Whit Sunday

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon


God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Collect Commentary

Pentecost or Whit Sunday is a major festival of the Church of God, following after the Feasts of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the celebration of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the exalted Christ, to the Church of God on earth. It is ìWhite-Sundayî because of the historical connection with white baptismal robes, for in the West it was a major day for baptisms.

Not only should we pray this Collect before reading the Epistle and Gospel in Divine Service but also privately after reading them.

The Collect, addressed to the Father of the only-begotten Son, begins with the people of God recalling the Event recorded in Acts 2, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples to bring heavenly light, inspiration, guidance and power to them, so that they could go into the whole world to preach the Gospel. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, as he promised in the Gospel (John 14), has ascended: and the Father has sent in his Name and for his sake the Gift of his Spirit to be unto the disciples and in the Church the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Comforter and Counsellor of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Spirit comes to the heart, the biblical word for the very centre of human thinking and feeling and willing.

The earnest petition is that, indwelt by the same Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Christ, we today as the people of God will have spiritual insight, discernment and judgment in all things - in worship, in prayer, in reading the Scriptures, in evangelism, in pastoral and social work and so on. For only as our hearts are aligned with the will of God and the mission of Christ in the world are we able to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4) as the Spirit witnesses with our inner spirits that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). We are to walk ìin the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghostî (Acts 9:31).

Here ìthe heartî is to be seen as the centre of the human being, that which makes him to be a person created in the image of God, even though sinful. The entering of the Spirit of the Lord into the human heart is his entering into the emotions/affections, the mind and the will. In his natural state, because a sinner, manís mind is clouded so that he cannot see spiritual truth aright, his emotions are disordered so that he cannot love God aright and his will is in bondage to sinful intentions. The Holy Ghost finds a way to regenerate, renew, re-order, enlighten and sanctify the heart so that the emotions are rightly ordered, the mind is able to think Godís thoughts and the will is empowered to do the divine will. Of course this does not happen all at once, but the Spirit of God is patient! And he works in different people in different ways according to their make-up and his wisdom.

The petition made by the Church today is that this one and the same Holy Ghost do for us what he did for the Church on that Day of Pentecost. We pray for a right judgment - for a sound mind, ordered affections and an obedient will - not occasionally but always and in all things. Sanctification is for all space and time! We also pray that, because the Comforter dwells within our hearts (see John 14-16), we shall rejoice always in God and in his salvation, as we know the strengthening and comforting of the indwelling Spirit of God. ìRejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoiceî (Philippians 4:4).

Few of us doubt but that our churches know too much formality, human activity and pride and thus too little of the presence, power, teaching and light, that the Holy Ghost is seeking to make our possession by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is available to us not only at Whitsuntide but also throughout the whole Year.

The Collect ends with a doxology which both celebrates the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, as Saviour and that of the Holy Ghost as the One who is the Unity of Love in the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity. So we are prepared to contemplate and adore the same TRINITY as we move to Trinity Sunday in a weekís time.


Epistle Acts 2:1-11

WHEN the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed, and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.


Gospel John 14:15-31

JESUS said unto his disciples, If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, (not Iscariot,) Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.