Pentecost - the fulfillment of God's promise

Posted on June 4, 2017 at 5:30 AM

Sermon: 4 June 2017 Pentecost


May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.


Today is the feast of Pentecost, one of the three great festivals of the Christian years, along with Christmas and Easter. All are part of God's plan for the salvation of humanity, and thereby show God's great love for his children. They also show his great faithfulness to us, for all show how he keeps the promises he has made to his children; and because of this we know that he will keep the other promises he has made to us. That is how someone shows that they are trustworthy, is it not? They keep the promises they have already made to you; and because of this you have every hope that you can trust they can make their other promises to you in due course.


Christmas celebrates the Incarnation. And the incarnation was God's fulfilment of the promise that he would send a Saviour. This promise is woven throughout the fabric of Old Testament. Easter celebrates the Resurrection. The Resurrection marks God's fulfilment of the promise that the Messiah he would send was to suffer and die for our sins; but that after his death would rise again after three days. This promise is contained many places in the Old Testament, but also in the New where it is reaffirmed again and again by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Christ himself. And the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is also the fulfilment of a promise made to us by God, again by our blessed Saviour, when he told his disciples that after his Ascension he would not leave them alone, but with instead send them the Holy Spirit, who would remain with them, all those who followed him, in other words his Church, to the end of the ages.


Because of the remarkable events that occurred at Pentecost – by which I mean the Spirit-inspired courage that suddenly filled the disciples who were hiding in the upper room so that they were suddenly enabled to go into the very streets they had seen Christ carry his Cross through, streets filled with the very people who had arrested him and dragged him off to his mockery of a trial, torture, and death, and start preaching our Lord's Good News to them with such bravery and conviction that they convinced thousands of its Truth that very day, and continued in that courage and conviction until they had spread that Truth to all the corners of the Empire and those who followed them continued to all the ends of the earth – because of those remarkable events, that first day of Pentecost is often called the birth of the Church. It might be more accurate to call it the Manifestation of the Church on Earth – for the Church of God's faithful exists in Heaven as well as on earth; and we know that the Angels, whom we name in our Liturgies as being part of the Church were worshipping God in Heaven before the beginning of Time itself. But the sending of the Holy Spirit on that day not only granted God's people in the world to be part of his Church on Earth but also the Divine power to continue in Christ's work of drawing all people to himself. So calling Pentecost the day when the Church was born is an understandable short-hand way of describing it, even if not entirely accurate.


We learn much from Pentecost, but today let me make three brief points. The first is that, as I already said, by it Christ shows his faithfulness to the promises he made us. This means we can be sure that the reward of eternal life awaits all those who love him and show that love by being faithful to his teachings. The second is that we can believe him when he tells us that the Holy Spirit will remain with his Church unto the end of the ages. Indeed, we know we receive that same Spirit at our confirmation when we 'receive the seal of the Holy Spirit.' The Spirit that came upon the Disciples the first day of Pentecost has also come upon us. And this means that we must act with the same conviction as they did, sharing the Good News of our Saviour with all people, in all places, in all ages; and with the same courage as they did, unafraid of any consequences, whether those be risking the the loss of material comforts, a reduction in social prestige or giving offence to those who wilfully refuse to hear the Truth, or like to martyrs of that time and down through the ages to this very day loosing our very lives. For it matters nothing if we lose the whole world, even life itself, if by our faithfulness to God's word we gain our souls, our salvation, life eternal.


And the third and last point is that the Church is not something made by us but by God. She - and I say 'she' for the Church is also referred to as the Bride of Christ – she is not man-made but a Divine Creation. She is therefore, as we say in the Creeds, something Holy. And being a Holy creation of the Almighty she is not something for us to do with as we please. Her teaching are not ours, her holy & Apostolic traditions are not ours, her Sacraments are not ours. And being God's we can not change them either to suit ourselves or the whims and desires of others. We can only hand them on as they were handed on to us, from Christ to the Apostles, and down to our time.


And that is something we must do until the end of the ages, a time when another promise of God's will be fulfilled – the great and terrible Day when he will come again. And just as we rejoice in the other Great Promises fulfilled, marking them as great festivals of the Church, so too we will be able to rejoice on that day if we have done our best to be as faithful to God as he has shown himself to be faithful to us. Amen.

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