notre dame montreal

Sermon preached by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman



I saw a great quote earlier this week which indicated that if you were a frequent traveller and hadn’t missed a plane now and again, you were probably spending too much time at airports

In a week where I was close to missing 2 flights I can understand the sentiment but realise its important to leave enough time to catch your flights

As with many things, it’s a question of balance. The same can be said of Pentecost

Pentecost is on of the great feasts of the Christian church, and it’s important not just for what it signifies but because it’s a feast where our theology meets our spirituality

Our theology, (theo logos), words about God, describe what we know about God, as individuals, as churches, as denominations or whatever

The truth about God and how He is revealed, through scripture and tradition

Our spirituality is how we live out that truth, how we experience God and His truth in our lives

Both are important, you can’t have a true spirituality without theology and you can’t have a true theology without spirituality

What we know about God, must, as Christians, impact the way we live, our theology impacts our spirituality

And it is the Spirit that came at Pentecost that gives us the power to live out those beliefs

When the Spirit came at Pentecost the third great facet of the trinity had appeared

God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit. The Father who creates, the Son who redeems, the Spirit who empowers

But sometimes, just like leaving enough time at the airport, we get these out of balance

Next week we celebrate Trinity Sunday, and will no doubt look at the triune nature of God

And our theology tells us that we worship one God with 3 natures, it not 3 different, Gods - Father, Son and Spirit as separate entities. Jesus says ‘I and the Father are one’ and, ‘When I leave I will send my spirit’

One God, three facets, like a prism, a single piece of glass with 3 faces, not 3 different pieces of glass

And if we get these out of balance, or we begin to split them apart and dismember the trinity we get an out of balance spirituality

In some churches it can look like the balance has shifted so that there is an over emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit and the charismatic experience.

What we experience then becomes the truth about God for us. In this scenario, what we believe is based predominantly on what we experience

For other churches it could appear as if the balance is predominantly on the redeeming work of Jesus and the need to spread the word (about Him). The work of Christ is absolutely fundamental to us as Christians. Nonetheless the creative nature of God and the enabling power of the spirit can seem to get squeezed out, perhaps positioned as elements of or faith that died out with the disciples and the early church.

In these cases our spirituality can be reduced to only what we know and our experience has no place

Others churches it may seem focus heavily on the creative nature of God, His mystery and His majesty and awe and the redeeming work of the Son seems to take second place, tradition alone becomes paramount.

So if we’re to understand Pentecost fully, we need to see it in the context of the triune, yet indivisible God

Because the Spirit coming at Pentecost is not the work of some totally independent agent, but the completion of a phase of God’s work on earth

For when the spirit came at Pentecost it was not some independent agent who came but the Spirit of God Himself who, after revealing Himself in Jesus, sent His Spirit to touch each one of the disciples with flames of fire and the sound of a rushing wind

And when they were touched by the Spirit of God Himself, they were empowered for the ministry which God has ordained for them. It was God Himself who was enabling them

Now that might all seem rather boring and complicated for a Sunday morning but it’s vitally important for our theology and our spirituality, what we believe and how that impacts our lives

Because when we become God’s new creations through the redeeming work of His Son it is the Spirit of God Himself that comes and touches our lives

It’s God Himself who empowers us, just as He did the early disciples, to spread the good news through our words and our actions

Acts tells us that when this happened through the disciples many people were amazed and could not believe what was happening

They couldn’t believe the people they knew as Galileans were capable of such things, and on their own they weren’t, but these were people who had been touched by God’s Holy Spirit and their lives took on a different dimension. What they knew (had been told about God) became reality in their experience in a powerful and dynamic way. Is it the same for us as modern day disciples?

For some, the work of the Holy Spirit has been focused around their experience, their spirituality

But in reality, the work of the Holy Spirit is a matter of both our theology, what we believe, and our spirituality, how that belief works itself out in out lives

And that can mean being used by God’s Spirit for big miraculous things and smaller insignificant (?) things

But if we are filled with the Spirit of an all powerful (omnipotent) God, perhaps we should be surprised if He doesn’t want to do incredible things through us. We should not limit what He might want to do and how he might want to speak to others through us

How he might want to radically transform our lives, even now, or use us to radically transform the lives of those around us. To use us to make a real difference in the world, empowered by His Spirit

To show signs of His power and Glory here on earth

It’s a question of balance. Of what we believe and how that effects our lives. Of what we believe about the Holy Spirit and how that effects our lives. Our theology and our spirituality.

Our openness to the God’s Spirit to work powerfully through us – because that’s what we believe