Church of England Diocese of Oxford Hook Norton with Great Rollright and Swerford

Pentecost Reflection by Revd Janet Faull

3 Jun 2020, 12:15 a.m.
Pentecost_Sermon_2020_JF_RHyiB41.pdf Download

Pentecost Reflection by Revd Janet Faull

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to be altogether in one place back in our clubs, our churches or with our wider family? And yet that moment, when the disciples were all together in one place, well…, it wasn’t quite as perfect as we might first imagine. For they too were in a lockdown of sorts.

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, he said, ‘Stay. Stay in the city.’ They were ordered not to leave Jerusalem, they couldn’t go back to their homes or back to their livelihoods on the shore of Galilee, they were not too sure how much trouble they would be in with the Roman soldiers if they left their house, let alone if they were caught outside preaching on the street. ……..

For them, similarly for us, the lockdown brought unemployment, financial concern, distance between them and those they loved, and many uncertainties. Through our experience we can imagine a little of their anxiety, of their loss. They couldn’t return to life as they knew it and yet couldn’t envisage the new world before them………

But they had Jesus’ last words to hold them, who said, ‘Wait for the promise of the Father….you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit; not many days from now you will receive power and you will be my witnesses.’

Time passed slowly. It had been ten long days since the ascension of Jesus. Jesus had been faithful to them before, might he be faithful again? ……..

They knew Jesus, they had a relationship with Jesus, trust had grown between them through all they had been through, but still they must have wondered would he keep his promise. ………….

Waiting is perhaps the hardest of asks…..but scripture shows God with a good track record of turning the darkest times of waiting into something good, of bringing people out of lockdown to serve him with new vigour and courage.

Remember Joseph…long years in prison but who came out with many skills to lead a country through famine; there was Jonah stuck in lockdown in the whale, but who came out resigned to God’s will and purpose; and then, to skip over many other examples, there was Jesus in lockdown – buried and forsaken….but who burst from the tomb from darkness to glory, bringing forgiveness and life. ………

So what happened at Pentecost? Well suddenly there are flames of fire, the rush of a violent wind and the speaking in all tongues and accents. The Spirit breaks through all and all barriers were down, the barriers of language, of social context, of doubt, of religion. We celebrate this wonderful day in history as the birthday of the Christian church.

In the words of social media - What’sapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even Zoom ..suddenly all come to life, the Spirit has a voice, it releases faith, it enables understanding, it brings with it an acceptance of God working something new. The Spirit took hold of the opportunity of all the many peoples being in Jerusalem for the festival, to free the world to celebrate together, united through the Spirit as God created all peoples to be. ………………

Can we see any of this happening today….well, we are in a lockdown of sorts, I don’t believe God has brought that on, but I do believe God is working on us and in us and through us during this time of opportunity, bringing healing to us and equipping us both as individuals and as a church.

And maybe he is doing more….our barriers also are being broken down. Maybe the Spirit is at work uniting us as it did for the world on the first day of Pentecost. For it’s a joy to hear of many who are joining in services with relatives across the pond in America, some also with family or friends in Cyrus. For us we’ve joined in with a service and been led in worship by our Son’s family - a real treat for me with usual and local responsibilities on a Sunday. We’ve all had opportunities to worship with the archbishops and with our diocesan bishops and senior staff, and when have we ever had weekly benefice services when each church of our benefice has regularly been represented.

Let us ask….are we in lockdown or might the Spirit have already come again upon us…to unmute us, to unite us, to teach us new skills, to free us to be the church of a different genre for the people of the next generation? ……..

But don’t personally skip the lockdown. That wouldn’t have worked for Jonah, or for Joseph or for Jesus. As much as the Spirit is for the good of the church so also is the Spirit for the good of you personally, for your well-being and spiritual health.

Today the Spirit is always present; it can be with you in times of darkness as well us in times of celebration. If God is growing the Spirit’s fruit in you of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness or self control, as mentioned in the letter to the Galatians, so let it be your blessing. If God is giving you the Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, the gift of healing, the working of miracles, or the gift of prophecy, of discernment or the speaking in tongues, as mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians so let that be your blessing. Or if the Spirit is anointing you with understanding, counsel, might, again wisdom and knowledge, even fear of the Lord, all as spoken in the book of Isaiah, then don’t rush forward, rather be still and let God work in you. ……. Hibernate a little, but not alone, let the Spirit be your quiet and compassionate yet challenging companion. As many localities might travel through and out of lockdown at different speeds so let this time be your opportunity to ask God- How does he wish his Spirit to work in your life?

That strong and violent power seen on the first day of Pentecost can be as gentle and as caring as God commands - remember, he can still the storm. Trust that the Spirit can be gentle with you. Time is always on his side and your unique purpose in life will have its next moment with new focus and creativity. So stay a while, the day of freedom will come to those who wait on the Lord. ……………..

But ultimately that first Pentecost brought change, and every time now, when the Spirit comes upon us in power, change will come. Change for the life of the church, for the life of the community and for the inner life of each person.

May this Pentecost Sunday, this moment, this year, as we travel through lockdown to freedom, be the Spirit’s time to bless, to heal, to challenge, to equip, to give courage, to give a voice, to give faith, to break down barriers and to unite God’s church. And may we, who sense God’s anointing be joyful and celebrate the new thing that God is doing this Pentecost, this year.

‘Thy kingdom come, they will be done, come Holy Spirit,’ must have been the prayer of those disciples in lockdown. May it be our prayer also, again and again…

‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, come Holy Spirit.’