This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost has often been regarded as the birthday of the church and some have encouraged birthday cakes and candles in worship along with streamers and singing happy birthday to the church. Celebration plays an important role within the church, but this way of marking Pentecost tends to miss the mark. Pentecost is about God empowering us to engage with God in mission. The signs of that are there in the story where the first thing we notice is that the Spirit places within the hearts of the disciples a yearning, perhaps even a drive to share the message of God’s reconciling love. So we find the disciples who had gathered behind closed doors bursting out into the streets to speak and build bridges with strangers. Their fear is gone, and they know that they just have to share what they know, what they have experienced, what they have been taught by Jesus.
Pentecost is the moment when the promise and the command given at the end of Matthew’s Gospel becomes a reality. Go and make disciples to the ends of the earth. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury said, ‘When we think of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Church we are always thinking about the way God makes connections’. It is the Holy Spirit that connects us with Jesus and through Jesus to God the Father. It is the Holy Spirit that binds us together in Holy Communion. The apostle Paul tells us that it is the Spirit that gives us the words we speak to God in prayer, and it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the words to share good news with one another. The Holy Spirit places within us a longing for God, and a desire to build connections that heal and restore relationships.
We have often focused on the drama of Pentecost – the strange story of rushing wind and flames of fire. These powerful images alerting us to vital presence of the Holy God tell us of God’s desire to work with us, leading us from our fears, empowering us to face the obstacles in our lives, the locked doors we often hide behind, and giving us the confidence to reach out to others with friendships, to walk alongside people in times of distress, and we can do this because we have been touched by the flames of God’s love. Pentecost is about God leading us into a deeper, more mature humanity, where we are given a desire to connect, to communicate to engage more fully in our world. Over the last few years we have been battered by the Covid Pandemic, and for a long time we haven’t been able to meet together physically, and some struggle to come back to church.
I want to encourage you to hear in the Pentecost story an invitation to be bold. Pentecost is all about the work of the Spirit in us, placing within us a longing for the God who has adopted us as God’s children, loved and precious as we were made to be. Pentecost invites us to develop an ‘invitational culture’ that warmly welcomes, and sincerely fosters friendships.