Letter from the Minister.
Rev Phil Summers
A message for Pentecost and the month ahead.
John 14: 16 – I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate (Helper), to be with you forever.
John 14:18 – I will not leave you as orphans, I am coming to you.
On Sunday (31st May) we celebrate/d the festival of Pentecost. The moment in the Christian calendar when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early church. Whether Jesus breathed on his disciples, as in John’s Gospel, or whether the wind and tongues of fire appeared, as in the book of Acts, or indeed, whether God’s Spirit had always been with them, as implied in John 14, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that in a time of fear and confusion Jesus’ followers made the decision that they had a life to live and a love to share. That decision was empowered by a very real sense of the presence of God. Peter was strengthened to speak to a whole crowd of visitors to Jerusalem, at great risk to himself and all his companions. Something changed. For the disciples and others, having seen their friend and teacher executed, having begun their journey of belief in the resurrection and the Christ, and now, having sensed the power of the Holy Spirit, they began to live a new normal.
Whatever had gone before had, indeed gone. Life was never to be the same again. But whatever that new normal was going to be, the words of Jesus rang true. ‘I will not leave you as orphans’. The early church could live because Jesus lived in them. God was among them; the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide was with them. Life was not easy. They were challenged, questioned, imprisoned, persecuted, and some executed. The Holy Spirit guided them, but did not lead them out of the realities of the world in which they lived, with all its pain and injustice.
So, as we celebrate the truth we believe, that the Holy Spirit of God is still with us, within us and among us, let us also consider the new normal that we are being called to. The rock on which we stand has not shifted. That is still Jesus, the Word of God. It is his Spirit that lives with us as Advocate. But the world in which we live and are called to love has moved. We have to consider what our role as a church is and how we might express that in the way we live. Because we live in Jesus our calling is still one of love, reaching out to the poor and the marginalised, challenging injustice, showing mercy and compassion, and calling all to find a new life in God’s Kingdom. But how do we now organise ourselves so these things become central, once again, to who we are?
To do this we will need a guide. And we have been promised one and have received one. Our task now, as we begin to consider coming out of lockdown, is to seek our guide’s wisdom. So, I call you to prayer. The Pentecost celebrations are not just a marking of a centuries old story. Rather, they are a reminder that we are not alone, our helper is with us forever.
When I visit an ancient monument, I very rarely buy a guidebook. I will wander around, enjoying the atmosphere and guessing about stones and old rooms based on the knowledge I already have. But now is not the time for wandering, now is the time for buying the guidebook, consulting it and learning something new. We all have a part to play in this. Pray, call on the Holy Spirit, seek God within you and around you – then consider how he wants you and us to live. What is the Advocate saying to us about the way we use our buildings, our meetings, our money? What are we learning? To go back to the foundation questions of the Northumbria Community: ‘How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ All these questions are for us as churches but also, maybe especially, for us all as individuals playing our parts within the whole.
May God bless you all, with the blessings of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not left as orphans, he has come to us. Alleluia!