The Festival of Pentecost

We wish the Duke and Duchess of Sussex well. I was in a meeting all day yesterday so I missed the big event but I’ve now seen a few clips and pictures of the occasion. Sunshine, celebrations, happiness, ‘love is in the air’ … for what more could one ask?

I was intrigued by Bishop Curry’s sermon and his weaving of love and fire. As fire transforms our civilisations so love also can transform us and the world we make.

Of course the implication or the inference in the sermon is that this happens when a couple becomes one – united – there is a new relationship, new home, and if children should be born, then they are unique – new – to this particular couple. Each new family then affects the other families around them and the challenge then is how to live such love in the neighbourhood, village, city, county, and country. We are used to doors, fences, boundaries and borders – necessary to protect and defend – and often not very porous for love. The same sadly can occur in a home when barriers are erected and maintained and love becomes a thing of the past – as a flame is extinguished when there is no oxygen.

Fire and love are also components of Pentecost. The tongues of fire were a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit (the ‘power of from on high’ – Luke 24:49) who enabled the apostles to transcend the barrier of language to share the Good News of God’s love and action in Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord of all. God in Jesus took love away from the feeling, the nebulous, the ‘what’s right for me’, the transitory – and turned it into action – sacrificial action – the love by which one serves the beloved. That is what Jesus did by his sacrifice and his death for us and by his resurrection and exaltation, people are now assured that the world in our image – the fear and death and looking for love in all the wrong places – no longer has to be the way we live. Now Jesus gives people his life which they can live in their relationships at home, in the neighbourhood, village, city, county, and country. Thus Jesus becomes the source of love – the power of love – and it is expressed best in how we behave.

Pentecost is a moment that needs explaining. What was it that took scared, fearful, despondent followers of a crucified man to brave their society and tell everyone that this crucified man is God who is among his people still? Obviously – for those who believe – it is the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. (The world has its own theories.) Jesus revealed to John a revelation in which he said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’ (Revelation 21:5). If Jesus has defeated death’s power then no barrier on this planet can block or stop his love. Where our love runs dry, turns cold, is exhausted, dies, Jesus’ love doesn’t end. Perversely people do put barriers up to Jesus’ love because he and his way are not trusted. But those who do know Jesus’ love understand that it involves daily going into their relationships, families, neighbourhoods, countries seeking to serve, to love. How wonderful will that be should those around us – who also follow Jesus – are also seeking to serve and love us?! That sounds like a new world to me! GS