This week’s service has been prepared by Rev. Christine Coram
Jesus said: ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you’.
O God, our creator and source of our lives, we love and worship you for your power, protection and life…
We praise you for your perfection and purity…
We bow down, astounded by your generous love…
We thank you for Jesus and his life on earth, his challenging teaching, his strong and upright example…
Forgive us when we have failed to live up to his example…
Thank you that after his death, resurrection and ascension, you poured out your Holy Spirit on his followers – and ever since, to all who believe.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Reading: Acts 1: 4-8 and 2: 1-4
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Reading: John 7:37-39
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Streams of living water will flow from within those who believe.
Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? It is a truly magnificent sight. But as you get closer (and I was amazed at how close you can get) the sheer power and deafening roar become an experience that you are unlikely to forget. I remember tears streaming down my face in response to emotion I couldn’t name –it was just incredibly moving. The power and speed of the water take your breath away.
But I’m that the hydro-electric power station just before the falls takes energy and force from the water and it would be faster and stronger without the it.
‘Streams of living water’ certainly describe Niagara.
The water pours through the power station creating electricity which is then distributed to homes and industry.
Jesus says that Living Water will flow from within us. It streams to us from the Father and into us, working within us and flowing on in action that touches the world.
We as Christians, are like the power station in the Niagara river, we need the flow of the Holy Spirit in order to fulfil the potential we have to work for God.
Let’s change the illustration to that of a canal lock. When the gates are closed, the water is held back creating an empty chamber and bringing the flow of the water to a full stop.
We can close our spiritual lock gates and effectively diminish the flow of the Holy Spirit to the point of bringing God’s work in and through us to a virtual stand-still. Or, we can open the gate to the fullest and let the living water flow through and fulfil our God-given purposes. We always have the choice.
If someone stands above us with a bucket of water, we can choose to stand still and get a good soaking or chose to move away and keep dry!
If it’s a hot day, we might delight in a soaking – but it will take our breath away and feel like a bit of a shock – even if it’s a refreshing one.
The disciples on the day of Pentecost had a shocking experience, but they were open to. And they saw God at work in and through them.
Personally, on a hot day, rather than the bucket approach, I prefer a tepid shower – a nice fine spray that is not ice cold but is predictable and that I’m able to control. But if God chooses to soak us in the Holy Spirit, it’s for a reason.
And so, what will we choose? Are we willing to allow God to soak us? Or do we feel God at work and run the other way?
We can be open to the exiting things God has in store for us, and others through us. We can ask God to pour out his Spirit on us and embrace whatever comes.
In 1988, at a Christian conference event, I listened to a sermon in which the preacher, with reference to the Holy Spirit, repeatedly used a phrase I’d not been conscious of hearing before. He said: ‘You shall receive power’ and I now know that he was quoting from the passage from Acts that we read earlier.
I knew I wanted and needed that Godly power – and I was open to a good bucket-soaking. What I got when I sought out someone to pray for me to receive the Holy Spirit was more akin to a gentle trickle – one that gradually increased in the next few years – and one I need and I’ve learned to expect over and over. It’s not something to be afraid of, and if we are going to be the church God wants us to be, there is no other way.
The disciples, amongst many other things, received the gift of speaking in other languages, or ‘tongues’. This particular Spiritual Gift has often courted controversy from people denying that it’s real to people aggressively proclaiming that all Christians must have it. For the disciples, it was a necessary gift in order to share their message with many people in a short space of time.
But it is real and one of many amazing gifts that God the Holy Spirit gives as s/he decides. It enables Christians to pray in a way that they may not understand. It’s a quiet and un-flamboyant experience whilst at the same time a deep and profound one.
Like all the gifts given by the Holy Spirit, it is intended to benefit the church and God’s mission, first and foremost. The Spirit does not take over a person like a puppet master, making them do things they do not choose to. The gifts bring assistance and aid, not extrovert shows to impress.
In Romans 12, Paul lists ‘serving’ and ‘encouragement’ as Spiritual gifts, for example. Gifts like these are humble and understated – but as necessary as the more dramatic sounding gifts.
If you want to know more about the Gifts of the Spirit, I suggest reading Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.
It is power to continue with God’s work after Jesus’ ascension that is the focus of the Pentecost narrative. It’s what Jesus promised. It’s what the disciples lacked until that moment. And it’s what his followers to need as much today as 2,000 years ago.
And so, I invite you as you read or sing the following song, to offer yourself again to God – to be cleansed, refreshed and re-powered. I invite you to ask God for his Holy Spirit to flow into you, fill you, work in you, and flow out of you in witness, supernatural love and humble service.
I invite you to spend some time bringing to mind those for whom you are concerned – your family and friends; the unknown thousands across the world affected by Coronavirus; the leaders of the world in their management of the current crisis; those whose suffering pre-dates the virus and is caused by injustice and greed; your own needs and fears.
O God, you know every issue and concern, you experience every pain and match every tear that falls, we lift to you those we love and those who need your love, your strength and your healing today. We ask you to meet their needs and ours in ways we cannot even imagine. We pray in faith and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer.
Unseen wind of creative love, unseen breath of resurrection life, unseen streams of living water – God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and each moment of each day. Amen.