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A Reflection for Pentecost Sunday in Easter from Revd. Bryan Coates

Sunday 31st May – Pentecost

Lectionary passage – 1 Corinthians 12 vv 4 – 13
Paul writes to the Christians of the Church in Corinth about the gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit.
"Temple of Apollo, Corinth (by Mark Cartwright, CC BY-NC-SA)"
The remains of the archaic temple of Apollo, Corinth (550-530 BCE). Originally, there were 6×15 Doric monolithic columns.

The main Lectionary Passage for Pentecost Sunday is, of course, the Acts Chapter 2 description of the events of Pentecost – the coming of the Spirit as described in graphic terms of wind and fire.   For the purpose of this Reflection I have assumed that almost every streamed or audio Service will focus on that passage and accordingly, again this week, I have chosen one of the other passages prescribed for this – the second major festival of the Christian calendar.

It is not easy to piece together into a precise and ordered chronology details of the timescale and of the places that Paul visited on his three Mission Journeys.  The snippets of information that we glean from his letters and from Acts give us a somewhat disjointed and incomplete account.

It is not easy to piece together the details of his relationship – in terms of letters and visits – with the Church in the city of Corinth.  It seems from the references that Paul wrote four letters and made at least three visits to Corinth.  Certainly there is a reference in First Corinthians to an earlier letter       (1 Cor 5 v 9 ).  Did the early church fathers, recognising the real value of parts the letters, in their Spirit-led wisdom do a ‘cut-and-paste’ job and incorporate parts of all four letters into what we now know as First and Second Corinthians?  Again, that is for scholarly study rather than pastoral reflection!

Its not easy to recognise that in the very early days of the Church there were real issues of belief and behaviour which threatened to drastically undermine the fellowship of the congregation, the unity of the Church, the teaching of Paul and other leaders on some important principles  and also Christian standards of worship and life-style.

Paul receives cries for help.  They come in the form of a visit to his base in Ephesus by some of “Chloe’s people” who bring shocking news of the goings on in Corinth -1 Cor 1 v11.  They come in the form of at least one letter from the Corinthian Church asking for his guidance and judgement. Six times in the letter Paul responds, “Now concerning what you wrote..” 1 Cor 7 v1 etc.  Put the picture together, and it is a pretty sorry situation.  There is blatant immorality, there are lawsuits by one Christian against another, there is disturbing malpractice at Worship Services – even at Communion, there are questions about the Resurrection and other beliefs, there are challenges to authority and an apparent total breakdown of the sense of belonging together as the people of God.  Factions within the Church have set themselves against one another and totally disrupted any harmony.

Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, a major seaport, the home of a Temple dedicated to Aphrodite – the goddess of love with all that it implies – there were 1,000 ‘sacred’ prostitutes linked to the Temple.  It was nothing short of miraculous that Paul and his companions had been able to establish a church there in the first place.  Even so it would be hard to find a church beset by so many problems.  In his letter Paul tries to sort them out.  For him the unity and harmony of the Church is all important.  That is the context of this Lectionary Passage.

So, what is Paul saying about the gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit to the Christians of Corinth, and what does this Scripture say to us?  You may find it helpful at this point to refer to two more passages from Paul’s letters.  Romans 12 vv 3 – 8 and Ephesians 4 vv 7,11 & 12.

In verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 12 Paul writes “The Sprit’s presence is shown in some way in each person..”. The Pentecost event described in Acts 2 is spectacular.  The immediate results are astounding.  But that was a very, very special occasion.  Paul asserts that the Sprit is at work not just in the special and spectacular but in the ordinary.  Not just in gifted prominent people but each and every one of us.  The Spirit’s work most often is quietly, gently even unobtrusively, nurturing, encouraging, enabling us to use our God-given gifts.  As the opening two verses of the Book of Genesis assert, from the very beginning the Spirit of God was at work.  That work doesn’t stop.   The Holy Spirit is at work in us.

The verse continues “for the good of all”.  The important principle that God’s Holy Spirit is at work in us all is coupled to the Spirit’s purpose.  The Ephesians 4 passage comes in here to add emphasis.  Having listed some of the gifts seen in people, verse 12 reads “He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ”.

One of the major problems in the Church in Corinth was that of division amongst the members.  Some formed factions and purported to follow the leadership of one or other of those in authority in the Church.  Others puffed themselves up because they mistakenly believed that their special gift made them more important or better than anyone else.  In all three of these passages, Paul lists just some of the gifts of the Spirit, maintains the important place of each gift and very clearly points out that we are in it together working for the good of all and the building up of God’s Holy Church.  He writes to Rome “Do not think of yourselves more highly than you should”. Romans 12 v 3 and to Philippi, in that sublime passage about Jesus, he writes “The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:”.  In the Corinthians letter he goes on to develop the idea of the Church being the Body of Christ with a particular understanding of its various parts belonging together in unity.

To me, our Lectionary Passage for this Sunday is a direct challenge for us to pause and ask of ourselves some questions, questions that seem particularly pertinent as we contemplate what the Church will be in our post-Coronavirus future:-

  • What gift or gifts has the Sprit given, encouraged and enabled in me?
  • How may I use all that the Spirit has given me for the good of all and in order to build up the body of Christ?
  • How do I ensure that my gifts blend with the gifts of others to ensure the unity and harmony of the Church of Jesus Christ?

Bryan Coates

May 2020

A Prayer for our time

A Prayer from the Connexion – slightly amended.

God of all hope we call on you today.
We pray for those who are living in fear,
Fear of illness, fear for loved ones, fear of other’s reaction to them.
May your Spirit give us a sense of calmness and peace.

We pray for your Church in this time of uncertainty.
For those needing to make decisions in order to care for others,
For those who feel more isolated by not being able to attend worship or fellowship.
Grant us your wisdom.

Holy God, we remember that you have promised that nothing will separate us from your love, demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ.
Help us to turn our eyes, hearts and minds to you.

Amen

 

Our Christmas Services

 

Amesbury 24th December, Midnight in Bethlehem at 9pm
Revd. M Jones
  25th December, Christmas Family Service at 10.30am Revd. C Jones
Bemerton 24th December, Midnight in Bethlehem at 9.30pm
Revd. S Hawkes
  25th December, Christmas Morning Service at 9.30am Revd.  S Hawkes
Bourne Valley         25th December, Christmas Morning Service at 10.30am Revd. S Hawkes
Fordingbridge 25th December, Christmas Morning Service at 9.30am Mr. M King
Pitton 25th December, Christmas Morning Service at 11am – B Coates
Salisbury 24th December, Holy Communion at 11.15am – D Hookins
  24th December. Christingle at 6pm – D Hookins
  25th December, Christmas Morning Service at 10am – D Hookins
Sandleheath 24th December, Nativity & Christingle at 6pm – S Hawkes
Shrewton 25th December, LA at 10am
Winterslow 25th December, Christmas Morning Service at 9.30am – D Moody

 

 

 

Special Services in the Circuit

Amesbury    

      • 12th September, Harvest Festival Service
      • 22nd September, Rededication of the Girls Brigade

Bemerton

      • 22nd September, Harvest Festival Service
      • 6th October, Guild Sunday
      • 13th October, Church Anniversary
      • 17th November, Shoe Box Service, All Age Worship

Bourne Valley        

      • 15th September, Harvest Festival Service
      • 10th November, United Service at St Michaels

Salisbury                

      • 22nd September, Harvest Festival
      • 17th November, Church Anniversary

Sandleheath

      • 8th September, Church Anniversary
      • 6th October, Harvest Festival Service

Shrewton

      • 15th September, Harvest Festival Service

Wellow Wood

      • 29th September, No service at 6pm
      • 13th October, Harvest Festival Service

Woodfalls

      •  15th September, Harvest Festival Service

 

Big Brekkie for Christian Aid in Woodfalls

18th May 2019

We took 85 orders for cooked plus a few people who just came for coffee or toast etc.  We had helpers from St Birinus, St Mary’s and the Methodist Church.  We raised £720 for Christian Aid. An increase of 18% on last year.  Plus they will benefit from just over £100 Gift Aid. This is the fourth year we have held the event.

Many thanks to all those who organised and supported this event at Woodfalls Methodist Church

Jerusalem Joy

CIRCUIT MUSICAL Jerusalem Joy

Jerusalem Joy is a musical telling the Easter story Jerusalem Joy is a musical telling the Easter story Jerusalem Joy is a musical telling the Easter story from from Palm Sunday to the resurrection.
It comprises 13 songs and lasts approximately 45 minutes with narration.
Performanceon Saturday 4th May 2019
7.30pm at Bemerton Methodist Church
If you would like to be involved, please come along to the Sing Through 23rd April. You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t need to be at every rehearsal.

All are welcome

Rehearsals (all at Bemerton Methodist Church) :
Tuesday 23rd April @ 7.30pm  -Sing Through
Monday 29th April @ 2.30pm & 7.30pm
Tuesday 30th April @ 2.30pm & 7.30pm
Wednesday 1st May @ 2.30pm & 7.30pm
Thursday 2nd May @ 2.30pm (No Evening)
Friday 3rd May @ 7.30pm (No Afternoon)
Saturday 4th May @4pm -Final Run Through
Saturday 4th May @7.30pm – PERFORMANCE

For further info please contact: revdsteve@outlook.com