The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r032c.htm


s032ca16  Pentecost  15/5/2016

The penultimate sermon.   Next Sunday will be the last sermon I will regularly prepare and hence post on the internet - after nearly 20 years!   All 1072 sermons will still able to be accessed through the archived indexes:
Lectionary:   http://frsparky.net/LIn11.html
Scriptural:    http://frsparky.net/SIn11.html

‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages,’  Acts 2:4

I have noted before the number of times we are told that the apostles were enable to speak the languages of the hearers. (1)   The words of my text in 2:4 are repeated in 2:6, 2:8 and 2:11   So this gives the lie to the conception that the Holy Spirit is given to others to enable them to understand the language of the apostles and the church.

To be able to speak another language requires perseverance, immersion, sympathy with different grammar, idiom and culture; and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the church to initiate and enable these things.   Learning a language other than our native tongue also helps us come to realise the idiom and idiosyncrasies of our own language.   Immersion in another culture relativises our own, which is always a blessing :-)

I note that the list of countries where the pilgrims to Jerusalem were from: ‘Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs’ - covered the then known world .. and there are fifteen of them.   Since there were only twelve disciples, a couple of them were enabled to speak more than one other language!  

We might have expected that Jesus in his earthly ministry and the Holy Spirit for their apostolic ministry would have taught these unschooled peasants a single language of orthodoxy and religion, but the opposite is the case.   They are taught the language of others!

And the consequence of this is that we have a paradigm of the church so immersed into society that corporately we speak intelligently in all the secular languages surrounding us.   No doubt one member of the church will find the language of another member unintelligible - because their focus is not having a common ‘church’ language but marked by the diversity of languages determined by the diversity in society.

It has been a recurring theme of my recent reflections that the world will take notice of the church when we leave our holy huddles and go where others are at, both physically and spiritually, and this is surely the picture Pentecost gives.

So often we hear modern people say that they are spiritual but not religious, and in this they are saying that they have ceased to find meaning in a church which claims a monopoly on spirituality and orthodoxy.   It is no wonder that others have ceased to find meaning in the church when the church corporate hides behind her solitary sacred language as if this were something special; rather than learning the secular languages of her neighbours.   When the church corporate decides to divest herself of this pretended monopoly and repent, turn outwards and be incarnated into society, so that the church is seen to be learning the languages of secular society, then secular society will no doubt respond as enthusiastically as those crowds flocked to Jesus.   When the church is fundamentally a listening community, others will want to be a part of it.

For the Pentecost event was a true miracle.   The way of Jesus, incarnation, leaving the supposedly sacred centre and being found where people are at, physically and spiritually, is unique - so unique that it’s a darned shame that much of the church has lost sight of it.

While the church continues to seek a unity where everybody speaks the same language, believes in the same terms, and dismisses everyone else, the church is failing to engage with others and society respectfully and meaningfully, and no one, either ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ the church is edified.   Actually we are not even listening to our fellow christians and noticing that their experience of the divine is different from ours, let alone ever listening to those outside.   When we are not hearing the diversity within our own communion, our ‘unity’ is essentially an exercise in self-delusion, we are failing the call to incarnation and resisting the Holy Spirit who would direct our attention outwards.

Pentecost is traditionally thought of as the birthday of the Church and it is a wonderful reading given to us.   And I wonder if we were to translate this to modern times we might have:

Astronomers marvelling that the Church has cared enough to learn of their discoveries and agree with them that indeed: ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.’ (2)

Midwives and obstetricians marvelling that the church has cared enough to see in a new baby, not an object to be immediately baptised to save it from the uncleanness of birth and the evil influence of midwives; but to agree with them that: ‘it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.’ (3)

Doctors marvelling that the church cares enough to see their emphasis on healing and discharge God driven; rather than keeping people constrained, unwell and dependent.

Ordinary people marvelling to see the church cares enough to leave their holy huddles and come to where they are at, physically and spiritually, speaking their languages; in contrast to always explicitly or implicitly demeaning their secular existence.

As I noted above, if this is the picture of the church, inherent in this is that the members may actually not be communicating much with one another, for what is important is that they are speaking different languages and so engaging with spirituality in society.

But sadly, so often we see the church arguing about the language of worship, old or new; about who is more kosher, about the place of women and other marginalised people.   We see the church mostly navel gazing.   And the difference is .. repentance .. turning from navel gazing to concern for others.   Concerned enough to learn the language of others, rather than expecting others to learn the language of the Church.   Sadly, so often ‘repentance’ is taken to mean turning to an exclusive God expressed in what is for others a foreign language, satisfying the selfishness of the proponents and the adherents.

I am grateful for the preacher last Sunday touching on the reading from Revelation and the words:
‘In the spirit one of the seven angels carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.   I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb’ - thanks Jenny+  (4)   The kingdom is not worship or temple, but a city consisting of a diversity of people, so evident and poignant here in Christchurch as our city is being rebuilt, from the ground up.

1.  frsparky.net/a/s027g14.htm  frsparky.net/a/s059g14.htm  frsparky.net/a/s100g15.htm
2.  Psalm 19:1
3.  Psalm 139:13,14
4.  Revelation 21:10


The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r032c.htm


s032ca16  Pentecost  15/5/2016

‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages,’  Acts 2:4

I have noted before the number of times we are told that the apostles were enable to speak the languages of the hearers. (1)   The words of my text in 2:4 are repeated in 2:6, 2:8 and 2:11   So this gives the lie to the conception that the Holy Spirit is given to others to enable them to understand the language of the apostles and the church.

To be able to speak another language requires perseverance, immersion, sympathy with different grammar, idiom and culture; and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the church to initiate and enable these things.   Learning a language other than our native tongue also helps us come to realise the idiom and idiosyncrasies of our own language.   Immersion in another culture relativises our own, which is always a blessing :-)

I note that the list of countries where the pilgrims to Jerusalem were from: ‘Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs’ - covered the then known world .. and there are fifteen of them.   Since there were only twelve disciples, a couple of them were enabled to speak more than one other language!  

We might have expected that Jesus in his earthly ministry and the Holy Spirit for their apostolic ministry would have taught these unschooled peasants a single language of orthodoxy and religion, but the opposite is the case.   They are taught the language of others!

And the consequence of this is that we have a paradigm of the church so immersed into society that corporately we speak intelligently in all the secular languages surrounding us.   No doubt one member of the church will find the language of another member unintelligible - because their focus is not having a common ‘church’ language but marked by the diversity of languages determined by the diversity in society.

It has been a recurring theme of my recent reflections that the world will take notice of the church when we leave our holy huddles and go where others are at, both physically and spiritually, and this is surely the picture Pentecost gives.

So often we hear modern people say that they are spiritual but not religious, and in this they are saying that they have ceased to find meaning in a church which claims a monopoly on spirituality and orthodoxy.   It is no wonder that others have ceased to find meaning in the church when the church corporate hides behind her solitary sacred language as if this were something special; rather than learning the secular languages of her neighbours.   When the church corporate decides to divest herself of this pretended monopoly and repent, turn outwards and be incarnated into society, so that the church is seen to be learning the languages of secular society, then secular society will no doubt respond as enthusiastically as those crowds flocked to Jesus.   When the church is fundamentally a listening community, others will want to be a part of it.

For the Pentecost event was a true miracle.   The way of Jesus, incarnation, leaving the supposedly sacred centre and being found where people are at, physically and spiritually, is unique - so unique that it’s a darned shame that much of the church has lost sight of it.

While the church continues to seek a unity where everybody speaks the same language, believes in the same terms, and dismisses everyone else, the church is failing to engage with others and society respectfully and meaningfully, and no one, either ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ the church is edified.   Actually we are not even listening to our fellow christians and noticing that their experience of the divine is different from ours, let alone ever listening to those outside.   When we are not hearing the diversity within our own communion, our ‘unity’ is essentially an exercise in self-delusion, we are failing the call to incarnation and resisting the Holy Spirit who would direct our attention outwards.

Pentecost is traditionally thought of as the birthday of the Church and it is a wonderful reading given to us.   And I wonder if we were to translate this to modern times we might have:

Astronomers marvelling that the Church has cared enough to learn of their discoveries and agree with them that indeed: ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.’ (2)

Midwives and obstetricians marvelling that the church has cared enough to see in a new baby, not an object to be immediately baptised to save it from the uncleanness of birth and the evil influence of midwives; but to agree with them that: ‘it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.’ (3)

Doctors marvelling that the church cares enough to see their emphasis on healing and discharge God driven; rather than keeping people constrained, unwell and dependent.

Ordinary people marvelling to see the church cares enough to leave their holy huddles and come to where they are at, physically and spiritually, speaking their languages; in contrast to always explicitly or implicitly demeaning their secular existence.

As I noted above, if this is the picture of the church, inherent in this is that the members may actually not be communicating much with one another, for what is important is that they are speaking different languages and so engaging with spirituality in society.

But sadly, so often we see the church arguing about the language of worship, old or new; about who is more kosher, about the place of women and other marginalised people.   We see the church mostly navel gazing.   And the difference is .. repentance .. turning from navel gazing to concern for others.   Concerned enough to learn the language of others, rather than expecting others to learn the language of the Church.   Sadly, so often ‘repentance’ is taken to mean turning to an exclusive God expressed in what is for others a foreign language, satisfying the selfishness of the proponents and the adherents.

I am grateful for the preacher last Sunday touching on the reading from Revelation and the words:
‘In the spirit one of the seven angels carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.   I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb’ - thanks Jenny+  (4)   The kingdom is not worship or temple, but a city consisting of a diversity of people, so evident and poignant here in Christchurch as our city is being rebuilt, from the ground up.

1.  frsparky.net/a/s027g14.htm  frsparky.net/a/s059g14.htm  frsparky.net/a/s100g15.htm
2.  Psalm 19:1
3.  Psalm 139:13,14
4.  Revelation 21:10