Pentecost 2024

When the day of Pentecost had come, there was loud sound and tongues of fire and speaking in tongues and the crowd observing this were divided in their reaction…some curious others mocking.  I understand both reactions.  The pouring out of the Holy Spirit is miraculous and manifest itself in many ways.  Outpouring of fire, speaking in tongues, but we had a baptism and confirmation not long ago and I saw no tongues of fire.  Frankly, I’m relieved to say there was not a physical manifestation of the Spirit, because if I’m honest that would terrify me.  The Spirit is the aspect of the Trinity that many of us find most confusing and disconcerting.  We, Anglicans don’t always know what to do with the Spirit.

Even the creeds, which theoretically try to state what it is that we, as a church, believe, are less clear on the who or what the Spirit is. The Apostle’s Creed calls us to profess what it that we believe and promise in baptism, so you’d think that would be a good guide. It begins …

‘I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.’  Clear and succinct, telling us who God is and what God has done.  Good, simple.

With Jesus we get much more detail…who he is, how he was born, died and ascended and what he does.

Then the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit…whose descent we celebrate today on Pentecost. What does the Apostle’s creed profess about the Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit !              yep. That’s it. That’s all she wrote. 

The Nicene Creed goes a bit more in depth.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.


However, the Nicene Creed is mostly concerned with where the Spirit came from than anything else, but we do hear the Spirit is the giver of life and speaks through the Prophets.  We learn the most about the Spirit through Scripture.  How the Holy Spirit inspires the prophets, how the Spirit is also known as the breath of God, moving over creation, how the Spirit  animates Ezekiel’s dry bones, filling the first of God’s children with life, guiding the people of God in all their many journeys. 

Clearly the Holy Spirit is a vital part of God.  Yet. We seem uncomfortable with the Spirit as an Anglican people.  How often do we spend time in contemplation of the Spirit?  When was the last time you prayed to or felt connected to the Holy Spirit?

I think that this is because of the very nature of the Holy Spirit as somewhat nebulous.  The Holy Spirit is often described in vague and rather frustrating terms that defy definition.  Breath of God, Spirit of Truth, advocate … after all what exactly does a Spirit of Truth DO?  What do these terms mean?

When the Advocate comes, the spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf”


The advocate. This is a term we can latch on to, we know what an advocate is… it is a term we can define and box in.  The dictionary defines an advocate as a person who pleads on someone else's behalf.  This makes sense. 

The word we have as Advocate in our gospel is originally, in the Greek, Parakletos, or Paraclete in latin, which you may or may not have heard of…but the important part is that that word doesn’t translate nicely into any single English word.

Parakletos means ‘called alongside in aid of’ which is why it is often translated as comforter or advocate or counselor or helper.  

After all the verse “when the one who is called alongside in aid of you comes” doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, ‘when the comforter comes’ is far more evocative, more …well… comforting, yet the literal translation is much better suited to help us know the Spirit better.

The Holy Spirit is one who is called alongside in aid.  A companion in life’s journey, one who walks with us, someone who is constant helpmeet, and for a purpose.

To aid us into living truth and bearing witness to the works of Christ.

Which is fantastic because sometime it is very hard to see where Christ is going.  It is hard to see where the good news lies when it feels like we are surrounded by the dry bones of Ezekiel.  Yet, we are also called to bear witness, to testify on Christ’s behalf… to see and proclaim what God is doing.  Which is why it is so important to celebrate Pentecost, to remind ourselves of the work of the Spirit who walks with us.

It is the Spirit, whose coming we celebrate this day, who walks with us, who is called alongside us.  It is the Spirit, that advocate, that comforter, who intercedes for us and groans along with us with sighs too deep for words when heaviness overwhelms us.  It is the Spirit who directs our eyes to the good work that, through Christ, we continue to do in this parish.  It is the Sprit who directs our hearts to scripture that tells that that God is a God of new creations and is always doing a new thing.  Creating and bringing to birth that which we have not seen.

Birthing something new. A church which will be linked to our history, be relevant in our context and be a whole new creation.  Which is scary, and hopeful!   For, as Paul says, who hopes for what is seen?  We hope for what we do not see.  We hope for the courage to follow where the Spirit leads.  Courage to prophesy to the dry bones around us on which God will blow the Spirit and bring new life.  It seems like the church has gone from never changing to changing way too fast and I find it hopeful to remember that God has done so many times before.

-The Jewish community underwent huge upheaval when the Messiah died on the cross, but up rose the new way of Christ.

-The young Christian church found itself moving further and further from it’s Jewish heritage until even gentiles, slaves and women were given equal access to the church.

-A pilgrim and minority focused faith was accepted by the emperor Constantine and the Holy Roman Empire was born.

-A church with a long history of power, colonization, subjugation and arrogance begins to see their sins and walk a path of humility and reconciliation.

-And now the institutional church that was the center of a very homogenous community is once more changing into something new.  Which is in and of itself nothing new at all. 

The Holy Spirit has walked alongside the church bearing witness to Christ’s new and saving work in the world for millennia, and the Spirit will not stop now.

Living in the midst of change, especially such deep and fundamental change can be petrifying, can feel hopeless.  However, like Paul says, we can hope for that which we have not seen.  It is only when we are in the midst of the unknown that we can truly cling to hope. It is only when we are afraid that we can experience courage.

This is a time for hope.   This is a time for courage.  This is a time to embrace the Holy Spirit and all the ways that that breath of God can breathe life in the valley of dry bones.  Knowing that the same Holy Spirit walks with us, breathing life, truth, hope and courage into each of us as we walk the road before us.

This is the time to try new things.  See what fits.  Experiment with what was to see what will be.  This is the time to discern the Spirits call.

Today we celebrate the Spirit who speaks to God on our behalf, the Spirit who advocates God’s work and word to us and helps us see and proclaim the work the God does in the midst of us.  Today we celebrate the ephemeral and life giving Sprit.

We may not always know exactly what she does, we may not know what she is, but the Holy Spirit is moving and we are moving with her.    amen