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Pentecost

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It will come to pass says the Lord, that I shall pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. The spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

CH3 333 Thou shalt arise and mercy yet thou to Mount Zion shalt extend.

To the one God, Eternal and unchanging, the same yesterday today and forever, we give thanks for the promised gift of the Spirit delivered to the Apostles at Pentecost and we acknowledge with gratitude that the promise is to us and to all who have faith. Fill us now with that Spirit that we may ever worship in spirit and in truth.

Almighty Father who has promised that the Spirit will lead us into the truth, forgive us for too often we fail to listen for the word that comes to us through the Spirit. We are too full of our own plans, too intent on satisfying our own wishes. We have been given the light of the Spirit but prefer to stumble on in the dark. Too late we discover that we have not the strength for the things we attempt. Help us to turn from our selfish ways; to seek first the strength the Spirit gives and so to walk in forgiveness with our God for evermore.

Dear Lord and father, who took possession of the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, transforming them from fearful men hiding from their enemies into men unafraid to confess and proclaim their Lord, let the Spirit take possession of us. Let the Spirit of truth lighten up our darkness, the Spirit of wisdom direct our thinking, the Spirit of purity cleanse us from fault and stain, the Spirit of peace enable us to walk humbly with our God and with one another and the Spirit of power give us strength to be God’s faithful servants.

Hear us now as we pray together as thou hast taught us, Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever. Amen.

The readings

 Acts 2:1-13

St John 14:15-31

A thought for today

According to St John’s Gospel Jesus spent time with the disciples before his arrest preparing them for what lay ahead. He assured them that though he would be taken away they would not be left alone as he would send the Comforter to be with them. At Pentecost that promise was fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Luke tells the story of what happened in Chapter 2 of Acts. After spending time in Galilee the disciples had returned to Jerusalem and were gathered again in the upper room where the risen Jesus had appeared to them. They had gone back to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Weeks, so called because it came 7 weeks after Passover. In Jewish idiom that period was called a week of weeks. Naturally they were still fearful of arrest. We find them again behind locked doors, yet still they have a strange visitation. Just what happened is not clear for what Luke says is that tongues like fire came upon them and a sound like the sound of a rushing wind filled the room. Just what did happen does not matter, for Luke is trying to describe the indescribable. What matters is that the Holy Spirit came upon them, taking away their fears and filling them with not just the desire but the need to share the Gospel.

The Bible has many names for the Spirit – Paraclete, Comforter, Helper, Advocate – all attempts to translate the original Greek word John uses – parakletos.

We have these different names because translation is not an accurate science but an art. The precise meaning of a word in one language is not always easy to convey in another. The use of Paraclete in some translations is not helpful for it is simply the Greek put into English.

The Authorised Version speaks of the Comforter. It is a translation with a long history for it goes back to the Wycliffe Bible, the first English translation made between 1382 and 1395.. Unfortunately ‘Comforter’ is not all that helpful and could even be misleading. The reason for this is that Wycliffe translated from the Latin Vulgate rather than the Greek text and in effect did what had been done with Paraclete, he anglicised the Latin word ‘comfortare’ that the Vulgate used as the title of the Holy Spirit in St John 14. At the time it seemed a reasonable translation and so was used in the AV, but what we need to understand is that in 1611 the meaning of comforter was very different from our modern understanding. Then it had no overtones of sympathy but really meant to make strong.

The NEB uses Advocate, but again this does not seem particularly helpful for we think of an advocate as essentially someone who speaks for another. While we can use the Holy Spirit in our approach to God, the Spirit does so much more. The reason the NEB translators chose ‘advocate’ is because of its derivation from the Latin ‘vocare’ which means ‘to give voice’ and that according to Acts is precisely what the Holy Spirit di on the day of Pentecost.

It was the Moffatt translation of 1926 that used helper. It is perhaps unfortunate that it has fallen out of favour for Moffatt’s use of helper is useful. The word can have a variety of meanings depending on how we interpret the help that is offered. It can cover making a case for someone, giving encouragement or guidance, offering support, and helping one’s understanding. According to the references in the New Testament these are all things that the Holy Spirit does for us.

The disciples found that day that the promises of Jesus were to be trusted. They could pick up the pieces of their life knowing that they had not been abandoned. We are beginning to pick up the pieces of our lives now as what was once a dim light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic is steadily growing brighter. As we do so the Pentecost story reminds us that we do not go forward alone, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We have to recognise that the way ahead is still not clear. Events are showing that there is still danger out there as new variants of the virus emerge, which could pose real threats in the days and weeks ahead. Through the guidance of the Spirit we are more likely to be properly aware of our obligations not to take undue risk. We need to exercise a proper responsibility to protect our own health and more importantly the health and wellbeing of others.

Whatever names we use to describe the Holy Spirit there is no getting away from the fact that it is a rich inheritance that Jesus bequeathed to his followers in the Spirit.

A closing prayer

Today as we ought always we give praise and thanks to the God who is the giver of all good things. He is faithful and trustworthy, the one who always fulfils his promises. We give thanks for the richness of his love through which our every need is satisfied. We rejoice that he sent his Son to live amongst his children to reveal how human life ought to be lived and when he was taken up into heaven again he bequeathed to his followers the great blessing of the Holy Spirit. Along with the thankful hearts we have, give us also the will to serve faithfully all the days of our lives.

Almighty God who did send the Spirit to live in the Church to enlighten, strengthen and guide, we pray for our Church met at this time in General Assembly. Guide the commissioners in their deliberations that the Church might be strengthened to face the issues of today while holding fast to the faith and standards of the Gospel. Through that same Holy Spirit direct the thinking and speaking of the commissioners that what is determined shall be always in accord with God’s will. 

Bless us as the congregation of God’s people called to bear witness in this community. Through the Spirit inspire our deeds and where needed teach us what to say and do. Help us to be open to the leading of the Spirit in our planning for the days that lie ahead.

As the General assembly of our Church meets guide the commissioners in their deliberations that the Church might be strengthened to face the issues of today while holding fast to the faith and standards of the Gospel.

God of our forefathers remember for good this land that we love. Bless our queen and all her house. Direct he ministers and counsellors that they may govern wisely, ever seeking the good and welfare of all. Grant prosperity to our industry and commerce that all may benefit.

Be with us to uphold and guide us as we seek to move out of the restrictions which have controlled our lives for so long. Prevent us from abusing the freedoms that are opening up so that progress towards bringing the pandemic under control might not be jeopardised.

May the God who is Love and whose will is that his children should live in peace, in these difficult times quench by the might of the Spirit the prejudices and hatreds that cause people and nations to strive against each other. Particularly we bring before our God the needs of the land our Lord graced during his life on earth that it will no more be a place of fighting and discord. Let nothing be done there that could inflame the situation. Instead let all seek diligently the path that will lead to a real and lasting peace in which all can live together in brotherhood as children of the one God and Father.

Father of mercy who know every need, strengthen the weak, uphold and heal the sick, refresh the weary, give comfort to all who mourn, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Blessing

May God the Holy Spirit make you strong in faith and hope and love, and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, now and evermore.

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