Pentecost Sunday - Reflection

'when the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth’  John 16:12

One of the joys of going abroad on holiday is mastering the local lingo. This past week I’ve been on retreat in North Wales. I was a student in that part of the world many moons ago now, and it was lovely being back in a place amongst people who speak the language of heaven! Welsh is a beautiful language but thankfully the locals speak English too as my Welsh isn’t that great! There’s been a real resurgence in people speaking the language and the policy is now that all correspondence and signage be bilingual. The Welsh are reconnecting with their proud roots. I came across a story recently on the BBC website which made me chuckle. It involved a translation mix-up involving a road sign in Wales and goes to show that there’s still a long way to go before Welsh becomes normative amongst all native peoples. The sign in question, originally in English, should’ve said: "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only," but when Swansea Council officials sent it to be translated, they received an automated e-mail written in Welsh that read: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated." Unaware of the actual meaning of the e-mail, officials had the sign printed and put up near a supermarket, only realising their mistake when Welsh speakers pointed it out. "Our attention was drawn to the mistranslation of a sign at the junction of Clase Road and Pant-y-Blawd Road," a Swansea Council spokesman said. "We took it down as soon as we were made aware of it and a correct sign will be installed as soon as possible.”

When it comes to foreign languages we all need a bit of help, and I guess you can think of other instances where you’ll need help from time to time. On your own you’re just incapable of doing X, Y or Z. For the disciples they must’ve felt in a similar situation, out of their depth and in need of help. 10 days ago we celebrated Ascension, that moment when Jesus went back to God, his Father, in heaven. But before he left them he said these words: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father promised . for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 1:4, 5). So having done what Jesus had told them to do, they had made their way back to Jerusalem and they waited. It was a strange time. These people had left everything to follow Jesus and now they found themselves alone, without their friend and master to help them. If the authorities could crucify Jesus what would become of them? They must’ve felt incredibly vulnerable. But their anxious wait was brought to an end, because suddenly there was a sound like a strong wind that came from heaven and filled the room they were sitting in. It’s difficult to imagine it really, but we’re given vivid description of what was going on. We’re told that alongside the wind there were what seemed to be tongues of fire that came and rested on each one of the disciples. A visible sign of God’s presence, just as the fire at the burning bush showed God’s presence to Moses in the book of Exodus. What Jesus had said had come to pass. The Holy Spirit had come, and  the individual tongues of fire shows us that the promised Holy Spirit is personal. He’s not some remote supernatural being. No. He comes to each and every believer in a very personal way. It’s profound to think that the God of the universe would do such a thing, but our God is a loving and personal God.

But what next? Well, we’re told that the disciples were filled with God’s Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. The helper Jesus had promised to send from heaven had well and truly arrived. Now, here were these uneducated men suddenly finding that they’re able to speak languages they’d never been able to speak before. It’s a bit like you and me suddenly being able to speak fluent Welsh and to read and understand all those long and complicated road-signs. So there’s little wonder that the crowd were amazed. How could such uneducated men be able to do such things? Some mocked and accused them of being drunk. But that wasn’t the reason why. No. This was a supernatural happening brought about with the help of the Holy Spirit. It was he that’d equipped them to speak about Jesus to all the foreign visitors in Jerusalem that day. It’s such an easy thing to do to hide our light under a bushel and yet here we see that the Holy Spirit helps and enables these believers to speak of Jesus. This same Spirit is there to help us too, at home and at work; amongst friends and family. We sometimes think it all depends on us. How erudite we are or how convincing we can be. And yet. it’s all about God. He’ll move in people’s hearts by his Spirit and it’ll be the Spirit that does the transforming work that we all long to see. Perhaps you’re here in church today for the very first time or for the very first time in a long time! If you are no that you’re welcome. The likelihood  is you’re here because someone spoke to you about Jesus. And know this too, the same Spirit that came to those first disciples is wanting to come to you today. We don’t have to struggle through life trying to be the perfect person and making it on our own. God has promised to be with us by his Spirit to help us journey through this life. We may not be able to see him, but we can feel his effects.

Pentecost is a tremendously symbolic event. All this happened on the Jewish Feast of Weeks, a harvest festival. And what do we see. a wonderful harvest of people becoming Christians! But fast forward will you to the day on which Jesus will return. On that day, Jesus will return as the risen, glorified and ascended Lord and all who’ve believed and trusted in him will rise too. Jesus’ own resurrection is the prototype for what will happen to us. He is if you like the first-fruits for we too will rise on the last day with resurrection bodies to be gathered in. Looking at this passage again together this morning is a good reminder to us of God’s love and generosity in that he didn’t want his people to be alone in the world. No. He sent his Holy Spirit to help and enable us to be his people in his world. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit is called the Helper or the Comforter because that’s exactly what he does. He comforts those in need, and he helps the Christian to believe in and live for Jesus. May I encourage you today, if you’ve not yet done so, to invite the Spirit to come and make his home in your heart as well. Amen (from Fr David Craven)