Tagged: Holy Spirit

What I said last Sunday for the Feast of Pentecost


Last Sunday was, of course, the Feast of Pentecost. Here’s what I said in my sermon.

Acts 1.1-13; John 20.19-23

There’s not much that’s more annoying than a flat car battery.

You know what it’s like! The last time you used the car there was nothing wrong. Then you go out to go somewhere – and it’s always when you’re going somewhere important and are in a hurry – and the car won’t start. These days, with electronic central locking, you are forewarned because the remote control key won’t unlock the car. And you get that sinking feeling. And yet, having had to use the key the old-fashioned way and actually put it in the lock, you get in and even though you now know you have a flat battery you still try and start the car. You know it’s not going to work but you try anyway. No power! And you’re not going anywhere. And the worst thing is you know that it’s almost certainly your fault. Either you’ve left headlights on though that’s increasingly difficult these days. Or you’ve left the interior light on. Or – as I managed to do recently – you’ve left the boot slightly ajar so that the boot light had not gone out! Continue reading

What I said this Sunday – Easter 6


John 14.15-21

“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” The final words of Humphrey Bogart just before he died at the age of 57.

Famous last words. Some clearly thought them through. Some tried to be amusing at the last. Others simply didn’t know what to say. And yet if you’re famous you can guarantee that your final words will live, and be repeated, long after you are gone. And one of the problems of being famous is that you are often expected to leave behind you something inspirational. Karl Marx, as he neared death, was asked by his housekeeper who was the only person with him, for some profound and meaningful last thoughts. “Go away!” he shouted at her, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!” and she fled from the room to leave him to pass away in silence. And yet last words can often be deeply moving and inspiring. Continue reading

What I said on Sunday – Lent 2

The gospel reading for Sunday in the Church of England was the visit by Nicodemus to Jesus. Here’s what I said.

Genesis 12.1-4; Romans 4.1-5, 13-17; John 3.1-17

People have always asked questions about the difficult things in life – questions for which there simply aren’t easy answers. Questions like:
How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
Or how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
Or how many times must the cannon balls fly before they’re forever banned?

What are the answers to those questions? Continue reading

What I said this Sunday – 4th before Lent (Proper 1)


Here’s what I said this Sunday past.

Isaiah 58.1-9a; 1 Corinthians 2.1-12; Matthew 5.13-20

Relationships between couples can be problematic. However hard we try sometimes things don’t always work out. Every couple wants happiness, but sometimes it’s rather evasive. So it was with, I’m sure, the best will in the world that around a hundred years ago Woman’s Weekly gave regular advice to wives on how to keep their husbands happy. In those days, of course, it was rather one way! And so Woman’s Weekly gave lots of tips to housewives that would enable them to make sure they had a happy husband and therefore a happy marriage.

Advice such as:

  • Make your own clothes
  • How to use up leftovers – including a recipe for rhubarb dumplings
  • How to pack a holiday trunk
  • Talk less

Continue reading

Pentecost – my sermon for this week


Back from two weeks in Crete, where the priest I live with and I went to get some sunshine – a much needed respite from the unseasonable cold and wet of our English spring this year – but also to coincide with Orthodox Easter. Back in time to preach for the feast of Pentecost.

John 14.8-27

There’s not much that’s more annoying than returning from holiday to find a note on the table from the person who’s been feeding the cats while you’re away saying: Welcome home, the cats are fine … and by the way you’ve got a flat tyre. We went out to have a look. Yes – there it was. It was fine when we went away – and now it wasn’t. So on Wednesday morning, as the car belongs to the priest I live with, she phoned the RAC (Note: the royal Automobile Club, a vehicle breakdown service in the UK) to come and change the wheel so that she could drive to the garage to get a new tyre. The man from the RAC was there in seconds – literally! Turned out he lives in Caterham and this was his first call, and the priest I live with had hardly put the phone down when he arrived! He quickly put on the temporary wheel, and then before he went said: All I need to do now is check your oil level. They never used to do that – but in these recessionary days people are not having their cars serviced so frequently, so now the RAC check on every call. Just as well – the oil level was very low as the car is somewhat overdue for a service. Continue reading

What I said this week – Thomas Sunday


This week, the Sunday following Easter Day, has us thinking about Thomas the doubting disciple. Here’s my sermon.

John 20.19-end

As a child I was hopeless at sport – sport was simply not my thing. The best I ever managed at secondary school was the report in my first year where the sports master had written for Gym: He has absolutely no aptitude for this subject but he tries his best. I was the one nobody wanted on their team. When I was at primary school we used that iniquitous system of two people being chosen as captains for football, and then they picked their teams. And of course, when it came to choosing who was going to be in your football team it was never going to be me, because I couldn’t play an even half-decent game of football if my life depended on it. I always knew that I wouldn’t get picked but that didn’t make it any easier.

There is nothing worse than being left out. Continue reading

What I said this Sunday – Pentecost

Here’s my sermon for Pentecost Sunday.

Act 2 2.1-21

Many churches these days, like our own, use – instead of ordinary candles – oil-filled ones. The advantages are that they are cheaper, cleaner, and never appear to burn down. However long they burn for, they always look just like new. There is a downside though. You buy your oil-filled candle, put it in the candlestick, fill it with oil and light it. It looks wonderful. It burns away and never drips or gets any shorter. The problem is, though, that unless you regularly top it up with more oil, although it always looks alright it is getting emptier and emptier. And in the end it will just go out.

Christians are like oil-filled candles. They look fine on the outside. But they need regularly filling up on the inside – and you can’t tell from just looking at the outside when they’re getting empty. Like an oil-filled candle, a Christian needs a regular filling of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, although outwardly we may look fine, we just get emptier and emptier – and in the end we stop burning. And simply not notice that we’ve gone out!

Pentecost Sunday – the day the Spirit came, and thousands heard Peter speaking in their own tongues of what God had done. The day that Jesus did as he had promised, and sent the Holy Spirit from the Father to fill up the disciples. But why did the disciples have to wait after the Ascension for Jesus to send the Spirit? And why don’t we, today, seem to experience the Holy Spirit in the way that the disciples did then?

Who is the Holy Spirit? I expect many people in the Church would be hard pressed to answer that question with any clarity if it were put to them. We are clear about God the Father. We know who Jesus is. But not many know who the Holy Spirit is. We talk about one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – but there is a tendency to have rather vague ideas about him. The New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Godhead who dwells in us day by day. He gives gifts to his Church. There are several lists in the New Testament of gifts given by the Holy Spirit. They include such gifts as prophecy, miraculous powers, speaking in tongues as well as more down to earth gifts such as teaching, administration (yes, administration!) and helping others.

This is a Spirit who is at work in the Church – not just then, but now as well. A Spirit who comes to stir up the people of God – the apostles discovered that on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit came not like a gentle breeze, but a violent – think about that word – a violent wind. But if this is what the Holy Spirit is like, what does it mean for us as a group of Christians?

Canon John Gunstone describes in his book LIVE BY THE SPIRIT what preaching at Pentecost used to be like for him before he discovered the reality of the Holy Spirit: Trying to preach on Whit Sunday each year was an embarrassment. I just couldn’t think of anything to say. I rationalised the events narrated in Acts 2 as a dramatic mystical experience that was unique in the life of the apostolic Church, and I warned confirmation candidates not to expect anything like it today… If anyone had asked me (which they never did) how to receive more of the Holy Spirit into their lives, I would probably have mumbled something about saying prayers and receiving Communion.

Peter and the others experienced something dramatic – and Peter, as he preached to the crowds in response to those accusations of drunkenness, told them that God has poured out his Spirit as foretold by the prophetJoel.

That experience gave Peter a vision for the Church, a vision inspired by the Holy Spirit. What is our vision for the Church today? Do we have a vision at all? His vision of the new Church, the new community formed in the power of the Holy Spirit as a direct response to the death and resurrection ofJesusis, perhaps, different from our vision of what the Church should be. We have a tendency to limit our vision – if we have a small vision its easier to believe that it might come about. We lack faith in the power of God.

A report of the General Synod of the Church of England published in 1981 had the following to say about the difference between the Early Church and the Church of today and the way in which we attempt to devalue the message of Acts that the Church should be alive in the power of the Spirit: No amount of sterilisation of the Biblical message, and no amount of critical scholarship, have ever managed wholly to conceal the flow of the Acts narrative, and its message of a Spirit filled community facing persecution, working miracles, rejoicing in the power of God, and generally living a corporate “Pentecostal” life.

No matter how hard we might try, we cannot explain away the fact that the Early Church had something that we haven’t got. It had a freedom, a joyfulness, a carefreeness, a dimension of living in the Spirit, a willing self-surrender, an overflowing love, that does not seem to be evident in our Church today. The difference is highlighted by the fact that following Peter’s sermon more than three thousand people became Christians, yet today Churches inWestern Europe are shrinking. We are so accustomed to small churches that we accept them as normal. Church going in Western Europe is the lowest in the Christian world. Everywhere but in the West the Church is growing – in some places at a phenomenal rate. We need to discard the idea that the behaviour of the apostles at Pentecost and the gifts that they used in their ministry were unique to the Early Church. We need to allow the Holy Spirit of God to guide us and strengthen us and give us the gifts we need so that God’s kingdom might be glorified.

So let us allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives as individuals and as a community. Because if we allow the Spirit to take control then the Church, in the words of Canon John Gunstone, will: be pulsating with the life of God, subject to his Word, anointed with his Spirit, constrained by his love, preaching his Good News, and ministering with his power.

Let each one of us, on this day of Pentecost, rededicate ourselves to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; pray that he will fill us anew with his Holy Spirit as he did the apostles, and that we may be open to the work that he wants to do among us, so that this Church may pulsate with the life of God. And then perhaps we can begin to live out our mission statement which appears at the top of your service sheet every week:

St John’s Church is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: worshipping him, growing in holiness, making disciples and serving others.