Preached on Sunday, 04.06.2017

By the Claire Herbert, student in training for the diaconate

[This sermon has woven together many commentary voices. The thinking was to mirror the voices of the witnesses who told of the Good News at Pentecost.]

“Go Into the Streets”

“When Pentecost came the disciples were together……and there came what looked like tongues of flame. These separated and rested on the head of each one individually.” Acts 2:1,3

It is typical. Typical of God’s calling to us that is. That on the day of Pentecost, instead of being allowed to dwell on what it feels like and, means to have tongues of fire resting on you, the disciples have to go straight out and start preaching.

Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

The Acts account has got it just right. The description of the giving of the Holy Spirit is over in four verses. The remainder of the chapter is Peter’s Sermon.

The first four verses are full of vivid details- the wild wind rocking the whole house, the tongues of flame, and the strange speech- but we are not allowed to dwell on them. We don’t even hear how the disciples got out of the house and into the crowd, but suddenly, that’s where they are.

Their Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

And now, now that they have reached their destination, the narrator slows down and there is time for dialogue, reaction, emotion, but not from the disciples. Instead, we are now focussing on the crowd, on their bewilderment, amazement and disbelief. ‘What about the disciples?’ you want to shout. ‘Were they bewildered, amazed or disbelieving? Or were they filled with joy, certainty and power? ‘You don’t need to know,’ Acts tells us firmly.

And that makes it clear what the gift of the Holy Spirit-

to the Church -is for. It is not designed to fill us with religious feelings

or to give us unshakable certainty, or impress others with our power,

or even to form us into The Church,

though it may have all those effects too.

The gift is given primarily to allow the disciples, and us, to do what Jesus commanded, which is to be his witnesses ‘in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8)

[Jane Williams “Lectionary Reflection” p72-3]

The gift is given.

We are to be witnesses.

Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

So much of our faith, if we are not very careful, can merely amount to a succession of second-hand spiritual experiences. We listen to talks that tell us what to think. We outsource our prayer requests to others. We read books that inspire us with other people’s encounters and adventures. But alone in prayer we may sometimes encounter God face to face without middleman or woman.  Often the Holy Spirit speaks directly to us in ways that no ministry session ever could. [Pete Grieg “Red Moon Rising” p166]

But will we hear the Holy Spirit say ‘Come’?

Could it be that the Holy Spirit is weary of attending our meetings, and hungers for our presence at his? Perhaps he is dreaming up a thousand new meeting places, where new sounds and sights burn the eyes and break the heart! May be the time has finally come when it will no longer possible to encounter the fullness of God in Christian classic meetings. Maybe this is a new day in which the fullness of God awaits us in the streets, and clubs and bars. But will we hear the Holy Spirit saying ‘Come, Holy People, Come’ [Pete Grieg “Red Moon Rising” p228]

Let us ask ourselves can we declare our

Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

He waits with Jesus in the darkness until we come, and yet we wonder why maybe he didn’t show up the way we hoped at some of our grand events. Jesus, has promised to be with us where two or three are gathered in his name, but perhaps there is weariness, a reluctance in his heart as he gazes back over his shoulder, out of the church door and into the street: ‘when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a Shepherd.’ [Matt 9:36]  Maybe we’re in store for some backdraught as the angels yell ‘C’mon!’ at us while we hide in Holy huddles and Christian cuddles staying safe and sound. [Pete Grieg “Red Moon Rising” p228]

Not yet…. Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

The world to which Peter speaks and from which he so recently came, is a world in which people share lifestyle, they are going along with the current. They share jokes and values, they are happy to hang out with the gang and greet each other in the streets.

Not a million miles from the room in which the disciples were in hiding, frightened and isolated.

Before the strange and eye catching behaviour of their;

Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

Would you be prepared to think through the possibility that what our non-Christian neighbours and friends think is strange about our behaviour is that we do plunge with them into worldly things.

They know we have Christian principles but we don’t live by them. The know Christians speak with a different tongue, or they are supposed to, they’re just surprised when we don’t. They know Christians say with Jesus “what shall it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose their own soul?” and they expect that somehow that’s going to have an impact on our lives. That we should have,

Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

But in a Chameleon Christianity, a thermostatically controlled deal, where we respond to whatever the surrounding environment is. We warm it up or cool it down depending on what our preference may be. The Spirit, waits in the street. Our non-Christian neighbours and friends are saying “I don’t know why this person is so like me, if this transforming power of Jesus is as radical as it might be!” [Alistair Begg Truth For Life Sermon “Living with God” https://www.truthforlife.org/broadcasts/2017/05/29/living-for-god-part-2-of-2/%5D

They question are these

Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets.

It is Peter’s voice we hear. A voice lifted in praise of God. He knows with utter clarity now that what has happened to the disciples is a sign of God’s huge and faithful purpose. This is what God has promised. Christian mission starts in the knowledge of our own need. Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus three times, is here to tell the crowd that God’s presence is: opportunity, not terror; salvation, not condemnation. The immediate effect on Peter of the gift of the Spirit has been to make him wildly generous. His excitement and joy bubble through, he longs to share what has now become clear to him. ‘The forgiveness and new life of God, given through Jesus Christ”. [Jane Williams “Lectionary Reflection” p72-3]

The spirit is at work in the streets.   He waits for us there.

“Come, Holy People Come,” is the call.

A call to move out of the fear keeping us in Holy Huddles and Christian safe rooms. Fear brings doubts, will we be able to hear and understand? Can we talk and be understood? Or will we misunderstand or misspeak or mishear or miscommunicate?

We are not called to be interesting, but by Christ to be interested.

Interested in those on the street ‘the crowds… harassed and helpless like sheep without a Shepherd.’ [Matt 9:36] [Pete Grieg “Red Moon Rising” p228]

The gift is given so that we might be wildly generous witnesses for Jesus Christ with,

Lives set ablaze with the Spirit of Pentecost:

Go into the streets. Amen

 

Prayerful Response

What streets are you being called out to?

On the way in you will have received a flame. In the pews there are pens to be shared.

With them let us answer the question

What street is the Holy Spirit calling you out to?

It could be the street in which you live or one known to you in need of prayerful support.

Fill in the street name on your flame and bring them forward or pass them to the children to bring forward on your behalf.  Where they will be pinned to the map.

Let us begin to set the streets of this parish ablaze with our prayers and our actions.

What street is the Holy Spirit calling you out to?

Hymn 259 Beauty from Brokenness. Chorus.

 

 

 


Order of Service of 04.06.2017 with readings

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