Sermons Blog

Welcome to our "Sermon" blog


You need never miss another sermon again, as every week they will be uploaded on to this Blog page.


And even if you do not regularly attend either of our Churches; in St Peter's Rhoose, or St Curig's Porthkerry, on this page you will find out what we learn each week: About the meaning of our bible readings, how we can better understand them, and how we can live our lives closer to God.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Aug 3 2017 09:08AM

I have recently got into watching the Netflix series The Crown, a series which follows our Queen from the last years of her father's life right through the twists and turns of her reign in the second half of the 20th century. In one of the early episodes, while the queen and Prince Philip were in Kenya, one of the cars they were travelling in convoy with broke down. Lots of men huddled around the open bonnet trying to figure it out. They were scratching their heads and pouring water randomly into the engine, while the Queen sat in the car in front. After some time she could take it no longer and she got out of her car, shooed the men away and looked in at the engine. "It has simply overheated. Leave it and wait a little while and it will work again just fine." They looked at her gobsmacked until she said "Simple mechanics. I learned during the war." It wasn't the last time people would underestimate her abilities.

In our reading from John today we see people underestimating Jesus' abilities too, with much more far reaching consequences. Let's look at it.

If you were here last week, you will recall that Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He was sitting by the pool of Bethesda, but each time the waters were stirred up, indicating a healing might be possible, other people got in before him. When Jesus saw him, he told him to get up, take up his mat and walk. And the man did and he was completely healed. It was a wonderful miracle, showing both the power and the compassion of Jesus. But not everyone was impressed. You see, the healing took place on the Sabbath and this got the Jewish leaders really mad. Jesus' defence didn't help much v17 "My father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." They knew straight away that Jesus wasn't talking about Joseph making a few chairs on the Sabbath, instead he was talking about God the Father. In case we're a bit slow on the uptake, John helpfully adds an author's note v18 "For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." If he was just an ordinary man, then those would be blasphemous claims. But in our little section of the event today we'll discover who Jesus is, what he came to do and the difference it makes to us right now.

Jesus answers the accusation by stating clearly that he is God's son and the perfect revelation of God. v19 "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." God the Father and God the Son are so perfectly linked that Jesus always does what the Father wants. Jesus sees what the Father does in heaven and he does it on earth. The only difference is location. So his claim to equality with God isn't a blasphemous one. It's the truth. And we need to grasp this. Jesus isn't a good man or a great teacher or a kind miracle worker. He was and is God. Does that not shape the way we think of him and relate to him?

Jesus didn't come to earth just to swan around doing good here and there. God the Father has given some specific tasks for Jesus to do v21-22 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son." There are 2 primary tasks listed here: giving life and being the judge of all. These are no small things. Scientists are still trying to create life, as they have been for years, and although they can now clone living creatures, and grow body parts and insert a sperm into an egg artificially, they can't actually make life. They need something to begin with. God speaks and life is made. In the news a couple of weeks ago was the story of a man whose heart had stopped for 40 minutes yet by the efforts of paramedics and doctors he made a full recovery. It's so rare it made it to the news. In John chapter 11 we'll see Jesus calling to Lazarus who had been dead for 4 days, in a hot climate, to come out of the tomb and he comes out, alive again. Jesus gives life.

But he also judges. There are many in the church today who will tell you that there will be no judgement, that these ideas are primitive and outdated, that because God loves each of us, everyone will get to live in peace with him forever. That is not what Jesus believed and it's not what he taught. v24-30 state clearly that there will be a day of judgement and on that day some people will go on to live while others will be condemned. We need to know this so that we can be prepared. God has given us a warning.

One of the significant events of the 20th century covered in the series The Crown is the great smog of December 1952. The episode begins with a meteorologist taking readings, and the readings are so shocking that she rushes off to tell her superior. He reads them and rushes off to his superior who takes it to his and so on, until the head of the Met Office decides they must tell the Prime Minister. A weather system is coming which will trap all of the smoke and emissions from powerstations and hold it close to the ground where it will poison people. A letter gets sent to the PM straight away. But when he reads it, he dismisses it "It's only weather. It comes. It goes." No amount of pleading from anyone will change his mind. The smog comes and people die in their thousands. The cry goes up "Why hasn't someone warned us this would happen?" The truth is that the warning was there but no one listened to it. This is so often the case, all the more so when it comes to God's warning.

So what are we to do? v24 "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged because he has crossed over from death to life." We are to hear Jesus' word and believe it. Remember a fortnight ago, we learned that faith is taking Jesus at his word? Here he's saying that again and showing us that that faith has massive consequences. As we believe in Jesus now, we have already passed over from death to life. When judgement day comes we will be safe because we have already moved into Jesus' realm of life and light.

v28-30 reiterate this, with more detail, and we must be careful how we understand them "A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out." Notice that this is everybody. Not just the Christians or those who believe it will happen. Even the most devout atheist will hear the voice of Jesus and be unable to resist doing what he says. And there will be a judgement: v29 "those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." But how do we know if we'll be OK? Does God have a set of scales to weigh the good out against the bad? This is what most people believe and hope. They hope that they will have just about scraped through, that their good intentions and lack of major evils will tip the balance in their favour. We need to understand what Jesus is actually saying here. What does he consider doing evil? We need to look back to 3:18 to see where condemnation falls "whoever does not believe [in God's son] stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." That's the ultimate evil - it's not believing in Jesus because it cuts off the source of forgiveness. What's doing good? 6:28 The crowd asks Jesus "What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." So judgement isn't based on a moral assessment but on a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus, our advocate who speaks for us; Jesus our saviour who took the penalty of our sins for us.

So, a really important piece of teaching from Jesus today. We've been reminded of who he is: the Son of God, equal to God, carrying out His perfect will; we've seen 2 of the tasks God sent him to perform; to give life and to judge; and we've seen that a response is needed from us in the here and now to guarantee what will happen to us on the day of Jesus' return. Will you hear the warning of Jesus and respond, or will you push it away as unimportant, to be dealt with another day? If Jesus is just a teacher from 2000 years ago it won't really matter what we do. But if he is the Son of God with the power of life and death in his hands, we push him away at our peril.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jul 18 2017 09:33AM

Anyone here enjoy watching magicians? I'm not beyond trying a little bit of simple magic myself - later on today I'll be sharing a card trick with the children in Messy Church. One of the most famous magicians today is Dynamo. He's pulled off some amazing illusions including levitating off the Shard and walking on the surface of the Thames, as well as doing tricks you can see close up. His latest tour is called 'Seeing is believing'. It's a phrase we use often 'I'll believe it when I see it'. But does seeing always mean believing? Is seeing amazing things necessary to have faith?

Those of you who have been following our series looking at John's gospel will remember that we have been looking at a very famous verse from John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Over the last 2 sermons we've seen that 'whoever believes' really does mean 'whoever', as we met a woman from the wrong part of town with the wrong theology and the wrong lifestyle, yet Jesus offered her life and she believed. Today we're going to explore the next bit of 'whoever believes', as we answer the question 'what does it mean to believe?' Can something look like faith but not actually be faith? As we move on to today's verses from John we'll discover 2 types of faith: faith in miracles and faith in the one who is able to do miracles. Only one type of faith is saving faith.

Faith in miracles v43-45.

Jesus has spent 2 days with the Samaritans, talking to them and sharing the good news with them, and now he returns to Galilee. His reception is a very warm one v45 "When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover festival, for they also had been there." It all looks very positive. We know from 2:23 that while Jesus was at the Passover celebrations he'd been doing all kinds of miracles and people believed in him. Fantastic! But there's a warning note. In 4:44 John adds an aside "Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country." So even this warm welcome isn't honouring Jesus, why? The answer is back in 2:24 "But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person." The miracles might have impressed the people, the people might even have believed in him as a miracle doer, but their hearts haven't been changed. The miracles, though genuine, have made no more difference to them than going to see a magician perform. They have faith, but only in the miracles.

Where is your faith? Is it in the things God provides? The good health, the happy relationships, the loving family, the good job? Do you need these things as proof that God is real and that he loves you? What happens when they are taken away? I have met many people who have lost their faith when things have stopped going well for them or their family. It's tragic, but it begs the question 'was their faith in the things God gives them or in the God who is the giver?' It's an important question for us to ask ourselves too, because faith in the things God gives is not the faith which leads to eternal life.

The miracles, however, are signs or pointers to who Jesus really is, and they can be a way in for some people. This seems to be the case for our royal official. Let's look at him in our second point: faith in the one who is able to do miracles v46-53. At a first glance this man seems just like all the others. He wants Jesus because he can heal his son, and Jesus' reaction to his request seems to confirm this v48 "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe." But there is more going on here. First of all, this man has travelled a long way to see Jesus. Capernaum is 18 miles away from Cana, which in the days before mechanised transport would have been at least a day's travel. He's determined. And he's not easily discouraged. Jesus' response to his request could be taken as a 'no' - no I'm not going to do any more signs. Jesus does sometimes say 'no' to us. Have you realised that? When we ask Jesus for something, he is at perfect liberty to say no, even when we're asking for something good and not selfish. Jesus can say no. He's the Lord. He decides. Yet how often do we behave like teenagers whose parents have said they can't go out when he does say no. I hate you. I'm not believing in you any more. Jesus can say no.

But this official is determined v49 "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus still says no, he's not going to Capernaum, but he does make a promise v50 "Go, your son will live." And here's the key verse "The man took Jesus at his word and departed". The man takes Jesus at his word. This is faith: taking Jesus at his word. Taking him at his word even when your whole world is falling in. Taking him at his word when there's no back up plan. Taking him at his word when everyone else thinks something different. The man doesn't question Jesus any more, he just sets off. And as he's on his way home his servants meet him with some wonderful news: his son is alive. As he questions them further he discovers that his boy got better at the exact time Jesus had said he would live. It's a wonderful miracle and the second sign that John records to show us who Jesus is.

Do you have a faith which takes Jesus at his word? Most of the promises Jesus makes to us in his word are ones for which we can have little proof, other than the fact Jesus has made them. He doesn't promise us health, wealth and happiness, things we can measure. He doesn't promise that everything will always go our way. He doesn't promise us signs and wonders to persuade us he's there. But he does promise us eternal life. He does promise that our sins can be forgiven, that we can have a new start with him. He does promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Will you take him at his word?

The royal official did and he saw his son healed. His faith had an impact on the whole family v53 "So he and his whole household believed". Don't ever underestimate the impact your faith can have on others, and don't give up when they seem untouched. Keep on taking Jesus at his word. [This is especially relevant for those who have come today with Ethan and Dylan. The way you think about Jesus, the way you speak about him, the priority you give to him will have a huge impact on how the faith of these boys grows. They have made a great start here, but they have some challenging years ahead as they move up through childhood into their teenage years. What you model for them is really important. If you're sitting there thinking I don't know what I believe, then remember that we're here to help you. Have a chat with me after the service. Don't put it off - it's really important.]

So, where is your faith? Is it in the things God has given you, or is it in the Lord who gives? The words of Jesus from near the end of the gospel are just as relevant here as they are after the resurrection 20:29, Jesus' words to Thomas "Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." True faith takes Jesus at his word.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jul 4 2017 11:02AM

News travels quickly today. An accident happens on Port Rd and the warnings are all over social media straight away, so you can avoid the area. A lost dog, cat or child and the photographs are out there so we can start looking. Good news travels quickly too: the birth of a baby is announced on social media so friends all round the world can share the joy of the new arrival, even relatively trivial good news is shared with wild abandon, from the tasty meal in the restaurant to a new washing line which has managed to stay up.

Our reading starts with a woman who had some really good news to share. It's been a few weeks since we met her on our journey through John's gospel, but a quick glance to the earlier verses of chapter 4 will remind you. She is a nameless Samaritan woman, with a somewhat chequered past, who Jesus met at a well. And in spite of her gender (women were 2nd class citizens then), and in spite of her nationality (Samaritans were the big enemies of the Jews), and in spite of her questionable morality (adulterers could be stoned to death), Jesus offered her living water. Living water was a promise made by God, to his people the Jews, way back in Isaiah. But Jesus offers it to her. She is an immediate living illustration of Jesus' famous words in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life". You couldn't get much more 'whoever' than her. As their conversation twists and turns through religious controversy and her many men, her realisation of who Jesus is grows, until in v25 & 26 he answers her statement directly "I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes he will explain everything to us" then Jesus declared 'I, the one speaking to you - I am he'. This is the most amazing news! Jew and Samaritan alike had been waiting for God's anointed king to come for so long. For the Jews the silence had been 400 years, for the Samaritans it was even longer. Yet here he is! She has got to go and tell people.

That's where our reading starts. The disciples have come back from buying lunch, surprised to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman, and she dashes off to tell the good news. Another of John's contrasts is set up ready for us. Look how keen she is to go and tell v28 "Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people 'Come see a man who told me everything I have ever done. Could this be the Messiah?' A friend of mine has just got tickets to meet William Shatner, the great Captain Kirk. He is so excited that he's been posting pictures of the great man on Facebook and counting down days until he meets him. This woman has left one of the most precious and essential for life things she owns, her water jar, to go and tell the people she was previously avoiding, the good news. Her testimony isn't great: 'he told me everything I've ever done', no sign of the clever theological debates she was trying to draw Jesus into earlier, yet the impact is huge v30 "They came out of the town and made their way towards him." and John gives it the same weighting as John the Baptist's testimony, as he uses the same word to describe it. Why does her simple 'come and see' testimony have such an impact? Is it maybe because Jesus has already started to change her? We can see a change, can't we? From the woman on her own at the well at midday, friendless and alone to the one dashing to tell everyone who she has met. There is no substitute for just sharing with joy what the Lord has done, and when that's coupled with a change by the Holy Spirit, that testimony is powerful. By the end of our reading, many of those Samaritan villagers have come to faith in Jesus v39 "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony." and their faith has been cemented by actually listening to Jesus themselves v42 "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world." The Saviour of the world, not just of one group of people.

We have the same saviour and the same good news. Why do we find it so difficult to share, as individuals and as a church as a whole? Why are we quicker to put our cooked breakfast or our new washing line on Facebook, than we are that answered prayer, or that touch of God's grace (and I do include myself in this)? We can find some answers to that question in the way the disciples handle the situation with the Samaritan woman. And remember that John has deliberately laid them out as contrasting, just as Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman were contrasted, to show us an important truth.

To begin with, the disciples are too conventional. Traditionally a Jewish man would not speak to a Samaritan woman, and so when Jesus breaks with tradition to share the good news with her, they are surprised. We don't do things that way. Are we too conventional in our Britishness? Do we still have in our minds the idea that it's somehow not proper to 'do God' in public? Are we too conventional in the way we do things, imagining that because we love to sing worship songs/have a Green Book eucharist, that that's what everyone out there must want? And if they don't, then maybe Jesus isn't for them anyway. Are we too conventional, like the disciples?

Or are we too distracted? The disciples had gone off on a quest to buy food. It was a good quest, their teacher Jesus had flopped down wearily by a well after a morning's walking and they knew that food would revive him. But very quickly Jesus' lunch distracts them from the real purpose of being in Samaria. v31-33 are almost comical "His disciples urged him 'Rabbi, eat something'. But he said to them 'I have food to eat that you know nothing about'. Then his disciples said to each other 'Could someone have brought him food?' Feeding Jesus is undoubtedly a good thing. But the disciples' fixation on it has stopped them from noticing the abandoned water jar, or the excited woman running off into the town. Do we get distracted from our true purpose by other things, even if the things which distract us are good things? I don't doubt that we do. Both as individuals and as a church. There's always so much to do, always so much need. But what use is a beautiful church if its empty? What value a magazine worthy home if we miss out on a mansion in heaven? What purpose a memorable day trip if our children journey to adulthood without the Lord? Are we distracted from the real need?

Finally the disciples were blind to what was in front of them. v35 "Don't you have a saying 'It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." Like many people I have a vegbox delivered each week. It's great, fresh organic, mostly British food. And it comes each week with a letter from the farmer. Sometimes it's a rant about pesticides or advice on trying a new vegetable. A week or two ago it was his musings about the hot weather. Intense heat was doing many of the crops no good at all, and so he had to get up and get his workers in in the early morning to harvest the basil and spinach and so forth before it spoiled. Much of it was ready for harvest far sooner than it normally would be. Now imagine if he was complacent. ;The basil won't be ready for a fortnight. I'll pop over to check my farm in France. It would have ruined. He had to be alert, looking for the crop to be ready for harvest. The disciples had missed the harvest that was in front of them. They thought the good news was just for the Jews, but there were thousands of Samaritans who were ready to respond to the gospel. Who are we missing? Are we looking at one field and seeing a few scrabbly stumps, when there is whole other field just waiting to be harvested? Perhaps people we had never considered before? We need to ask the Lord to open our eyes.

So, a contrast today between the most unlikely convert turned evangelist and the conventional, distracted, blind disciples fussing over Jesus' lunch. Let's hear the force of the words of this passage for us in the church today and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to see where the harvest fields are ripe and to work with God in his harvest.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jun 12 2017 11:31AM

This image is called ‘Lux Aeterna’ or The Eternal Light. It was painted by Mary Fleeson, who lives and works on Lindisfarne – Holy Island – off the Northumberland coast. Mary’s paintings are all very colourful and are inspired by the ancient texts produced by monks on Holy Island in the 7th Century, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells.

Of her painting, Mary says: ‘This is based on an album called Lux Aeterna by David Fitzgerald. I drew together elements from David’s inspirations with themes from some of the tracks, such as ‘Christchild’, ‘Golgotha’ and ‘Resurrection’. The Trinity is expressed in the embracing figure of God the Father behind the cross, the dove of the Spirit and the representations of Jesus as a babe in the womb and ascending to His Father.’

With that in mind, we’re going to use some of the images contained within the painting to help us think about the Trinity. As Christians, we believe in one God but we believe that he has revealed himself to us in three forms – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is different but the same. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Spirit or the Father, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son; but they are all the one God. Each person has a role to play but also doesn’t work separately from the other.

Does that sound complicated? That’s because it is! Over the last 2000 years many people have tried to explain the Trinity but we still only have limited understanding of it. Melanie and I are going to share our understanding of the Trinity with you this morning. Firstly, using the ‘Eternal Light’ picture, we’re going to look at the 3 persons of the Trinity separately.

God the Father

The clearest image of God the Father in the picture is the embracing figure – with arms held open – behind the cross. God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. Thousands of years ago, he made a covenant – a promise – with a man called Abraham.

Genesis 17: 3-8 Abram fell face down, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’

God called himself our God and us his people. That’s a special relationship. Jesus showed us how special God wants that relationship to be when he told the story of the Lost Son in Luke’s gospel. We’ve heard the story many times – the man with two sons and the younger son asks his father for his share of the inheritance ‘now’. Then he goes away and spends it all. He ends up working for a farmer looking after pigs and not having anything to eat because there’s a famine in the land. One day, things are so bad for him, he decides to go home – his life would be better even as a servant in his father’s house than it is at the moment. But through the father in the story, Jesus shows us the enormous size of God’s love – even for a son who wasted away the family money and was doing a dirty, horrible job.

Luke 15: 20-24 ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. ‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

When the father (that’s God) saw his son coming home he ran towards him, welcomed him and loved him. He celebrated the son coming home. He didn’t take him back as a servant or a worker but brought him right back into the heart of the family. Through this story, Jesus is telling us that that’s how much God loves us – he wants to bring us into the heart of his family.

God the Son

We can see three images for God the Son – Jesus – in the picture. Firstly, at the foot of the cross, there’s an image of a baby in the womb. This image reminds us that God wants to be in a relationship with us so much that he came to live among us as a human.

Luke 1: 28-33 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’

Jesus didn’t just come to live among us. God’s plan was much bigger than that. The image of the cross shows us God’s plan. Although God wants to be in relationship with us, there are too many barriers in the way. We keep on turning away from God and doing things that make him unhappy. That’s sin. God wanted to deal with our sin so that we could be free to have that special relationship with him. And so Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins from us. Then on Easter day, Jesus rose from the dead to show us that death is not the end – for him, or for us. When we die, we can be with God forever.

John 3: 16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

After he had risen from the dead, Jesus ascended to heaven and returned to God the Father. This is the third image of Jesus that we see in the picture – the figure in the yellow section is Jesus ascending into heaven. But, he promised that one day he would return and that until then we wouldn’t be alone. God would send a gift – God the Holy Spirit – to give us strength and courage to tell other people about Jesus.

Acts 1: 4-9 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

God the Holy Spirit

A common image of God the Holy Spirit is a dove – when Jesus was baptised by John, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove – a visible sign from God that Jesus was chosen by God. The image of the dove can be seen across the centre of our picture. When we receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism, this is a sign that we too have been chosen by God. We have been commanded by Jesus to tell the whole world the good news about him and he promised the Holy Spirit to help us. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians explains what that help will be.

1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

So, just as God made each one of us different, so the Holy Spirit gives us different gifts – different strengths for our work of witness. We may be doing different things, but we’re all working towards the same goal and for the same God.

In summary, we have God the Father, who loves us and created us to be in relationship with him; God the Son, who makes that relationship possible through his birth, death and resurrection and who commands us to go and tell the world about him; and God the Holy Spirit, who live among and within us and equips us with everything we need to go out and tell others about Jesus.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Jun 12 2017 11:17AM

Have you ever been excited waiting for something? Have you been restless with anticipation the night before a birthday, Christmas or a holiday? If it hasn’t happened to you recently, can you remember a time when you were? Anyone with any involvement with children will be familiar with high levels of excitement. Christmas Eve, the night before a birthday or a holiday and most children are like bottles of pop that have been shaken up – bubbling, full of energy and liable to explode if the pressure is released!

I imagine the days in between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost felt similar for the disciples. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded his disciples to wait. In Acts 1: 4-5 we’re told ‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ They knew that Jesus was going to send the Holy Spirit, but not when or how. And so this morning, we’re going to look at two things. Firstly, how the disciples knew that they had received the Holy Spirit and secondly, how this outpouring of God’s Spirit was different from in the past.

Let’s begin with the disciples’ experience that first Pentecost. Acts 1 tells us that the disciples had returned to Jerusalem and stayed together. Furthermore, they were preparing themselves for the Holy Spirit. Verse 14 says: ‘They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.’ Then the day of Pentecost came. Pentecost, also known as ‘The Feast of the First Fruits’ is a significant Jewish festival, connected with Passover. It celebrated the first produce of the Promised Land, as commanded in Deuteronomy 26: 1-2, 11: ‘When you have entered the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land that the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. […] Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.’ So then, our Christian Pentecost festival is also connected with Easter. Easter commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost the firstfruits of the blessings of salvation for those who believe in Jesus. The day of Pentecost was a most appropriate time for the Holy Spirit to arrive. How did the disciples know that they had received the Holy Spirit? Verses 2-3 of the account tell us: ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.’ These were visible and audible signs of the Holy Spirit and their divine nature would have been clear to the disciples. The Hebrew scriptures contained similar visible and audible signs when God revealed himself to his people: loud noises, as described in Exodus 19: 16: ‘On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.’

and rushing wind, as described in Ezekiel 37: 9 ‘Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”’ John the Baptist, too, had described baptism with the Holy Spirit in Luke 3: 16 ‘John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’ When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in Acts 1: 8, he also described what would happen: ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ So, the disciples were aware, from the events surrounding them and the connection with events in Hebrew scripture that this was indeed God revealing himself to them all – that Jesus had sent the Spirit as he had promised. They were filled with God’s Spirit. The result of this was that the disciples were equipped with inspired speech for public ministry, as we see in v 6: ‘When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.’

Can we be filled with the Holy Spirit too? Will we have the same experience as the disciples? How can we prepare for God to fill us with the Spirit? Firstly, we can be filled with the Spirit too. As we’ll explore later, God’s Spirit is promised for all his people – in v 17: ‘’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’ Secondly, our experience is not likely to be exactly the same as the disciples’. The external signs of wind and flame experienced by them were possibly symbols for them to recognise that the Spirit had arrived and not something we should expect to see again. The internal filling with the Spirit will be the same. Thirdly, we can prepare in the same way the disciples did – by joining together in prayer and waiting expectantly. If God has sent his Spirit before, he can and will do so again.

So, what was different about this occasion of God sending his Spirit to the disciples than previously? In Old Testament times, God chose individuals – kings or prophets – to receive his Spirit. The first book of Samuel tells of how God sent his Spirit on Israel’s king in 10: 9-10 ‘As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.’, but also took it away in 16: 14 ‘Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil[a] spirit from the LORD tormented him.’ Ezekiel too, was anointed with God’s Spirit in 11: 5 ’ Then the Spirit of the LORD came on me, and he told me to say: ‘This is what the LORD says: that is what you are saying, you leaders in Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.’ On the day of Pentecost however, God didn’t choose an individual disciple; everyone in that one place received the Spirit. As we see in vv 3-4: ‘The saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Nor does our reading specify that it was only the disciples that received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, so we have no reason not to believe that the women present and Jesus’ mother and brothers weren’t also filled with the Spirit. In the second part of today’s reading, Peter explains the full significance of this outpouring of God’s Spirit. This is the fulfilment of God’s promise, as foretold by the prophet Joel. Again, we turn to vv 17-18: ‘’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’ God’s Spirit does not discriminate over sex, age or social position; the Spirit is given to all equally. The great gift of the Spirit described here is the empowering of people to prophesy. The book of Acts contains many examples of this prophecy: Acts 9: 10 ‘In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.’ Acts 18: 9 ‘One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.’ Acts 15: 32 ‘Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.’ . As Joel and the Old Testament prophets made God’s will known, so now Christians are enabled by the Spirit to make God known through Jesus. Peter continues with the words of Joel, pointing to the signs on earth and in heaven that will herald the day of the Lord. V 19 speaks of ‘blood and fire and billows of smoke.’ And in v 20 ‘the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.’ From this prophecy of Joel, we should know that judgement must come on the day of the Lord. But Peter ends his quote from Joel with hope in v 21: ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ In the remaining verses of Chapter 2, Peter goes on to explain how people can be saved through repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus.

Do you feel a sense of doom looking at the world around you? Are you concerned about the rapid social change, moral decay, environmental crisis and economic and political problems around us? Let us be comforted. God is always at work because we live in the time of the Spirit’s life-giving presence. We see examples of this in the darkest times, as we did in the news stories from Manchester two weeks ago: the taxi drivers giving rides home without charge; the woman gathering children separated from their parents to safety in a hotel; the many citizens who opened up their homes, offering a bed or access to a phone or wifi; the homeless man who held a dying woman so that she wouldn’t be alone. These are the signs of God at work. We too, can know God at work in us and through us when we are filled with his Holy Spirit. Are you ready, this Pentecost, to accept God’s gift of his Holy Spirit to fill you?

Let us pray

Generous God, we thank you for that first day of Pentecost – the birth of the Church. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to the disciples and equipping them for their ministry. Their witness and teaching has passed on through 2000 years of history and thousands of miles to reach us today. We pray that now, we too, may be ready to go out into the world and tell of the good news of salvation through your Son Jesus. So we ask that you send your Holy Spirit again to fill each person here. Equip each one of us with the gifts and strength we need to do your work in the world. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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