Writings from the ministry team
for your refreshment
CB-Pentecost: may 2016
Today is one of the greatest days of the Christian year. In fact, I would say that the feast of Pentecost holds its place with Christmas and even Easter, because without the coming of the Holy Spirit, Easter would have been forgotten long ago! Jesus would have ascended to heaven, the disciples would have been left desolate and have gone back to their fishing – and then - nothing! But the Spirit did come, as Jesus had promised, and we are here today!
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life itself. Without the Spirit we simply cannot live life as God wants us to live. The Spirit was present at the creation; God breathed the breath of life into his creation and into our flesh. Jesus, the Word of God, was made man and came to live among us through the power of the Holy Spirit . Today, Jesus is present to us in the Spirit.
In fact, nothing happens at all without the Holy Spirit! The Spirit is present and active throughout the whole story of God's salvation and is as active today as he or she ever has been; in our personal lives, in our Church communities and in God's mission in the world. But what is this Spirit, or rather, who is the Spirit?
The Greek word, Paraclete has been translated in many ways over the centuries.
Wycliffe translated it as “comforter”. The Spirit certainly comforts and encourages us in times of distress as she reminds us of Christ's love for us, and reminds us that we are children of God. We are not alone, but united in love with the Father and the Son through the Spirit. Jesus is no doubt using the word in this sense as he reassures his disciples who are feeling distressed and orphaned and abandoned.
But in the word Comfort there is also the Latin word 'fortis' or the French 'fort' meaning strong. In times of personal pain and distress we have the promise of not only being being comforted but strengthened so that we can stand upright again and find hope in our troubled world.
Perhaps the word “comforter” doesn't describe so well the Holy Spirit in Acts. The Holy Spirit does rather the opposite it seems. It shakes things up and shakes people to the core. Remember the earthquake of last week. Remember Paul and Silas being chained up in prison. Remember the Roman jailer being terrified, shaken and then udergoing a complete change. Remember the Holy Spirit telling Peter to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles – an unthinkable and shocking possibility for the Jews. Remember the Holy Spirit breaking down barriers, inspiring Peter's preaching, and giving the disciples strength to do what appears impossible.
The Holy Spirit is not simply God's presence which comforts us in our personal times of trouble and makes everything all right. She comes with a gush of wind and tongues of fire, and that's not very comforting! The people who witness the disciples speaking in tongues and witness to the disciple's ministry, are shaken up too. They are bewildered, amazed and astonished. They are even profoundly shocked as their world views are shaken.
So comforter as a translation of the Paraclete is insufficient on its own, but then Paraclete is a complex word. It can probably be best translated as “the one who is called in to help' or “the one who comes alongside another”. This is the “advocate”, the one who defends us and counsels us, giving advice in a difficult situation, or the one who is called in to encourage and to inspire us when we feel discouraged.
But then remember that the Spirit is always on the move and blows where she will. She has a mission. As we said before, the Spirit is active in God's mission of salvation and we are called to share in God's mission by following Jesus. Our mission is, as Jesus says is, “ to do the works that I do, and even greater works”. The Holy Spirit comes along side us to shake us up and move us on in our mission – and that's not comfortable, because, like the disciples we will be pushed out of our comfort zones.
Perhaps the Spirit comes to comfort us, only to make us uncomfortable so that we can be effective servants in the world. Jesus calls us to care for others, to show mercy to others, to love others as ourselves, to heal, and to strengthen the weak, to make disciples and to challenge the world. This is not only our longing, but also our task. This is the task of Christ Church in La Manche, and to do it we need the Spirit!
So what do we need to do?
As individuals, listen, in silence of your hearts, to what the Spirit is saying to you as you grow on your personal journey of faith. You will be comforted and you will be challenged to change and to become what seems impossible today so that your gifts may be used in the Church.
As a Church community, listen together to what the Spirit is saying. You have challenges, you have doubts, perhaps fears for the future, but you do have a future and you do have a mission and you do have the presence of the Holy Spirit hovering over you as the breath of life! The Spirit may shake you up a bit, or even a lot, but the Spirit will comfort and strengthen you in your doubts and in your searching. Above all, the Spirit will enable you to be and to do what God has called you to be and to do in this place.
You may be mostly retired, but as long as you are here and have strength, the Spirit will be calling you to reach out to serve in appropriate ways, and also to shake up and challenge the world.
You may say that there isn't enough money, or we don't have the strength, or we don't have a deep enough sense of community between the two church centers, or we don't have a leader to bring us together, to encourage us and to help us move forward. But these things will be given and the Holy Spirit will come alongside you and work with you and for you. Trust in the Spirit and be ready to trust in the unexpected. Trust in the Spirit, and know that you will be well equipped. Trust in the Spirit, and be continually recreated by her power.
Let us pray:
Holy Father, quieten our hearts and open our minds to receive your Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit and give us comfort and peace.
Come Hoy Spirit and strengthen us
Come Holy Spirit: continue to create and change us.
Come Holy Spirit, shake us, move us and inspire us with the fire of your love, that we might serve you in your plan of salvation and do greater works than we imagine possible. Amen