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Sermon 2024 05 05 Easter 6 B 2

 Saint Margaret’s 

Anglican Church

Budapest Hungary

“What is to prevent these people from being baptized…?”

Most everyone who lives here in Hungary will know that exactly two weeks from today we will celebrate the great festival day of Pentecost, or Pünkösd in Hungarian.  After all, even those who have no idea what Pentecost is all about will know that it and the Monday following are national holidays, days off; ones which come courtesy of the Holy Spirit, whether one believes in the Holy Spirit or not.   The story of the very first Pentecost, which by the way was not a national holiday in Hungary or anywhere, is related to us in the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles, the same New Testament book from which our first Reading this morning is taken.  

It is very short, so let’s take another look at it:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. 

Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So, he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.   Then, they invited him to stay for several days. 

In fact, the event related in this text today from the Acts of the Apostles has sometimes been called the Second Pentecost, or the Gentile Pentecost.  Just as at Pentecost, the first one, the Holy Spirit had descended upon the disciples, so now to everyone’s seeming amazement, the Holy Spirit again descends, this time upon Gentiles of all people.  Which was a big deal.   For, to this point in the Acts of the Apostles, and we are in Chapter Ten by the way, so very nearly the half-way point, the message of the Gospel has been spreading, but fairly close to home, in and around Jerusalem, and in neighbouring regions.

But now Peter has made his way to Caesarea, a predominantly Gentile city named rather obviously for the Roman Emperor, or Caesar, where we find him preaching the Gospel to, well, Gentiles.   And “while Peter was still speaking,” as the text tells us, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”  Note that the Spirit does not even politely wait until Peter stops talking but rather barges right in and falls upon all who heard the word; falls upon all who heard; in other words, upon Gentile and Jew alike.  And that was unheard of.  For all we know, the Gentiles themselves at that Second Pentecost may have been just as astonished as were the Jewish followers of Christ witnessing the event.   

Yet, it was precisely at this gathering in the heart of Gentile territory that the Holy Spirit first manifested the full appeal and allure of the Gospel message.  The Good News of the Gospel is indeed for everyone.   “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people…?” asks Peter almost rhetorically in response to the gift of the Holy Spirit which has come down upon these Gentiles.   And the answer is obviously, emphatically: No.  No one can withhold Baptism anymore than they can withhold the movement of the Spirit itself.   In faith and Baptism, we all belong.  Jews, Gentiles, Hungarians, Ecuadoreans, Brits.  Even Americans.  Everyone.

Dante’s Baptism moments ago is simply the latest manifestation of this truth, of the universal reach of the Holy Spirit, the universal reach of the Good News of the Gospel.  I have no idea how many Baptisms will take place today across the globe, but for right now young Dante has the distinction of being the newest Christian in the world.  May he have a long life and a happy one.  Like Peter, may he often find himself happily interrupted by the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit in his life.  

And as the people present at that second Pentecost, that Gentile or universal Pentecost, welcomed Peter into their homes and hearts, may Dante grow to be, like his parents and family members, a man of welcome and love; a person of open-heart and faith.  Not just “for several days,” as our text says of Peter’s stay in Caesarea but throughout all his days.  Happy Baptism, Dante.

Happy Second Pentecost.


The Rev Dr Frank Hegedűs

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