A Pentecost homily from 2011

Here is an early Pentecost homily from before I was ordained. A friend reminded me of it today and asked to see it hence digging it out and posting it here when we are all of Lent and Easter away from Pentecost.

Homily (Sermon) for Pentecost

Pentecost is a celebration of gifts from God. The disciples and Mary were gathered together in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost or as it is also known, The Festival of Weeks. The disciples must have been so confused on this day, they were celebrating the day that God gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai, while they were still confused about the death, resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. The second meaning associated with The Festival of Weeks is thanksgiving for the first fruits of the harvest. The fields around Jerusalem would have been full of golden wheat and barley, and sheep and cattle fat on spring grass. It was harvest time and the huge crowds in Jerusalem would soon be moving back into the country side to bring in the harvest.

It's not chance that it was at this festival that Jesus appeared to the disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit. A gift from Father and Son, a gift from God, of himself, as the Holy Spirit. Sent to us to support, strengthen, console, challenge and accompany us on our journey of faith. The Holy Spirit lives within us from our baptism, at conformation we ask ourselves, for the Holy Spirit to enter us, enter into our lives.

We talk about the gifts of the Spirit, gifts that allow us to carry out the work asked of us. Today we celebrate not just those gifts, but the gift of the Holy Spirit himself. When it was given that first Pentecost to the disciples, it was immediately visible in there actions. They started talking in many languages and all that heard them understood them.  We are not told what they said but I think it might have been stories of their experiences with Christ.

We hear stories often in scripture. They are used throughout the old testament to teach the faith, and Jesus uses them all the time in the gospels when teaching. Stories told in metaphors, historic stories, poetic stories, symbolic stories, prophetic stories, all told to convey a profound truth. The truth about God, us and our relationship.

Stories like the tower of Babel, of the journey through the wilderness, of the giving of the Law, stories of things and people to come, stories about sowing seeds, about workers collecting the harvest, about thirst and living water. Our story telling history is rich and there are new stories all the time. St Maximilian Kolbe's sacrifice during world war II, John Henry Newman's caring for and teaching the poor in Birmingham, Mother Teresa's compassion in the slums of Calcutta. Stories about you and your faith are a great way to spread our faith, to tell other people about the wonderful life we have with God.

So I have a challenge for you, in fact I have two. I want you to tell someone a story and I want you to ask them about their story. I want you to tell stories about the Holy Spirit. I want you to go out and tell someone how wonderful our God is and what he has done for you. I have a story to start us off, and I have another I'll swap with you after Mass if you tell me yours first.

Nine years ago, I volunteered to take part in the alpha courses we ran out of this church. I was still a very new Christian and was eager to tell others about my faith. Each week we had a meal, watched a video on a different element of our faith and then had a group discussion about it. The course was going well, we had a lovely group of people. We were all learning, and enjoying exploring the Christian faith. Then around the third week a new person joined. They were quite desperate for meaning in their life. I am sure they had had a few drinks before coming along, and as a result they were very direct and even a little aggressive. The language they use was very colourful to say the least and the atmosphere changed instantly. The group was on edge and I very quickly realised I was well out of my depth. As we put the video on and everyone settled down to watch it I disappeared out onto the stairs, I sat there for half an hour and prayed for help.

As the video finished I returned to the room and we started the discussion. What happened over the next hour was amazing. I found I had a command of the situation, when difficult question were asked I knew the answers and when I open a bible it was at a reading or story that perfectly dealt with the question. Then as I read the passages, I read clearly and faultlessly, which was something I was really bad at doing back then. When discussion became argument I was able with one of two words to defuse the situation. And because the challenges were real and the feelings intense we all gained an insight way beyond that of the previous couple of weeks. The group really bonded and some very personal problems were discussed, prayed for and I think healed in that evening. As the session ended and everyone left they were still talking about the evenings subjects. I went back and sat quietly on the stairs. I remember tears streaming down my face and having an unstoppable case of the shakes.

For that last hour I hadn't really been in control, I hadn't really know what to do, apart from the fact I had needed help and had asked for it. What I felt that evening and what took over was the Holy Spirit. I couldn't have done what I did by myself, but filled with the spirit, well wonderful things can happen.

Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit, It's the feast at the start of the Harvest.
Are you ready to help gather the harvest?
Are you willing to use the gift give you by the Holy Spirit?

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