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 From Anne Smith, Licensed Reader at St Luke's, Holmes Chapel




Reasons why people don’t go to Church             Reasons to go to Church


I’m not sure I believe everything you do                   Doubts are allowed

All they care about is my money                              They care about me

It’s full of hypocrites                                                  No one is perfect

Is there a dress code?                                              Come just as you are

My life’s not sorted                                                    It's OK not to be OK

Church is about a relationship not a religion where love is offered hope is alive and forgiveness is available! 

 Some thoughts on Pentecost and what it means for us

Abridged version of a sermon by Anne Smith, Licensed Reader at St Luke's, Holmes Chapel: Sunday 27th May 2012

Pentecost after Christmas and Easter is one of the great Christian festivals. You know the story so well and the symbols of the holy Spirit are displayed before us here on our altar frontal.

Pentecost although now part of our Christian calendar was formerly a Jewish celebration, a harvest festival, fifty days after Passover. Pentecost celebrated the fruits of the earth and the giving of the Mosaic law. A great annual occasion which any devout Jew would ideally have liked to celebrate in Jerusalem. And many did congregate there for the occasion from every part of the ancient world as our Bible reading reminds us.

The disciples however were not in party mood as they huddled together in the house where they had been waiting and praying. What were they waiting for/ what were they praying about. While waiting and praying, they replaced Judas with Matthias and I’m sure they too indulged in nostalgia as they remembered their time with Jesus as he went about preaching, teaching and healing. The miracles they’d seen, the stories he’d told them , the promises he’d made but what now – for a short while he’d returned only to leave them again and the question voiced by the crowds in Jerusalem, I suggest was the same question on the disciples lips.

What does this mean?

While contemplating this question, Luke describes for us an experience that he can only use similes to express.
Wind and fire- such powerful images- not a gentle breeze but a violent wind- and tongues of fire that touched them all.

What does this mean?

This experience of the Holy Spirit delivered the disciples from their fears, doubts and inhibitions.

This experience of the Holy Spirit empowered them to share the good news of the gospel – each one heard in their own language.

This experience of the Holy Spirit assured them that ‘God has made this Jesus ...both Lord and Christ.’

What does this mean for us?

Pentecost is an experience promised to us all

Assured, empowered, delivered – by the Spirit of God. Wonderful! The effects of Pentecost in our lives, the promise of God to us. But that’s not all for it begins with being disturbed.

The experience of the Holy Spirit disturbed the disciples.
There is no deliverance, no empowerment , no assurance before He disturbs us. The violent wind of God is not a gentle breeze, it will do more than ruffle our feathers, the violent wind of God is not going to be contained by our creeds, and liturgies, or confined to the worship spaces of St.Lukes’ church. His will and purposes are not going to be restricted to our set development plans.

The Holy Spirit disturbs and brings about change.

Pentecost, however is not the commemoration of a past event, it is a continuing experience, a present reality given by God in the first place to disturb us like the blowing of a violent wind. The disciples were all together in one place on that first Pentecost. Sitting together inside as we are.

The initial disruption the Holy Spirit caused was to send them out from that place, that place of safety and fellowship. So too, when we ask for this gift, lets not be surprised if we are sent us out from the places where we congregate together, perhaps to face ridicule, certainly to be challenged , perhaps to amaze and perplex ourselves and others as we take risks as we present this man Jesus to those we meet.

So let’s not be risk averse - success does not always look like success just as the cross of Calvary didn’t appear so. Victory may come disguised as defeat, ventures may fail but in their failure we learn from our mistakes. Mission is not guaranteed by our abilities but by God – we just try to cooperate with him. The disciples witnessed to what they knew, had seen and believed as the Spirit enabled them. It wasn’t done in their own strength.

Pentecost - What does this mean?

The gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Celtic tradition, some Christians chose the symbol of a wild goose to represent the Holy Spirit rather than a dove. Why? Because a goose is a noisy, troublesome bird and jars people with its honking – characteristic of the way in which the Holy Spirit may jar us out of our complacency, our certainties and nostalgia

Pentecost- What does this mean? - The gift of the Holy Spirit!!

Dare we ask for it, are we ready to receive it ?  Are we prepared to see wonders and signs of God’s presence amongst us or shall we stay together, sitting inside, safe in this place and go nowhere?  Food for thought.......?

© Anne Smith: May 2012- please acknowledge the source if you quote from Anne's sermon