Each week The Reverend Richard Terrell reflects
upon the biblical reading
from The Common Worship Lectionary
that is used in local churches
PENTECOST / WHIT SUNDAY
THE WIND AND FIRE OF GOD
A Sermon preached a few years ago still seems appropriate during the ‘dark days’ of the coronavirus lockdown
Pentecost Sunday – often called Whit Sunday – is when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.
Jesus had met with His disciples in an upper room to celebrate Passover. There He gave special significance to bread and wine and told them He would be returning to His Father in heaven. This would potentially be a sad occasion but Jesus assured them that the Holy Spirit would sent to them as their guide and inspiration.
In the second chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we learn how, on the Day of Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit came upon them.
In the vividly described scene Peter quoted a prophesy of Joel to help the disciples make sense of what they had experienced. Now men and women would be inspired to communicate with people of all nations and declare that God had intervened in the destiny of humanity by sending His Son Jesus into the world.
Peter quoted Joel’s words: “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,” and here in an Upper Room the promise was beginning to be fulfilled. On the Day of Pentecost the experience of the disciples confirmed the nature of God’s promise. ‘Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a mighty wind that filled the whole house where they were sitting.’ (Acts chapter 2, verse 2)
It must have been an alarming experience. The calm and serenity of the disciples’ gathering was broken by the dramatic intervention. But this wasn’t just an inexplicable whirlwind. It wasn’t just a howling wind such as a film-maker might use for dramatic effect. It was a ‘wind from heaven.’
Now if you are someone who ‘Googles’ try Googling ‘the wind of God’ and you will discover all the places in the Bible where that wind is depicted as powerful and life-giving. It was there at the time of Creation, for example, and it gave life in the Valley of Dry Bones.
Our own experience will remind us that the wind can be a very powerful force. It can be both destructive and useful. We can see the wind’s devastating force but we can also see its useful power as it is harnessed by sailing ships and wind farms.
The wind that came from heaven on the Day of Pentecost, sometimes referred to as the ‘Breath of Life’, was a life-giving force for the disciples. Inspired by the experience they went out to preach the Gospel. Many people see this moment as the start of the Christian Church and call Whit Sunday the Birthday of the Church. The Wind of the Spirit is powerful and moves us into action.
There was, however, more strange happenings on the Day of Pentecost. In verse 3 we read that ‘Tongues, as of fire, came and rested on each of them.’
Do another Google search and you might discover that God is often depicted as a fire. ‘Fire’ may be seen as God’s judgement. He is present in the fire. He sends a consuming fire upon those who stray from His ways. Fire is destructive but it is also purifying and cleansing. The fire that came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost symbolised the cleansed and purified life of the disciples.
Like the wind, the fire also suggested the nature of the message the disciples had to preach. The Holy Spirit was the force that would empower them to go out in the name of God. The disciples had to proclaim, in word and deed, the cleansed and purified life of all who follow the teaching of Jesus.
So ‘Wind’ and ‘Fire’ are powerful symbols of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
I guess that when the disciples in the Upper Room experienced the wind and the fire it left them feeling somewhat frightened and not a little uncomfortable. They would have appreciated the symbolism and knew what they had to do. But how were they to achieve it?
One thing is for sure, they would not be leaving that Upper Room in their own strength. They would be guided and inspired by the Spirit of God that now rested upon them. God had entered them in a very special way so they felt guided and empowered to go out and to preach in His name.
The events of Pentecost were a call to action. The Pentecost experience was saying the disciples, ‘do not shut yourselves away and seek comfort in your own little group. Be brave. The Spirit of the Living God has fallen upon you. Go out and proclaim the love of God. Bear witness to all that you know.’
So on this Day of Pentecost, Whit Sunday, we are reminded of this. Like the first disciples we must not be shy but feel empowered to proclaim the Gospel in word and in deed. The disciples experienced the beginning of a new life on the Day of Pentecost and so must we.
The ‘Fire’ of God has fallen upon each one of us and the ‘Wind’ of God is moving us forward. So today, like those first disciples, we must go out in the power of the Spirit, to live and work to God’s praise and glory.
sent by the Father,
ignite in us Your holy fire:
strengthen us with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love
so that we may be guided
to renew the face of the earth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
SUNDAY 23rd MAY 2021
GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
John chapter 15, verses 26-28 and chapter 16, verses 4b-15
The work of the Holy Spirit
‘Jesus said, ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Today’s reading takes us to a room where Jesus was talking to His disciples and preparing them for the moment when He would no longer be with them.
We often look for some kind of souvenir or memento of a visit we have made or something we have done. Perhaps something like this was in the mind of Jesus as He spoke to the disciples.
Jesus was about to leave them to be with God and He knew the disciples would miss Him. So He offered comfort and reassurance as He told them that He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them after He had gone. “When he, the Spirit of truth, has come,” Jesus said, “he will guide you into all truth.”
On Whitsunday, the Day of Pentecost, we hear a reading from Acts chapter 2 reminding us of when and how the Spirit came and rested upon the disciples.
It may be difficult for us to embrace a full understanding of God being in the world. Put simply, the Holy Spirit is the part of God that lives within each one of us and helps guide us into the ways of the Father. The Spirit teaches us to know what is true and right.
The Holy Spirit is therefore much more than a souvenir or memento to reminds us of God. The Holy Spirit is God alive in us. God’s Spirit makes us into Christian people as He lives in us and is with us always.
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and renew the face of the earth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
SUNDAY 30th MAY 2021
GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
John chapter 3, verses 1-17
Jesus and Nicodemus
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 3Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ 4Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ 5Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ 10Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
In the Bible reading today, we learn about a man named Nicodemus who came to Jesus late one night. He was hungry for spiritual food so he went to Jesus knowing he would be given the answers and the food he sought to satisfy the hunger within him.
But Jesus said something that must have been both amazing and confusing for Nicodemus. “I tell you the truth,” He said, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus just didn’t understand so he asked Jesus “What do you mean? How can a man be born again?”
We may sometimes hear it said that someone is a ‘born again’ Christian. The description might be as confusing to us as the idea was to Nicodemus when Jesus spoke to him.
Jesus went on to explain, to Nicodemus and to us, that a person is ‘born again’ when the Spirit of God enters into his heart. Humans can reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.
When we are ‘born again’ the Holy Spirit enters into us in such a way that we become spiritually alive and a ‘different’ person. When we let God come into our heart He makes us a ‘new’ creation.
Today is Trinity Sunday and this reminds us of the different ways in which God reveals himself to us. He is God our Father, the Creator, whose work we can see all around and who gives us richly all things to enjoy. He is God the Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, who came in flesh to redeem us and set us free. He is God the Holy Spirit, who guides, inspires and dwells in us.
As we accept God, in all his forms, into our lives then we have the understanding of Nicodemus. We are born again and will see the Kingdom of God.
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
SUNDAY 6th JUNE 2021
THE FIRST SUNDAY
GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 3, verses 20-35 (Proper 5)
The family of Jesus
And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ – for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ 33And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’
Today’s reading reveals an atmosphere of conflict, challenge and antagonism towards Jesus and the request of His family that Jesus came outside to talk to them.
Perhaps His family were anxious for His well-being but Jesus responded that the crowds He was speaking to was His priority and declared that all who did the will of His Father were His brothers and sisters.
Jesus wasn’t dismissing the importance of ‘family’. The scriptures are always in praise of it. In the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, God established the family. He created Adam and Eve, blessed them, and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” A family cares for one another but Jesus, as with many other inclusive ideas, expands the concept. Just as He declared, in another context, who He meant by ‘neighbour’ so now He expands the concept of ‘family’.
Jesus was saying that as we put our faith and trust in Him so we become part of the wider family of believers. This is a family that may sometimes discuss and argue – as we witnessed in our reading – but those who are seekers, even though they may only be on the fringe, are still included in that family.
Jesus tells us we have a care and responsibility for others. As members of the family of God we pray and care for those who are sick. We help feed, clothe and shelter those in need. We comfort those who are sad and befriend the friendless. Above all we learn from Jesus of our need to bring others into the circle of His family.
Today Jesus challenges you and me to embrace His vision of ‘family’ and to recognise our role as members of God’s family.
we thank you for our families
and thank you also for our Church Family.
Help us to love and care for one another
as you have taught us
and to bring others into the fold.
SUNDAY 13th JUNE 2021
THE SECOND SUNDAY
GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 4, verses 26-34 (Proper 6)
The Parable of the Seed
Jesus also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
In today’s reading we hear Jesus talking about the wonders of growth and comparing the mustard seed to the kingdom of God.
The image is an appropriate illustration and reminds us how from small beginnings big things can grow. From one small acorn there may come a magnificent oak tree.
When Jesus first began His earthly ministry He did so in a small way. The Scriptures record that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee when He saw two fishermen, Peter and his brother Andrew, casting their nets. Jesus invited the two fishermen to put down their nets and to follow Him. “Come, follow me,” He said. The two immediately stopped what they were doing and followed Jesus.
Continuing on their way they came across two brothers, James and John, mending their nets. Jesus likewise called them. They also left their nets immediately and followed Jesus.
One by one Jesus called together a small core group of followers until He had twelve that were called disciples who were instructed to go out and proclaim the gospel. This small group drew others to Jesus and so the Kingdom of God began to grow.
The seed had been sown, the Faith started to grow and soon we begin to see the work of the disciples growing into a harvest worthy of God’s Kingdom. The seed of the Word of God had been sown and continues to be sown to this day. It has grown and grown. Now it has spread over the entire earth.
We may sometimes underestimate the power of God’s Word to grow once it has been sown. We may become disheartened with paucity of numbers and a lack of inspiration. But we must learn from the small beginnings recorded in scripture and the parable of the seed told by Jesus.
Each and every follower of Jesus has a part to play in growing the Kingdom of God. We may not be great missionaries but everything we think and say and do contributes to the nurturing of the seed of faith. It will affect others as well as ourselves.
Like it was for the first disciples so the voice of Jesus challenges us to be a sower of God’s Word. Like them we have to live so that lives are changed. We also are called upon to help grow the Kingdom of God.
help us to deepen our faith, understanding and trust in you
so that in our lives and with our words
we may draw others into your kingdom.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
SUNDAY 20th JUNE 2021
THE THIRD SUNDAY
GOSPEL READING FOR THE SUNDAY
Mark chapter 4, verses 35-41 (Proper 7)
Jesus calms a storm
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
I don’t imagine many of us have been caught in a fierce storm on a lake in a small boat but that is just what Mark records happened to Jesus and His disciples.
They had been travelling all around the countryside where Jesus had been teaching and performing many miracles. When evening came He suggested going over to the other side of the lake away from the crowds.
Jesus was very tired and was sleeping at the back of the boat with His head on a pillow when a fierce storm came up and the boat began to fill with water.
The disciples were afraid so they woke Jesus who commanded the winds and the waves to be still. Suddenly, the wind stopped blowing and the sea became calm. “Why are you afraid?” Jesus asked them. “Do you not have faith?” The disciples then knew the power and authority of Jesus.
There may be times when we have to face a serious illness or a family problem. We might make a wrong decision or fall in with the wrong crowd. There may be times when have face difficult problems on the sea of life’s journey.
When we have to face such difficult and potentially serious situations it is good to know that Jesus is ‘in the boat’ with us to calm us and the storm. Jesus will calm us during the storms of life.
we thank you that each day when we have to face difficult situations
and we have Jesus with us
He will calm us and the storm.
May we always know your presence
through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Martin the Monkey sometimes accompanies The Reverend Richard and helps to re-enforce the Gospel message. He usually attends on special occasions in the Church Year and shares his thoughts with you.
HIS SPIRIT IS WITH US
READING FOR THE SEASON
Acts chapter 2, verses 1-4
The coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 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. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4 (NIV)
Pentecost Sunday is a day when we remember and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had told His disciples that He was going to return to heaven, but promised He would ask the Father to send another helper to be with them. After His ascension, when the disciples were gathered on the Day of Pentecost, the promised was fulfilled.
The Bible tells us that there was a rushing wind and flames of fire appeared on the heads of them all. They were then filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in a language all could understand.
What is really amazing is that the Holy Spirit didn’t just come once and then go away. The Spirit lived on in the lives of the first disciples and still lives on in the hearts and lives of Christ’s followers today.
The Holy Spirit guides us in the decisions we make each day. He is the comforter who calms our fears and fills us with hope. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Scripture and helps us to understand what we read.
So we must attune ourselves, through our reading of scripture, by prayer and preaching to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. Then, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit we also will feel able to witness to God in our lives.
We thank you that the promise of Jesus,
to send the Holy Spirit after His ascension,
was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost
and that He remains with us today.
May our lives be guided by the Holy Spirit
so that everything we think and say and do
may be acceptable to you.