Before the ending of Pentecost Day


No rushing wind here in this part of England this Pentecost Day just gentle breezes and birdsong as the weather wonders whether to let it be spring or not.

So I took the opportunity to browse through John V Taylor’s The Go-Between God written in 1972 when the Charismatic Renewal was beginning to take off and I ponder its opening paragraph.

The chief actor in the historic mission of the Christian church is the Holy Spirit. He is the director of the whole enterprise. The mission’s first task is to focus on Jesus Christ.

He makes an important point. The Holy Spirit is not primarily about special gifts or unique healings. For those of us who remember those times and can reflect on what happened in many churches it is a reminder that the Holy Spirit was not given to change the way we worship but to lead us in Christ’s missionary work in the world.

And it all happened in Jerusalem. There are two accounts of the arrival of the Holy Spirit both feature Jerusalem.

In John’s Gospel frightened disciples hide behind closed doors and the Risen Christ appears and breathes over them the Spirit which will enable them to continue the mission he had been given by God his Father.

In the Acts of the Apostles the disciples have been told to wait in the city for the power from on high that will send them to the ends of the earth proclaiming the Risen One.

What significance might there be in Jerusalem being the place of this special God -experience?

Jerusalem was the seat of all human power. It was a military base. It had some of the best sports facilities in the region. It had a palace for the King and a Temple, homes and offices for his religious advisers and priests. There was a governor’s residence and it had been the capital of the Jewish people for nearly a 1000 years.

And more than all of that it was set on Mt Zion, a place of mythic power. Among others the Israelite prophet Isaiah saw a time when the peoples of the world would be drawn to that high place and there the people of God would teach them ways of peace and righteousness. It was a significant place.

But everything about the disciples made them insignificant.

John tells us they were frightened. In Acts there are not many of them and they are definitely not city-people. They did not count.

But in that very place the power of God through the Holy Spirit came and has made a worldwide difference ever since. Human powers make themselves impressive but there is another power.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not to reduce to nothing the things are.

All over this country churches are closing and the Church is being written off by many people in our society sometimes by the very people who are closing them.

But God does not look on the outward appearance he looks on the heart.

As Jesus told Nicodemus: The wind blows were it chooses, and you hear the sound of it but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Churches may close, others may give it no future but people of the Spirit are as the wind – unstoppable and turning up all over the place; for we are the creation of an invincible God.

Here’s a parable.

A few years ago one evening I was in central London and found a Baptist church that was open. It was a Communion Service. The congregation was small. The minister wore a black suit, white shirt and deep red tie; very conventional.  Although it was close to some of the great museums, art galleries and concert halls in the capital he led the service without flamboyance. It was simple, traditional but you could tell the importance of what we were doing by the tone and character of his voice.

So when he held up the bread and the cup to say the words: This is my body; this is my blood he paused, he waited for us as we gave the moment our full attention and at that moment as the bread was broken and wine poured I realised that we had been placed under another authority; not Ken Livingstone’s London, not Blair’s government, not Lambeth Palace, not the happy clappiness of Shaftesbury Avenue or the financial clout of the City but the authority given to a Jewish teacher and healer, raised from the dead – the Son of  God whose Kingdom knows no end.

That little Communion Service in all its ancient Baptist style was a defiant reminder that the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth on his people.

There is another power. It is seen in the breaking of bread and the pouring of wine, which replace the scarred hands and side which Jesus showed his disciples on that first Easter evening in that room of fears; for it is the God with Scars who has powers of attraction which defy our desire for control and domination.

Today has been the day which the Lord has made and I have been glad to have lived through it (again).


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