Summary: If we define goodness in human terms we will always fall short of Christ’s example. God calls us to give our concerns over to him in faith and trust.
Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost
3 June 2001
Preached at St John the Evangelist, Cold Lake
How Good is Good Enough?
What a wonderful day to raise our voices in praise of the Most High God on the Day of Pentecost. It is this day that we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in Jerusalem, and the start of their ministry acting as witnesses for Jesus – essentially the birth of our Christian church. What a heady time to have been a disciple! – to have gone through the deep and complete sorrow and the desolation of the days immediately after His crucifixion, thence to see Him appear several times and to hear Him teach again, only to see Him leave during the Ascension, telling them ‘You must wait for the promise made by my Father…but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 1) As with many of His teachings, this must have seemed very confusing to them, but just a few days later we hear the account that ‘…there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind…Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.’ (Acts 2)
After this point, the ministry of the apostles began in earnest. At that first sermon in the Spirit, given by Saint Peter, Acts tells us that 3000 people accepted Christ as their saviour – 3000 people. What is especially wonderful is that this evangelizing was carried out by Saint Peter, the one who always had the answer, even a few days before: ‘It doesn’t matter what these others do Lord, I will never leave you, and I will fight and die for you!’ and who then denied his Lord three times. What happened to Peter to make him such a powerful minister?
This book of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, would more accurately be called the Book of the Holy Spirit acting through the Apostles. What are we by ourselves? I spend much of my days debating issues with people, presenting arguments and facts, attempting to win others over to my point of view. This works well with my job, but when I have tried to use this same logic to explain my belief in Christ I meet with no success at all. People counter my arguments to my great frustration, and just don’t seem to get it…but then I am forgetting what happens when I trust only in myself. The reason I fail in evangelising is because I am trying to rely on my own intellect and charisma to make the point – and compared to God’s intellect, I am only a little bitty corn flake, to quote Veggie tales.
In the Gospel we hear that ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.’ (John 14:15). The Greek word that is translated here as advocate is shown elsewhere as Helper, Comforter and Counsellor. It means ‘one who stands alongside’. You can understand now why Peter had become such an effective voice for the Lord. This was the Lord’s gift to the universal church after Christ left until his coming again in Glory – a helper who would be with us all, always. When he was on Earth, even Christ could only be in one place at a time, so this wonderful gift ensured that all believers would have God’s presence with them always.
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed for the first time. No longer would believers have to follow Christ in the crowd, grasping for only the hem of his robe to be healed. Now anyone who professed that Christ is Lord has the entire kingdom open before them. With the coming of the Holy Spirit Christ’s church militant has entered into the end times, awaiting the final resolution of the kingdom. As Christ said to Philip in today’s gospel, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’ The trinity is revealed, and the gift of the holy Spirit is left with us until the end of this era.
Are we starting each day off, alive in the Spirit, and allowing Him to direct our days? Today, the Holy Spirit is every bit as alive as that day in Jerusalem, able to consecrate us in service to the Lord. In the prayer of consecration in the Mass, the Priest calls on the Holy Spirit to transform the physical symbols of bread and wine into a sacrament – an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given to us by Christ himself for all time. As believers we are called to consecrate ourselves through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost. This consecration creates in us a personal sacramental space – our physical selves become the outward and visible sign, and the indwelling Spirit becomes the inward and spiritual grace.