May 26th 2020
This week, I'm preparing the service for Pentecost Sunday – the 10th Sunday since lockdown – and thinking about those first disciples, gathered together behind locked doors, nervously waiting for the "promise of the Father" to be fulfilled.
Their future was uncertain, but for 50 days since the resurrection, they had waited and hoped. I'm sure that we can relate to that! We've spent the last couple of months waiting at home, in uncertainty. Waiting for the end of stay-at-home orders, waiting for life to return to some semblance of normality, waiting ultimately for a vaccine to end this pandemic.
On that Pentecost day, the waiting was rewarded in dramatic fashion, with wind and fire. They are two powerful symbols, with the potential for both creation and destruction. The wind of God brooded over the face of the waters, and God called forth life (Gen 1:2). God called Moses through a bush that burns but was not consumed (Ex 3), and led the Israelites with a pillar of fire out of death into life.
But fire and wind can also be immensely destructive. Earlier this year, we saw much of Australia burn, and earlier this month typhoons struck the Philippines, India, and Bangladesh.
So perhaps it is entirely appropriate that fire and wind are signs of the Holy Spirit. As we wait in the wreckage of what was, waiting for the birth of what will be, we are called to see visions and to dream dreams. And we might ask ourselves:
What of our old lives needs to be burned away? What needs to be renewed?
The pandemic has revealed some obvious answers. Economic and racial inequalities have meant that certain parts of our community have suffered much more grievously than others, and too many workers considered "essential" are not paid fairly for their labour.
But we have also seen healthcare workers and many others work sacrificially to save people's lives. We have seen people reaching out to their neighbours in creative and caring ways. And we have also seen the face of the ground (and the sea and the sky) renewed.
So, what of our old lives needs to be burned away? What needs to be renewed?
This is a strange time, but the church has been here before, waiting and hoping, praying and trusting. And we are not alone. That same Holy Spirit who came in fire and wind to the first disciples calls us, too, to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, Charnwood and Leicester, and to the ends of the earth. That same Holy Spirit who came to the first disciples is alive and active today and will give us what we need.
With much love, and prayers that you will continue to be blessed by God's presence.