Hi, it's cold!
My grandfather is seriously ill so we're specially praying for him right now. It doesn't seem possible having had such a great time with him and the rest of the family earlier this month for his 90th birthday.
The leadership team recently had some positive time away in Oxford for 2 days grappling with where God is leading us as a parish. Some good outcomes though, not least of all, quality time with Hitesh (bless 'im!)
Anyway, here is a version of what I preached on Sunday. Oh and by the way, remember that this Sunday the services are at 8am and 10.30am which is 30mins later than usual!
A year has passed since we held Fan the Flame, our teaching mission week here at Holy Trinity. Fan the Flame provided an opportunity to discover more about Christianity, the nuts and bolts of what Christians believe, and it gave many of us the opportunity to re-examine what the central tenets of our faith, but more importantly I believe it included the opportunity for a very real encounter with the Living and Loving God. FTF was very important because astonishingly we can become over familiar with God over years of faithful worship, taking Him for granted, and in those cases the Creator of the Universe becomes nothing short of a concept, a word in the liturgy, an unknowable quantity shrouded in mystery.
As some of you might recall we looked at 4 key topics over the evenings of the FTF week which were Baptism and Grace, the Cross and Reconciliation, Resurrection and Healing, and the Eucharist and Thanksgiving. There was nothing revolutionary as such in what we learned over those nights as these are the great themes in the story of the life of the Church. What was revolutionary was what God did that week but also what he has done subsequently in and amongst us.
I believe that during FTF God drew the attention of each of us to a spiritual foundation that he laid in each of us at baptism - a foundation for our whole lives that remains unchanging and lasting. On it are built firmly those four evening themes of grace, reconciliation, healing and thanksgiving - which are in many way the qualities of Christian lifestyle, but I suspect that if we are really honest, these core values had been buried very deeply in each one of us for far too long.
If there was a point to Fan the Flame, it was to do with what the Church recalls today. For Pentecost, whilst being the birthday of the church, was not about God doing something new. The coming of Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promises of God made way back in history.
The scriptures tell us that, you can tell if something is of God, by the fruit that it bears. I am no gardener, but I do understand the principle - if we look after the plants and trees in our garden (sun and rain aside) - they will thrive. The fruit that FTF has borne seems good - 4 home study groups, a book discussion group, a number attending Finding the Way.
There are also some excellent new initiatives soon to be underway with the inauguration of a Pastoral Visiting Team, the training up of 2 people to take Holy Communion out to the sick and housebound. If that weren’t enough, I sense that we are now a church with a renewed sense of God-given purpose and vision, a church who is beginning to see it’s life rooted in God’s mission, a church prepared to share her faith in word and action, a church where we are individually beginning to answer God’s call ourselves in new ways. This sermon is starting to sound more and more like my Vicar’s report for the AGM! The DCC and I are genuinely excited at what God is doing amongst us, but all of this is coming about not because of it’s newness or how exciting it is, but simply due to our willingness corporately and individually to say ‘yes’ when Jesus says ‘follow me.’
Friends, what we remember today happening in that upper room, has also begun to happen amongst us. The coming of the spirit on those first disciples of Jesus transformed their lives and revolutionized their faith. From a group of followers came a group of leaders of the church by the spirit. From a group of listeners and learners came speakers and evangelists and teachers by the spirit. The Holy Spirit has transformed lives here is similar ways and you will have your own stories to tell. Don Evans and Beverley Platten’s stories...
The Holy Spirit did not run out on that first Pentecost. Jesus promised that the spirit would witness to Him, testifying to him and all that he had done said and taught, but the Spirit as Comforter would also stir the disciples to testify to what they themselves have seen and heard. As Paraclete, he will do for the disciples all that Jesus has done, not condemning the world but offering it salvation through them, calling people to examine their actions and lives and have them judged and transformed according to God’s standards. The Holy Spirit does not just transform bread and wine into the body and blood of christ at the Eucharist - he changes lives today.
FTF was in some sense just the catalyst to fulfilling thezs promises of God here. Over the last year I see a church becoming more and more confident that it is loved by God, and more and more confident in her faith in Him. The coming of God’s Holy Spirit on those first disciples transformed them from being frightened behind locked doors, to becoming a community of living faith, a family with values and responsibilities which we are called to share.
Today as we look back, Paul offers us a challenge. Having received God’s spirit at baptism, and had our faith renewed during FTF we must not slip back ito our old ways. Through faith and the spirit we are not just a gathering of people but a family of faith - young and old - brothers and sisters with Jesus with one father in heaven. This is not just true of our worship here on Sunday but our socialising together. The word family refers to the Christian family - all of us. We gather as family though for a reason, and here is the real challenge, we gather to be glorified by God by faith through the power of the spirit. We are a family to revel the glory of God. This means that the way we behave with one another, the things we do, the things we say, the way we handle conflict must reflect the glory of God and honouring to him.
Friends, the Holy Spirit did not run out on that first Pentecost, nor did it stop this time last year. Jesus promised that the spirit would witness to Him, testifying to him and all that he had done said and taught, but the Spirit as Comforter would also stir the disciples to testify to what they themselves have seen and heard. Friends God is stirring us still.