St. Chad's Anglican Church
St. Chad's Anglican Church
3874 Trafalgar St., Vancouver, B.C. V6L 2M4
Phone: (604) 731-5510
 

Decet vulputate nulla roto

May 15 (Pentecost)          Acts2:1-21             Rom.8:14-17                     Jn.14:8-17

Let us pray:            Living God, you grant us certainty of new life by the death and rising of your Son.  Renew and restore us, we pray, by sending forth your Spirit to affirm that certainty of our hope, so that we may proclaim your good news in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Has Pentecost got anything to do with us?  Whilst most of us would say ‘yes’, many of us cannot relate to the celebration of ‘Pentecost’ as closely as to celebration of Easter and Christmas.  At least here in the parish, we don’t have annual ‘Pentecost potluck’ meal, like our Christmas potluck dinner and Easter potluck lunch.  Perhaps down the road we should do Pentecost potluck breakfast – after all, the downpour of Holy Spirit upon the disciples happened at 9am!

St. Paul would probably encourage Christians to place more emphasis on celebration of Pentecost, for as we heard from our Second Reading today, he reminded us that the Spirit produces in us an authentic filial relationship to God.  Let’s hear how he said there: ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God . . . it is that very spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God . . . then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.’

Like Christmas is a lot more than ‘that cute baby’ born in the manger, or Easter is a lot more than ‘an empty tomb’, Pentecost is a lot deeper than ‘wind and fire’ or ‘even speaking in tongues’.  It’s not just ‘the outward signs’ but all the more ‘the inward grace’.

Nevertheless, the outward signs of Pentecost: with ‘coming of sound from heaven like the rush of a violent wind, filling the entire house where the disciples were sitting’, and with ‘divided tongues, as of fire, appearing among them, and a tongue rested on each of them’ and more importantly with ‘all of them being filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability’ – these outward signs were so spectacular that it’s inevitable that people then as well as us now are all attracted to it.  In fact, as we think about it, it’s the attraction of the huge crowd of ‘devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem’ that eventually led to the beginning of the church with 3,000 converts from that crowd that day, after their hearing of Peter’s address to them to interpret those spectacular signs as fulfilling the prophet’s Joel’ foretelling about what to expect in the last days: a time when people would call out to the Lord for salvation.  Wouldn’t we find such correlation intriguing?

In the depth of God’s wisdom, Pentecost with the spectacular signs of ‘wind and fire’ and ‘speaking in tongues’ is no mere co-incidence but carefully planned.  First and foremost, as we recall from our Gospel Reading today, Jesus had foretold his disciples about it before his departure from them.  He told them: ‘if you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth . . . you know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.’  Would it then be a surprise that the Spirit came as wind and fire to strengthen and to enlighten them for ministry (just like in the old days of Elijah, wind and fire being the prelude before Elijah finally met God in his exhaustion upon Jezebel’s pursue)?  Again, would it be a surprise that the Spirit granted them the ability to speak in tongues so as to gain universal understanding (as a reversal of the universal confusion of Babel as the pride-filled tower-builders got dispersed by God by making them to speak different languages so that they could not understand one another)?

Besides, what’s also not mere co-incidence is that the bewildered audience who got attracted by these signs were ‘devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem’.   The fact that they were world-wide immigrated Jews originally from everywhere and yet heard the disciples speaking with Galilean assents in their native dialect from many different nations on earth is a divine sign which they could not brush aside, especially when they were all devout Jews.  And hence Peter’s explaining the signs to them by making reference to fulfilling of the Joel prophecy was particularly effective in grabbing their attention, both in terms of (1) being fascinated by how the Joel prophecy could be fulfilled in the form of the ‘wind and fire’ and the ‘speaking in tongues’; and (2) determination to consider it’s ‘the day of the Lord’ when history would end, and a time when people would ‘call out to the Lord for salvation’.  With that, there’s the thread leading to 3,000 of them seeking for baptism after hearing Peter’s address on the salvation from Christ through the cross and the empty tomb, as it all got started from their initially imagining that the disciples were drunk at 9 o’clock in the morning, to realizing that such signs and wonders were the Holy Spirit’s drawing their attention to the timely ‘calling out to the Lord for salvation’ to claim the much hoped for new life and restoration.  So it’s no mere co-incidence that after hearing Peter’s message concluding with ‘therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified’, they asked Peter what they should do and then decided to ‘save themselves from this corrupt generation’ by getting baptized, and then ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’.  So, they became the first church, as downpour of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost gave birth to the church, adding new members to the Body of Christ beyond those who had first-hand experience of meeting Christ before his death and resurrection.

We tend to love birthdays – celebrating our own or others’.  So today even if we’re not immediately jumping into looking at how the ‘wind and fire’ or ‘speaking in tongues’ mean for us today, at least we care to think about Pentecost as the birthday of the church.  Of course we’re now 2,000 years after that first birthday of the church in Jerusalem.  Even for us as a very small church, we have now moved into our 69th year as St. Chad’s first started our ministry in this neighborhood in 1947.  I would say that there would be no birth of St. Chad’s then if it’s not for the Spirit’s manifestation of its outpour in 1947 upon our pioneers the hearts of love towards the need of young family and children in our neighborhood (which was a brand-new developing community in the city) with signs (in our case it’s not ‘wind and fire’ or ‘speaking in tongues’, but the sudden exponential arrival of new babies and then kids after World War 2: i.e. what we now call the ‘baby-boomers’ era).

That same outpour of the Spirit like ‘rush of wind and descend of fire’ and ‘speaking in tongue’ fell upon our predecessors again in the past quarter of a century when their hearts got touched with deep love for support of new families settling down in our neighborhood after their emigration from Asia.  Perhaps this time the sign of ‘speaking in tongue’ is a more powerful symbolic outpour of the Holy Spirit in this church after 40 years of its birth, as the ministry started with running of ESL classes for new neighbors, well before the Government started any similar work for new immigrants in the province.

On both occasions of our parish history, what’s been depicted above echoes well Jesus’ words to the disciples (ourselves included): ‘if you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth . . . you know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.’  That’s right, without the Holy Spirit abiding with us and in us as parishioners of St. Chad’s over these 69 years, you and I won’t be worshipping here today and continue with our love for God and for neighbors.  As we give thanks for that, we also need to ask ourselves how to keep treading that path of love, given our current challenges beyond 1947 or 1990.  Whilst we need to take count of, or name, our current challenges as a parish in the Arbutus Ridge and Valley area to keep treading that path of love for God and for our neighbours, keeping our eyes and ears open to what’s happening around us, we don’t need to be too nervous about what we might have missed not heeding.  For it’s all the work of the Holy Spirit, not us.  Our duty is to simply keep that posture of love and faithfulness, as we wait and/or move to fit into where the Holy Spirit puts us into, both in terms of what we can offer and the needs of those around us.  For that matter, we don’t even have to be concerned about either of those two factors, for it will be taken care of by the Holy Spirit.  This is just like on that Pentecost Day, the apostles had outpour of the Spirit upon them so that they spoke in tongues which was a total surprise to them, not only to the audience.  Besides, who would have imagined that their audience who got attracted by the sound of the ‘wind and fire’ was a huge crowd of ‘devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem’ . . . from Medes to Mesopotamia to Cappadocia to Egypt to Libya to Rome.  As I had alluded to briefly before, without such a special crowd of audience with their respective native languages, that special gift from the Holy Spirit of speaking in tongues would have little effect in attracting their attention to Peter’s speech, just like their being devote Jews helped to connect them immediately to their faith decision to be baptized, to reclaim their identity as children of God in this corrupt generation which even crucified the Son of God.

Well, which generation isn’t corrupt?  Ours cannot be an exception.  Yet all the more so we can count on Jesus’ promise for sending us the Holy Spirit to abide with us and be in us, if we love him and hence love our neighbors.  It probably won’t come with signs of ‘fire and wind’ and ‘speaking in tongues’ and a special crowd like those on Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago, but even in the past 10 years, we had seen it came with our love meeting people with special need for prayer and healing, people needing unique acceptance and empathy, but more predominately people needing to know God’s presence and God’s salvation irrespective of who they are and where they come from.  And the Holy Spirit’s gifts for us will probably be different for different individuals among us: some may be good at hospitality, others good at prayers or steadfast in faith or strong in commitment etc.   Yet, the church of God always grows warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry and larger through evangelism.  When we pull our gifts together in love, we can count on God’s answering our prayer today:          Living God, you grant us certainty of new life by the death and rising of your Son.  Renew and restore us, we pray, by sending forth your Spirit to affirm that certainty of our hope, so that we may proclaim your good news in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

五月十五日(聖靈降臨日)     2:1-11     8:14-17     14:8-17

 

讓我們祈禱:願我口中的言語,我們衆人心裏的意念,在主我們的上帝面前蒙悅納。啊們。

 

我們當中很多信徒都曉得聖靈降臨節是教會年曆中的重要節日,但在感覺上總有點覺得對聖靈降臨節沒有像對聖誕節或復活節感受那麽深,然而聖靈降臨其實跟我們作信徒的有莫大的關係。

 

就如使徒保羅也在今天的第二次經課中提醒我們說:「凡被上帝的靈引導的,都是上帝的兒子…..因此我們呼叫“阿爸、父”,聖靈與我們的心,同證我們是上帝的兒女。既是兒女,便是後嗣,就是上帝的後嗣,和基督同作後嗣…..

 

跟聖誕節和復活節一樣,聖靈降臨節背後的深厚意義,要比其外在的表徵(例如聖嬰的誕生、空墳、或風、火、和方言)有著更深厚的内在恩典,叫我們可以循著這些外在的表徵,一步一步去體會和領悟。

 

比方說:我們可有留意到聖靈降臨時的「風、火和方言」跟三千人受洗,以至成爲最早期「教會」的成立有著直接的關係?我們可有想過當時被吸引的群衆背景跟彼得所選用的珥預言來解釋聖靈降臨的意義亦非偶然?我們可有留意到在這一切「非偶然」的事件發展中,上帝的手如何在當中作出安排和指引?看著這些精妙的安排和發展,我們在看得目瞪口呆之餘,是否也會開始留意到在我們自己的生命裏面,聖靈的彰顯和引領也是同樣的意想不到,并精彩絕倫?我們可有想過自己生命裏所碰過,甚至正在經歷著的「風、火和方言」,正在呼喚我們進入生命的另一階段的高潮?那我們就該先看看,以了解剛才我所提過在今天我們熟識的「聖靈降臨」經文中我們往往沒有留意到,卻是十分重要的啓示,先從我們諗熟的部分開始吧!

 

首先,經文是如此開始:「五旬節到了,門徒都聚集在一處。忽然從天上有響聲下來,好像一陣大風吹過,充滿了他們所坐的屋子。又有舌頭如火焰顯現出來,分開落在他們各人頭上,他們就都被聖靈充滿,按著聖靈所賜的口才,説起別國的話來。」這就是我剛才提到我們熟悉的聖靈降臨外在的表徵:風、火和方言。這些都似乎是發生在屋子裏面,就像我們星期日在教會的建築物裏一起禱告和敬拜上主時,人神相遇似乎發生於室内,然而我們都曉得我們在教堂内的人神相遇一直延伸到主日以外的週中我們的言行和思想中。同樣的,這經文裏聖靈降臨日的風、火和方言,亦一樣延伸到房子外被這大聲響所吸引前來的群眾。且讓我們再聽聽經文如何說下去。

 

經文是如此説:「那時,有虔誠的猶太人,從天下各國來,住在耶路撒冷。這聲音一響,衆人都來聚集。各人聽見門徒用衆人的鄉談說話,就甚納悶,都驚訝希奇説:“看哪,這説話的不都是加利利人麼?我們各人,怎麽聽見他們説我們生來的鄉談呢?”…..衆人就都驚訝、猜疑,彼此説:“這是甚麽意思呢?”還有人譏誚説:“他們無非是新酒灌滿了。”」

 

要是我們細心回想一下,這些「虔誠的猶太人」,他們生來的第一語言并非希伯來語(即猶太話),而是他們出生地的「鄉談」,這些至終回歸耶路撒冷的昔日移民,是從四方八面的旅居之地回歸到耶路撒冷的。這些旅居之地包括遠方東邊的米所波大米(亦即現代的伊朗),以至更東的瑪代和以攔,也包括西北的加帕多家和亞西亞,也包括非洲北部的埃及和呂彼亞,甚至是歐洲的羅馬,甚至是進猶太教的亞拉伯人,他們當時都居住在耶路撒冷,且都虔信猶太教。若不是上帝的安排,誰會料到這些被當日聖靈降臨時那從天上下來猶如大風吹過的大響聲所吸引來聚集的群眾,竟是出生於各國各地的猶太人,因此他們就很自然的在聽見門徒能以聖靈賜下「說方言的恩賜」來以群衆當中百般不同的「鄕談」來說話,儘管可能仍 帶有加利利的口音,但已足夠叫他們驚訝、猜疑,皆因未能明白當中的意思,以致在百思不得其解之下,思想狹窄點的人難免用「酒醉」來試圖解釋這非凡的現象。

 

被聖靈充滿的彼得和十一個門徒,當然很容易紏正那些試圖用「酒醉」來解釋這聖靈降臨的表徵,因當時只不過是「巳初」(亦即早上九時正),那會有人這麽早就喝得酊酩大醉?要是在今時今日和本地,早上九時就連賣酒鋪也未開門做生意呢!彼得也在被聖靈充滿之際就輕而易舉地用先知約珥的預言來解釋這聖靈降臨的風、火和說方言等現象。

 

在我們眼裏和耳中,我們可能覺得彼得以先知約珥的預言,只是作個引子或序言來展開對主耶穌的傳講和見證,那是因爲我們對主耶穌的事蹟比對舊約的先知書更熟悉和明白。當然我們可不要忘記那一大群被大風的響聲吸引來的群衆,他們是「虔誠的猶太人」,亦即是說他們對先知書十分稔熟且虔信。因此當他們發現上帝透過先知約珥告訴他們說:「在未來的日子,我要將我的靈澆灌各人(亦即凡有血氣的)。你們的兒女要說預言,你們的少年人要見異象,老年人要作異夢。在那些日子,我要將我的靈澆灌我的僕人和使女,他們就要說預言…..」他們可不難明白這些說方言的使徒,不是上午九時就喝醉了酒,而是被聖靈澆灌了的「上主僕人」。一明白了這道理,這些群衆豈不更細心聆聽彼得的話,如何見證主耶穌?更何況這「天上有響聲下來,好像一陣大風吹過」,可不正是先知約珥書中上帝所說「在天上我要顯出奇蹟」,而「有舌頭如火焰顯現出來,分開落在(眾門徒)各人頭上」,可不應驗了先知約珥書中上帝所說「在地下我要顯出奇蹟,有火…..都在,主大而明顯的日子來到以前…..

 

試想,當這群「虔誠猶太人」看到他們熟悉和深信的先知書中預言活現在他們眼前,他們可不會自然而然地留心到這段先知約珥書的預言,是如何總結著說:「到那時候凡求告主名的就必得救。」那我們就不難體會到爲何當彼得繼續見證主耶穌就是他們所當求告主名的救主,且勸勉他們當救自己脫離這「竟把上帝的兒子釘死在十架之上的」彎曲世代,就有三千人「受了洗」,繼而「恒心遵守使徒的教訓,彼此交接、擘餅、祈禱」。換句話說,我早前在這講道開始後不久所提到在昔日聖靈降臨時的「風、火和方言」以至當時被吸引而聚集的群衆的出身背景,一切都是上帝所作出的安排和發展,以至最後有三千人受洗,絕非偶然。

 

當我們透過經文看著聖靈以智慧和大能所作出如此奇妙的安排以建立教會之時,我們會否想到在我們自己個人和群體的生活裏聖靈的彰顯和引領會在甚麽情況和誘因之下發生?那我們可會記起今天的福音經課主耶穌如何向祂的門徒(也就包括我們)說:「你們若愛我,就必遵守我的命令。我要求父,父就賜你們一位保惠師,叫祂永遠與你們同在,就是真理的聖靈。」不錯,就是這麽直接和簡單:我們作主信徒的若愛主,就必守祂給我們「愛的誡命」,聖靈就跟從我們同在。亦如今天第二次經課中所說:「凡被聖靈引導的,都是上帝的兒子…..…..和基督同作後嗣…..同得榮耀。」

 

若不是這些簡單和直接的真理衍行在這教會裏,今天我們也不能在此聚集敬拜。因這教會在六十九年前建立,全是因爲當時的信徒「憑著愛心」眼看戰後人口急劇上升,尤其是孩子們極需教會照顧,而同樣在建堂四十年後開始「憑著愛心」把教會事工擴展至爲當時開始急劇增加的華人移民人口服務,進而把主愛傳揚。若非聖靈與我們同在,你我可能不會彼此認識!惟願我們繼續持守愛心,領受聖靈恩典和引領,榮神益人!啊們。

 

2015 Pentecost