‘The Spirit gives voice’ – 23rd May 2021 – Pentecost

To download the order of service in Word format click here:

21 05 23 The Day of Pentecost Eucharist

To download the order of service in PDF format click here:


To watch the service on YouTube, click here:

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 15.26-27, 16.4b-15

‘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. But 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 judgement: 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 judgement, 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.


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 Catherine, a Reader at St. Mary's

Once upon a time, all the people of the world spoke one language. They settled in the land of Shinar and started to build a great city, with a tower that reached the heavens. They worried that if they didn’t make a name for themselves, they would be scattered across the whole earth. God saw this and thought “If they can build this, there will be no limit to what humans will achieve. So I will confuse their language”. And so it was. The people were scattered far and wide, their greatest fear realised. The city and tower remained unfinished. It became known as Babel, which means “to confuse”.

The Hebrew people told this story to try to explain why communication can be hard: “We speak different languages and don’t understand each other. When we can’t communicate effectively the other person or nation becomes different, inferior, threatening. We get scared, we dehumanise the other, we fight. Was there once a golden age when everyone could be understood? Perhaps human pride and ambition led to this breakdown in human communication and co-operation!”

Some commentators suggest that the story of Pentecost provides a counterbalance to the story of Babel.

Jesus’ disciples had experienced something incredible. Their friend and teacher had been brutally executed as a criminal. But God had raised him from the dead. He’d appeared among them again. He wanted them to share this good news. And they wanted to share it. But it’s difficult to do this if you don’t speak the same language. And the people of Jerusalem came from many nations and spoke many languages. But then came the miracle at Pentecost. God’s Spirit came down in the form of a great wind and tongues of fire and rested upon Jesus’ disciples. Immediately they spoke out, praising God and his great acts of power. A crowd gathered, amazed that each could understand these Galileans in their own language.

The early Hebrew storytellers imagined a golden age where everyone spoke one language. The danger of linking the stories of Babel and Pentecost is to imagine that God does indeed want us to speak one language. But history has shown that this belief can have devastating consequences.

Language is vital to communication. But it also shapes a community’s identity and tells its story. When the early Puritan settlers arrived in America, they made great efforts to convert the native Americans to Christianity. In the Spirit of the Pentecost story, some of them translated the King James Bible into the native languages.

But overall, the settlers and their descendants did not respect the native people. They took over the land, forcing the native people to move on to reservations. Over time, the native ways of life, their customs and languages dwindled and died out. English became the one language, even among the native peoples. They were uprooted. They were diminished. Generations were traumatised. They had lost nearly all sense of who they were.

A recent radio programme interviewed a woman from the Mashpee Wampanaog tribe of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She is part of a project aiming to reclaim the tribe’s heritage, and her role is to teach its language in schools. Recovering the Wampanoag language is a vital part of restoring the tribe’s sense of identity and self-worth. Ironically the main resource that has helped the language to live again has been the very translation of the Bible made by the 17th Century missionaries. Written down phonetically, as the language was actually spoken, it has enabled 21st century learners to pronounce the words just as their ancestors did.

The Holy Spirit enabled the pilgrim fathers to translate the Gospel message into the native languages of America. They may never have imagined that in doing so, they would provide later Native American generations with the means of recovering their language, their sense of identity and their voice.

If you learn someone’s language, you can make yourself understood. But if you learn someone’s language, it says something much more powerful. It says to the other person “You matter. You have value just as you are.” It says “I am interested in learning about you, your story and your culture. And I am interested in what your voice might have to say to me”.

The Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to communicate in the languages of others. Communicating the Gospel message was never about insisting on one language. Unless, of course, that language was love.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica H.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

O God, the creator and preserver of us all, we pray for all your people throughout the world at this time especially where the pandemic is particularly strong in places like India and Yemen. Guide those in authority to work in partnership with all, especially the poorer parts of the world, to share the vaccines that are being developed. Guide them also to seek peace where there is war, especially in the Middle East, support the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, and bring aid to all who are suffering where there is conflict or natural disaster.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

At this time of Pentecost we pray for the Church worldwide, for our Archbishops, for Bishops Pete and Sophie in our Diocese, and all clergy and lay people working in their communities witnessing to your love to all your people. May the power of the Holy Spirit move all Christians to seek to live according to the teachings of Christ, and work together for the good of all the peoples of the world.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for our city and community. We pray that you will inspire successful new councillors, Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners with wisdom and common sense to work for the good of all in their community. We give thanks for all the volunteers who give their time to provide support to NHS workers delivering the vaccine programme. We ask your blessing on teachers and children, now back in school, trying to catch up after all the disruption of the last year.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time, suffering from corona virus or other conditions, who have had to wait longer for treatment than normal. Be with them all, and all who work in the NHS, that they may know your care and healing grace. In a moment of quiet we remember by name those known to us who are suffering at this time.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ. Grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom. In a moment of quiet we remember those we have known and loved.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary and all your saints we commend ourselves and all creation to your unfailing love.

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