Sunday, June 04, 2017

Whitsun 2017: Recognising the one we know

Sermon for Whitsunday

How many times have you said to yourself, “the Holy Spirit wants me to do this?”

We often hear Christians today say, “I feel that the Holy Spirit wants me to do this,” where “this” can mean anything from founding a new religious order, to picking up snakes, and to protesting outside the funerals of servicemen and women claiming that God hates gay people.

A lot is done in the Christian world quoting the inspiration of the Holy Ghost as the reason. You know very well that there is something very suspect about that attitude.

St John tells us clearly, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” How do we try the spirits that we receive?

How do we know that the spirit we hear is the Holy Ghost?


Today – White Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost – we see the Holy Ghost in operation and we know that it really is the Holy Ghost. How?

St Jude asks Jesus the same question as we do. “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” How do we know it’s the Holy Spirit talking and not a spirit of the world?

Jesus says clearly, “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

The Holy Ghost will support, in perfect unison, the voice of Our Lord Jesus.

We know that Jesus promises His disciples to send the Holy Ghost to them. If they love Him, they will keep His commandments and He will give them another Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth. We know that Jesus is the Truth and thus that this Spirit will be recognisable in those that love Him. This is why we see the Disciples aflame with the Holy Ghost. This is how they become Apostles, preaching good news to “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians” and indeed all over the world!

This means that, if what we hear is the Holy Ghost, then it will be the same Holy Ghost as speaks through the Apostles. The Holy Ghost is always the same because He is God and therefore Eternal. The Good News is always the same, because the same salvation is available to all who love Christ Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever.

Now we know how to try the spirits that we hear. What that spirit says must agree with what Jesus says and does, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus, to His life, His death, and His resurrection.

Also, the spirit that we hear must be preaching the same good news as the Apostles. This means first, that the Holy Spirit will not contradict the Holy Scriptures that He has given us through the prophets and the Apostles. Second, it means that the spirit will be recognised by the Apostles and their successors, and indeed all Christian people because they are engaged in prayer, that is the ongoing development of a relationship with God and each other.

We are baptised with the Holy Ghost at our baptism. That baptism is fanned into flame at our Confirmation. Every Bishop receives the same Holy Ghost at his consecration and, if they truly strive to live a holy life, they will recognise the Holy Ghost. In short, if you believe the Holy Ghost is speaking to you, then it will become obvious to the praying Church. The Holy Ghost will shine through you and into the world.


The Holy Ghost speaks to all Christians. When you hear His voice you will recognise it, but not every voice you recognise will be Him. Be faithful to God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and immerse your entire life in His Love, and you shall truly hear Him.

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