The Archbishop's Sermon follows in full:
8th June 2014, Pentecost Sunday, 4pm
Reading: Acts 2:1-13
Prayer: O God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness”, shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen (2 Corinthians 4:6)
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:1, 4).
Dearly beloved brothers and sisters from the new Diocese of Leeds, West Yorkshire and the Dales, you are all here together in one place. And as your new Diocese is inaugurated on this Pentecost Sunday, my prayer is that you will know the blessings of Pentecost, just as at that first inauguration of the Church.
Many of you will have come to this service of Inauguration with a variety of thoughts, feelings, and some degree of apprehension about what the future holds for your new Diocese. And there may be a little confusion about what it’s called. The legal name is The Diocese of Leeds, but it may also be known as The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.
Those from Bradford, Huddersfield, Ripon and Wakefield, may feel “We’re not Leeds! We can’t be doing with it!” And Leeds may respond, “Keep calm! We are where we are. We’re the Diocese of Leeds!”
Forgive me if, in my sinfulness and fallibility, I am expressing what is not in your minds. However, whatever your feelings may be, you cannot go on as you are.
What is important is that the new Diocese goes forward together in Mission. It is for this that it was formed.
Pentecost invites you to become a people who, like the Galileans, on the day of Pentecost, received the gift of communication by the Holy Spirit, who descended on them “like the rush of a mighty wind, and tongues, as of fire, rested on each of them” (Acts 2:2-3). So that “the crowd was astounded and amazed, saying ‘Look! All these people who are speaking, aren’t they Galileans? How do we each hear in our own language in which we were born?” (Acts 2:6-8).
What were these Galileans communicating? Shelley, the poet, talking about his grandmother, said, “She had lost the art of communication, but not, alas, the gift of speaking.”
Those Galileans had received the art of communicating the reality of their changed lives.
The Holy Spirit “blowing like a violent wind” on the one hundred and twenty disciples of the Risen Christ, blew away all the cobwebs of disappointment, and apprehensiveness.
The coffin of dead hopes and self-preservation was ripped wide open and their lives were powerfully changed.
Their prison-cells of fear were flooded with God’s love and liberating light. The joy of the Holy Spirit filled their lives and gave them a new language, and a new way of speaking. That is Pentecost’s gift to you all.
That which happens at Pentecost is no inner mystical experience, but an outpouring of God’s energy that touches every life present. Like a mighty wind affecting everything around.
A woodpecker had been pecking away at a large oak tree. Suddenly there was a mighty gale-force wind and the big oak tree was uprooted and fell flat on the ground. “My oh my”, said the woodpecker, “I never realised what power I had in my beak.”
Pentecost is God’s Spirit unleashed! Driving God’s love affair with, and his unmerited favour to, humanity forcibly onwards – like a mighty wind pushing everything forward before it.
May the wind of the Spirit drive the mission of this new Diocese forward: from every place to every place! From everywhere to everywhere.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous, if the people of West Yorkshire and the Dales, were astounded and amazed by you all, saying “Aren’t these Anglicans from the new Diocese? And how do we hear them, in our own language in which we were born, telling us about the great acts of God?”
Remember too, that the Holy Spirit also came in “divided tongues, as of fire … and a tongue rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:3), giving the disciples the art of demonstrating and communicating what God in Jesus Christ had done, was doing, and is doing.
Fire is a light which burns brightly. “And divided tongues, as of fire”, symbolize for us the truth that God’s life has invaded human life in ways that shatter old expectations.
God’s kiss of life as fire is light which burns brightly: revealing, guiding, illuminating, warming and purifying the heart and putting our earth-bound chaos to flight. As fire, the Holy Spirit generates energy and spreads if allowed to burn unhindered by our own confusion, lack of personal commitment, complacency, unconfessed sin, fear and unbelief.
Having bestowed the art of communicating on the Galilean disciples, the Holy Spirit also bestowed on the devout bystanders the gift of hearing. They said, “We hear them speaking in our own native languages (the languages in which we were brought up) about God’s deeds of power – the great things of God” (Acts 2:11).
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a reversal of that story of Babel, in Genesis 11, where hubris, pride and the desire to make a name for themselves on their own, without God, resulted in confusion, with the builders losing the ability to understand each other’s speech.
May all the men and women of this new Diocese be given the gift of attentive listening and may the Holy Spirit help you to receive the great gift of hearing as well as the art of communicating the great things of God, so that all hearers will come to know the marvellous love of God.
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to share in the life and the love in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have, from all eternity, had their being.
Tom Smail ends his book, The Giving Gift, in this way:
“By his Son and his Spirit, the two hands of God, the Father embraces his prodigal children and draws them to himself …” (p.214).
Forgiving their past sins. Giving them new Life in the present. And Hope for the future. And filling them with the Holy Spirit.
It happened to me, it happens to me. It isn’t a once-and-for-all experience. It isn’t the answer to all my problems. It isn’t just for my personal blessing. God longs to fill my heart with his love every day – a love to be shared with others.
So let’s not be afraid or embarrassed – let us open our lives to God’s Spirit who will fill us with God’s love and set our hearts free and on fire for him.
And our response surely is, Come, Holy Spirit, come! Fill the hearts of your people and kindle in us the fire of your love.