This year we have a joint service for 7 churches with communion and with a baptism: so the order of the day is 'a short sermon' (just as well as I also have 2 weddings today!). Here it is:
Without question the reading we heard from Acts is the worst Bible reading ever to be asked to do. On ‘Thought for the day’ on the radio last week, Richard Harries, the retired Bishop of Oxford, used part of this reading at 10 to 8 in the morning: you have to be a retired bishop to get away with that sort of thing!
After the Spirit comes, the people all around hear Jesus’ followers talking about God’s love and power:
“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”.
Never get on the wrong side of the person who arranges the readers’ rota in your church, or you will be given this reading on the day of Pentecost!
But what’s the point of this really difficult list of names?
The point is that these are people from all over the place – North, South, East & West – people who spoke dozens of different languages. God’s power comes in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost so that the whole world can hear the message of God’s love, which Jesus disciples saw in him.
The message is that God’s love is for everyone.
And that’s why we baptize children – even if they are too young to understand what we are doing. God’s love is there for you from the moment of your birth, wherever you’re from, wherever you go, whatever language you speak.
When we celebrate Pentecost and when we celebrate a baptism we celebrate the explosion of God’s love into the world for absolutely every single person.
But just before we got to the terrible list of names, we heard an amazing story of how God’s spirit comes to Jesus’ followers – with the rush of a violent wind, and tongues of flames spreading out to touch everyone. Pentecost is dangerous stuff – the coming of the Spirit is not just a nice gentle breeze which leaves people feeling soft and fuzzy, it’s a typhoon, which picks people up and throws them into a whole new life.
Opening yourself up to God’s Spirit can be dangerous and scary – it can change your life forever. Because once you have felt God’s presence, you can never again deny that God is with you, guiding you all your life, giving you power when you feel weak, filling you with new power and new love.
This Baptism will mark George and Milly forever as God’s children, touched by God’s spirit of love.
This Pentecost reminds us that the same Spirit is here to touch each one of us.
May we all be touched and changed and know God’s love and power, today and forever. Amen.