Let us pray: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen”
Good morning people of St Pauls, and others listening in too!
In a letter the Dean wrote to the diocese this past week he said, “Remember that the first Pentecost took place amidst bewilderment, hostility and grief and yet it was the powerhouse from which the message of the risen Christ spread down 20 centuries.”
We celebrated Pentecost last Sunday, and in many ways we still find ourselves in amidst “bewilderment, hostility and grief.”
In this country we face a steady increase in Covid-19 infections, as is also the case in many other countries. The recent killing of George Floyd in America and the subsequent protests there and around the world have highlighted the fact that racism, and for that matter other forms of discrimination and oppression, are systemic or institutionalised – they seem to be in the very air we breathe.
Yet we believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life – the power that created and sustains the universe and also dwells within and leads us to confront injustice and break down the walls that divide us.
In this post Pentecost season we continue to look at the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Today we particularly focus on the Trinity. Imagining God as Trinity: three persons in one, in fact more than that- a community of loving persons in relationship with one another – can be life-giving for us at this time.
We can find it helpful to relate to God as Trinity, and a Trinitarian understanding of God leads us to important insights into the nature of God. Through the life of Jesus, God has entered our world, and remains forever part of our human life. This means that we cannot see God as aloof, or uninvolved in the matters of the world, including in its mess and pain. This also means that God understands very well our suffering. As someone put it so vividly: “God suffers and weeps with us.”
The Great Commission
Today’s gospel reading is from Matthew 28:16-20. In it we hear Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Here Jesus “commissions” his followers to continue his work of expressing God’s love in acts of compassion, and healing and encouraging others to do the same, baptising people in the name of the Trinity. Most importantly, Jesus’ instructions come with the assurance that we are never alone.
This past week our Parish Council set up a team to work on ways in which we can best function as a parish during this pandemic: making preparations for the restarting of services, at some stage, and also addressing how we can continue to be a loving community that supports one another and also offers God’s love and care to the community we serve. This team will be drawing on the expertise of members of the parish to assist them in their ongoing work. We are looking at how to carry out Jesus’ purposes for us under the present circumstances.
If we go back to Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan we read that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove and that a voice from heaven said, “this is my beloved son, listen to him.” A bit later, at the start of his public ministry Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” These words came to define what Jesus’ own mission.
On this Sunday nearest World Environment Day we celebrate the Spirit’s presence in the beginning in Genesis, hovering over the waters, giving birth to creation, and the Spirit’s ongoing work in creation.
Later, the Spirit came upon prophets and kings and other rulers to empower them to lead and to serve, and was poured out on everyone at Pentecost.
In following Jesus we too are God’s beloved. The Spirit is poured out on us too – the Sprit that empowers, guides, and protects. It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to fulfil the instructions of Jesus we heard from the gospel as we reach out to those around us.
Some of you may have seen or heard the service last Sunday hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was particularly interested in the input by Pope Francis. (By the way, the whole service may be found on the website, “Thy Kingdom Come.”) I refer to two paragraphs in his speech.
Talking about the comforting role of the Holy Spirit Pope Francis said, “Many of you have experienced the consolation brought by the Spirit, that inner peace which makes us feel loved, that gentle strength that always inspires courage, even amid suffering.” He then offers a challenge, “we must give in turn the gift that we have received: we are called to share the comfort of the Spirit, the closeness of God.”
“How can we do this?” he asks. He then explains, “Let us think about all those things that we long for: comfort, encouragement, someone to care for us, someone to pray for us, someone to weep with us and help us face our difficulties. Everything we would like others to do for us, let us do for them instead (cf. Mt 7:12). Do we want to be heard? Let us first listen. Do we need encouragement? Let us give encouragement. Do we want someone to care for us? Let us care for those who are alone and abandoned. Do we need hope for tomorrow? Let us give hope today.”
So we give thanks today for God as trinity, God with us and among us, and in us; and the fact that we are never alone. The Holy Spirit both inspires and empowers us and gives us each gifts to enable us together to live out this “great commission” of Jesus.
May God’s Holy Spirit fall afresh on us today, and fill us with love, hope and joy.
God bless you all.