Sermon for Easter 7 Year A
By Mr Alan Davis
St Marks and Putnoe.
11th May 2008.
Lectionary Readings: Acts 2vv1-21, 1Corinthians 12vv3b-13, John 20vv 19-23.
Our Gospel reading reminds us again of the events on the evening of Easter Day. We are told that the disciples had locked themselves away but still Jesus came to them to comfort and challenge them. Comfort by showing that He was truly risen from the dead and that He still cared for them and for their well-being. He came at a time of great fear and confusion. What had really happened and why did it happen? Was He really dead or fully alive?. How should they approach Him? What could they say to Him?
And the challenge? “As my Father sent me, so I send you”. They are told not to hide away but to get out and face the world, the world that had rejected Him and by connection, they thought them as well. But not only get out and about but continue doing the work that He had been doing for the past three years, forgiving sins. We know that this was the basis of Jesus’ healing ministry, not only of the body but of the mind also. Forgive the sinner and the physical problems are cured.
And they were not alone in this work for Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit to be their help meet.
As they gathered on the day of Pentecost, forty days after the Gospel narrative, so the mighty force of the Holy Spirit swept through the room where they were gathered and they were transformed. Changed from people fearful and timid to ones who could face the world. Changed from tongue-tied individuals to a group of people proclaiming the wonders that Jesus had done and how He was put to death and rose again. And all this by fishermen and public officials who spoke in languages that everyone could understand no matter where they originated from.
Oh they were laughed at and accused of being either drunk, mad or possessed of evil spirits. It wasn’t possible for these ignorant Galileans to be able to talk like this unless these accusations were true. But now Peter really shows his colours, the same Peter who six weeks before had denied knowing Jesus now stood up and proclaimed Him Lord. The effect of the gift of the Holy Spirit was plain to see in the lives of the disciples and also the early members of the young church who, Luke tells us, spent their time in learning, praying, caring and sharing the possessions they had between themselves and others so that the church grew and prospered.
When Paul writes his letter of encouragement to the church at Corinth, he reminds them of what the Holy Spirit has done. He tells them that it has given all types of gifts to those that will receive them and he lists them and reminds them to rejoice in the very diversity of those gifts. Not everyone possesses all of the gifts and if we are blessed with a gift we must use it wisely and well and to the glory of Him who gives it. Who are we to try to prioritise or categorise the gifts of the spirit? Who are we to say whether one is more important than another? It is the very diversity of those gifts that make them so wonderful, so powerful and so special. Not only must we learn to make good use of the gift or gifts that we each have but we must learn to work in harmony with each other to ensure that the multiplicity of those gifts when used together are more than the sum of the individual elements. We now call it synergy.
This is when a Christian community finds its strength to evangelise, to reach out to a world in need. This is what the young church found after the coming of the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost. T do that in our modern world is to offer it a purpose that seems to be sadly lacking in today’s society. An article in the Times newspaper on Thursday last showed how the attendance at various denominations of the Christian church had declined over the last few years and how, if the decline continued at the same rate, how attendances would look in the year 2050. It makes for very disturbing reading. When will the wake-up call be sounded? Who has the courage to stand up and make it? If the church doesn’t, then no one else will.
By coincidence, this year Pentecost is at the same time as the start of Christian Aid week. Unfortunately, the amount collected seems to be reducing year on year and that cannot be solely due to the economic situation. Is it apathy from the public or are we not getting the message across? Is it that as a nation we do not care about the plight of people less fortunate than ourselves in this and other countries? The current natural disaster in Myanmar, or Burma as we knew it, highlights the problem of getting aid to those in desperate need.
Perhaps Christian Aid is not only about money but finding a practical way in which those gifts, so freely given by the Holy Spirit can be utilised for the good of the whole world. Perhaps then the world might see what the people of Jerusalem saw 2000 years ago, a determined group of people, inspired and ready to set the world ablaze.