“Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created: and Thou renewest
the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104.30)
The new life bursting out everywhere in the Spring and early Summer after a long, barren winter makes us think of the power and the mercy of God spoken of in Psalm 104: all that God has to do is breathe out a bit of his Spirit, and the leaves unfold, the flowers bloom, the birds sing their songs of praise to their Creator. The same Spirit which so long ago moved over the face of the waters, bringing order out of chaos, and light out of darkness, still works in nature. “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created,” says the psalmist, not they were created, “and thou renewest the face of the earth.”
On Rogation Sunday we recognized God’s general work in nature, asking his blessing upon the crops that are being planted this time of year. Today, Whitsunday, we also recognize the work of God through his Spirit, but this time in another work: the renewing of our souls and the recreation of sinful humanity, which is the budding and blossoming of the love of God in the lives of men and women. On the first Whitsunday, or Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection, and ten after the Ascension, God recreated his Church. The Apostles who had been scattered by fear and misunderstanding on the night of Jesus’ arrest were now given power to speak with boldness the truth of the Gospel: that this same Jesus had risen from the dead. So it is not the giving of life to hard, lifeless seeds that we commemorate on Whitsunday, but the giving of life to hardened hearts. This is the springtime of a world once lost in sin.
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to be not just in the world, for we have seen that the Holy Spirit is operating at all times in the world, but to be in men, to reconcile them to God, directing them on the pathway to heaven. Again remember that it was apostles, cowardly deniers of our Lord, who were recreated into bold witnesses, ready to die if necessary for the Gospel. “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created.” Again, I would remind you that it is the present tense that we see here. The same remaking which God worked in the apostles can happen today as we throw off sin and cowardliness, and begin to live the life of the Gospel. That same Spirit of Pentecost is working every time you turn from sin to righteousness, from yielding to temptation to fighting it off. It is working whenever we cast off discouragement and apathy and start living for God in his strength.
That is something which you must realize. God’s Holy Spirit is in you by your Baptism and Confirmation — ready to help, strengthen, and save. If you continually and consistently call on him for help, he will by degrees, step by step, make you a better person, make you more like Jesus, make you ready for heaven. Some people speak of the Holy Spirit as a person who makes an immediate, sudden change in a person. But what was the experience of the apostles? They certainly received the Holy Spirit at once (so do we at baptism), but it took them many, many years to spread the Gospel; indeed that work is still going on. Even after the day of Pentecost, there was room for the spread of the Gospel in the lives of the apostles: Peter and Paul had to work out their differences; Paul had to struggle with the thorn in his flesh. So the Holy Spirit is in each of us entirely, but it remains for us to put him entirely to work in our lives.
Recall that this Spirit which we possess, is the same Spirit active in creation at the beginning, and active in nature now, meaning that it is a Spirit of order and peace, not of confusion and conflict. There are many people who say: “I’ve got the Holy Spirit and I speak in tongues, and I dance in the Spirit, and I do all kinds of unusual things that I never do normally, and what’s more, because I do all these things, I’m a better Christian than you are.” Make no mistake about it the Holy Spirit does not cause confusion and discord, it does not make Christians say “I’m better than you are.” The Holy Spirit brings order to our lives, peace and happiness, and humility. When dealing with the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul made it quite clear that the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is love. Faith and hope are close behind in importance, but the greatest gift is love. Do you want to know if you have the Holy Spirit or not? Then ask yourself these questions: how much faith do I have in Jesus Christ, the Son of God? how certain is my hope in eternal life? how strongly do I love God and my neighbour? If you can answer yes, I believe that Jesus can save me, and yes, I have a sure hope of eternal life in heaven with my Saviour, and yes, I love God with all my being and my neighbour as myself or if you can at least say that you are working towards making such answers, then you have the Holy Spirit. Then God is working his recreation in you. Don’t pay a bit of attention to the standards set by other people. Follow the standard of faith, hope and charity which is found in the Bible (I Corinthians 13).
This is the truth, the solemn truth. The Spirit of God and Christ, the eternal Spirit who worked in creation and on the day of Pentecost, is with us now. He has been with us since our Baptism. He has been with us as we grew up, teaching us all the good we have ever learned, and making us chose what is right. He has taught us to pray, has filled us with peace and happiness. And how much more would he have given us if we had not refused to follow his prompting. This is the gift which our master has left us. Let us pray that he will mercifully continue and finish his heavenly work of recreation in each of us, that he will wash away what is unclean, healing what is sick and wounded. Finally may he bring us to that blessed country where striving has ceased, and all is directed and fulfilled with the blessed Spirit of the Father and the Son, to whom be praise and glory, world without end. Amen.
Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church/Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne