“His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”
Pentecost marks the birthday of the Christian Church. It inaugurates a new and ever-renewing spiritual community that is born out of the witness of the Scriptures in their fullness. There is the gathering up of the Old Israel into the meaning and reality of the New Israel, the Christian Church.
But what is the meaning of this new creation, this spiritual community? Formed by the coming down of the Holy Spirit, it is guided and directed by the Spirit of God and reminds us of the spiritual nature of all reality, and of ourselves as spiritual creatures who live in a spiritual community and, importantly, of the qualities of our participation in that spiritual community. But what does that mean? It means our active participation in the life of God in the power of God’s spirit.
Our second lesson this evening was once very familiar to everyone because of its being read at times in the Burial Office. Our first lesson, however, may be a little less known and yet is quite profound about the meaning of our lives in the Spirit. Isaiah’s text is the source of the concept of the seven gifts of the Spirit, gifts which have a strong and close connection to the Incarnation, to “the shoot which comes forth from the stump of Jesse,” an image of Christ in the Christian understanding of things, since Jesse is the grand-father of King David, the human lineage from which Jesus’s humanity is understood to be derived. The Spirit of the Lord was anticipated as descending upon the Messiah, the promised one of God.
But what are those gifts of the spirit? Those who were listening carefully and are especially enumerate might have counted only six gifts, there being, it seems, a repetition of “the fear of the Lord.” The Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate traditions use “piety” along with “the fear of the Lord”. The seven gifts of the Spirit are wisdom and understanding, counsel and might (or fortitude), knowledge and piety, and the fear of the Lord.
“He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples in Jerusalem to give birth to the Christian Church. An event, to be sure, of mystery and wonder, it is also more than an event. It is a teaching, a doctrine, and one which gives rise to our life in the spirit, our life in communion with God.
A Greek word, Pentecost simply signifies the fiftieth day after Easter and commemorates the promise of the Ascension, the coming down of the Holy Spirit, designated as the Comforter or Strengthener. It communicates to us a profound and special reality. The descent of the Holy Spirit gives birth to the Church. That is the special reality, the reality of the spiritual community in which we “live and move and have our being.” We have forgotten, I fear, the radical nature of the Church as a spiritual body and communion. To recover this sensibility and understanding is the constant task but most especially at a time when the meaning and the reality of the Church has been so completely discredited and dismissed by those within and without the churches because it is looked at largely in sociological and political terms. Pentecost teaches us the profound truth that the human community has no unity in itself but only in God, and no truth in itself apart from God.
The story of Pentecost is the story of the redemption of the human community. In ways that deliberately recall the ancient Genesis story of the Tower of Babel, a story understood to be about human presumption as well as a just-so story about the different languages of our humanity, Pentecost celebrates the diversity of tongues and cultures and peoples by making them one. Through the diversity of tongues one thing is heard and understood by all. There is unity in and through diversity. They are one in the praise of God. “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Pentecost reverses Babel. One thing is heard in and through the diversity of tongues and cultures; it is the praise of God. Rather than a project of our devising, Pentecost is God’s work. And unlike the work of Creation and Redemption, Pentecost is visible and tangible to us. There is something heard and something seen, “a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind” and “cloven tongues, like as of fire” and wondrous words that are spoken in the things that Jesus says about the Holy Spirit. Nothing is hidden. And we are made very much part of the story. This is all part of its special wonder.
Monday, May 28th, Monday after Pentecost
7:00pm Holy Communion
Tuesday, May 29th, Tuesday after Pentecost
6:00pm ‘Prayers & Praises’ – Haliburton Place
7:00pm Holy Communion
Wednesday, May 30th
6:30-7:30pm Sparks Mtg. – Parish Hall
Thursday, May 31st
1:30-3:00pm Seniors’ Drop-In
6:30-7:30pm Brownies Mtg. – Parish Hall
Sunday, June 3rd, Trinity Sunday
8:00am Holy Communion (followed by Men’s Club Breakfast)
9:30am Holy Communion – KES
10:30am Holy Communion
4:00pm Evening Prayer – Christ Church
Sunday, June 10th
7:30pm Christ Church Concert Series: Organ Recital by Garth McPhee. Admission: $10/$5 students. (Please note change of date.)
The collects for today, The Day of Pentecost, being the fiftieth day after Easter, commonly called Whit-Sunday, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
O GOD, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon thy disciples in Jerusalem: Grant that we who celebrate before thee the Feast of Pentecost may continue thine for ever, and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit, until we come to thine eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lesson: Acts 2:1-11
The Gospel: St John 14:15-27
Artwork: Jean Restout, Pentecost, 1732. Oil on canvas, Louvre.
The collect for today, the Feast of St. Augustine (d. c. 605), first Archbishop of Canterbury (source):
O Lord our God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst call thine apostles and send them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations: We bless thy holy name for thy servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating thy Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom thou dost call and send may do thy will, and bide thy time, and see thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
The Epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:17-20a
The Gospel: St Luke 5:1-11
Click here for St Augustine’s page at the website of The Archbishop of Canterbury.
Read more about St Augustine of Canterbury here.