Summary: An exploration for Pentecost on the call of God to all Christians, as well as the obvious call to the priesthood, given as my last sermon prior to Ordination.
Pentecost, Vocation and the Priesthood
Given at St.Barthomew’s Parish Church, Ripponden, West Yorkshire, England, 3rd June 2001
TEXT: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh: your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams”
In the name of the +Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Well, its almost over: the essays are written, the exams sat, even the report from the Vicar of Ripponden was finally completed and sent in to College, and on Friday we worshipped together at the College of the Resurrection for the final time this academic year.
Yes, I am afraid to say that this will be my last time here at St.Bartholomew’s, and this will be my last act before the removal men come tomorrow morning and we are carted off to new adventures in ministry in the parish of (ironically enough) the Holy Spirit, Southsea, down in the diocese of Portsmouth.
So it does seem to be something of a closure: a departure and a moving on. I want to take this opportunity to thank you most sincerely for the kindness, understanding and most importantly, tolerance that you have shown me (and my family) in these past few months. This has been a great experience for me and I feel that I have progressed so far with your help, and with the excellent mentorship of Fr. Dennis. Thank you.
However, having said that it is all over, we have to recognise that it is far from over, indeed, it has only just begun: ahead of me stretches, God willing, a lifetime of ministry and service in God’s church firstly as Deacon and then as Priest; and also for you here in this Church, there stretches a lifetime of worship and prayer aided, abetted and sometimes hindered by us students from the College of the Resurrection.
For the earliest Church also, the feast of Pentecost was something of a closure, a point of departure and a radical transformation: it was far from over, and in fact it had only just begun… Today is the Church’s birthday, the point at which the Holy Spirit entered the Church and it began to proclaim Christ Crucified and Christ arisen, as we do today.
I would like, on this day of all days, when we think of the Holy Spirit, to consider Vocation: the call of God to serve him, the dropping of everything, even our fishing nets, and following him, the standing in a darkened room, or in a crowded Cathedral on the feast of St.Peter and saying “Here I am Lord”.
It is an inexplicable thing, a humbling thing, and for me at this moment in time, a very real thing. So perhaps on this day, the day when we consider the Holy Spirit leading and guiding the early church to its vocation, we should consider this important calling.
When we speak of vocation, we almost always think of vocations to the Priesthood, or to the Religious Life as a Monk or a Nun; perhaps for me this is not at all surprising when you remember I have been cooped up in a monastery for the past two years, thinking very hard about my call to the priestly vocation. However, I want to look beyond this obvious call to vocation and think about the vocation of all of us.
Peter on the day of Pentecost had no doubt that Vocation was what led the entire pilgrim people of God, not the select few men dressed in black at the front of the Church, but all of us. He quotes the prophet Joel who says
“God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams”
God’s Spirit – the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Comforter and even in the traditional translation that many of us still know and love, the Holy Ghost, these are all the same divine facet of God;
God’s Spirit is not discriminatory, and comes to all, to men and women, to young and old, to rich and poor, to the clergy and to the laity alike; and I want to suggest to you today that we have a vocation of one kind or another.
St. Peter wrote in his first letter:
“Ye also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
We are all part of the living Church which was born on this Pentecost day, and we are all a part of that holy priesthood in that Church: it is not Fr. Dennis’ church, it is not the bishop’s church, or the Churchwarden’s; and it is not the bricks and mortar and heating costs, but the Church is yours because it is you, and we all have a vocation as Christians towards that.