Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Sermon)

This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached today, the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost is the festival celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit. Instead of preaching directly on one of the readings, as I usually do, I focused on a song that we sang multiple times this morning in worship, the ancient Latin song, Veni, sancte spiritus. An English translation of the title is “Come, Holy Spirit.”

Today it is Pentecost, and we find ourselves singing.
The Spirit’s arrived, and our voices are ringing.
But why are we singing, we do we praise?
Because today is the day our spirits were raised.

The disciples didn’t know what they’d do without Christ.
He’d gone up to heaven, and left them to fight.
They didn’t know how they’d face against evil
It felt like a camel through the eye of a needle.

But then came the wind, and then came the fire,
And the disciples had everything they’d ever require.
Today is the day when God called the “all clear” at us.
And so today we sing, veni sancte spiritus.

It’s rather ironic we’re singing in Latin
It’s not really a language that we find ourselves chattin’.
And today is the day when barriers were broken
Everyone heard the good news in the language they spoke in.

But this hymn that we sing, the veni, veni
Is ancient, from at least the 13th century
It translates to English as “Come, Holy Breath”
The Spirit is the wind of God, breathing life into death

The hymn is so short, just three simple words
But that’s just the refrain, the rest you haven’t heard
There are five verses, in fact, and I want you to hear it
Because each of these verses tell us good news of the Spirit

So I will read through each verse that tells of the Spirit
In English, don’t worry; you don’t need to fear it!
I’ll project each of them up on our beautiful screens
And we’ll hope that the Spirit will whisper unseen

Veni sancte spiritus!
Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!

Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!

Have you ever seen God, I mean really seen God?
Not a miracle, not a wonder or sign?
But have you ever seen God, or Christ in the flesh,
And I don’t mean in the bread or the wine.

We don’t ever see God, but we know that God’s here,
The same way we know of the wind.
We hear it, we see its effects on the world,
But we never quite know where it’s been.

And that is the Spirit, God’s wind and God’s light,
Sent down to shine in our midst
She fills and spills over, glowing within and without,
A light that forever persists

Veni sancte spiritus!
Thou, of comforters the best;
thou, the soul’s most welcome guest;
sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
grateful coolness in the heat;
solace in the midst of woe.

Have you ever felt peace, even though you were sad?
Have you ever survived something brutal?
Have you ever found strength in a difficult time,
When you thought that your actions were futile?

Have you ever felt lonely, alone and afraid
Stuck in a moment so wrong?
Have you ever looked back and found God was still there?
That’s the Holy Spirit, with you all along.

Veni sancte spiritus!
O most blessèd Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill!

Where thou are not, man hath nought,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint or ill.

Have you ever felt full of vigor, full of moxie and verve
As though your heart was on fire?
Have you ever felt full of life, and ready to serve
Ready to try something new, and push higher?

Have you ever felt like the North Star was guiding you right
Changed a direction you’d followed so long?
Have you ever felt certain that God was behind you?
That’s the Holy Spirit, blowing you along.

Veni sancte spiritus!
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away;

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.

Have you ever felt as though you had woken from sleep?
A feeling of renewal, revival?
Have you ever felt like your life was worth oh so much more
Than just paying the bills and survival?
Have you ever felt changes behind your old eyes
An old grudge or two falling – so long!
Have you felt prejudice fade, and hurts turn to day
That was the Holy Spirit, healing you all along

Veni sancte spiritus!
On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward
give them thy salvation, Lord;
give them joys that never end.

Have you received the spirit of understanding and wisdom?
The spirit of counsel and might?
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord?
The spirit of joy in God’s sight?

That’s the sevenfold gift, the fruits of the spirit
It’s what we pray for on baptism days.
Have you ever learned something new? Or stood fast to your ground?
Have you ever known just what to say?

Well, like all that I’ve said, that’s all from the Spirit
The Spirit of mercy and grace
The Spirit is God’s way of reaching us here
Of entering our time and place

Have you experienced grace, the gift of salvation?
Have you experienced a call, the gift of vocation?
Have you experienced beauty, the love of creation?
Have you experience faith, the hopeful foundation?

It’s all from the Spirit, from God’s holy wind.
The Advocate, Holy One, the breath we breathe in.
The Spirit’s been with us from our very first breath
And the Spirit will hold us on our day of death.

Have you seen her?
Have you heard her?
Can you feel her?
Come, Holy Spirit.

Veni, sancte spiritus.

Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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