Friday, 29 May 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
This Sunday is the great Festival of Pentecost. In the readings for that day we will hear two accounts of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and we will hear of the spiritual gifts that derive from God’s great gift to humanity. The famous reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us of the disciples’ experience of the Holy Spirit as a rushing wind, complete with tongues of fire dancing upon their heads. The Gospel reading tells us of the quieter moment at the end of the first Easter day when the risen Jesus appeared to his fearful disciples, offered them his peace and then breathed on them – giving them the gift of the Spirit. In between these readings we will hear Paul telling us of the many gifts and talents that we can be called to exercise in God’s name, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This Sunday is a truly wonderful festival in the Church’s calendar.
I have delayed writing this week’s letter because I wanted to listen to yesterday evening’s announcement about the ‘easing’ of the lockdown, just in case … I delayed in the hope that this letter might be bringing some positive news about the re-opening of our churches, if only for private prayer. Sadly, I have no such news to offer. As I write to you nothing has changed for any community of faith in this country. Many of you may be wondering why you can now go to shops and yet not to church; why you can play golf but not pray in private, in a sacred space; why you can begin to enjoy greater social contact but not sit in a beautiful building where numbers and social distancing can be so easily controlled. The isolation, the distancing and the confusion goes on. To add to the sense of uncertainty, the last week has seen much controversy about how people might interpret the rules and instructions that have been put in place, on the advice of experts, in order that we might be kept as safe and protected as possible. Much time and effort has been wasted on speculation and criticism, all of which has been a diversion away from our Christian duty of love and service.
Pentecost marks the end of our journey from Advent. For months we have been hearing and reflecting upon the totality of Jesus’ earthly incarnation. At Pentecost we come to the moment where, having recalled the gifting of the Holy Spirit to humanity, we now have to go out into the world (albeit ‘virtually’) and put all that reflection and celebration into practice. This has a very specific meaning for those who profess the faith of Jesus Christ. We are not called to look for loopholes and diversions that we can use to justify a selfish way of living. We are called to put God and our neighbours ahead of ourselves. We are not called to judge others, especially when we are not in possession of the facts. Instead we are called to forgive, just as God forgives us for the times we have behaved in a way that distanced ourselves from him.
These continue to be difficult times. Whatever we may think, very few of us know better than those who are working to protect us. So why, from the comfort of our armchairs, do we let our anger build into a barrier that separates us from the God who gave everything for us? As the Church’s calendar takes us into Ordinary Time, let us show what is ‘ordinary’ for every Christian. The ‘ordinary’ should be our immediate response to God’s call in our lives. The ‘ordinary’ should be our love for those amongst who we live. The ‘ordinary’ should be the setting aside of worldly temptation (including the temptation to be angry and judgmental) and living in the joy of the presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
With every blessing to you all.