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 Spirit.

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 self-control.

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!

The sermons index page

Return to St Faith's home page