Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

“Pentecost Celebration”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 15 May 2016, the Pentecost Sunday, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Genesis 11:1-9; Act 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27.

Opening prayer
God of life, may your Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Inspire us to understand your truth and by the power of the Holy Spirit your Word transform us to become more like Christ. Amen.

Today is Pentecost Sunday.

It is a day of celebration for the outpouring of the Spirit and the spread of the Gospel to all nations.

The red pulpit fall reminds us of Pentecost fire, the fire of Jesus’ love poured out in the Holy Spirit towards others.

Pentecost is the day the early Christian community is empowered by  the Holy Spirit at the Jewish Pentecost festival. For Christians, Pentecost marked the birth of a new faith community - the church. Fifty days on earth after his resurrection, Jesus Christ left the earth but his calling and mission remains in those who believe in him and love him.

Pentecost is a great reminder to Christians of the power of the Holy Spirit and her transforming power to the life, faith and mission of individual believers and the Church community.

Today we celebrate and give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit given by God in Jesus Christ.

To many people, the Holy Spirit is very abstract. You cannot see it with your eyes, you cannot listen to it with your ears. You cannot touch it by hands. However, you may feel it.

Now I invite you all to have a minute of silence. You may close your eyes and be fully aware of your breath. Breathe in and breathe out. If there is anything that side tracks you, just gently come back to your breath. I will finish this time of silent meditation in your breathing by the sound of the bell. Let us start now. Concentrate and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and breathe out.

How do you feel sisters and brothers?

Holy Spirit in Hebrew: ruah; and in Greek: pneuma both meaning breath, the spirit of the Divine.

When we are breathing we know we are a living human being. When we breathe, we know that the God of life is with us. In Genesis when the Lord God breathed into the man’s nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

When Jesus first appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he said to them “Peace be with you. As the Father send me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “receive the Holy Spirit.”

As we breathe, we know by experience the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in us.

Jesus referring the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of truth that dwells in his disciples.

What is the Spirit of Truth? The Spirit of Truth is to be fully united with God (we know God as God knows us. God abides with us and he is with us. (John 14:15-16)

In today’s Pentecost Sunday, sisters and brothers, let us receive the Holy Spirit with thanksgiving and affirm her presence and her power in our life and our faith in Christ.

Pentecost is significant to Christians and the Church. How?

The Spirit within the disciples and the faith community gives them new life and transforming power.

Apostle Peter delivered a message during the Pentecost festival. (The Pentecost festival was the anniversary of the Jews to commemorate and celebrate the giving of Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai. It then became an annual renewal of the Mosaic covenant for the Jews).

Peter, who was called by Jesus as the Rock of the Church, delivered a powerful message referring to Prophet Joel. He highlighted that everybody in God has been called a vision and a role to play. He quoted from Joel 2:28-32.

“the spirit of God will dwell in all flesh. Sons and daughters shall prophesy. Young men shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams. Even upon slaves, both women and men shall prophesy.”

Men and women, young and old, servants of low social status and masters with high status and power, are all valuable in the eyes of God. They all deserve to have dreams and vision. No one will be left out. In God, a God of equals, all human boundaries created by gender, age, race and class should be broken down. In God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are liberated to lead a life that is different from the world values of hierarchy and segregation. The Holy Spirit removes all human barriers and boundaries.

During my sabbatical last year,  I went to Taize France. This was a great spiritual experience. From there I experienced the power and the work of the Holy Spirit that removed many human barriers.

 Taize is an ecumenical community offering a spiritual space for Christians of all background to worship, pray and serve the mission of Christ to bring peace and reconciliation for all. 

In Taize I was staying in a dormitory with some ladies from France and South Korea. The lady from South Korea is a church minister. She commands very little English and no Chinese. For me I can neither speak her language Korean. It was not easy for us to communicate verbally. But we communicated with non-verbal language and we both felt great being with each other.

During my stay in Taize, I met people whose mother tongue is French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Mandarin, German and so on. We were not able to communicate in our own mother language. However, the holy spirit within us has broken the language barrier. We worship and pray together for 8 days. The people who gathered to worship were from different race, nation, nationality, gender, age, and mental ability (there were mentally challenged friends joining the pilgrimage). We shared Holy Communion every day. In the bread and wine that symbolized the body of Christ, we were all united in One Holy Spirit. There are Christians from Catholics, Protestant and Orthodox background. United in Christ through the Holy Spirit, we all overcome many boundaries.

The old testament account today about the Babel Tower. It highlights people scattering because they spoke different languages. In Christ, the Holy Spirit gathers people speaking different languages in unity. The people who built Babel Tower were scattered probably not because they spoke different languages. It was their pride and self centred-ness that divide.  Unlike the disciples of Christ who took risk and left their comfort zone to go to different places to share the gospel, the people from Babel became very inward looking. They just want to keep their stable life and do not walk in God’s way. Their sin is the separation from God. The story of the Babel Tower is a reminder to believers and the church community to walk humbly with God, and to live a life like Christ. Jesus came not to be served but to serve.

Before his passion, Jesus said to his disciples that ‘those who believe in him will do what he does and will do even greater things than him.’ (John 14:12)

Jesus Christ is sent to earth to reveal God’s glory of love and unity. Church is built to witness Christ.

In a world that is full of division, hatred, fear and insecurity, let us who are united by the power of the Holy spirit in Christ break all walls that divide. Let Christ, our unity and liberty restore the world and renew all lives.

Sisters and brothers, let us celebrate Pentecost with the transforming love and power of the Holy Spirit in Christ. Amen. 

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, May 15, 2016

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