June 4, 2017

 PentecostAltar

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day of Pentecost - Year A

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

At the 10am Service, the U18s will be performing a Pentecost Pageant based on the Pentecost Story from Acts. It will no doubt be fantastic. Because they are not here to offer that to you, I have chosen a sermon from Irenaeus. He was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyon, France, and one of the group we refer to as the Early Church Fathers. Living and writing for the latter half of the 2C, that’s the 100s, he was among a diversity of theological thoughts on what it meant to be a Christian. The faith was spreading around the Roman Empire, but not yet to the extent that the Roman authorities were systematically persecuting Christians. That started about 100yrs after Irenaeus’ death.

 

Still, there was no mechanism for Christians to come together and agree on what the faith was. There was not even a common understanding of the person of Jesus Christ, nevermind the Holy Trinity. Those conversations wouldn’t begin for another 123yrs after Irenaeus’ death. Even though the Apostle Peter was considered the first “Pope”, the Monarchical Papacy, having control over the faith, wouldn’t begin to take shape for another 2 centuries. The Bishop of Rome during the time when this was written was St Eleuterus, a Greek, of whom we know very little.

 

So…the Early Church Fathers, of whom Irenaeus is one, wrote sermons, letters, and various writings about the Christian faith, which would later be used at the Ecumenical Councils in the 4C and 5C. The portion that I am about to read to you now if from Irenaeus’ greatest work entitled “Against Heresies”, in which he likens the Holy Spirit to rainfall.

 

When the Lord told his disciples ‘to go and teach all nations’ and to ‘baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’, he conferred on them the power of giving people new life in God.

 

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in them and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in people who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

 

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that people of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the firstfruits of all the nations.

 

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

 

‘The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God’ came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

 

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an Advocate as well. And so, the Lord, in his pity for us who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up our wounds and left for our care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted us to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and

 

it is our duty to use the coin
committed to our charge and
make it yield a rich profit
for the Lord.

 

After 5yrs of drought followed by this past winter’s rains from heaven, which brought the wildflowers back to the Charrizo Plain, caused lawns to be green again, and created pollen counts that no amount of antihistamine could control, we can fully understand “If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God.” But if we are truly going to understand how the power of the Holy Spirit coming down on the people at Pentecost has meaning for us today, we will leave here in the Power of the Spirit, in Union with Christ, to the Glory of God the Father, and take that coin with Christ on one side and God on the other, out into San Luis Obispo and know that “it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.”

© 2017 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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