Yesterday we enjoyed Dugald’s very visual sermon which gave us an idea of the way in which the Gospel spread out from Jerusalem in the power of the Spirit! The text of Dugald’s sermon is below.
Pentecost! We say today is the birthday of the church. We have heard in the reading
from the Acts, how the hearers of the Apostles heard the message in their own
language. The countries and languages represent the countries surrounding the
Mediterranean Sea and those surrounding Israel. It is symbolic of how the gospel was
about to be spread throughout the world.
What was the Great Commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples, recorded at the
end of Matthew’s gospel? … It was to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And we have just
read that, after his resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples that they would receive the
Holy Spirit and that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
On Pentecost the church exploded! The disciples spread out from Jerusalem. From
the Bible, we know of the fate of only two of the disciples: James, son of Zebedee, died
by execution at Herod’s hand, a different Herod from the time of Jesus’ birth; and John
himself, James’ brother, who was ultimately exiled to the island of Patmos giving him
peace and quiet and time to write his gospel and his Revelation. But there are other
writings and traditions telling us what possibly happened to the others.
So, while the young people are away celebrating their own Pentecost, we’ll have some
fun of our own! We are going to demonstrate the explosion of the church upon the
Here, the coloured wool represents the gospel fire, the tongues of flame spreading the
message of Christ’s death and resurrection and new hope to the world. [Health &
Safety – The wool is soft enough to be broken easily if it gets caught up in the wrong
place. If you get caught up, don’t panic!]
Around the church are little labels with the names of the apostles on, and a little about
them. If you can see one nearby, stand by it, and wait for my next instruction.
I will now call out each apostle’s name, and could the person holding that person’s tag
please shout “Here I am!” and where the apostle got to and how far from Jerusalem
they travelled? Remember, most of these are just traditions.
We will now pass the gospel message to them, carried from the centre – Jerusalem.
So pass it above your heads as the gospel message radiates from Jerusalem, carried
by each disciple until it reaches the end. Try not to get them tangled!
Then, would the person left holding the end hold up the wool so it hangs above the
heads of the congregation? And we will see how the gospel radiates from Jerusalem.
We can see how the gospel message has moved over the whole world. We can see
how the gospel message has spread and how we are all now under its shelter. We give
God thanks and praise for that first Pentecost that inspired and enabled your Apostles
to go forth and tell the Good News to all points of the compass.
You will see that this represents the world around the Mediterranean and Near East.
However apart from Thomas and Bartholomew who most likely reached India, we in the
west hear little of how the gospel spread eastwards, along the Silk Road to China. But,
even before Christ, that trade route was very important for moving ideas, philosophies
and religions eastwards and westwards. And apart from Andrew, who possibly got to
Russia, and Matthew who got to Ethiopia, what about the north/south spread of the
gospel? Christians following the apostle’s example would go out all over the whole
world to spread the good news. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, Son of God, who has
redeemed us by his death and made us righteous before God.
Once complete, if the gospel wool is near you, you might like to break off a piece as a
reminder of what we have shown today.
And so through the ages, right up to this present day, missionaries are active
throughout the world, risking hardship and sometimes death for the sake of the gospel.
The Catholic church celebrates Mission Sunday each year on the penultimate Sunday
in October. Perhaps we should remember missionaries too. And perhaps we should
remember missionaries today at Pentecost, giving thanks for the fruits of their labours
which we are enjoying today.
But we shouldn’t leave the responsibility of spreading the gospel to others. We don’t all
need to travel far and wide to play our part in spreading the gospel. Think of James,
who died in Jerusalem, albeit by execution. We can be missionaries here in Girton.
Spreading the gospel, showing Christ in your lives to the people amongst whom we live
and work is missionary work indeed. Let’s share in the work that Christ commanded his
disciples and us to do, to be his witnesses to the whole world.