In the light of the pandemic situation as in most churches across the country, the minister and elders of Immanuel URC have taken the difficult decision to close the building for all activities including Sunday worship. This decision will hold until further notice.
However, each week our minister is creating a ‘reflection’ for personal devotion.
Reflection for Sunday 31st May 2020 PENTECOST
Read Acts 2; 1-13
Sadao Watanabe – Japan: “Pentecost”
Reading the Pentecost narrative in the Book of Acts, I instantly thought of the painting above because it is so different from our reality and is an expression of the all embracing Spirit. What is described, is so very different that those involved could not find the right words to describe it. In fact there are no words to describe what had just happened, so they had to look for similes, which people could try to understand. It was the sound “like” a rush of violent wind, divided tongues “as” of fire. What they experienced was something so different that all they could say was that is looked like, it seemed to be. But, what really went on?
The Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Hope, the Spirit of Inclusion, the Spirit of Courage, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Acceptance, was present, and because of that they had become new people. People closed behind locked doors because they were afraid were transformed in to that which they could have only hoped for, but never really imagined.
After the arrival of the Holy Spirit they will the open the doors and go out. Will they go out to a “new” reality? No – the world they walk out to will continue to be hostile, will continue to mock (“they have had too much wine“), will not really know what to do with them. Reality will not have changed too much – they are new, they are not the same. That is what makes the difference.
We realize the Bible is full of things that end and things that begin. Jesus knew that and those that follow Jesus are beginning to realize that. And this is where their reality and our reality meet. We continue to live the effects of COVID19 on our lives, where most follow the guidelines of not going out, not meeting other people; where there is longing for human contact, and sharing. But for the time being this can’t be. Yet “soonish”, it will be: we will laugh together, we will hug those we miss, cry together… we will be transformed in this process. We might find it very hard to describe in words, so just like the writer of the book of Acts, we too might have to use similes:… “it seems as if we’ve been inside forever“… and then say – you know what: God is doing things amazing, and we are part of it. Yes even in these times. We will open the doors and go out, we will be new. This is the hope I affirm and share with you.
Last week the South Western Synod Newsletter arrived, and as usual there was a message from the Synod Moderator, so I thought it was a good way to close my Reflection for this Sunday- with what Ruth had written. It will be Italics to make sure due authorship is recognized.
The disciples know that they cannot follow Jesus in the way they were doing – literally walking in his footsteps – but they haven’t yet worked out what the new way of following Jesus will look like when they walk the way of Jesus Christ as his new body, the church.
We, too, are in a strange time, as the COVID-19 restrictions on society are loosened somewhat, but the life we knew last year still feels a long way distant, and the future very uncertain. We will all need to be wise, thoughtful and measured in making any changes. We will also need to bear in mind that different people will be ready for change at different times.
(….) remember, too, that in John’s gospel, Jesus breathes the Spirit onto the disciples when he appears to them in the upper room on Easter Sunday. Or if you think of the baptism of Jesus (in Matthew, Mark and Luke) you will remember that the Spirit descends on Jesus ‘like a dove’ – in the soft flutter of a bird’s wings.
God’s wisdom comes to us through the Holy Spirit, but it does not always come suddenly or dramatically, nor do we all perceive it in exactly the same way. If ,as a local church, we are going to seek God’s guidance we will need to communicate with one another and share our thoughts while seeking ‘the mind of Christ’.
I know how hard it is to remain separated from other church members: I miss my church family as well as my blood family and want to be close. But we must allow wisdom to guide us, care for the most vulnerable, and trust that God will bring us through this time with a deeper sense of belonging to God and to one another, and a stronger sense of our part in God’s mission to the world.
Most of all at this time we remember the very last words of Matthew’s gospel, the words of Christ “I will be with you always, to the end of time.” God’s love be with you, Ruth.
And what to add to these thoughts from Ruth? Simply “So be it Lord. Amen”
Closing affirmation: “We believe in the activity of the Holy Spirit who revives our decaying soul, resurrects our defeated spirits, renews our hope with wholeness and reminds us of our responsibility in ushering in God’s new order here and now” (In God’s image)