Our Rich Liturgical
Our Rich Liturgical Heritage: Pentecost
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain
Every Sunday when we gather for the Lord’s Supper we commence our worship with the words: Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We are reminded how dependant we are upon the Holy Spirit if we are to love and worthily magnify God’s holy name. Just as we are totally reliant upon Jesus to bring us into God’s holy presence, we are totally reliant upon the third person of the Trinity to help us please God in all we do.
He is the one who will cleanse our thoughts. Since Christianity is the religion of the heart, we dare not rely on the external actions of others, liturgical correctness, formalism or singing, but upon the blood of our Lord Jesus shed once and for all upon Calvary’s Cross, and the response of a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart (BCP Morning Prayer from Psalm 51:17).
The Holy Spirit brought conviction to 3000 in the crowd on that day of Pentecost when they heard the apostle Peter’s bold preaching about the once crucified but now risen and ascended Jesus and continues to convict us of sin. The conviction that lead to our regeneration and turning to Christ was promised by Jesus in John 16:8-11 and is synonymous with our new birth (3:3-5). But of course God wants His children to mature by growing in obedience, which is what we pray for each Sunday in this prayer of preparation.
A cleansed heart will be a yielded heart. A heart in step with our Father and our Lord. To make this possible the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the hearts of believers when they turned to Christ. He gives us a heart to understand, love and obey the Bible, of whom the Holy Spirit is the primary author (2 Peter 1:21). As we humbly and expectantly read and listen to Scripture, he convicts us of sin, drives us to Christ for pardon and cleansing, to others for putting things right and to our Father for help in establishing new strategies and life-style choices. This later and vital step demonstrates our intentional love for God and is why the absolution in Morning Prayer runs:
And so we ask [God] to grant us true repentance, and His Holy Spirit, that what we do now may please him, and that the rest of our lives may be pure and holy...
And of course the Holy Spirit can be counted upon to grow within us his wonderful fruits (Galatians 5:22-23) which are the antidote to the ungodly choices we so easily make (5:16-21).
The gracious gift of the Holy Spirit to believers is to be received with joyful wonder. I still cannot plumb the depths of God’s kindness in coming into my life, but I do know that his coming is partly to assure me of future promises (Ephesians 1:13-14), partly to enable me to serve and encourage my fellow believers (4:4, 30-32, 5:15-21), partly so I can pray (6:18-21), partly so I can stand firm against the evil one and be confident in preaching Christ from the Bible (6:20). The Holy Spirit is our risen Lord’s coronation gift to his church. We are truly blessed, especially as we receive and then allow his presence to transform us and overflow to others. Riches indeed!