Summary: When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples of Jesus on that first Whitsunday in a very real sense the Church was born. When a child is born we celebrate annually the date of that birth by giving presents but on the Church's birthday we receive.
Today is a very special day in the life of the Church it’s not just because today is called Whitsunday or the feast of Pentecost,,,,, it is however related to what happened on that first Whitsunday
The sending of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus.
No in many ways its simpler than that; its something that we all have once a year - when your young you look forward to them but as you get older you would rather forget them.
Yes I'm talking about Birthdays… Today is the Church's Birthday because it was on the feast of Pentecost that the disciples received the Holy Spirit and in the strength of the Holy Spirit they spread out from Jerusalem to all the corners of the earth to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So on that day the Gospel was first preached in the dynamic strength of the Holy Spirit and so in that sense the church was born when the first converts received the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles is just a small glimpse of what actually happened on that first Whitsunday.
We read on in chapter 2 of how convincingly Peter preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, ‘let all Israel then accept as certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah’ .. and those who heard the word were cut to the heart to the extent that they were baptised .. 3000 in all.
In a very real sense the birth of the Church.. Happy Birthday!
l say that to you because you are the Church. Happy Birthday! And what do we do on birthdays? we have presents... a party, a birthday cake with candles.. wouldn't we need a big cake for nearly 2000 candles!
But have you remembered to bring your present or your birthday card?
But what is even more wonderful is that if anything we are given something instead.
But isn't that typical of God our loving Father. Last Sunday, the Sunday after Ascension Day in the collect we prayed, ‘leave us not desolate/comfortless; but send Your Holy Spirit to strengthen us’
In effect last Sunday we joined together with the disciples and watched Jesus ascend into Heaven leaving us to cope on our own.
For the disciple's this was not a very pleasant prospect they had to face the opposition of the Jewish and Roman authorities who would not stop at anything to quash their propaganda which they believed would ultimately lead to a revolt and insurrection.
And yet their Master's last wish to them was to preach His gospel to all nations and baptise them in the Name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Would we be prepared to risk our lives under such circumstances? .. are we that committed?
They were now on their own, left to face that opposition alone afraid to open their mouths for fear of being put to death just like their master.
They were desolate..... Jesus had left them alone.
But Jesus said to them quite clearly, I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you, I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever.
I will not leave you desolate.
But today we are more positive because the Father fulfils the promise of Jesus by sending to His disciples the Comforter, the Holy Spirit so they are no longer desolate.
And so we pray in the collect for today, Grant us by the same spirit to have a right judgement in all things and ever more to rejoice in His Holy Comfort.
And so today we do receive a birthday present, the church has the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all those who ask for it and who are worthy to receive that most excellent gift.
And what's so wonderful about it all is that every day of our lives that gift is there ready for us to grasp and receive.
We do indeed rejoice in His Holy Comfort… We are not comfortless neither are we desolate of His divine Presence.
But what does all this mean? If we look to the origins of the word ‘desolate’ as it is translated from the Greek, the language in which the NT was first written.
The word desolate has the meaning that we would use for an orphan, a child bereaved of a Father and so then Jesus reassures us that we will never be bereaved of God our Heavenly Father.
Martin Luther once had a dream - he was in his house and saw Jesus walking up the path toward his front door.
Luther examined his surroundings and realized that everything was an absolute mess.