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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

From the Art & Theology Blog of May 14, 2024

“When the Spirit Comes" was preached May 23, 2010, at Durham Cathedral, where N. T. Wright was bishop at the time. This Pentecost sermon is a rousing call to stand, like Jesus, at the place where heaven and earth collide: in the Spirit. 

Here are two excerpts. The link to the full sermon text follows.

  • “The point about Pentecost is that it’s the point at which two worlds collide and look like they are now going to be together for keeps. The two worlds are of course heaven and earth. . . . The whole point of heaven and earth in Jewish thought is that they are meant to meet and merge. And the point of the gospel story as Luke has told it in his first volume is that Jesus had come to bring the life of heaven and earth together. That is the meaning of the ‘kingdom of God’. Thy kingdom come, he taught us to pray, on earth as in heaven. The disciples, we may presume, had been praying that prayer, among others, in the fifty days since Easter. And now the prayer is answered.”

  • “When the Spirit comes, the Spirit will prove the world wrong [in how things are run] . . . which is not a comfortable message, and it’s not meant to be. But if we can at least recognise that discomfort, and see it as the thing you should expect when the two worlds collide, we can put our shoulders back, take a deep breath – in other words, breathe in God’s breath – and get on with the task to which the New Testament commits us but in which . . . we feel a strange reluctance.          

Of course we can get it wrong, and of course we will find it awkward. But how much more wrong would it be not to try! How much more awkward, when God finally brings heaven and earth fully together, will it be to discover that we had continued to live in the split-level world when we were invited, by Ascension and Pentecost together, to dare and to risk the possibility of bringing them together in our own lives and in our own witness! Because of course none of this is in the last analysis ‘about’ us. If we are embarrassed at the heaven-and-earth conjunction, we are forgetting that we are not, after all, the centre of attention in all this. Jesus went on to say that the Spirit would glorify him, not us: he will take what belongs to Jesus and declare it to us and through us to the world.”Full sermon: “When the Spirit Comes"

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