“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart” (v.37) RSV
Some weeks ago you may have read in these readings that the Holy Spirit would “Convince/convict the world of sin” (John 16:8). Well, here on the day of Pentecost we have a supreme example of that happening. Peter has preached a message that declares the meaning of God’s mighty works, and has then specifically homed in on his hearers’ failure to believe in Jesus. Indeed they had positively failed to recognise, and had been party to, his rejection and crucifixion.
The Holy Spirit never gives a general sense of failure, for that is the work of the Devil (the Accuser of the brethren). Rather, he deals with the key to all sin, which is disbelief in Jesus, as he himself explained: “of sin because they do not believe in me.” (John 16:9). All sins are merely a manifestation of Sin. And Sin is the rejection of God and rebellion against him. Once we are separated from him and so are not living by faith and love, then all our lives are tainted by Sin and fall short of his purposes. We do not glorify him.
The kindly Holy Spirit does not bring condemnation but conviction. His purpose is not to produce guilt, but to lead us to repentance and a change of life. The word ‘repentance’ means ‘to change’; it does not mean to grovel! God wants to lead us out of a futile life, however pleasant or unpleasant it is, and to enable us to have “life, abundant life.” (John 10:10).
The Holy Spirit spoke through the life and testimony of that collection of disciples and through the preaching of Peter. He continues to speak in many and various ways – sometimes simply in our own conscience. Let us not be afraid but welcome his cleansing and healing conviction.
Lord, we thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to convict us of sin. May he first do his work in us, and then by your grace use our lives and words to bring the world into a saving knowledge of your Son, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
1 What was Isaiah’s reaction when God drew near to him?
2 How should we respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction?
We are currently looking for volunteers for our service in your areas. Somerset Cancer Care provides support to those affected by cancer in your community through informal support groups. We are looking for volunteers who are 18 and over for the following – meet, greet and refreshment volunteers; listening volunteers; volunteer therapists. We have these roles in both Taunton and Minehead. All volunteers receive full training so do not have to have any experience. For more information they will need to contact Natalie Brady.
On behalf of Diane and myself can we say a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Foodbank at St. Mary Magdalene. Over the last two months alone we have donated over 10 kilograms of food which is very much needed now that the number of people is increasing every week at the URC Church. Since it was started the people at the Foodbank have collected and sorted over 12 tonnes of food to the value of £20,000. Your very generous donations continue to be most welcome, and really fill a need at this difficult time.
“Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them,” (v.14) RSV
Not all are evangelists, not all are public speakers, not all can express their faith and theology in clear and persuasive words. Only one of the Eleven actually did the public speaking. The rest were there, supporting and praying, and giving testimony to their experience.
But only Peter had the gift to lift up his voice and speak. We need to support and pray for those in our times who have the gift of preaching. Somebody has got to speak – for without a preacher the people will perish.
Sunday by Sunday preachers get up in pulpits and teach the faithful, they may even spend time trying to convert the converted! Their ministry to the faithful and to those who go to church is indispensible.
However the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost was not done in church to the converted; it was done to the unconverted, in the market place. Now, of course, our culture and circumstances are entirely different.
And sadly there are around, those brave but misguided preachers, who stand in our market places and preach sterile clichés which fall upon deaf ears.
But who is preaching through all available channels? Television, internet, public occasions or civic services, weddings and funerals, open air services in our parks, are all examples of readily available opportunities. But are the preachers who use these media being effective?
Let us pray for and support those who communicate the Gospel. And let us back them up by our lives and by our witness.
Dear Lord, may you provide the preachers that we need, who will have the courage to use their gifts in the public domain. Thank you for those who first preached the gospel to us. Amen
If you missed their outstanding lunchtime performance in June, you can see Lynn and Andrew again together with Naomi Harvey Soprano, Stephen Crook Tenor and Mike Wager Piano, in a month’s time at our Midsummer Concert on Sunday 7th July at 7:00pm.
Music to include:
Puccini’s La Boheme; Che gelida manina; Si Mi chiamano Mimi; O soave fanciulla Chilcott
Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass
Here, however, is a taster of what you missed and of what you can hear if you come to the Midsummer Concert.
“All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (v.12) RSV
There was a poet called Swinburn who was singularly unimpressed with Christianity. He felt it had sucked the lifeblood out of life – rather like the Dementors in Harry Potter. He penned the lines: “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean. The world has grown grey with thy breath.” Chilling words. But is it true? Does Christianity make us dull, goody goodies, who lack spontaneity and boldness?
Robert Louis Stephenson wrote that he had been to church and had come out “not depressed”. Dullness and depression was what he normally derived from Christianity.
There is a real danger that our Christian faith is not full of vigour and the unexpected but rather it is safe, predictable and somewhat bland. This was never true of the life of Jesus. He was full of the unexpected. This was never done to cause effect nor was it contrived. But he lived the creative life of God in our midst. He said the unexpected and did the unimagined.
The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost to perpetuate that same life in, and through us. Let us be led by him into creative daring and difference. This is not to impress or be ‘with it’, but simply that God’s life is never dull and predictable.
Think today what you as an individual or your church could do or say. Maybe people would also be amazed and say “What does this mean?” If they do, then perhaps you could tell them!
Lord, forgive me if I am dull and safe. Make me brave enough to challenge and to change things around me. May my life be a bold and vibrant witness to your presence. Amen
1 What sort of things did Jesus say and do that amazed people?
Matthew 12:22-23, Mark 12:17, Luke 2:47
2 Can we be changed to become ‘amazing’ and unpredictable?