At the beginning of June we mark the celebration of Pentecost. This festival highlights the birthday of the Church – when the Holy Spirit came upon the people and they were given the ability to speak in tongues to all manner of people, with those present each recognising one another speaking in their own language. It’s an important festival for the Church, partly because it fulfils the promise of Jesus that God would send a ‘comforter’ to be with the people, but also because it demonstrates the renewal of the community of God to face a new era.
Like any birthday celebration, it’s good to commemorate the many years of good things that have happened. It’s good at Pentecost to think about what the Church has been able to achieve in its many years: through work people did to end slavery, to clear jubilee debt, to campaign for education of Children – not to mention all the people who have found faith and grown in their knowledge and love of God.
When we think about the promise of Jesus to send a comforter, the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost reminds us that with the Spirit’s presence we receive the presence of the risen Christ. We celebrate together what it means to be a community inspired and filled with the presence of Jesus in our midst, and with the whole of the Christian message in the centre of our life together. Pentecost is where we are reminded of what it means to be Christians, sharing in the good news of the Christian gospel in a faithful community of believers.
But Pentecost also brings to mind the renewal of the community and the way in which it is changed forever to face the new period of the Church’s life. Every period of the Church’s life has needed the renewal of the Spirit to help it face the challenges before it. It needs us to think about what spaces we can make for the Spirit to move and for many languages to be spoken. During May we were reminded of the need to think about what we might want to give up to free ourselves up for the challenges of the time ahead. That needs to happen so that we can create the space, and have the energy, to speak the languages of the world around. We might have an idea about how to speak in ‘text’ speak, but how many of us have the energy to learn ‘emoji’ so we can speak with those who relate to the world in that way? If we can free ourselves up, then maybe we can start to be led by the Spirit into new ways of relating to our community.
So as we think about the Church’s birthday at Pentecost, we have chance to remember the years that have passed, the good and bad things that come from the passing of time, the times we have been inspired by the presence of Christ among us and the opportunities we have to be renewed to speak anew to the world around us. Who knows how God’s Spirit will lead us?