Pentecost 2020

Pentecost – 31st May
Here is the wonderfully varied gathering of our images of Pentecost. Thank you all.Pentecost Activity

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.

In the name….

It feels that we are on a threshold. This week we will move from one stage of lock down to the next with some young people returning to schools and more places opening for business. There is uncertainty, and some fear. Some consider it a dangerous moment. There are different views about how quickly the lock down should be changed. In one article one can read the virus may just die out 1 and in another, one can read that a second wave is coming that may be worse than the first 2. It feels like a watershed moment.

It was a watershed moment for the disciples as well. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit the disciples were closed off and living in the upper room. A great task had been given to them but they didn’t have the energy or will to begin it. But after the coming of the Holy Spirit they were changed people. They left their hiding place and set out to preach the Gospel.

The disciples had known Jesus; they had seen the risen Lord, eaten with him and witnessed his return to God. Jesus had asked them to wait, ’stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high’ 3.  The Spirit came with the sound of wind and tongues of fire. Wind and fire are symbols of great power – they are associated with the presence of God.

What had the Spirit done to them? It had empowered them. They were given the power that would transform the world.

When people are empowered they become able to and willing to take charge of their situation. They don’t wait for someone else to do it for them. They accept that they have to do something about it. The Holy Spirit empowered the disciples. Wind and fire symbolise the presence and action of God. The coming of the Spirit gave the disciples energy, enthusiasm, courage, love and passion to take the gospel to all people. The Holy Spirit would help them but not do it for them.

Christians pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit into their lives. We sing hymns inviting the Holy Spirit to come:

Come Down Oh Love Divine,

Breathe on me breathe of God

Oh thou who camest from above

Come Holy Ghost (the choir will sing after this service)

But do we really want the Holy Spirit to come into our lives?

Do we really want the empowering and the change that would involve?

The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism like a dove. It immediately drove him into the wilderness and he was tested. In a wilderness things happen, we have to face ourselves, see ourselves laid bare. Do we really want to be filled with that Spirit? The Holy Spirit makes things happen, compels us to engage with the world, to find Jesus in our sisters and brothers. Our eyes become opened to situations that we’d rather be kept out of sight and mind. Do we really want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Some times in church life people can prefer the safety of the locked doors, locked minds and hearts. Behind the closed doors we can find comfort in the familiar; conversations with our friends and the comfort of our private relationship with God. But if we seek to be followers of Jesus we know that no locked doors can keep him from appearing in our midst and compelling us out into the world.

To pray, Come Holy Spirit, is a dangerous prayer because it means that we must be open and vulnerable, willing to be challenged and changed, so that we find Jesus in others.

In praying ‘Come Holy Spirit’ we will find ourselves standing with those on the margins of society, with the vulnerable , the homeless, the overlooked, the parents fleeing to give a better future for their children . Praying ‘Come Holy Spirit’, will mean we find ourselves in conflict with those wielding power and influence in the world – with those who wish to maintain the status quo.

This is when Christians will be told things such as ‘don’t mix religion and politics’. A number of bishops have expressed views on the visit to the NE made by the Prime Minister’s chief adviser. They came in for significant criticism and even deaths threats. This is not the time or place to discuss who is right or wrong.

My reflection and view is that we need the voice of faith within our communal life. The Christian voice is not just for Sundays. When we are sent into the world we are sent to be like Christ in our family and our working lives. The Christian tradition has a great background of thought and wisdom, and in this situation, ethics, to bring to bear on how we make moral judgements.

My hope is the Christians will have a greater voice as we reflect on the form of society and church that we need for our future after the pandemic. As at Pentecost, I believe we need different voices, different gifts and insights, as we evolve. A recent study published by the Harvard School of Public Health 4 has indicated the potentially lifesaving effect of church attendance – it says there are multiple mental and health benefits correlated with attending church once a week or more, including reduced mortality, lower levels of depression, higher levels of giving and greater optimism. This is true for religious observance across the faiths.

So do we risk that dangerous prayer of asking the Holy Spirit to come? We have access to the Spirit- that empowerment – that leads to life and helps us grow.

May we pray – Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Amen

1 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/23/coronavirus-dies-within-70-days-no-matter-tackle-claims-professor/

2 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-deaths-autumn-winter-uk-europe-who-kluge-a9514891.html

3. Luke 24:49

4  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/church-save-your-life/

Collect:

God, who as at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your 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 is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

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