Sunday June 4th was Pentecost Sunday and our minister Rev Trevor Dixon led worship. The Terrorist trouble in London on the previous day reminded Trevor of the time when 25 years earlier, when he had been a teacher, he had taken a group of first year students on a trip to London. They had arrived on the Tuesday and visited the Tower of London the same afternoon. On the Wednesday he had an anxious phone call from a parent, who wondered if they had been at the Tower of London when the bomb exploded that day. Trevor had not realised that had happened, but was able to reassure the parents that they had gone there on the Tuesday, not Wednesday. There always have been terrorist problems on and off for years in London. He remembered how Pentecost Sunday used to be associated with white dresses. We sang, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made’ before Trevor led the prayers of confession and the collect for the day. We sang, ‘The Spirit lives to set us free’ before Numbers 11.24-30, which described the 70 elders being given the Holy Spirit, and 1 Corinthians 12.3b-13 about the gifts of the Holy Spirit were read. We then sang, ‘Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me’ before Acts of the Apostles 2.1-21 was read.
Trevor said we were nearly at the election finally after 4 weeks. He reminded us how we live in a media hungry and information rich world; everything for the election on the TV. The attacks in London were reported straight away on the news. The images are stage managed with gimmicks and sound bites. There is a culture of mockery and contempt; we are manipulated and hoodwinked by the parties we don’t like. They keep talking at cross purposes, never answer questions or say they have changed their mind. Politicians may be the worst offenders, but we don’t all behave like that in many parts of our life. We often see everyone different as an enemy. We don’t communicate honestly; families don’t speak to each other. We don’t say someone has died but that has passed on. Redundancies caused by downsizing; shops which have continual sales. The Spin doctors use double-speak and the communication gap goes deeper still. Why is it so hard to do and say what we really mean and be unambiguous? When we attempt to correct our errors, we make things worse. Paul understood that struggle; do not do the good we want to do, but do the evil we don’t want to do. We feel frustrated about showing the person we really are; few of us admit to reality. We don’t have an honest dialogue with ourselves, with our neighbours, other nations or people of other faiths. There is a missing link, a communication gap. Yet we have a world of instant communication via the internet, the mobile phone, satellite and television. We are afraid of revealing ourselves in real communication, as we don’t know how people will react.
What happened at Pentecost? The wind, ’ruach’, the breath of God blew beyond control; the Dove of peace hovering and brooding over creation. The flames of fire were kindling the hearts to a blaze. 70 elders in Numbers were filled with the Holy Spirit and they prophesied once. The Day of Pentecost was even more powerful; suddenly they understood one another; the communication gap closed. Pentecost is the festival of communication with each other and with God, clearly, openly and unambiguously, without dissembling or cloaking reality. It made the church united. People got together to build the high tower and got proud and built the crazy ziggurat, a sky scraper, but God saw it and came down and stopped their work; he split them up and muddled their languages into so many different languages, which caused enmity and division; language became a babble – Babel. There are now a rich variety of God given cultures and different languages. In the European community where Parliament moves every 6 months there are different language translators, who help the people to listen to each other.
Pentecost brings the promise of people being open to each other; frustrations are banished; and the church is renewed full of the Holy Spirit. God speaks in the church through his Holy Spirit. Churches today are divided, like St Peters and Wesley Chapel; there are tenuous links between the two in the separate buildings; when they shared our chapel, as their building works were done, we had stronger links. When the Spirit unites us, He brings peace into our church, our shops, and workplaces; wherever we meet other people. Trevor suggested that if we saw anyone without a smile, we should give a smile. It is a manifesto for a better world. We have a superior manifesto to share, showing the world what God has done for us. The Holy Spirit is a communicator and draws us together in unity as we follow Jesus.
We sang, ‘There’s a spirit in the air’ before the prayers of intercession. Before the communion we sang, ‘Because you have said.’ Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Do this for my sake.’ Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with power and wisdom and courage is the birthday of the church. We too each day need to be filled again with God’s Holy Spirit to strengthen, guide and unite us in the service of Jesus.