A Sermon for Pentecost 2004
by The Reverend Neil Bramble-Chapman
Today I want to offer a few thoughts and
reflections upon God’s relationship with us and the role of the Holy Spirit in
Two weeks ago I was preaching at my home Church Woodbridge Methodist. I have a long standing relationship with this Church. When I walked through the front door, one of the Stewards, greeted me with the words, “This is a proud day for our Church as we welcome back a Minister we have nurtured over so many years.” What wonderful words of welcome. People there have known me since I was a babe in arms and one woman reminded me that she used to change my nappies! What a thought! My Sunday School teacher was there and many other friends from the past, who were pleased to see me again. They have watched me grow, nurtured me through my formative years, they have supported and journeyed with me as I Candidated for the Ministry. I was married there and my children Baptised there. My blood sweat and tears are literally in the foundations of the Church extension. The people of Woodbridge Methodist Church have had a long standing relationship with me and even though they know me so well, they continue to love me.
On one Sunday when I was about 4 years old, during the season of Lent, the Minister asked people what they were going to give up for Lent. Remember I was only 4 at the time, well I stood up and said that I was going to give up swearing. You can only imagine how my parents must have felt. I also feel sorry for the Minister now, you see things differently when you are one yourself.
Despite this desire to give up swearing at the age of 4, the people of Woodbridge Methodist Church still love me and have welcomed me back to preach. Despite knowing me so well, they still want to maintain a relationship with me and my family.
At the heart of Christian theology is relationship Gods relationship with humanity begins with creation, moves through the history of the people of God to the cross of Jesus Christ and beyond to today. It is a relationship characterised by faithfulness, grace and continuing love on God’s side and by unfaithfulness, repentance and a search for salvation and holiness on our part. Throughout this long relationship God continually reaches out to his people expressing his love, desiring that we return to him. God continually calls us back into a relationship with him. This love is ultimately expressed in the Cross, the suffering and death of his son our lord Jesus Christ for sour salvation, and the resurrection, the new beginning offered to each and every human being no matter who they are or what they have done, no matter who we are or what we have done.
Now the remarkable part I find in all this is that God continues to love us and be concerned about us despite the fact that he knows us so well.
The intimacy of Gods knowledge is expressed in psalm 139.
verse 1 - 4 “O Lord you have searched me and known me....... you perceive my thoughts from afar.... you are familiar with all my ways.... before a word is on my tongue you know it completely.”
No matter what we do or say God continues to love us and desires to be in relationship with us. God knows every aspect of us and continues to love us and reassuringly Gods love and presence never diminish. God holds onto us in our darkest times.
Vs 9-10 “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Time and time again in my pastoral visiting and experience people say that they feel and know God’s presence with them in their darkest times. They have a sense of being uplifted and supported by God at these moments. But most importantly even when when we do not feel or know or experience God, God is with us. This Psalm promises that, assures us of that reality.
God desires that this continuity of relationship is maintained and he continues to love us and pour out his grace upon us no mater what we do .
This concept of relationship is strengthened through Jesus Christ as the Romans passage highlights. It says that through Jesus Christ we receive a spirit of sonship and this makes us his children and heirs.
But alas it is only as we are made his sons that we become inheritors of Gods promises - in first Century Israel a daughter was almost a second class citizen - only a son could inherit a fathers wealth and property and if a man did not have son of his own he might adopt a son who would then be able to inherit from him. That is why here is speaks about a spirit of sonship. This maintains us in a particular kind of relationship, one that is important and significant, since it puts us on a sure footing, a guarantee in terms of our relationship with God.
Then today's Gospel reminds us of the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, again to maintain God’s relationship with his people following Jesus Ascension. So even though the work of the son, Jesus Christ, is now completed on earth, we will not be left as orphans. Jesus tells the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to be a counsellor and guide.
This is a wonderful gift offered to each of us a gift we should not refuse.
Just imagine if you had been present at the Queens Golden Jubilee Celebrations and Parade two years ago. Do you remember seeing the pictures of so many people lining the streets of London as the Queen drove along in her Golden Carriage. This Gold State Coach, first used by George III when he opened Parliament in 1762 and used for every coronation since George IV's in 1821. As its name implies, it is gilded all over and the exterior is decorated with painted panels. It weighs four tons and requires eight horses to pull it. The coach now used by The Queen at the State Opening of Parliament is known as the Irish State Coach because the original was built in 1851 by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who was also a coach builder.
So the Queen orders her carriage to stop right next to you and she tells you that at the end of the procession she will give you her Golden Carriage. What would you say? Apart from being totally overwhelmed, would you refuse to accept it and say “Thank you very much your Majesty, but my garage isn’t big enough, so I cannot really accept your kind gift and anyway I don’t really need it?” Or would you accept it and say “Thank you very much your majesty, I’m very grateful. It is most generous of you?”
Most of us would think it quite rood to accept such a gift from the queen and we would accept such a gift.
God offers us the holy spirit which in the same way, we should not refuse. The Holy Spirit is given to help, to guide to comfort, to strengthen to inspire to set on fire and also to challenge and disturb us so that we do not fall into complacency. The holy spirit also transforms our lives into the likeness of Christ. St. Paul encourages us to live by the spirit and in Galatians 5 v 16 he speaks of the fruit of the Holy Spirit being: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.
This morning I have a gift for you a chocolate orange which I wish to share with you to think and reflect about the fruit of the holy spirit.
There might be an aspect of your life which you wish to change or develop, that you want the Holy Spirit to transform so as the chocolate orange is passed around take a segment and pray that that part of your life may be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.