Guarding and proclaiming the unchanging truth in a changing world

In thanksgiving… for God the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)

5th November 2020
Audio: 

Andrei Rublov's Icon of the Trinity (explanation here).

In thanksgiving… for God the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)

The Rev. Marc R. Steele

“Will there be a Church left after this pandemic?”

Mired in a year marked by the affliction of COVID-19, as a pastor, I have heard this question asked repeatedly as parishes across the globe have struggled to worship in the midst of challenging conditions.

The observation of Pentecost this past May marked my rediscovery of hope in this difficult year. It is fitting in this season of thankfulness that we meditate together on this Feast of Firstfruits. On this momentous day it was revealed that when we offer praise and thanksgiving for the Holy Trinity, we can only do so through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As believers, we spend a lot of time analyzing the gifting of the Holy Spirit poured out on the Early Church, but one key phrase in the Acts 2 account is often overlooked in our discussions. While exploring what happened on that important day, we must not overlook why it happened.

In Acts 2:11, those who witnessed the Holy Spirit-filled Christians marveled; “…we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

One of the essential works of the Holy Spirit is the proclamation of the mighty works of God, a bold message of thankfulness. Jesus spoke of the work that would begin on the Day of Pentecost, speaking of the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). As the Spirit convinces and persuades us, mere mortals of the excellencies of Jesus, we cannot help but sing out, “How great is thy faithfulness!”

Brothers and sisters, a spirit of thankfulness for the mighty works of God on our behalf has been a hallmark of the church since our inception. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told of Stephen, a man of grace and power filled with the Holy Spirit. We honor him as the first martyr of the Church. His response when standing in front of his executioners is a clear example of the third person of the Godhead at work in the life of a Christian. Stephen did not complain about his circumstance or rail against his enemies, he instead preached perhaps the greatest sermon ever recorded, giving a litany of the faithfulness of God to his covenant children, an account that spans from Abraham to Christ (Acts 7).

The same Spirit at work in Stephen still operates today. Believers are empowered to offer thanks in their darkest hour. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil because the Holy Spirit bears witness that both goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our lives.

As we look to the future, let us in submission to the indwelling Spirit of Christ, submit and recommit ourselves to the discipline of declaring the mighty works of God. We must tell of God’s faithfulness to saints of old, in the church today, and in our own lives. Remember your calling, that you were delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. Let us join with Peter and the Early Church in proclaiming the mighty works of God. If God is for us, who can stand against us?

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26–27 ESV)

The Rev. Marc R. Steele
Rector of St. George’s Anglican Church in Helmetta, New Jersey, a parish in the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America.

Prayer: 

FOR SEEKING GOD
Anselm of Canterbury
 
Teach me to seek you, and as I seek you, show yourself to me; for I cannot seek you unless you show me how, and I will never find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you by desiring you, and desire you by seeking you; let me find you by loving you, and love you in finding you.  Amen.
 
BCP 2019 p. 672

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