I’ve got a question for you: What exactly did the apostles start to say in all sorts of languages when the Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost?
We can’t know of course. But we can make an educated guess. Paul in two places – Romans and Galatians – talks of the Spirit coming and in each case the immediate response is that thought the Spirit we are able to call out Abba Father, the words that Jesus of course used to begin his own prayers.
So my best guess is that the very first thing the apostles said and did when the Holy Spirit fell upon them and sent them out into the world, was to tell everyone in their own language that Jesus was right, that whatever they had heard or thought about God before, here was the amazing good news that the heart of his being is to be a loving father to us all.
And unless the life experiences then were very different than those we have now, and I have no reason to think that they were, that was and is very good news indeed.
So the first work of the Spirit is to bring us to Christ so that we can share in his relationship with the Father, know God’s Fatherly love, and pray to him as Father just as Jesus did.
And at the heart of that prayer – as Jesus taught us – is to pray for the Father’s will be to be done and his wonderful rule of peace and justice to come so that everyone else can share it too: “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Everything else follows from that.
First we put ourselves into God’s hands in prayer; then we let go of our own self-centred desires and ask for his will to be done. Then the kingdom can start to come. How simple. And how awesome that God has in effect put our hand on the switch, and chosen not to do the new creation to us, but with us, and even as it were with our permission. That is what power looks like when it is also love.
There’s not actually much more to say. We can go on to try and explain it all more fully – but actually, we rapidly get out of our depth. We can go on and build organisations to help us worship God and serve other people, which we call churches of course, and a great thing they are: but cut their root back to the Spirit and in no time at all they’ll be doing more harm than good.
So whether you are the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Bishop of Huntingdon, or the newest young preacher in Cambridgshire, in the end all you can do is point people back to Jesus and ask the Spirit to help them come to him, find the Father like him, and start out on this amazing journey of prayer and service for themselves.
Talking of the Archbishop, we’re just waiting now to hook up to him speaking live, if the technology works, from the big Pentecost celebration at [St Paul’s/Canterbury], to hear how we can join together in the work of prayer for God’s Kingdom to Come, and that will lead us into a time of prayer here too.
As we wait, can I ask you to start to say “yes” again to God in the depths of your own hearts, to be ready this Pentecost Sunday for however God’s Spirit wants to come to you?