The Parish Church of Sarum St. Martin, Salisbury Wiltshire

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From the Priest-In-Charge of Sarum St. Martin’s

Pentecost 2018

Towards the end of his life the then Poet Laureate John Betjeman made a final programme with the BBC in which he reviewed with his long time producer Jonathan Steadall his many programmes for the Corporation.  From those many programmes one scene sticks in my memory.  He was in a Church looking through the chancel screen at the High Altar.  Whilst doing this he quoted the end of St. Paul’s great hymn to love from his first letter to the Corinthians, ‘And three things remain, faith, hope and charity’; ‘Give me hope!’ Betjeman added.  In another place he used these words, ‘and these my friends seems not to want His love, and why that is, I do not know!’  Betjeman was a great Christian soul whose faith in Jesus sustained him through his final debilitating illness; may his soul rest in peace.  Yet, as sure as he was in his faith, he could still ask for the gift of hope; we might ask, hope in what?

Hope is defined in the dictionary as ‘a feeling or desire for something and confidence in the possibility of its fulfilment’. And today, Pentecost Day, hope for those who call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus is made actual. I say this because today is indeed Pentecost Day, the day when hope is fulfilled for those who call upon the Name of Jesus.

The image of Pentecost is very familiar; Our Lady Mary and the Apostles, in the Upper Room; the rushing wind; the tongues of fire.  The Apostles of Jesus had spent three years following their Lord.  When called, these men had been prepared to drop everything; to leave their families, their livelihoods, their homes so as to tramp the roads of Palestine.  We might ask what hope did they have in mind?  Simon the Zealot & Judas Iscariot probably hoped that Jesus would be the warrior Messiah who would fight and expel the Romans.  Perhaps Thomas hoped that Jesus would give his life the certainty that it seemed to lack.  And the rest; perhaps they travelled with Jesus simply in hope rather than expectation.  As we read of their grappling with the realities of the teaching of Jesus we see time and again hope triumphing only to be overtaken by doubts and questions, as well as a complete incomprehension of what is happening.  But today, that incomprehension is over.  At Pentecost the doubts and questionings are answered.  Today, Hope is fulfilled. 

After his resurrection Jesus spoke of returning to the Father, and the apostles were again perplexed; after all he had only just returned to them and now he was saying that he was going away, and this time for ever; or so they imagined.  Yet, as Jesus explained, and they slowly grasped the meaning of what He was saying, that if He did not return to the Father He could not send the Advocate who would be with them until the end of time, the fulfilment of Hope began to dawn for them.  And so, as He was enveloped to heaven in the Cloud on Ascension Day after which Mary His Mother and the apostles returned to Jerusalem and waited, they no doubt did so in hope.  Today their waiting is over, today the Advocate, the Holy Spirit is sent to them and through them to the Church, to us.  For today our waiting is over; the hope is fulfilled. Yet, those who know their Scripture might object: did not St. Paul write these words: ‘For we must be content to hope

Fr David Fisher

that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience’.  If what the Apostle Paul writes is true, and it is, how can I say that our waiting is over?

As I preach in our Church you will hear me many times talk about my love and affection for the Apostles because they are so like us in their desire to do right by God and their failure to manage it in their own power.  Yet today that failure of theirs is ended, for today their hope in all that they had heard and witnessed is truly fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit.  All ‘i’s’ dotted and ‘t’s’ crossed, doubts answered, fears made able to be coped with.  There were still many things before them; preaching, teaching, whippings, scourging, imprisoning, martyrdom, but because of today they could face all of these with a hope fulfilled that Jesus is indeed the Lord, that Jesus has indeed conquered death’s hold on them, on us, that the Father does indeed love them, us, that the Holy Spirit is indeed their, our, Advocate, their, our, Power, their, our, New Life.

St.Paul does indeed write that we must continue to hope, yet then immediately writes these words, ‘The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness.’  Like the Apostles even after Pentecost, we will continue to stumble and fall and be weak and afraid.  Yet like them even as they nursed their bruises in prison after receiving a scourging of 39 lashes or being shipwrecked on their journeying, twice in the case of St. Paul, we cannot, ever, despair, for today the hope that they and through them we have, is fulfilled in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

John Betjeman died in the hope of the Resurrection to Eternal Life in The Lord Jesus just as he had lived his life in that same hope.  Along the way of his earthly pilgrimage he will have stumbled, he will have sinned, he will have perhaps even lost hope in himself.  Yet, and this is the important point of Betjeman’s example, he did not despair.  Give me hope, yes, for I trust in you.  So it is that we should pray in the Spirit that as we continue our earthly pilgrimage to our Heavenly Father those who may see us may know that we are filled with the Spirit of God and live lives transformed by that same Spirit; lives lived with hope fulfilled, no longer in the possibility of fulfilment, but in its actuality, just as the people of Jerusalem saw and heard as the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church in that first Pentecost so that, ‘Everyone was amazed and perplexed.’ 

So let us pray to the Father that it may be that as the people of Salisbury look upon your disciples here in St. Martin’s are likewise amazed and perplexed that you have caused such great things to come about.



Almighty God, you have made us members of Christ and of his Church in this parish. May we as a congregation reach upwards to your throne in worship and adoration: inwards to one another in understanding and fellowship; and outwards to the world in evangelism and social compassion. Make us like a city set on a hill whose light cannot be hidden, so that men and women may find Christ as the Light of the World, and his Church as the family of the redeemed, and eternal life as the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

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