Pentecost 2020 The Barn (with audio)

Pentecost 2020 The Barn (with audio)

Our worship together is in the name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you:

              and also with you.

Jesus Christ, whom we worship, is our crucified, risen and ascended Lord and we have walked with him through his journey of love.  We have faced the agony of his suffering and death on the cross.  We have rejoiced at his bursting free from the bonds of death.  We have enjoyed his risen presence with us and his revelation of himself through the breaking of bread.  We have seen his return to the throne before which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that this Jesus is Lord.  And now, with the followers of his own time, we await the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, his gift to his people, through whom we make Christ known to the world.

         As we wait in silence

         Fill us with your Spirit.

         As we listen to your word

         Fill us with your Spirit.

         As we worship you in majesty

         Fill us with your Spirit.

         As we long for your refreshing

         Fill us with your Spirit.

         As we long for your renewing

         Fill us with your Spirit.

         As we long for your equipping

         Fill us with your Spirit.

         As we long for your empowering

         Fill us with your Spirit.

Hymn:  Come down, O love divine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgUFay0th9A&list=RD2v5wvJbvVQQ&index=2

Let us pray

              Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:  cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Confession:

       The Spirit of Truth will convict the world of guilt about sin, righteousness and judgement.  We have grieved the Holy Spirit, so we confess our sins in penitence and faith.

              Most merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be; that we may do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.

              Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you, +pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

.

              Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

Let us pray that the Spirit will work through our lives to bring Christ to the world.

      Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire: strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Acts 2: 1-21

When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples 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.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

This is the Word of the Lord 

Thanks be to God

1 Corinthians 12: 3-13

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

This is the Word of the Lord 

Thanks be to God

Hymn   Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPVuLOXh8vE

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John 

Glory to you, O Lord.

John 20: 19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

 Praise to you, O Christ.

Sermon

We have waited a long time for this day.  We started back in December, on Advent Sunday, when the great season of waiting begins with a church empty of decoration and a stripped-back liturgy.  The promise of God to humanity then grows as the seasons roll from one to the other: first a son is born, then he is baptised and presented to the world as Messiah, only for him to take us into the wilderness for 40 days of self-denial and self-examination.  Then come suffering, betrayal, rejection and death on a cross, and burial in a stranger’s tomb.  We have celebrated his resurrection, we have wondered at his Ascension and now we come to the fulfilment of yet another promise – the gift of the Holy Spirit.  However, just like all the other fulfilments, this one is more than a little strange. 

At the top of your liturgy today is a modern Russian icon for Pentecost.  It shows in stylized form 10 of the disciples, heads surrounded with haloes, each one holding a flame within it.  Four of these saints are holding books – who might they be?  One is holding a scroll – who is he?  They look this way and that, amazed at what they are experiencing and seeing on each other.  Is this how you envisaged the event, as it was read to us this morning?  The “violent wind” is a little difficult to portray in such a static representation, maybe, and the interior of the room is very Russian Orthodox in character, but the purpose of an icon is not for us to look at its surface but to pass through the depiction of saints receiving the Holy Spirit to the very presence of God himself.  It is like George Herbert’s idea of glass – we can simply look at the piece of glass in the window frame, or look through it “and then the heav’n espy.”  Look again at the icon.  It is full of human emotion, despite the very still faces and vague gestures, but the radiating lines on the floor and the walls of the room lead us upwards, between the gathered saints, to God.  Our eyes are carried up and through the drapery beyond the stage to the reality of the divine.

Pentecost not only leads us upwards to God, though: it is designed to lead us outwards, to the rest of the world.  Chris Lynch did a magnificent job with reading all the places from which the crowd in Jerusalem had gathered, so I thought it would be a good idea to find out where they are.  I don’t know if you like early evening game shows on TV, but Richard Osman’s House of Games on BBC2 has a round called, “Where’s Kazakhstan?”, during which contestants have to identify towns or venues on a blank map.  So here is a  map of the Mediterranean world at the time of Pentecost.  I have therefore renamed this, “Where’s Cappadocia?”.  The green sections at the top represent the barbarian hordes.  The red sections are the Roman Empire, the pink are client kingdoms of Rome, and the yellow area is the Parthian Empire, but important, because the Jewish Diaspora, which is fully represented in Luke’s account of Pentecost, goes as far as ancient Babylon – many families stayed there, and are still there, after the Babylonian Exile in the 7th Century BC.

Where did all these people come from?  Answer, just about every corner of the Roman world.  You can see that from Rome in the west to the land of Elam in the east, from Pontus by the Black Sea to Libya and Egypt in the south, faithful Jews had travelled to fill the Temple on this particular festival – fifty days after Passover, and the first of the barley harvest celebrations.  Remember, these are Jews who live outside Israel, in Jerusalem for worship.  The disciples making a cacophanous racket, first thing in the morning, would have drawn the crowd, and Peter’s words to them about the Messiah and the gift of the Holy Spirit would have struck a chord with all those who longed for the Messiah’s coming.

I want us now to look at a different sort of picture: Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.  The half-finished skyscraper as imagined by Bruegel comes from the story in Genesis 11, when the people on earth rebelled against God and built a tower to reach up to heaven to take God down and replace him with themselves.  God confounds their plans, and scatters them across the globe, confusing their languages, so that they could no long understand each other when they meet.  A fine mythological account of diversity of speech, you would rightly say, but why bring it up here?

Because Luke wants us to make that connection.  Here in Jerusalem are people from all round the world, who all speak different languages, suddenly able to understand one person who is speaking to them, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost has started the process of healing Babel.  Our scattered peoples are being brought back together into one people, the people of God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Just as Christ’s 12 apostles will rebuild the Israel of God as a people who do not need a temple in Jerusalem but can worship him anywhere, so the Holy Spirit will use those 12 apostles to re-unite in one voice the peoples of the world in the worship of God and the service of others.  For Luke, the Church is the new creation, the redemption of Adam, the recreation of the Garden of Eden.  And just as the Spirit was present at the creation of the world (Genesis 1:1), so the Holy Spirit is present as that process of re-unification gets under way on the day of Pentecost.

We are scattered through Kew and elsewhere because of a deadly virus, shut up in our homes, locked out of our churches.  Yet we are brought together as we worship, our language is united as the Spirit pours through us, our prayers are united as we share our common desires and concerns for those we love and for all God’s world. 

To mark that unity, and that challenge to take that unity of love and care out from ourselves and into the world to heal it and recreate it, we will finish with a mass candle lighting session.  I hope you have candles and matches, as we will shine out with the light of Christ, and dare to take it out into a frightening and as yet unknown world.  We, God’s united people, will have to help rebuild it after lockdown.  We, God’s united people, will be those who will call for the grace, mercy and generosity that have been demonstrated at local level so powerfully through this lockdown, to be made permanent in government social policy, health policy, housing policy, transport policy, employment policy, tax policy – you name it, what we have engineered and prayed for through this time of lockdown has to be made a permanent feature of our reconstructed society, and the Holy Spirit will lead us in that effort.  We are not alone, we are united in God, through the Holy Spirit who binds us to him for ever.  Alleluia!

Prayers – with thanks to Harriet Grace

On this Sunday of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the holy spirit and spoke in tongues, and the crowds outside heard them speaking in their own languages, let us dwell on what this means: the idea that through the disciples, God was reaching out to each one of us, and that we were special enough to be spoken to in a language we would understand.   Lord in your mercy hear our prayer…

In this pandemic time of uncertainty about the future we pray for strength to live with not knowing.  There are so many things we cannot know.  We are being tested in a way we may not have imagined possible.  We may find it hard to cope; it may feel unbearable.   We pray that your spirit is within us and we can believe you are there; and never feel cut off from your loving presence.  Lord in your mercy hear our prayer…

As we come to the end of week ten and  lockdown starts easing, we pray for all those who are ill with the Coronavirus at home or in hospital and ask for their quick and full recovery.  We pray for their loved ones who may be isolated from them and are living in anguish.  Help us to stay with what is happening now and offer our support where we can.  We pray that we remember those with underlying conditions or with disabilities who may die when they did not need to; for those who have been self-isolating and have not seen another person for weeks and are now fearful of doing so; for the woman I saw on Thursday who stood at a social distance and told me she was homeless and asked for money.  I had none and felt helpless, suspicious and fearful.   Grant us your healing love.   Lord in your mercy hear our prayer…

We pray for the schools and nurseries who this week will open their doors to some of their pupils and infants.  We pray in particular for Queen’s School and for the Barn Nursery and all the teachers and staff who with courage, planning, and foresight are making this possible.  We pray that this will safely enhance the lives of all involved and will be a stepping stone to a world where children and students can learn and grow together again.   We pray for all those worried about their jobs and their financial future and ask that they are not forgotten; and that our attempt to get back to a new normal will continue successfully.   

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer…

We thank you for all the  good things during this time, that can feel like miracles: the key workers in hospitals – the doctors, the nurses,  the cleaners who go in at dawn every day to make hospitals safe, the cleaner at the Royal London Hospital who spoke to Clive Myrie on BBC news and who radiated a spirit of giving.  We pray for care workers and thank them for their loving attention, including my granddaughter, who has had mental health issues and who has been working successfully in homes looking after the elderly and has found healing.   We thank you for all that we may have learned at this time right down to the Zoom technology and the App required to record these prayers.  We thank you for the blessing of sunshine, flickering shadows and light pouring on to us day after day.   Lord in your mercy hear our prayer…

We pray for all those who are sick in mind, body or spirit and all those caring for them.  In particular:  Alan Hay, Julia Holboro, Annie Kunz, Luci Mitchell-Fry, Joan Pritchard, Johanna Procter, Kevin Willoughby, Max Weston

We pray for those who have died and for all those left behind mourning their loss.  In particular:  John Axell, Joy Dyer, Pattie Johnson, Norma Williams, Rex Thorne,  and for those known to us who have died recently and not so recently.  Lord in your mercy hear our prayer…

We thank Peter and all at The Barn and St Luke’s who work hard to bring the church to the congregation in their homes, and pray for us all.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son Our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Hymn:  Spirit of God, as strong as the wind  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8AZ46GKqc

The Peace

God has made us one in Christ. He has set his seal upon us and, as a pledge of what is to come, has given us the Spirit to dwell in our hearts.  Alleluia. 

The peace of the Lord be always with you: and also with you.

              Be present, be present, Lord Jesus Christ, Our risen high priest;

Make yourself known in the breaking of bread

Hymn:  There’s a spirit in the air  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEcBkPf_ut4

              The Lord be with you

              and also with you.

              Lift up your hearts.

              We lift them to the Lord.

              Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

              It is right to give thanks and praise.

              It is indeed right, our duty and our joy, always and everywhere to give you thanks, almighty and eternal Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We give you thanks that, after he had ascended far above all heavens and was seated at the right hand of your majesty, he sent forth upon the universal Church your holy and life-giving Spirit: that through his glorious power the joy of the everlasting gospel might go forth into all the world.  Therefore we join with angels and archangels and with all those in whom the Spirit dwells, to proclaim the glory of your name, for ever praising you and saying:

              Holy, holy, holy Lord,
              God of power and might,
              heaven and earth are full of your glory.
              Hosanna in the highest.
             
+Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
              Hosanna in the highest.

              As our Saviour taught us, so we pray

              Our Father, who art in heaven,

              hallowed be thy name;

              thy kingdom come;

              thy will be done;

              on earth as it is in heaven.

              Give us this day our daily bread.

              And forgive us our trespasses,

              as we forgive those who trespass against us.

              And lead us not into temptation;

              But deliver us from evil.

              For thine is the kingdom,

              the power and the glory,

              for ever and ever.      

              Amen.

Blessing of Light – please light your candle at this moment

Blessed are you, sovereign God, overflowing in love.  With Pentecost dawns the age of the Spirit.  Now the flame of heaven rests on every believer.  Strong and weak, women and men tell out your word: the young receive visions, the old receive dreams.  With the new wine of the Spirit they proclaim your reign of love.  Amid the birth pangs of the new creation the way of light is made known.  Source of freedom, giver of life, Blessed are you, +Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Blessed be God for ever. 

Commission

For fifty days we have celebrated the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over the power of sin and death.  We have proclaimed God’s might acts and we have prayed that the power that was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead might be at work in us.  As part of God’s Church here in Kew, I call upon you to live out what you proclaim.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, will you dare to walk into God’s future, trusting him to be your guide?

By the Spirit’s power, we will

Will you dare to embrace each other and grow together in love?

By the Spirit’s power, we will

Will you dare to share your riches in common and minister to each other in need?

By the Spirit’s power, we will

Will you dare to pray for each other until your hearts beat with the longings of God?

By the Spirit’s power, we will

Will you dare to carry the light of Christ into the world’s dark places?

By the Spirit’s power, we will

Blessing

May the Spirit, who hovered over the waters when the world was created, breathe into you the life he gives.  Amen.

May the Spirit, who overshadowed Mary when the eternal Son came among us, make you joyful in the service of the Lord.    Amen.

May the Spirit, who set the Church on fire upon the day of Pentecost, bring the world alive with the love of the risen Christ.   Amen.

And the blessing of God almight, the +Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you and those you love, today and always.   Amen.

Filled with the Spirit’s power, go in the light and peace of Christ. Alleluia!

Thanks be to God.  Alleluia!

Hymn: O thou who camest from above  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3UYybc7Xa0

Carillon-sortie by Henri Mulet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gq8i69-L-Fs

Watch a Pentecost message from the Bishop of Southwark here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNyTpukI_Bs&feature=youtu.be

Zoom session – Sunday Service 31st May at 11am

Zoom session – Sunday Service 31st May at 11am

There will be a Zoom session between 11am & 12 noon, so if you would like to join, please email office@kewparishes.plus.com so that a Zoom link can be provided

Today is Pentecost when we would normally be given a candle, lit from the Paschal Candle in church, to symbolise our carrying the light of Christ out into the world.   As we are unable to be in church, we would like you to have a candle to hand, so that at the end of our Zoom service we can light our candles and show our commitment to sharing God’s love with those beyond our homes.

Bible Study for the ninth week of the Covid 19 church building closure

Bible Study for the ninth week of the Covid 19 church building closure

Parishes of St Philips and All Saints Kew with St Luke’s Kew

Where all God’s Children are Welcome

Section 1:  Acts 2: 1-21

Prayer:  Open our hearts, Loving God, to the wonders of your word.  May we embrace its teachings and rejoice in all its richness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Read the passage through twice:

When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples 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.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Background

              Luke paints a dynamic picture of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, but it is couched in very impressionistic language.  What actually happened that morning in Jerusalem remains enigmatic, but its effect is still being felt to this day.

Some questions

  • The scene is set – a room, with all the disciples together.  Of which other events does this remind you?
  • Note how Luke prefaces the sound of the wind – “like a …” and then the tongues of fire – “what seemed to be” – why is Luke so vague?
  • Why did they start to speak in different languages? 
  • Is this a one-off event, or does it reverse an event in the Old Testament?  How might Luke be driving this story?  Where is he heading with his depiction of the work of the Holy Spirit (Think Babel).
  • How would you react if you were in a room where this happened?  What would you feel?  How positive an experience would this be, or would it be frightening?
  • They were obviously making a lot of noise – houses in Jerusalem did not have windows as such, but large flaps that swung up and out to provide light and air to the room.  Anyone in the street below would have heard everything that was going on in the room.  What sort of impression did people outside the house get?
  • This map provides all the locations from which the different people in the crowd originated from.  It is just about everywhere in the Roman Empire at the time, apart from Gaul & Hispania, but that is probably because the Jewish Diaspora took a certain amount of time to reach the newer areas that had been conquered. 
  • All these people had one common language, if not two (Hebrew and Greek), but the Holy Spirit speaks to them in their “own” language – the language in which they are the most comfortable.  Why?
  • Why accuse the disciples of drunkenness?
  • “What does this mean” the crowd may well ask – so what does it mean?
  • Peter gets up to speak.  Why him?
  • This is not the whole sermon – it continues for a further 15 verses.  Peter goes on to talk about Jesus in terms of Old Testament prophecy, just as he places the action of the Holy Spirit in him and the other disciples in that context.  How helpful are his words?
  • Why choose this passage from Joel – a particularly apocalyptic text?
  • The release of the Holy Spirit into the world was an expected part of the advent of the Messiah.  Up until this point, it was believed that the Holy Spirit came and went from an individual, according to the needs of the moment.  Some gained special strenght, others specific words to deliver, but like Amos the shepherd-prophet, each would then return to their day job.  This is different – the Holy Spirit will now stay with the disciples and all believers for the whole of their lives.  What has brought about this change?
  • Peter was addressing a Jewish audience, made up of religious people who had travelled long distances to worship God in Jerusalem.  In that sense, it was a captive, expectant audience.  He therefore tailors his message to his hearers.  Is his sermon effective for us today?

Read the passage through again, out loud if possible

Review

What has this passage taught you about

  • God?
  • Jesus Christ?
  • The Church?
  • Our current situation?

Prayer:  Loving God, you live in us day by day through your Holy Spirit.  Open our hearts to the power of your love, to the effectiveness of your grace and to the boundless energy that your Spirit alone can bring.  Amen.

Section 2: 1 Corinthians 12: 3-13

Prayer:  Lead us, Good Lord, as we read your word.  May it be fully open to our understanding, and may we be fully open to its teaching.  Amen.

Read the passage through twice:

 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Background

              . There were many problems in the church in Corinth, but they had particularly serious issues with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We can infer from Paul’s letter that some considered themselves superior to others because of the Spirit’s gifts, while others felt excluded.  Paul in this passage lays down some basics about the work of the Holy Spirit, which hold true to this day.

Some questions

  • Does the opening sentence seriously imply that the Holy Spirit actually controls our speech?  Or is it something else, more implicit?
  • Difference in unity – that is Paul’s theme: “gifts, working, service” – all different, Paul says, but all equal and all for the common good.  We need to break them down into understandable categories
    • Go through the list of  effects of the Holy Spirit and separate out “gifts” from “service” and from “working”
  • Does that begin to make sense?
  • Each type of manifestation of the work of the Spirit is from God, Paul insists, hence the equality of each.  What is the purpose of those different works of the Spirit?
  • Why spread them out so thinly?  Why not give them all to all of us?
  • There are other lists of what the Spirit does: the rest of this chapter, and Chapter 14, contain an exhaustive account of how the Spirit works in the Church.  Which gifts (note: gifts plural) of the Spirit do you think you have?
  • Can our God-given spiritual gifts change as we develop and grow older?
  • Are there gifts which you think you may not be using to the full?  If so, how can that energy of the Spirit be released here?
  • Does talk of these gifts make you feel comfortable and encouraged or uncomfortable and suspicious?  Why?
  • Are we a truly Spirit-filled church?

Read the passage through again, out loud if possible

Review

What has this passage taught you about

  • God?
  • Jesus Christ?
  • The Church?
  • Our current situation?

Prayer:  Fill us with your Holy Spirit, loving God, that we may serve you with loving hearts and open minds, in the power of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Section 3: John 20: 19-23

Prayer

Read the passage through twice:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Background

              We last read this passage on Easter Sunday.  This takes place on the evening of that first Easter Day, after Peter and John had seen the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene, and after she had been the first person to meet the risen Jesus in the garden.  The disciples have crept out of their hiding places and gathered together in one large room.  They had locked the doors, just in case anyone was trying to find them, when the risen Jesus appears in their midst.  Remember, this text was probably written for a majority Gentile readership, who would not be familiar with any of the Jewish writings.

Some questions

  • What state of mind might the disciples be in, given the events of the morning?
  • Are they expecting Jesus?
  • How did Jesus get into the room?
  • “Peace be with you” is a standard Jewish greeting, but is there more than that in Jesus’s words?
  • Why did he show them his hands and his side?  Why is that detail necessary for the narrative?
  • “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” must be one of the great understatements of the New Testament.   What other emotions may have been coursing through them at this time?
  • There is no explanation of resurrection, simply a series of consequences of it for the disciples.  Why?
  • “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” – is this the sort of thing that the disciples were expecting from the risen Jesus?  Had they had any prior warning in John’s Gospel of their mission or was this news to them?
  • John’s account of the gift of the Holy Spirit is completely different from Luke’s – why?
  • Why does Jesus breath on the disciples? 
  • The opening 14 verses of John’s Gospel are a prelude to the content of the entire book.  How do these verses fit with that passage?
  • There is a strong play between breath and wind both in Greek and in Hebrew.  Is this therefore John’s Pentecost, happening at the same time as resurrection?
  • Is there any conflict between these two accounts of the gift of the Spirit?  If yes, does it matter and what does it teach us?  If no, why do they differ so greatly?
  • Why all the talk of forgiving people’s sins?  What is John really talking about here?  What is the correlation between the disciples and the Church?
  • We read from John 17 last week, Jesus’s priestly prayer.  Is there any continuity between that prayer and these words and actions?  If so, was it just for the disciples, or does it cascade down to us, as we believe the Pentecost events Luke describes apply to us?
  • The Church has coralled the authority to forgive sins to its ordained clergy.  Is that in the spirit of John? 
  • Does this version of the gift of the Spirit encourage you and give you energy?  If not, why not, and if it does, how?

Read the passage through again, out loud if possible

Review

What has this passage taught you about

  • God?
  • Jesus Christ?
  • The Church?
  • Our current situation?

Prayer:  God of power and love, the risen Christ breathed your Holy Spirit on his grieving disciples on that first day of resurrection.  Fill us with that same Spirit, that we may be lifted from our isolation and fear, into the glorious freedom of your family.  Amen.

Zoom session – Sunday Service 31st May at 11am

Reflection for Thursday 28th May

It has been an interesting experience to write a reflection every week for this twice a week series of reflections between Easter and Pentecost or Whitsun as we used to call it. I have sought to bring some words of hope and comfort at a time when the whole World has been suffering from the terrible COVID 19 crisis. Hopefully achieving what Paul urged us to do in 1 Thessalonians – to “Encourage one another and build one another up!”  And I tried to bring out the need for Christians to be prepared to suffer in my sermon last Sunday. I have also attempted to compliment Michael’s excellent reflections on Tuesdays.

Although, thankfully, there now seem to be fewer deaths each day as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions on us all are beginning to be eased ever so slightly, it does seem that the crisis is going to still be with us for a while – and the memory of it for a lot longer.  We need to go on trusting in the Lord.

The Bible Society recently sent me a little booklet entitled “Words of hope when times are tough”. Several of the quotations in it are from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah, who also had the nickname of the “Weeping Prophet”, frequently foretold gloom and doom. To be a Jeremiah was to be one who was pessimistic about the present and gloomy about the future. There are plenty of pessimists about at present. But among the quotations that this little booklet from the Bible Society gives are two from Jeremiah that are positive and demonstrate God’s love and concern for his people:

“I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness in exchange for sorrow” (Jeremiah 31 v 13)

“I alone know my purpose for you, says the Lord: prosperity and not misfortune. ….. If you pray to me, I will listen to you:  when you seek me, you shall find me.” Jeremiah 29 v 11/12

These are wonderful words of comfort for us all. God has been with us through the difficult times so far and he will continue to be with us in the future. The church buildings may still be closed, but the worship continues. The Zoom services on Sundays have been attracting a good number of people, including people who might not normally be able to join us – our late friend Nigel’s brother joined us from Missouri on Sunday for example.

We have a wonderful faith that supports and sustains us. What more could we want than a God that loves us and cares about us? He is always with us as promised in the words of Jesus in the last verse of St Matthew’s Gospel – “I am with you always, until the end of time”. And that makes everything worthwhile!

To finish with – the first verse of one of my Grandmother’s favourite hymns:

Be thou my Guardian and my Guide,                                                                                                           And hear me when I call:                                                                                                                                  Let not my slippery footsteps slide,                                                                                                             And hold me lest I fall.

A hope and prayer, certain of a positive result!

Richard Austen

Reflection for Tuesday 26th May 2020

Reflection for Tuesday 26th May 2020

“Are we living our lives as Christ would have us do?”  Words  taken from Richard Austen’s Sermon from Sunday.

Today we remember Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury, who was sent to England in 596 with a group of 40 monks, from Rome on the orders of Pope Gregory, to re-evangelize the English Church.  Well much has changed since those very early steps of evangelism on English soil. It is then perhaps fitting that we should ask ourselves the question that we were asked by Richard on Sunday, “Are we living our lives as Christ would have us do?” , and indeed has the Church been preaching that same message through the ages since the time of Augustine?

We have now travelled through Easter and await the Day of Pentecost and the disciples being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, so that they could go out and evangelise, living as Christ had taught them to. Too often over the centuries the simple instruction from Jesus has been distorted and complicated by people’s desire, both rightly and wrongly, to put their own ‘imprint’ on to it, and the church has itself often been more than guilty of this.

As in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in Luke’s Gospel 10: 25-37, Jesus makes it crystal clear what we must all do “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”  One of the beauties, to my mind, of this very simple instruction, is that it includes all faiths, countless of millions of people across our world today.  How often have we seen, again and again, over the past months people in our country and beyond, ‘loving their neighbours’, very often even more than they could care about, or consider themselves?

How much, at times could our World leaders and politicians, of all parties, learn from these everyday ordinary souls?  We do not want ‘walls’, inflammatory laws, endless bickering and ‘point scoring’ one against another;  what I believe most people want, especially now as we are in the hold of this Pandemic, is the very simple message that Christ taught to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’, no matter race creed or social standing.

It is a very simple wish, maybe for some too simple and naive, but one that I personally am very happy to leave you with.  As I have probably told you before, my Grandfather, and now I am one also, always said ,’sorry and thank you’ are sometimes the hardest words to say.’

May we all live our lives as Christ would have us do today and everyday.  

Amen.