A Sermon for
the Feast of Pentecost, Sunday, May 23, 2021. 
Preached via Zoom to All Saints, King City, Anglican Diocese of Toronto.

 

Texts for this
Sunday (Yr B):  Acts 2.1-21, Ps
104.25-35,37b; Romans 8.22-27, Jn 15.26-27,16.4b-15

 





 

“When the Advocate comes,
whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the
Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have
been with me from the beginning. John 15:26-27

 

 Someone once wittily said
that the Holy Spirit to Christians is a lot like Ringo Starr is to Beatles
fans.  Either you take Ringo for granted
and kind of forget he’s there, or you madly obsess about him as your favourite
Beatle.   While some parts of the
Christian family – Pentecostals and charismatics – are like Ringo fans,  very
attuned to the Holy Spirit and its gifts and presence, I think most Anglicans tend
to regard the Spirit as the most mysterious part of the Trinity.  We acknowledge the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but
generally the Spirit is a bit of a stranger to our church, which is
unfortunate, because the Spirit has never been a stranger to God’s people.

 

In our Monday bible studies, we’ve
seen in places like Proverbs (Pr 8.22-36) and the Wisdom of Solomon (Wis
7.22-30) how God’s spirit of wisdom has been God’s partner since the creation
of the world.   Prophets like Ezekiel
recognized the spirit as the life-giving breath and force of God.  Peter in his sermon to the people of
Jerusalem recognize the spirit as the gift of revelation, of God wanting to be
known in dreams and prophesy.  Jesus, as
part of his long farewell to his friends in today’s gospel, says that the
Spirit will take up where he, Jesus, left off, as the presence and voice that
speaks the Father’s words just as Jesus the Son spoke them.     The Spirit, then, is merely the
continuation of God’s presence and speech to God’s people, but now at Pentecost
the spirit is given a new task, namely the building of a new community, the
church.

 

 Peter recognizes this new
work of the Spirit in his speech to the people of Jerusalem.  Just as Jesus built a community of friends of
God out of tax collectors and fishermen and faithful women, now the Spirit
expands that community to include all races, men and women, slave and
free.   That community becomes the
church, and so this Sunday, Pentecost, is about how we are here because God is always
building community.  The story of the appearance of the Holy Spirit is a
story of God creating a community with a certain shape and character – let’s
call it a Pentecost community.   What are the hallmarks of a Pentecost
community?   

 

First, it’s a diverse
community.    It’s gathered up out of all sorts of people, different
languages and backgrounds, different walks of life.  The Pentecost
community is not Wonder bread.  It has the same diversity that we see at All
Saints, old Ontario families and new Canadians, settlers and refugees,  very different people indeed, who are all here
because God wants us to be here.

 

Second, the Pentecost community
is a called community.  It began in a core group of disciples, who were
all called by Christ, but different people are constantly being added to the
story, like the crowds attracted to the disciples in Acts.  Think back to when you first came to All
Saints.   What was it that brought you
here?   Whatever stage in the story we arrived at, we were called to be
here.  And why were you called?  You were called because God loves you and
delights in you and wants you to be fully alive.  Think of our Psalm and God delights in the
leviathan  of the deep.  If God can love a giant sea creature, how
much more does he delight in you, made in God’s image, adopted into God’s
family as Christ’s brother and sister.

 

Third, the Pentecost community is
a gifted community.  The Spirit was incredibly generous to the disciples,
equipping them with gifts of languages so they could be heard by people from
all over the known world.  We too have gifts and talents, even if they’ve
felt buried away since Covid. way.  But think how people of this parish have
faithfully turned out for Zoom church, of how the Friday prayers of a few have
upheld the many for months now, or how we’ve kept up our ties with the
Crosslinks community through cooked meals, love, and concern.  Even through Covid, the Spirit’s abundance
works with our gifts in so many ways in our community, if we care to look for
it.

 

Fourth, the Pentecost community
is a community with a story to tell about God.  In Acts the people in the
crowd say that “we hear [the disciples] speaking about God’s deeds of power”.
  This gift of tongues and gift of communication is in keeping with what
Jesus ways of the Spirit in John: “he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also
are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning” (Jn 15:26-27). 
A Pentecost community tells people about God and about our hope in God.  I
think of Harry and Judith faithfully updating our sign on Keele Street, or
Kristen’s role in revamping and updating our website so people now that All
Saints is still open for business.   In
telling our story to the wider community, we are also telling God’s story.

 

 Finally, the Pentecost
community is a hopeful community.   Peter says to the crowds in Jerusalem
that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”.  We are here
because our Saviour rose from the dead.   The resurrection tells us that
death will not have the last word, that plague and pestilence won’t last, and
that God can’t be locked down.  We may be
well schooled in death looks like.  Many
of you are widows and widowers, and I grieve with you.    We grieve, but we come to Pentecost by way
of Easter.  We are a resurrection people
because, like it did with Jesus, the Spirit raised us to life.   We know
that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and we know that death
will have no dominion.  We believe that God is not finished with us, that
his work of creating the world is not yet done. 

 

So we don’t know when Covid will
end, or what the world will be like, or what the church will be like.   What we do know is that God is determined to
create a new world, one without Covid, without sin and death, without
depression or cancer, without war or poverty, or any of the other things that
we struggle with.  We know this because the resurrection of Christ is a
sign of God’s determination to rid us of these things.  

 

We may not know clearly how this
will happen, but Paul says in Romans 8, in one of the most wonderful passages
in scripture, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains
until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first
fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption
of our bodies” (Rom 8:22-23).

 

So we are a Pentecost
people.  Our community is the church, which has carried on across the
centuries, forming and reforming, speaking to us in our time.    And so we say, as a Pentecost community, as
we do each Sunday, Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do more than
we can ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation, in the
church and in Christ Jesus.  Amen.