Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Pentecost and Jubilee

Preached at the Parish Eucharist at Croydon Minster, 5th June 2022

Acts 2:1-21; They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak

Romans 8:14-17; The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God

John 14:8-17, 25-27 The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things




When the date of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations was announced some while back I looked at the calendar and worried it would clash unhelpfully with today’s celebration of Pentecost.


Why would I worry?


Well, the Day of Pentecost, along with Christmas, Easter and Ascension Days, is one of the biggest festivals of the Church. If it was overshadowed by another occasion, however significant like the Platinum Jubilee, might we be in danger of placing the Queen above the mysteries of God?


The flip side is that some people may come to church today to thank God for the Queen’s seventy year reign and wonder what all this talk about the Holy Spirit is!


At the heart of my conundrum was this: do we emphasise the Church’s celebration or our national celebration?


Happily, it is not an ‘either/or’ day. This Day of Pentecost is a Jubilee day!


There is good Biblical precedent for saying that.


The term Pentecost comes from the Greek Πεντηκοστή (Pentēkostē) meaning "fiftieth". It refers to the Jewish festival of Shavuot celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. It is also known as the "Feast of Weeks" and the "Feast of 50 days" in rabbinic tradition.


The Christian Day of Pentecost comes fifty days after the Christian Passover of Easter is celebrated.


Likewise, in the Bible, a jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In Leviticus, a jubilee year (Hebrew: יובלāl) is mentioned to occur every 50th year; during which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, property restored to rightful ownership: in other words, the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.[1]


The Church has proclaimed jubilees for special occasions throughout the centuries from around the 13th century. The most recent ‘Great Jubilee’ was that of the beginning of the third millennium of Christianity in 2000.


The term Jubilee has also been applied to a ‘Holy Year’ which marks a special celebration of God’s mercy.


That is how, in our national life, we have come to refer to a jubilee as a special year of celebration of a significant event, hence the jubilee of a monarch. Though of course the Queen has exceeded a mere fifty years on the throne!


The Day of Pentecost is always a jubilee of fifty days from Passover, and the feature of this jubilee is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.


It is this Spirit that is poured out upon the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost to equip them to be witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The nations represented by the people who spoke different languages gathered in Jerusalem, that first Pentecost, point to this.


Indeed, in time the Holy Spirit drove the disciples out from Jerusalem, a geographical backwater really, through the nations, to the very heart of the most dominant Empire the world had hitherto known, to Rome. And in time, through the Holy Spirit, the way of Jesus Christ became sovereign even in the Roman Empire.


That is a feature of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can equip us to do that which is beyond our human capacities and horizons. That is why we can also talk about the intimacy of the Holy Spirit, in what we call our spirit-ual life.


The Holy Spirits renews, equips and anoints us to service.


In Christian tradition at baptism each of us – through water and the Spirit – are equipped to shape our lives after the example, and intimately united with Jesus Christ.


At baptism, in the Church’s teaching, you are anointed as prophet, priest and king.


Each Christian is anointed with oil signifying the Spirit, the Comforter, to speak in the name of Jesus – the prophet; to offer spiritual sacrifices in union with Jesus – the priest; and to reign in love and service in the church – the king.


At a baptism the new Christian is anointed. At ordination the new priest is anointed. At Coronation the new monarch is anointed.


Anointing gives us the capacity to go beyond ourselves. Think of it like this. I have a new electric bike. I pedal hard, but can only go so far up a hill without being exhausted. The battery gives me power to accomplish what I can’t do totally on my own.


It’s a bit of a crass example, but the Holy Spirit is the power of God in your life the enables you to go beyond yourself and the limitations of body, mind and spirit.


That is why the sovereign is anointed at the Coronation. It gives an ordinary person an extraordinary capacity to draw on. And hasn’t the Queen drawn on that in her life.


The Queen’s life of service is an anointed function of her Christian calling. St Paul describes how we all have a variety of callings, and are equipped by the Holy Spirit to carry them out. The Queen, of all people, knows, and has spoken powerfully about the way in which her life is inspired by the life, death and teaching of Jesus Christ; she knows this through the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and insight.


The wonderful thing is that since the Day of Pentecost humanity has lived in a perpetual Jubilee – the time of the Lord’s favour, the time of the Church.


As we rightly give thanks to God for the Queen in her Christian service as Sovereign of this United Kingdom, Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Head of the Commonwealth, with all its nations and languages, may we also reflect on the movement of the Holy Spirit within each one of us to draw us closer to the inner life of God, to renew and refresh our lives and equip.


Come, Holy Spirit, fill the heart of the Queen and all your people, and kindle in us the fire of your love.

[1] “You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces.” Leviticus 25.8-13

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