Sunday reflection

Reflection for Pentecost
”Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven…. and they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” From Acts 2:1-21, NIV.

We have transformed raw steel into racing machines, turning flames into hope and ruin into beauty – written on Coventry‘s City of Culture mug.

Derby’s Museum of Making opened this week in the Silk Mill, Britain’s oldest surviving factory which dates from 1721. So often in museums, the exhibits are in cabinets to be looked at rather than used but the 30,000 artefacts here are all on display and visitors to it are being encouraged to make something during their visit. The function of many of its objects is unknown and curators are asking the public to tell them and become active participants if they recognise the purpose of what’s in front of them. The museum needs its visitors and they need the museum too, as both discover more about local heritage and as the future also begins to take shape in the present. 

The success of the Silk Mill, and the colourful story behind its development, played a pivotal role in Derby’s industrial development, leading as it did to the later textile mills of pioneers such as Richard Arkwright. People started to come to Derby to see this “model of manufacturing wonder” and its new purpose means that they are flocking there once again now that it has reopened after its adaptation and repurposing. 

In today’s passage in the Acts of the Apostles, many visitors ‘from every nation under 
heaven’ are also flocking to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover. They are devout Jews who, when they hear and see what is happening, become both amazed and perplexed. Others in the crowd think that drink is involved until Peter tells them that this is the Spirit being poured out – on all people. Not everyone is willing to receive this gift but, later, about three thousand people are baptised that day (2:41). Many wonderful things begin to happen then – and are still happening today.
However, some believers today think that this event is an historical account from the past rather than a sign of God also actively at work in the present. It’s possible to see this as a special event as the Good News begins to emerge from the familiar traditions of the past into the transformation of lives and futures in so amazing way. In doing so, it’s easy to overlook that the Holy Spirit is still active and not be open to what that might mean for Jesus’ followers now, who sometimes choose to be bystanders or critics – like some in the crowd then – rather than being actively involved in what is happening.
It’s also easy to overlook that all those who have been baptised have already received the Holy Spirit. As the Church in Wales’ baptism service puts it, “Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit you give to your faithful people new life in the water of baptism: guide and strengthen us by the same Spirit……”  Whether or not that same power, guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit will be sought in the new way of life now emerging from the chaos of the pandemic will vary for each individual as choices are made, lifestyles change and devastation sometimes results.
Coventry, the current City of Culture, faced enormous destruction during the war and the industrial change since but still celebrates turning flames into hope and ruin into beauty. At so pivotal a time this Pentecost, there will be continuing opportunities to be actively involved in fanning the flames of hope or simply watching what evolves from the efforts of other people. Some will become involved and others won’t but the one thing to be sure of is that the Holy Spirit is active in the church today and elsewhere too. However, it’s also possible for churches to be seen as archaic museums and treated as such, too. That doesn’t have to be the case but active participation is needed if the wind and fire of Pentecost are to bring about the change that is possible and necessary today for the shaping of a better future for all. Otherwise, the bystanders, critics and dust prevail.
Where and how might it be possible, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to transform flames into hope today and ruin into beauty after all the devastation that has happened recently?
With my prayers; pob bendith,
Christine, Guardian.