Sunday 9th of May 2021
Year B 6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 10: 44-48
1 John 5: 1-6
St John 15: 9-17
Words have power.
Words have the power to create worlds, and to tear them down.
Words can bring healing, but they can also wound.
At the beginning of time, the divine presence of love, God, breathed over chaos and, as it were, spoke the world into being… Let there be….
Light. Seas. Rivers. Flora and fauna. Let there be humankind, created in the image of God, in the image of love.
In the Jewish scriptures and traditions, the whole of humanity was dignified by being made in the image of God.
And today, on the 6th Sunday of Easter, in our lectionary reading from Acts 10: 44-48, we have a foretaste of Pentecost.
Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit descended with tongues of fire, and all those assembled spoke in different languages and yet were united and as one. It is a picture of God’s love breaking out of the confines of being bestowed on one people, in one place, and expanding it to the world.
Pentecost is about the breaking down of walls and divisions, and showing that the kingdom of God is a transformative force in our fallen world, for the dignity and blessing of all. We will consider this in more depth in a few weeks time on Pentecost Sunday.
In today’s lectionary reading from Acts 10, the Holy Spirit is as work.
Look at verse 44:
‘While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word’.
When the Spirit quickens to us the word of God, it becomes alive. It goes from being just another text, to come alive in the heart and mind of the one who is reading or hearing it with an open heart.
Calvin was a great believer in this. For him the word of God, was not just the words of the Bible printed on the page, the combination of the written word, being read and ingested by the ones reading and hearing it, quickened alive by the Spirit. This is the Word that was in the beginning. The word that was with God, that was God. The word that became flesh. The word that comes and changes us, and our world, bringing renewal, hope and comfort.
And it is for all. For all who open themselves up to receive it. For Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, from every tribe and every race; for we are all Gods children created in the image of the divine.
The work of the Spirit always breaks down barriers.
It always brings unity.
It always changes us to see those we would normally reject and cast out, through the eyes of grace, through the eyes of God.
Note how in verse 45 of Acts 10 it says ‘the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles’.
The early followers of Jesus, were circumcised Jews who had followed his and John the Baptist’s teachings. They had seen him heal the sick, reach out to the tax collectors and prostitutes, calm the storms and feed the hungry. And they also witnessed him being rejected and crucified as a common criminal, who could not be kept down by the grave.
This early community of Jews had been brought up in a system where only those who were circumcised were accepted by God, so in this context, the author of Acts notes that they were astounded when the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles.
This outpouring of grace on all, was the unifying force that created the early church. And that church went on to change the world.
‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptising these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ we read in verse 47 of Acts 10.
Baptism is one of two sacraments that we uphold within the Protestant tradition. The other is the Lords Supper. A sacrament, is a visual reminder, a visual, dramatic enactment, of a deep spiritual reality.
Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry was baptised in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, and the Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. At Pentecost, that same Spirit is at work, descending as flames of fire, which here in St Andrew’s we are reminded of every time we meet, with the flames in the shape of the cross here in the sanctuary.
But that fire, that gift, that gracious outpouring of love, is not to be kept to ourselves, but is to flow out to our communities and our world.
In our epistle reading from 1 John 5: 1-6 , in verse 4&5 we read:
‘For whatever is born of God, conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God’.
The early church went on to conquer the world., but not through violence or a superior show of strength, but by following the example of our saviour and Lord. By proclaiming the good news of the coming of Gods Kingdom were all are welcome, taking up their cross, and not responding in retribution and violence to the ones who were persecuting them.
All of the apostles except John were martyred. Many were crucified. Many Christians in the early church were thrown to the lions under the cruel rule of Roman emperor Nero.
Many say, that it was through the example of the martyrs that the Roman Empire was to be converted from paganism to Christianity. Think about that for a moment. The strongest military empire of the day, transformed by a community and the life of a crucified Jewish rabbi, who died on a Roman cross in apparent weakness and folly. And yet, this event, changed the world, so much so that we measure our history before and after it happened.
In our gospel reading from John 15:9-17, we read these words in verse 13
‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.
And a little further on in verse 16:
‘You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name’.
The church was born at Pentecost. The church is Christ’s body here on earth.
May we go into this new week, in the power, love and grace that only the Spirit can bring, bringing healing and comfort wherever we go.
Let us pray.
Pour out your Spirit upon us we pray, that we may go out of this place transformed, renewed and filled with hope, that we and our world might be changed.