When the day of Pentecost came, they were all in one place’ (Acts 2:1). The opening verse of the story of Pentecost is a painful reminder of the place in which we find ourselves. Being together at Pentecost is more than the church celebrating its birthday; it’s a fundamental expression of pneumatology (that’s the doctrine of the Holy Spirit!) which teaches and reminds us that the Holy Spirit is a gift which is given to the whole church community. I take comfort in knowing that the same Spirit who was able to unite people of different languages on the first Pentecost will be able to unite people of different locations this Pentecost.
Whilst the Holy Spirit is a gift to the whole church, we can also rejoice in this precious gift of God to each one of us.
One of the blessings of lockdown for me has been the gift of a garden. I’ve noticed new life and colour emerge in a way which I never have before. The story of our salvation begins and ends in a garden. And between Eden and Paradise, there are some other significant gardens too. Alas, gardens don’t feature at Pentecost. The colours, however, in mine at present remind me of the gifts that we receive through the Holy Spirit on this birthday of the church: the ruby red rose reminds me of the ‘tongues of fire that separated and came to rest’ on each of the disciples at Pentecost, pouring upon them the inestimable love of the Godhead; the wild white wisteria recalls the Prayer Book name for this feast – Whitsunday – which reminds me of the work of the Spirit in baptism in cleansing us from sin by washing us white in the blood of the lamb; the poised purple peonies remind me of the royal status that is conferred upon us through water and the Spirit as we are reborn as children of the King of Kings - who sends his Spirit to comfort and protect us; and the glistening green growth in the trees and hedgerows remind me of the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – which grow abundantly in the Kingdom of God.
One of my favourite [non-Welsh] saints is St Seraphim of Sarov. He was born in the 18th century and is one of the most renowned saints of Russia. He said that ‘the principle aim of the Christian is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit’. Let’s all pray this Pentecost, dispersed though we may be, that we may daily increase in the Holy Spirit more and more for it only through the Spirit that we can become a Transforming Church, Transforming Lives.