GreetingsI wrote the below for Pentecost in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack as we enter the final week before the general election. I was inspired by the style of speech usually given by presidents at the State of the Union in America. I owe a lot here to JFK and the apostle Peter’s letters. As we celebrate the birth of the church it felt important to offer a clear sense of what the Spirit of God does among God’s people and perhaps inspiration for us in the year ahead.
We observe at Pentecost the coming of the Spirit of God upon his people symbolizing a new beginning, the birth of his church— signifying renewal. Renewal that is so very much needed in a world of confusion and growing chaos. Division, deception and destruction. We dare not forget today that we face these challenges never alone.
Let the word go forth from this time, to friend and foe alike, that the torch of the spirit has been passed to a new generation of Christians. A people who walk with Christ by the power of his spirit unwilling to be calloused by fear and prejudice, unshaken by the proximity of terror, resolved to love our enemies into submission, proud of our ancient heritage as peacemakers, and opposed to the slow corrosion of our legacy as a generous nation by those who would hand terrorists victory by simply furthering the cause of hostility and hatred.
We face the challenges of our time as standard bearers for grace, mercy and peace; these ideals to which the people of God have always been committed, and to which we remain committed today.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall bear any burden, meet any hardship, overcome all obstacles to assure that love is felt even by the unlovable.
This much we pledge — and yet more.
To those who would wish us harm we commit ourselves to pray for you as our saviour commands us. We will not meet blood for blood as if our vengefulness could bring anything other than its own ruin.
To those who stalk the dark road of terror, that betray humanity with violence we ask Lord give us your resolve to meet total fear with total love. Even though we cannot see today how we might, give us eyes to discern the course of love in the face of our enemies.
To a world tipping into the vernacular of violence, seemingly spiraling out of control, we devote ourselves to practices the language of the Spirit given at Pentecost.
To all in this town who endure mental illness, who lean vulnerably on the destructive influence of addictive substances or labour under the tyrannical false God of money we offer a special promise. To neighbours near and far we promise this: we will not be a people caught in the abstraction of good wishes, best intentions and faceless charity but rather we devote ourselves afresh today to convert our good words into good deeds, to assist all whom we are able to assist in casting off the chains of oppression in all its myriad guises.
To those who are shackled by events of the past, trapped in the clutches of un-forgiveness we cry freedom for captive hearts.
To those who are hungry, we will feed you. To those who are homeless, we will house you. To those who are lonely we will keep company with you. To those who are weeping we will weep with you. To those in poverty of any kind we offer the riches of his boundless grace.
Freely we have received and so we freely give: time, effort, money, heart, soul, mind and strength to the task of loving God who has sent us and loving those to whom we are sent.
All this will not be finished in a matter of days or months or years. Nor will it be finished in a matter of decades; nor even in the life of this church. But we renew our pledge to meet these tasks not in our own strength or for our own benefit but by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of God alone.
Since the way of Christ was made known to the early church each generation of Christians has been summoned to give testimony. Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms but a call to bear the burden of faithful service here in Billericay and across these British Isles, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation,”˛ love without ceasing.
God’s power has given us everything needed for life, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own goodness.
We are given his precious and very great promises, so that through them we may escape from the corruption that surrounds us and may become participants in the divine nature.
For this very reason, we must make every effort to support our faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with holiness, and holiness with love. For if these things are ours and are increasing among us, they keep us from being ineffective and unfruitful
Finally, as citizens of heaven, resident aliens here on earth let us meet the temptations of despair, retribution, prejudice and self preservation by the power of the spirit with hope, mercy, thankfulness, humility and the composure of those who know the prince of peace.
With a good conscience our only sure reward, with Christ the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to serve the God we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth the Lord’s work must truly be our own