A sermon for Pentecost – St Mary’s Whitkirk
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.”
Martin Luther King – August 28 1963.
“God declares, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.”
Peter – the first Pentecost.
Pentecost then, a time for dreams…do we have a dream today?
The Church of England 2018 doesn’t always seem like a place for visionary dreams. Membership is falling, there are few young people in church; churches struggle to pay their parish share; lack of money and clergy means joining parishes together, or closing churches. Even at St Mary’s we can’t always find the volunteers we need.
The prevailing culture values success, youth, money, individuality. Many have not heard of Jesus Christ, many more see no need for him in their lives…
Can we have a dream today?
This week some of us have been in local schools talking about Pentecost. We had 12 volunteers at the front as the disciples, waiting for the coming Spirit. 12 ordinary, embarrassed, nervous individuals. We remembered how the whole future of Christianity rested on that tiny gathering.
Artistic license on the numbers may be – but look around you this morning and imagine – the whole future of the church resting on us – in a culture not of indifference but persecution. Today there are over 2 billion Christians.
Consider Martin Luther King – the opposition he faced led to his assassination. But by then his dream echoed around the world. It hadn’t been fully realised – it still hasn’t – but it had taken root in the hearts of millions – black and white.
Like those first disciples, I guess King would have said he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Which is why Pentecost is absolutely the time for dreams. That small number of ordinary, nervous people gathered together were not people without faith. They were the same people who, after seeing Jesus carried up to heaven on Ascension Day, “worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God.”
They knew Jesus as Lord and king; they understood that somehow through his life, death and resurrection they were reconciled to God…but they didn’t yet know what to do with that message. They waited, and as Jesus promised, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Their message became a dream…a dream that other people could know God’s love and forgiveness by the sharing of that message.
Can we have a dream today? Well that same Holy Spirit is available to us, the help us turn our personal faith into a dream of God’s Kingdom coming. And anyway, this is a great time to be an Anglican in Leeds.
Our diocese, like many others, is investing in training and encouraging lay people to share in the leadership of the church. Not as crisis management, but because the Holy Spirit is given to all. Clergy have specific and distinctive roles, but the spreading of the kingdom needs us all to work together to share the good news.
On June 9th four delegates…(names)…from our parish will join hundreds from around the diocese at the Lay Conference. They will hear inspiring speakers, take part in workshops, and come back “with renewed energy and motivation”, to look at what can be done in our daily lives and our churches to spread the good news.
Talk to them about the workshops they’ve chosen, discuss what you think they need to find out. But note – they are delegates – the dream belongs to us all.
So what is our dream today?
I guess the hall redevelopment must be part of it. Those who’ve worked so hard at fundraising, consulting, planning, have done so because they see the hall as part of Christ’s mission in this place; a way of showing God’s overflowing love to this community; a place where community needs are met; our legacy to the Christians who follow, making worship and witness in this place more effective.
So when the hall committee ask us to help with one last fundraising push; when we are coping with the inconvenience of not having the hall for a while – let’s remember…we have a dream today.
According to our notice board, St Mary’s is ‘a vibrant community of faith where all find a welcome and are nurtured in their journey with Christ.’ In many ways we are, but I don’t think it’s something we achieve and tick off – it’s also a dream, something never completely realised, something to strive for.
So we must keep exploring how we can deepen our faith, how we can be more welcoming, how we can enable others to encounter Jesus who gives meaning to our lives.
We can have a dream today.
But it needs all of us. It needs those of you with time and space, to pray daily for the Holy Spirit to help our dream become reality. It needs those with skills and energy, to offer those to God. It needs those who aren’t sure they have the skills, to offer them anyway and trust the power of the Holy Spirit.
So on this day of Pentecost let’s dare to dream. Let’s remember that tiny number of Christians, who having caught the dream that first Pentecost, went out and began to make it a reality. Let’s remember Martin Luther King, who dared to dream the impossible, and started work that continues today.
And so I pray…Lord God, we offer you our dreams today, inspire us with your Holy Spirit, make our dreams one with your vision for this place. Amen