When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place…… all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…… Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” – Acts 2:1,4,13 NIV
“We are at a dangerous moment.” – England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer.
Today is Pentecost, sometimes called the birthday of the Church because of the gift of the Holy Spirit to those first followers of Jesus, who included Mary, other women and some of his family. Coming in the form of a rushing, mighty wind and tongues of flame, the effect on those followers was immediate. Rather than remain shut away in the seclusion of the upper room, they began to speak in tongues which amazed the gathering crowd of people who could hear their own language being spoken. Some were perplexed by what was happening while others just thought they were drunk – not realising that they were intoxicated with God’s love. What happened empowered the disciples to lose their fear and speak openly to those who would listen as, with Peter’s address and three thousand people later being baptised, the Holy Spirit “took the embers of isolation and fanned them into an unmissable flame” – Steven Quantick.
Today, the embers of isolation may also be a consideration for each of us as, having been told to stay in the safety of our homes for so long, we now face uncertainty as the restrictions introduced due to Covid-19 are eased. In Wales, this is currently at a slower pace than in England but, as some scientists voice concerns and heated controversy results over the actions of a certain Government adviser, a second spike of cases is still a considerable risk. Potentially, this could be a dangerous moment – but it’s also the moment when liberty and individual responsibility are slowly being restored. There is confusion and risk – but hope and possibility, too.
Each of us will have now have a choice about the decisions that are appropriate for the situations we individually face – and that may be a perplexing prospect after so much loss and change. The ‘new normal’ will be very different – but the cost of this emerging freedom to choose has been paid by those who have shown so much courage or borne such terrible suffering. Some will honour what’s now being asked of them while others may not and, just as some of the crowds at Pentecost misunderstood what happened then, some of us may do too. But over two thousand years ago at a turning point in history, frightened people were inspired, not only by the courage and suffering borne by Jesus, but his resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They made the choice to follow him then in showing and sharing costly love in a way that changed lives, transformed fear and eventually grew into the church we know today.
During the turning point in history that we are living through, we are also being faced with various choices which will affect our individual, local and national circumstances. May what happened that first Pentecost hearten us in the challenges of finding new ways of leading our lives in relation to those around us, of being church and of proclaiming afresh the message of God’s transforming love that can change lives today as much as then. This Pentecost, as at the first, may the Holy Spirit take the embers of isolation and fan them into an unmissable flame:
Emmanuel, God with us,
On the day we mark as the birth of the church,
the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in wind and fire,
leading them to new boldness and adventure.
May the wind of the Spirit give us the courage and love to speak the Good News,
and the Spirit’s flames empower us to abandon fear and doubt,
as we take our place in the future you have prepared for us. Amen.
(Canon Carol Wardman)