the Church … Today, the message is one of a promise fulfilled, empowerment and new vibrant life …

  • What are we going to do with all that Good News?
  • What difference does this great day of Pentecost make to the way we live out our lives?

In these strange and challenging times the Church is facing a time of uncertainty … some would say crisis. Such language should be a rallying cry … a battle plan … it should not be seen as an invitation to retreat into our familiar bunkers of self-obsession and ‘dry’ faith.

Despite all that is being said, even by those in the highest positions of Church leadership, the Church is NOT dead! The Church of Jesus Christ lives … It lives through us … It lives through our faith, our joy, our commitment to telling the story of Jesus Christ, and our willingness to live out Christ’s command to love in his name.

Like the first disciples, the first recipients of God’s Holy Spirit, we are amateurs (a word that defines our love and commitment, and not an expression of incompetence as we so often assume). We, like those who aspire to fame on the multitude of talent shows that fill our television schedules, can only show our love and commitment by doing our best.

But … we must not place a glass ceiling above our own heads … we must not impose false limits upon what we can achieve in the Lord’s name.

We are called, and we are empowered, to be followers of Christ (disciples), and we are called to be ambassadors and messengers of Christ (apostles).

Today is the birthday of the Church

How are you celebrating that birthday?

In fact, there is only one way to celebrate … there is only one birthday present you can give … yourself!

We are all called to give everything in the service of Christ, as we show the depth of our immeasurable joy.

As Christ fulfils his promise of sending the Advocate we need to rejoice that we are empowered to achieve that which may seem impossible to us, but which is God’s destiny for us all: the sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ in all we say and do.