On Sunday we will arrive at Pentecost. It is the Sunday that remembers and celebrates the birthday of the church – when (according to Luke) the Holy Spirit arrived 50 days after Easter and gave the disciples enough courage in their hearts and fire on their tongues to emerge from the upper room where they had been hiding and to proclaim the good news that Christ was risen and the world had changed.
This Pentecost may feel similar to us. We are being encouraged to venture out from home a bit more, to gather with a few more people but still to take care. More businesses are being encouraged to open to the public and we wait to see just how effective that will be and whether this will allow us to live with this virus or whether it will all be too much. But, even with restrictions gradually lifting, we are not yet allowed or being encouraged to open church building. However, the delight is that all across the country the church has proved itself open for business in a variety of new (and old but slightly adapted) ways. Long may we continue to speak God’s word in new ways.
As I explained last week I’m going to spend this month engaged in old customs (slightly adapted for modern times) by walking our streets in prayer. I hope those of you who are allowed out and are active will do the same. You can plan your own prayer routes and make your own commitments to walk a particular area. The way to do so is to go to https://www.openheavencoventry.org/the-app, register, and mark the roads that you wish to pray for. When you have done so you go back and click on it to say that you have prayed for those roads and pick some more. If you find that there are no streets to pray for in the area you can access, then go and walk them anyway and pray for them again.
My plan this Monday, (1st June) is to start from Ansty Road church about 10am, walk to the Forum, cross the road and walk back up the hill all the way to B&M’s, cross back over towards the westbound side and walk back to the church. I think it will take a couple of hours, but you might want to send some time following the route on a map and somewhere along it we will have prayed together, I am aware that some who are housebound have committed to joining me in this way.
On Tuesday, I will start from St. Columba’s about 10:30am and go into Drapers Field, and then along the canal to Electric Wharf and back along Sandy Lane. It’s not quite so far, but I have a meeting before and after. Join me where you can.
May God’s Spirit dance in our hearts, sing from our mouths and rest in our minds. May God’s Spirit fill our souls with joy.
She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
hovering on the chaos of the worlds first day;
she sighs and she sings, mothering creation,
waiting to give birth to all the Word can say
Bible Acts 2:1-4
I love words (you might have noticed) – the sound, the feel on my mouth, the way they can surprise, shock and be misheard. The way they take you somewhere else altogether. I love to know their meaning – I discovered this week that the Greek word we translate as hospitality is philoxenia – literally “love of strangers”. It is the exact opposite of xenophobia. Wow, that puts a different perspective on how/who/when we give hospitality. I love how words can convey solid ideas and wild imagination. The way they bring me up short, inspire me forwards or make me think again about which words to share.
Of course words can be dangerous things – when they are twisted, slanted, weaselled; when they conspire to create lies and half-truths; when we are reminded that some words are never kept. Sadly, my words are on the whole English. I have a splattering of other languages, but I’ve never been adept at retaining them and have forgotten almost as much as I’ve ever learnt. Even when I think I know another language, I go blank when I have to use it and sigh with relief when I can revert to English – a Scots/Mancunian English that conveys harsh consonants, short to the point vowels and the lilt we called home.
When the disciples emerged into the Jerusalem streets, their listeners heard their mother tongue, the dialect that had been whispered in their ears as infants, the sounds they had learnt on their home streets. They know the nuances, inflections, intimacies and they understand this brogue in a way that they could never quite understand the language of empire and oppression that was supposed to bind them together, but in truth whispered lies.
On this Pentecost, we hear the Holy Spirit in our own tongue. We hear God’s truth become embedded in our hearts, we see the excitement of people hearing good news for the very first time, we share the passion of those being confronted by grace once again. In his commentary on Acts, Willie Jennings calls these verses “The Sound of Intimacy”. What a wonderful way to become aware of God’s Spirit alive in peoples lives.
May God’s Love bring us together
May Christ’s peace be shared with all people
May the Holy Spirit blend our voices in one healing breath.
She dances in fire, one with God in essence,
waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
she weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.
John Bell & Graham Maule
© WGWG. The Iona Community