St Hilda’s Crofton Park

11th May 2008

Three Keys for Pentecost

The secular man of today has lost the key to his Christian Faith. A good way for him to recover that key is to take a hard look at some prayers used by the Church for hundreds of years, in search of some key phrase or sentence.

After all, the best way to find a lost key (or a lost anything else) is to look for it – not just sit around and hope that it will fall into our lap out of the sky. The same is true about God’s revelation of Himself to us. We are much more likely to find the truth if we look for it rather than wait for it to come to us; and Truth, like many lost objects (keys included), is to be found, not by looking superficially on the surface of things, but by digging down beneath it.

So here are three ‘lost keys’ which can be found in the Book of Common Prayer.

The prayer for Pentecost (today) says: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things.

the prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent asks God to defend us from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul

The Collect for Purity at the beginning of Holy Communion reads: [Almighty God] from Whom no secrets are hidden

Discovering those three lost keys – no secrets are hidden; evil thoughts; a right judgement enables us to unlock the door to the mind of God and realize how far the popular mind of today has drifted away from God’s mind.

The problem is not that secular man doesn’t believe in God, but that he chooses to ignore everything about Himself that God has revealed. The result of such wilful ignorance is obvious. If, like secular man, we think that God is unaware of, or indifferent to, the way we think and act, then it’s only natural to suppose that neither our thoughts nor our behaviour matter very much. Why not do whatever we like? Why allow God to spoil our pleasure?

But if, as that second key-phrase claims, ‘evil thoughts’ assault and hurt the soul, then such evil thoughts matter enormously. For if we let them to take root in our minds, they will spread like cancer, take over our personalities, corrupt any good left in them, and render us unable to enjoy the good things God has prepared for us to inherit.

The prayer for today tells us how to deal with evil thoughts. It asks God to give us a right judgement in all things so that, by allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work on our minds, we may learn how to overcome such evil thoughts – rather than allow them to overcome us!

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth. So the first step towards having a ‘right judgement in all things’ is to learn to be honest about ourselves.

That may sound all very straightforward; but it isn’t. If you doubt this, just compare the way someone you know think about themselves, with what you, their friend, parent, child, husband or wife know to be the truth. There will invariably be cases where your judgement of them and their judgement of themselves reveal a gaping discrepancy!

Now apply the same test to yourself. Isn’t it likely that there’s an equally large discrepancy between what you and I think of ourselves and the way that other people see us? A friend has been defined as ‘someone who knows all about us but loves us just the same’

Then consider that, if no secrets [about us] are hidden from God (as the Collect for Purity says) an even wider gap must exist between God’s view of us and our own view of ourselves!

But that’s only the first step. The next one is to allow Him to do something about it.

Many people who examine themselves (and few do!) suppose that God is only really concerned when we sin by deed – by doing some wrong physical action like stealing or killing. Of course we all sometimes do what’s wrong or (more often) fail to do what’s right. But experience suggests that these sins are not the most serious ones of which churchgoers stand accused in God’s eyes. If you’ll pardon my saying so, you and I are just not the sort of material of which ‘great sin-doers’ are made. We’re much too ordinary (as we’re always telling other people) to be capable of that! But there are other, more serious and harmful sins of which we are frequently guilty – in particular sins of word and sins of thought.

All of us know how we sin by word. Lying, gossiping, boasting, betraying other people’s confidences, and talking about people behind their backs are all common examples. But what people fail to realize about the spoken word is that it is indelible. It can never be unsaid. Unlike sins of deed – debts (which can be repaid), damage (which can be repaired), or wounds (which, given time, will heal over), the spoken word is there for all time. So learning, with God’s help, how to control our tongue, is a most important and necessary skill. ‘When in doubt, don’t say it’ should be the rule, not the exception, about what proceeds from our mouths.

Sins of thought, are also much misunderstood. They are not something which we fee l– though that is how they often begin; it’s when we begin to harbour, nurse, or encourage such feelings that they become sinful.

Here is a short poem by William Blake which describes exactly how his bad feelings became sinful thoughts ending in the tragic death of the [probably imaginary] person he had come to hate. Blake writes:


I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.

It is by His grace that God is able to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, often working unseen within us can enable us to purge away those sins of thought which we harbour in our hearts against our fellow-men. Let our prayer this Pentecost be that we may discover our sins of thought, and by God breathing into us (which is what ‘inspiration’ literally means) the influence of the Holy Spirit may cleanse us from them.

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