Revd Canon Stephen Herbert

The Vicar Writes

Monday 1st June 2020

Pentecost Reflection The Revd Dr Rae Caro, Curate

Send us out in the power of your Spirit

At Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. It can sometimes feel that the Holy Spirit gets third billing within the Godhead. Perhaps on some level we feel that we understand God the Father and God the Son better because we understand them through the lens of our own human relationships. The Holy Spirit seems more mysterious somehow.
At Pentecost, the arrival of the Holy Spirit very obvious. There is a rushing wind, fire and the disciples begin to speak in other languages. I find it interesting that the first gift of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ followers is a miracle of speech, and not a miracle of healing or abundance like the miracles Jesus performed. While they have this ability to break down cultural and communication barriers they choose to speak of “God’s deeds of power”. I think it’s important to note that the followers are given the ability to speak in the native languages of those who are gathered, rather than to speak in their own language and be universally understood. Perhaps this says something to us about how we communicate God’s deeds of power. Do we even try to speak about God with others? If we do, do we speak in a way that reaches the person where they are in their context or do we expect them to come to us?
Of all those gathered there, Peter recognises what is happening. He recites a passage from the prophet Joel, seeing the coming of the Holy Spirit as fulfilment of the words. It’s an incredible passage, setting out God’s agenda for justice in our world. All will become messengers of God; young and old, male and female, even slaves will receive God’s gifts. The Holy Spirit will not be confined by divisions set up by humanity as a whole or even those created by the church. God pours out the Holy Spirit on all.
There have been many attempts to find Biblical parallels for our current lockdown situation and lack of public worship. I have seen many articles setting out how we are in wilderness times like the Israelites during the Exodus or how we are learning to worship in a strange land as in the Babylonion exile. There is great wisdom in these metaphors, but I find they don’t speak to me. I think there are many more hopeful accounts that we can draw strength from at this time and Pentecost is one of them.
During this time perhaps we are being taught to ‘speak the language’ of those who are already isolated, lacking purpose or feel distant from God and church. I am feeling the loss of church very deeply, but as a result I am finding myself pondering how we can speak of God’s deeds of power to those who always miss out on church. Many more are engaging with online, radio or TV services than would step foot in church. There must be things we can learn about how for many people, church doors have become barriers.
In church we pray “Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory”. When we take our first tentative steps back to church life, I hope that is our prayer. May we be inspired by that irrepressible, boundary-defying Spirit to bring hope, dream dreams and tell of God’s deeds of power.