Sermons from St Faith's
Praying at Pentecost
Fr Neil Kelley, Pentecost Sunday, May 22nd, 2012
When news of my departure was announced the reactions were
fascinating. They ranged from, Why? How could you? to... I’m really
pleased for you. Congratulations.
Only a few people I spoke to, at least to start with, said anything
about it possibly having something to do with God’s will being done
or his call being answered.
Think about it for a moment. We believe that God could end the war
in Afghanistan, and unrest in other places of the world. We surely
believe it? Someone asks him to each and every week, presumably
because we believe it is in his power? But when it comes to
expecting God to change our lives, or the lives of our communities
that’s a different matter!
Today is also acknowledged to be the day when the church as we know
it was born; the day when believers came together from many parts to
be united in their witness and mission united and led by the Holy
God’s Holy Spirit isn’t a magic trick; the Spirit wasn’t poured out
as a result of any abracadabra or magic spell, any more than a new
incumbent is a magician who can fill the pews and the bank account.
God‘s Spirit will not do the work for us; but He will give us the
strength to do the work!
In today’s second reading Paul makes it clear that those who are
guided by the spirit and those who are guided by their own lustful
and selfish desires are poles apart. The life of the Spirit and the
life of self-indulgence are totally opposed. Those who follow their
own selfish and greedy ambitions cannot enter the kingdom of God St.
Paul says. But those who live the gifts of the Spirit – their lives
are very different: their lives will be lives of love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and
I wonder how many of us honestly have all the gifts of the spirit in
abundance? We certainly have the capacity to experience those gifts,
live those gifts and share those gifts – but do we?
Can we say that this church community is a place where peace and
harmony dwell? Do we, as the people of God in this place, live and
walk in the Spirit. Is the Spirit’s presence manifested in our lives
and in the way we treat each other? For where we find back-biting,
ambition, power-seekers, gossiping and criticising then it is clear
that the power of the Spirit is not at work. We might fool ourselves
into thinking we are behaving in a manner which is acceptable, but
it brings nothing but shame and dishonour onto the name of Christ
and his Church. By your fruits shall ye be known. That is the
message of today’s Feast.
Will the gifts of the Spirit rest on and in you today? the gifts of
love, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. Will those
gifts be manifestly evident in this parish and community in the
months ahead? Will our reputation for kindness, love and patience be
a talking point in this parish? These are tough and challenging
questions. But it is the challenge of Pentecost.
By your fruits shall ye be known!
The gift of the Holy Spirit does not rule out difficulty, suffering
or human effort. St Paul reminds the Church in Corinth that the
Church is like a human body and that the gifts of the Spirit are not
about enthusiasm or special knowledge for an elite group, but a
variety of gifts for building up the body of Christ. It is all too
easy to see what is wrong with our Church rather than look for the
gift of the Spirit that is alive in its members. These gifts were
clearly evident yesterday when, forsaking the heat of the noonday
sun, over 20 members of our two PCCs gave up time to consider the
way they will be steering a course among you in the year ahead. The
presence of those people, the gifts, skills, talents and dedication
represented amongst that group is a clear and visible presence of
God’s gifts being played out and used in his world today.
As we celebrate the Eucharist today we pray – I hope genuinely –
that we will be open to the gifts and the promptings of the Spirit.
If you don’t want your life to change then just shut up when
everyone else says the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done". If you
can’t bear the thought of God’s will breaking through and winning
over yours then keep silent and cross your fingers.
If we pray sincerely and openly God may well take us to new places
and do new things in us.
We believe that whatever we do in the name of the Lord begins and
ends in prayer. But prayer is a dangerous thing. Sometimes really
awful things happen like prayers being answered! St. Teresa of Avila
said “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over
unanswered prayers. “
So – be careful what you pray for in the coming months – you might
just get what you ask for!
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