notes from a small curate
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Pentecost: Spirit of Fire & Healing
Good Shepherd 30/5/2004
(also preached a shorter version earlier at Christ Church Norris Green)
Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17
Come, Holy Spirit
Come, Holy Spirit
Come, Lord, come
When we say, Come, Holy Spirit, what do we think will happen?
When we ask the Holy Spirit to come, what are we expecting? What are we hoping for?
When the Holy Spirit came to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, he came in the rush of a mighty wind and in tongues of fire. That's quite frightening; that's quite a violent act. Quite unexpected and unsettling. You might say he came in a way which shook them up.
And what happened next to them, having received the Holy Spirit, was that their behaviour changed. Again, dramatically, and probably quite frighteningly for them at first. But in the end, I want to highlight this point this morning, the change in them brought healing.
This is what happened to them: they started speaking in other languages.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now this was an odd thing, and a dramatic thing. And you might be thinking, what was the point of that? Was it a useless thing that God did with them then? What's the use of being able to speak in all sorts of different languages?
Well, it was odd. But it wasn't useless. Look at where they were. In a big city full of visitors from all around the world. There was a festival on and they were in a public place. Surrounded by all these foreigners.
When the Holy Spirit filled them up and they began to speak other languages, they didn't understand each other - but the foreign visitors understood them.
Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, folk from Egypt, Libya, Rome, Jews and converts to Judaism, people from Crete and Arabs - in their own languages they heard the disciples speaking about God's deeds of power.
I suggest to you that this was astonishing, amazing, unsettling - and healing.
This was a healing of the nations.
We sometimes sing a hymn, For the healing of the nations.
For the healing of the nations,
Lord, we pray with one accord,
for a just and equal sharing
of the things that earth affords.
There, on that first Pentecost morning, was a just and equal sharing - people who previously couldn't understand each other, who wouldn't have had much to do with each other, who would perhaps been suspicious of each other, who may even have been enemies - sharing together in conversation about the best thing on earth: God, what he has done and what he promises to do.
And this means that here, on this Pentecost morning, if we say, Come, Holy Spirit, God's Spirit will come to help us play our part in bringing a just and equal sharing to the world. God's Spirit will come to help us break down our suspicions and misunderstandings and enmities, help us share with others the best thing on earth: God, what he has done and what he promises to do.
Lead us forward into freedom,
from despair your world release,
that, redeemed from war and hatred,
all may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness
fear will die and hope increase.
When God's Holy Spirit comes it's strange but it's healing. It makes us think that whatever is happening in the world today, God has plans for a better future:
fear will die and hope increase
Once the Spirit came to Peter he remembered what God had promised through the prophet Joel, "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh"
Three things will happen, God said. First:
"Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."
This describes people's minds being healed - so that they can see the world as God sees it. Second:
"And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day."
This describes creation preparing to be healed - it tells us that the earth and skies which are suffering at the moment will one day be restored by God's mighty hand.
"Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
This describes the healing which God offers to each and every one of us, to you and me. Call on God, and you will be saved. Call on God, and you will be healed.
We've done this already in our service today. When we sang, Come, Holy Spirit. And soon we will be able to call on God again, pray for God to come - to save us, to bring healing.
You might like to share in this by coming to the altar rail for prayer and anointing when we come to that point in the service. Or you might share in it by simply sitting prayerfully while this is going on.
Either way, if you ask, for the healing of the nations, or for the healing of creation, or for the healing of yourself, then be sure in your heart that God's Spirit will come.