One of the most important festivals in the Church's year falls in June this year. I thought it would be worthwhile this month to say something about it and why it is important.
Sunday 12th June is Pentecost, still known to many people as Whit Sunday. Pentecost is, in fact, a much older term, which has recently come back into use. It comes from a Greek word meaning the "fiftieth day" - being the fiftieth day since Easter. Compared to Christmas and Easter, Pentecost has often been regarded as a bit of a Cinderella festival. Actually it is a very important festival. It commemorates the day; ten days after Jesus withdrew His physical presence to Ascend to Heaven, when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples to strengthen them and to guide them to live as Christians. It is for this reason that Pentecost is sometimes called the Church's birthday. The Holy Spirit came to them and transformed them from a group of timid and cowardly people, concerned with saving their own skins, to an effective Church, boldly proclaiming the Gospel without fear or favour. We read about it in Acts chapter 2.
The difficulty a lot of people have is that they find it difficult to believe in something, or someone, they cannot see. But on that basis they shouldn't believe in wind, electricity or gravity! We cannot see those things, but we know they are there by the effect they have - for example wind filling the sails of a yacht or turning the sails of a windmill; electricity powering a light bulb or giving someone a shock; gravity stopping us from floating about and coming down to earth with a bump! Fair enough, you might say, but how do we see the effect of the Holy Spirit, so that we know that He is there? Well, in a number of ways.
Firstly, as mentioned above, we have the transformation of the disciples and the birth of the Church. The disciples were united in purpose as one body. They all understood each other, even if they didn't speak the same language. Still, today, when we see barriers broken down, old grievances reconciled, past wrongs forgiven, love conquering hatred, hope overcoming fear, often against all odds and expectations, we see the Holy Spirit at work. Sometimes He breaks into our world like a mighty rushing wind - I believe we can see His hand in the destruction of Apartheid, the pulling down of the Berlin Wall and movements for peace, justice and democracy around the world. Equally wonderfully, sometimes He comes as a gentle breeze, transforming the lives of individuals, families and communities. For me, the best "check-list", is still that given by St. Paul, in Galatians 5 : 22 - 25. Here he describes "The fruit if the Spirit" - if someone is open and receptive to the Holy Spirit and have welcomed Him into their lives, then the Holy Spirit will bring forth fruit in their lives. Paul lists these as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". When someone has welcomed the Holy Spirit into their lives the results are as obvious as a windmill driven by a strong wind.
We will be celebrating the feast of Pentecost with a service for the whole Benefice on Sunday 12th June at 10.00am at St. Mary's church, Lidgate. If you are free, why not join us for this special occasion?
With every blessing.
Rev'd Stephen Abbott