The Holy Spirit and Mission

Today’s reading is Acts 2:1-21Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Jon & Imogen.

Jon & Imogen, spent the last three years training to be vicars at Trinity College Bristol. This is their last Sunday before they move to Trull, just outside Taunton to be curates.

We are at the beginning of Acts, Jesus has ascended, the apostle Matthias has been appointed and here in Acts 2Open Link in New Window it is Pentecost, the festival of weeks—a celebration of the renewal of God’s covenant, first with Noah and then with Moses. Pentecost as we know it, is the birth of the Church by the work of the Spirit. Today we will reflect on the gathering, the anointing, and the commissioning work of the Spirit at Pentecost and here at St Matthew’s.

Gathering: At Pentecost, we see the Holy Spirit at work in the gathering of the church. We see in verse 1 that the believers were gathered together in one place. And it is to this gathered community that the Holy Spirit comes and anoints. We can be free to say the Holy Spirit is already at work in this initial gathering, because it is the Holy Spirit who gathers the people of God into one in Christ. And we read later from verse 41 after this gathering, anointing and commissioning that the Spirit re-gathers the growing group of believers into fellowship by the Holy Spirit. Where the gathered people of God are, there is the Holy Spirit.

Anointing: At Pentecost, we see the Holy Spirit anointing the church. The Holy Spirit is the one who marks, equips, and gives gifts to the Church. The Holy Spirit has been equipping and anointing leaders of God’s people for generations, the Holy Spirit anointed Moses, Gideon, Deborah, to serve God and lead God’s people. But here at Pentecost the Spirit anoints all of them, not just Peter, not just the twelve but over 100 followers of Jesus gathered together to worship. The Holy Spirit anoints all people: young, old, male, female, rich, poor, all people. This is the equality of anointing. No one is left out of the Spirit’s work. Because of Jesus’ death for all people, Jesus’ blood shed for all, all are covered, and all can be anointed. Peter highlights later in Acts 2Open Link in New Window that the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit is a promise for all: to you and your children and all who are far off! At Pentecost this anointing enables all those gathered to speak in different languages, to speak the language of the other. This is not the beginning of the Spirit, this is not the beginning of anointing but Pentecost marks the equality of anointing on all God’s people.

Commissioning: At Pentecost, we see the Holy Spirit commissioning the church. The anointing of the gathered church is a gift given to the believers for those who are far off. The Holy Spirit commissions the believers to proclaim Jesus. In our passage, the anointing of the gathered believers, the gift of different languages, equips them. It is given to them for the other. This is their commissioning, to proclaim Jesus to the other. As the Holy Spirit commissions the church, the spirit sends them to the world. The fulfilment of this commissioning is seen, as those who were once far off, receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, as they are regathered into the living community of believers. As a Greek side note—the word for spirit is also the word for breath and wind. As we were thinking about this repeated action of gathering, anointing and commissioning we were reminded of a living organism: a living being that gathers (breathing in), is anointed (for life), and is commissioned (breathing out for the world). This repeated breath is the life cycle of the Church, the gathering, anointing and commissioning of the people of God.

Gathering: Today, at St Matthew’s, the Holy Spirit is gathering the church. As we gather today in one place is it the Holy Spirit who gathers us. Let us claim this opportunity for gathering as a work of the Spirit! Throughout this season of lockdown we have found ways to substitute this gathering, we have gathered for zoom coffee, we have gathered for a zoom service, we have gathered to watch a YouTube service on zoom… but all of these are substitutes, a satisfactory alternative, a mere reflections of the gathering which we are called to as believers. And gathering today is a mere reflection of the ultimate gathering of all God’s people on the last day. But we are called to gather. The Holy Spirit enables our gathering and as we gather the Holy Spirit will anoint and commission us.

Anointing: Today, at St Matthew’s, the Holy Spirit is anointing the church. Firstly, if any of you here has never asked the Holy Spirit to fill you and anoint you then do take the opportunity today. Join in with our prayer at the end to receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We saw in Acts 2Open Link in New Window that the anointing of the Holy Spirit led those who were present to supernaturally speak the languages of others in order to communicate the good news of Jesus to them. I wonder what gifts St Matthew’s has been (and continues to be) given in the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the communication of the good news of Jesus today. To give some ideas, I think that the Holy Spirit has anointed musicians in this community for the worship of God and the communication of the Gospel. And we see this every year especially around Christmas time. Don’t stop making use of the gift of this anointing in music. I think that the Holy Spirit has anointed particular people in this community with a spiritual gift of hospitality. I think the example of fostering that we have heard about today is one instance of this—and also the way in which you continue to welcome and encourage us Trinity students in our time here. Don’t stop making use of the gift of this anointing in hospitality. I think the Holy Spirit has also anointed some in this church community to work in issues of social justice in your spheres of influence. I believe this is something that this church community will continue to grow in the years ahead. Don’t stop making use of the gift of this anointing in social justice. And remember that these gifts, this anointing by the Holy Spirit, has been promised to the church and will be given to you, but ultimately this anointing is for those who are still far off, who don’t yet know or grasp the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is anointing the gathered community of St Matthew’s today in preparation for our commission to proclaim the Kingdom of God here in Kingsdown and in every community that we are part of.

Commissioning: Today, at St Matthew’s, the Holy Spirit is commissioning the church. Someone wise once said, the church is only the church when it exists for others. The church is not a secret society of anointed ones but an outward-facing, missional community proclaiming Christ so that the Holy Spirit might gather, anoint and commission others. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit anointed the gathered believers with the gift of different languages so that they could proclaim Christ to the nations. There is no doubt that there was a particularly powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. There was no need for google translate, no duo lingo, no audio language apps or CDs, no ‘idiots guide to Spanish.’ Today, while we believe the Holy Spirit is capable of moving in particularly powerful ways, I wonder whether most of the time the commissioning of the Holy Spirit includes the call for each of us to “do the work,” to metaphorically learn the language of the others who we come into contact with. We have resources to “do the work”. The language of the other could be French, Cantonese, or Somali, or simply understanding terminology or way of life of a group of people who are different to us. As we learn the language of the other, as we do the work, we are transformed in the process. As we are commissioned to proclaim Christ to the other, the Holy Spirit transforms us.

We’ve explored the Pentecost passage today and the way the Holy Spirit is gathering, anointing and commissioning the church in Acts 2Open Link in New Window, and the way the Holy Spirit is gathering, anointing, commissioning the church here, today at St Matthew’s.

There will be a video version of the service.

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