28th May 2023 10.30am – Pentecost Eucharist

The Readings

Acts 2.1-21

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 20.19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By the Revd Dr Alan Billings.

Today is about new beginnings.

First, we are here to celebrate the beginning of new life. Arthur, whom we will
baptise shortly, is not yet one year old. His little life has just begun. So we
give thanks this morning for his arrival among us. We ask for God’s blessing
on him and his parents. And we commit ourselves to raise him well.

A baptism provides a moment for parents in particular, but also godparents,
family and, indeed, all of us, to think about what it means to bring a new life
into the world. What it means when we say we want the best for them.

Because we know that the best for them is not only about providing material
things. It’s also about those unspoken values by which we will raise them.

They will crucially shape, not their personality, but their character.
In baptism we make a conscious and serious decision to raise our children by
those values that we see in Jesus Christ: love, kindness, forgiveness,
gentleness. We don’t tell our little ones how to live; we show them - by how
we live. And today we re-commit ourselves to living well – for Arthur’s sake.

The other beginning we celebrate today is the start of the Christian Church. It
was on this day, Pentecost, Whitsunday, two thousand years ago, that the
Church came into being.

In his final days on earth, Jesus told his first followers that for a little while
after his death they would feel like orphans, as if abandoned. But then they
would be re-energised by the gift of the Holy Spirit and this would enable
them to go into all the world to speak about what they had experienced with
him and from him. And, as it were, to find him again in new ways and new

On this day, they have an overpowering sense of the Spirit’s presence – like
fire, like wind. They are ready to begin a new phase of their lives.

This Christian understanding of God as spirit is important.

The Spirit, Jesus said, is like the wind. It blows where it will. The Spirit is not
confined to sacred spaces or holy people. It is not ours to control or
manipulate. It blows where it will. And like the wind, we do not see the Spirit –
the unseen presence of God. We see its affects.

Its affects on us as a group, as a church community, as well as its affect on

Think for a moment about one way in which the Spirit seeks to shape us as a
church here in Walkley.

The Spirit seeks to make us a welcoming group of people. There’s a
tendency for human groups to become cliquish - to want everyone else in our
group to be like us in all respects.

And it’s very easy for human groups to add to their number only those who
are like them. Welcome means welcome, but on our terms. Without realising
it, without consciously intending it, we resist newcomers, because they
disturb settled patterns in some way. Adjustments have to be made.

The Spirit gently helps us to achieve a different tendency – to be welcoming
by being inclusive. To positively enjoy having around us people different from
ourselves. People who are younger or older – even little babies who interrupt
sermons. People, who don’t necessarily look like us, think exactly the same
things as us. The Spirit persuades us to accept difference.

When Jesus told the disciples that he was returning to the Father and
promised them that he would send the Spirit, he said one other thing. He
said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.’

These two things – the gift of the Spirit and the gift of peace – are linked. We
shall only know peace in our communities if we let the Spirit bring us to the
point where we can be welcoming by accepting difference.

Today then is a day of new beginnings. For Arthur at the start of his human
journey. But for us also as we become more sensitive to the Spirit of God in
unlikely, as well as likely, places and people.

The Prayers
Adapted from Common Worship Times and Seaons.

We pray for God to fill us with his Spirit.
Generous God,
we thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit.
We ask that we may be strengthened to serve you better.
Lord, come to bless us
and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit.
We pray that the peoples of the earth may care for natural world around us.
We ask you to make us wise to understand your will.
Lord, come to bless us
and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit.
We pray for those living in war zones, including Ukraine and Sudan.
We ask you to keep us confident of your love wherever you call us.
Lord, come to bless us
and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness
where there is division, sickness and sorrow.
Lord, come to bless us
and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit.
We pray for Arthur, baptised this morning, and for all those who will shape his life.
We ask you to equip us for the work which you have given us.
Lord, come to bless us
and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to reveal in our lives the love of Jesus.
Lord, come to bless us
and fill us with your Spirit.

We thank you for the breath of your Holy Spirit,
given us by the risen Lord.
We ask you to keep the whole Church, living and departed,
in the joy of eternal life.
Lord, come to bless us
and fill us with your Spirit.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.