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Sermon for Pentecost
Pentecost (Whitsun)
Preacher: The Revd Will Newman

Welcome to listeners who have joined us since the start of the broadcast. We are in St Stephen’s Chapel Stanley. And today is a day of celebration for the Church around the world. It’s the Day of Pentecost, which means 50 days, 50 days after Easter. It’s the day when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. Before ascending to return to the Father, Jesus promised the disciples that they would not be left to rely on their own strength alone, but that the Holy Spirit would be with them. Christians are inheritors of that promise, and we can experience God’s Holy Spirit present with us in our lives.


How do Christian experience the Holy Spirit? This morning I would like to draw a series of pictures of the Holy Spirit. And since we’re on radio, I’ll draw them with words.


The story that we heard in our first bible reading tells of the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples like the rush of a violent wind, and tongues of fire. This is our first picture, a picture of wind and flame. Fire and wind are powerful forces, and the image they create is an image of power, an image of forces and elements that are beyond our control. The disciples are almost literally swept off their feet and out into the crowds, and they are transformed, renewed, empowered by the wind and flame of the Spirit, and given the courage and ability to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.


But it isn’t always like the drama of that wind and flame. This morning I want to explore some different ways that the Bible suggests we can experience the Holy Spirit.


At Jesus’ own baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. So our second picture is a dove. What does the dove mean? In the story of Noah’s Ark in the Book of Genesis, when Noah sent out a dove and it returned carrying a twig from an olive tree, Noah knew that the flood was ending, and the world was being restored. So the dove represents peace, healing and reconciliation. When we look at the conflicts around the world tearing lives apart, we see the great need for peace; when we look at divisions in our own city we see the need for reconciliation; when we look into our own hearts, and the pain we hide from others, we see the need for healing. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as the Comforter. Sometimes we need the Holy Spirit who comes as the dove, the peace-maker, the comforter in times of trouble.


In our second bible reading today St Paul writes of the Holy Spirit as a Giver of Gifts, for each one of us to use for the common good. And so my third picture is of gift-wrapped presents, each box waiting for us to open. Paul lists some of the gifts: wisdom, knowledge, healing, prophecy, working miracles, and so on. I wonder if you know people who have these different gifts, and who use them for the good of others.


 Who do you know that is wise in the ways of God?

 Who do you know that seems to know God; not just know about God, but know God and love God?

 Who do you know that has the gift of healing? Maybe not a doctor, but someone whose words and whose presence brings healing in place of hurt and pain?

 Who do you know that has the gift of prophesy, someone who looks at the world through God’s eyes and sees clearly what’s wrong and needs to be put right?

 Who do you know that can work miracles, changing despair into hope, and tears into laughter?


I am sure that if you look at your friends and family and colleagues, you could identify people who have some of these gifts of the Holy Spirit. And someone who knows you well could tell you the gift of the Holy Spirit that they see in you.


We have had three pictures of the Holy Spirit: first wind and flame, second the dove of peace, the comforter, and third the giver of gifts. I’ll draw one more picture, and it comes from one of the creeds we use, our statement of our Christian belief. When we recite the Nicene Creed we speak of the Holy Spirit as ‘The Giver of Life’. Just a few days ago Pope Francis spoke of the Wind of the Holy Spirit, but not like that rush of a violent wind. Instead he used the image of a sailing boat, and so that is my fourth picture. The Pope said that the Holy Spirit is the wind pushing us forward, keeping us moving, so that we are not comfortable and sedentary in our faith and our life, but rather we are pilgrims, always on a journey, pushed onwards by the Holy Spirit. And he spoke about Hope. He said that hope is the sail that ‘collects the wind of the Spirit and transforms it into energy that pushes the boat forward toward the open seas or the shore.’ Hope is vital for life: ‘As long as there is life there is hope, and as long as there is hope there is life’. This is the Holy Spirit the Giver of Life, giving us the will to hope, even when all hope is lost. And the hope that the Holy Spirit gives us, we can share with others, so that we can be sowers of what Pope Francis called ‘The perfume of hope’ for the world. Isn’t that a lovely image, ‘The perfume of hope.’


Finally, in another of St Paul’s Letters, the Letter to the Galatians, Paul lists the Fruits of the Spirit. And so my final picture is a tree full of sweet, ripe fruit ready to be plucked and enjoyed. And that tree is you and me. If we open our hearts, the Holy Spirit will live in us, and we will bear good fruit. And these are the Fruits of the Spirit that St Paul lists:












As we grow in the Spirit, others will see some of these life-giving fruits growing in us. And they are fruits that so many people around us nee.


I wonder how you will experience the Holy Spirit today, and at other times in your life. You may experience the wind and fire, a sudden dramatic transformation, or it may be a feeling of peace and comfort, or a sense of being counselled and guided; you may discover the gift that the Holy Spirit has given you, or the life-giving hope that fills your sail and keeps you moving, or you may simply discover the fruits of the Spirit growing in you.


But whatever lies ahead, the gifts of the Spirit that you have, that others will recognise in you even if you don’t see them yourself, are gifts to use on the journey. This morning we trust that the energy of the Holy Spirit will not allow you to sit too comfortably, but will blow you forward on your journey towards God, and that the fruits of the Spirit will grow in you as you walk in faith and trust.




 You may find the Pentecost service on RTHK radio4 below this link, enjoy it with our choir.