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Sunday, 23 May 2021
On an unseasonably wet and cool day we met at 10 am for the Eucharist of Pentecost. The Celebrant was Father Roger, and the Covid Choir sang Pentecostal hymns, including 'Come Down Oh Love Divine' and as a motet during Communion a Hymn from New English Praise 'Spirit of God unseen as the wind' words by M V Old, set to an arrangement of the Scottish folk melody the Skye Boat Song. 
Father Roger preached the sermon, and for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the Sunday School children came into church to receive communion or a blessing as appropriate. They were wearing crowns of flames that they had made during their session signifying the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They had also made biscuits to enjoy after Sunday school


 Acts 2:1-21

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

When the day of Pentecost had come, 
they were all together in one place. 

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound 
like the rush of a violent wind, 
and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, 
and a tongue rested on each of them. 

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit 
and began to speak in other languages, 
as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven 
living in Jerusalem. 

And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, 
because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 

Amazed and astonished, they asked, 
“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 

And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 

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—
in our own languages we hear them speaking 
about God’s deeds of power.” 

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 
“What does this mean?” 

But others sneered and said, 
“They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice 
and addressed them, 
“Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, 
let this be known to you, 
and listen to what I say. 

Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, 
for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 

No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days it will be, 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.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.

And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

The sun shall be turned to darkness    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord 
shall be saved.’

John 15:26-27;16:4-15

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

Jesus spoke to his disciples:

“When the Advocate comes, 
whom I will send to you from the Father, 
the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father,
he will testify on my behalf. 

You also are to testify 
because you have been with me from the beginning.

I have said these things to you 
so that when their hour comes you may remember 
that I told you about them.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, 
because I was with you. 

But now I am going to him who sent me; 
yet none of you asks me, 
‘Where are you going?’ 

But because I have said these things to you, 
sorrow has filled your hearts. 

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: 
it is to your advantage that I go away, 
for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; 
but if I go, I will send him to you. 

And when he comes, 
he will prove the world wrong about sin
and righteousness and judgment: 

about sin, because they do not believe in me; 

about righteousness, because I am going to the Father 
and you will see me no longer; 

about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

“I still have many things to say to you, 
but you cannot bear them now. 

When the Spirit of truth comes, 
he will guide you into all the truth; 
for he will not speak on his own, 
but will speak whatever he hears, 
and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 

He will glorify me, 
because he will take what is mine 
and declare it to you. 

All that the Father has is mine. 
For this reason I said that he will take what is mine 
and declare it to you."


Pentecost today – a major festival, and many may feel it good and right that we have a Eucharist this morning, when often we don’t.

In the reading from Acts, we find that the disciples - we’re not sure exactly which disciples - are meeting together, still nervous following Jesus’ execution, but happy he is risen. Jesus had died and risen at Passover time. We are now at Pentecost, seven weeks after. The disciples are doing what Jesus told them to do, and prayerfully waiting together in Jerusalem for the next stage of things. It is then that they have a strange experience, ‘like wind and fire’. Some congregations will share a birthday cake today because it was at that time that the Church was born as a group who started to go out boldly and draw others in.

To understand this story, we need to look at some older stories. Firstly, Adam and Eve. A timeless story, saying, really, that the root of mankind’s problems is that we don’t work with God. Adam and Eve wanted to make their own rules, and wouldn’t cooperate when God told them not to eat the fruit. Later on in Genesis, in chapter 11, we have the story of the Tower of Babel. People again wanting to do their own thing. They might believe in God, but they weren’t going to let him be in charge. They thought that God was somewhere up the heavens. So, they said, ‘Let’s get ourselves up there too, on a level with him. We can be in charge’. To build the big tower, they had to work together. But, in the tale, God thinks, ‘I’ll put them in their place.’ He makes them all speak different languages, so they can’t work together, or build their tower.

Things in the New Testament bring something new from God, to humanity’s situation. Unlike Adam, the human Jesus did cooperate completely with the Almighty, and was at one with him. So, St Paul calls Jesus the Second Adam - and Jesus is in real history - not in a timeless story like the first Adam. Newman in the hymn which we will know, speaks of Jesus as ‘a higher gift than Grace’, refining our humanity, and writes, ‘a Second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.’ Grace is a lifegiving relationship, with himself, that God offers us. But Jesus is a higher gift still, ‘God’s presence and his very self, and essence all divine.’

Just as Jesus reverses Adam’s disobedience, the Christian Pentecost is an absolute reversal of the Tower of Babel story. In that story we have people who, like Adam and Eve, didn’t want to work with God. At Pentecost, the disciples are waiting and praying and very much ready to work with God. In the old story of the proposed tower, language barriers appeared, but, at the Christian Pentecost, strangely, language barriers are overcome, and the Gospel starts moving out into the world.

The Church, has a special relationship with God, changing the lives of individuals, and congregations, and the Spirit works through the sacraments, but, - having said all of that - God can be active in others, especially those of goodwill, whether they know it or not, or know about him, or not. It is not always our role to bring the things of the God to a situation, but to try to glimpse where he is, there ahead of us, and then to co-operate with him.

The Spirit is a ‘he’ – or even a ‘she’ – a person, not an ‘it’. To speak of the Spirit’s presence and activity is to speak of glimpsing God’s presence and activity. ‘Glimpsing’, because we must not be too hasty in telling people exactly what God is about, which would often be to presume too much. The Church, collectively, has to try to discern what God is about, and can still sometimes get it wrong.

One big message of Pentecost is there, for our personal lives, especially if we face difficulties. Look to God patiently, wait, and pray. The same approach for a congregation, at a time of uncertainty and change.

When I was in Wales, in one Order for Communion, you ended readings not by saying, ‘this is the word of the Lord’, but, ‘Hear what the Spirit says to the Church’. A lady churchwarden, whose father had been an Archdeacon, and whose brother became a bishop, told me, ‘We don’t want that sort of thing here’! But by heaven, they needed it!

As Pentecost is something of a Birthday Party, we might end today on the light side. Two questions: ‘at what age do you stop playing with toys?’ and, ‘why am I asking this question?’ I’m asking because I don’t know! At 77, I’ve not having reached that age! So I’ve thought of a toy for Pentecost.

We don’t know exactly which of the disciples were present in the room at Pentecost. We might think, probably, the twelve apostles, but Judas had left, to be replaced by Matthias. Some think Mary might have been there, and maybe Jesus’ brothers. In a very arbitrary way, we’ll say fourteen people.

I took 14 circles of paper, half black, half white, and laid them flat, in a nice pattern. When the individuals were willing to work together and be part of a larger plan, – as the disciples were at Pentecost – then something strange can happen. The group of individuals seems less flat and ordinary, especially when the pattern is spun round!

And the circle of paper that is called to serve at the very centre of things, and to do lots of rushing round, will be the least one of all. Didn’t Jesus say something like that about how leaders in the Church should behave?

Fr Roger

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Third Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Sung Matins

Fourth Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Variations can be found in the Parish Magazine or the Calendar at the bottom of this page.

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. St Mary's Facebook page
  2. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  3. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  4. Prayer for today.
  5. The C of E youtube channel.
  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.

Please note that St Mary's are not responsible for the contents of external links

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