A Pastoral Message for Pentecost Sunday

Dear friends

As the day of Pentecost dawns we remember how, following the resurrection, friends of Jesus gathered in a house in Jerusalem with the doors locked “for fear of the Jews.”  During this time Jesus visited them and offered them reassurance through his greetings of peace.  But then, came the ascension.  Jesus left them and once again they are waiting anxiously for what would happen next.  When would all that Jesus had promised take place?

During this pandemic, many of us remain behind our closed doors and some of those same emotions of fear and anxiety are present in us.  We remain isolated and separated out of both fear for ourselves and for others but also out of a deep sense of love and care for others, recognising that our behaviour and our actions have implications for more than just us.

Just like those disciples all those years ago, we look for reassurance and a sense of peace in these days that we are doing the right thing and that eventually all will be well.  With that in mind, I say a huge thank you to all of you across this District who have made huge sacrifices in recent weeks in order to keep each other safe whilst also keeping us connected.  Whatever actions and behaviours we may see elsewhere, let us continue to show our love and care for one another, and especially for the most vulnerable amongst us.  Let us continue to live in hope of better days ahead and know God’s peace as we continue to wait.

We are waiting for the days when we can travel, meet and embrace each other again; when we can be altogether in one place as the friends of Jesus were at Pentecost.  They were still uncertain about what the future might hold but they obediently waited as Jesus had asked them to.  I’m sure they huddled together to ease their anxiety and their fear and perhaps as we think about that it stirs in us a longing for the closeness we have lost.

But, many of us have found ways in recent weeks of being “together in one place!”  Technology has enabled many of us to assemble in groups and look into each other’s faces.  We may not physically be in the same place but we can still be of one heart and mind as we wait expectantly together for a different future and for all that the Spirit will bring.

How might the Spirit come afresh to us in these days I wonder?  What are we expecting, or hoping for, or looking for?  Luke paints his picture of the Spirit’s arrival in terms of tongues of fire and rushing wind and the ability to be understood by everyone.  But he spends much longer describing what happened as a result of that, namely Peter’s passionate sharing of the good news.

So, the Holy Spirit comes not just to give us warm, cosy, fuzzy spiritual experiences, but to give us confidence and the ability to do what Jesus asks of us, primarily to be his witnesses!

How will we do that this year during this pandemic?  How might the Spirit want to set us on fire?  What winds of change might we be called to embrace?  How will we continue to proclaim the good news in ways that people can understand whilst we continue to experience lockdown in some measure?  And what will be asked of us as we emerge from the lockdown?

This year, as the church, we have to celebrate Pentecost differently.  We cannot gather with our usual party atmosphere to celebrate the birth of the church.  So, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on these questions whilst acknowledging that the Holy Spirit invites us into an adventure which may at times take our breath away.  She wants to lead us in ways that exceed our imagining.  All of that might sound a bit daunting but without opening ourselves to the power of the Spirit we are just a semblance of church – we meet, we make decisions, we enjoy each other’s company, but we are not truly alive if the Holy Spirit is not allowed to guide, direct and inspire us in all areas of our life together!  We surely need the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit if we are to learn how to be the church in whatever the new normal looks like.

The future is going to look different.  It may at times be uncomfortable, unpredictable and overwhelming because of where we feel led to be or how we feel called to behave as we respond to the Spirit’s prompting but we can be sure that in all this we are held securely in the love of God.  May we in our homes, our families, our communities, and one day when we gather again in our churches, know and share the fullness of life which the Spirit longs to bring.

Every blessing,

Gill Newton, District Chair