Encouragement for the journey
Greetings fellow travellers!
At our church in the USA, we used to celebrate Pentecost as ‘the birthday of the church’. It took me a while to understand the logic behind this, because it seems to me that the community that formed around Jesus during his ministry already were ‘church’. They worshipped together at the synagogue, they met for meals in each other’s houses. They were clearly actively engaged in the same work of healing and proclamation as Jesus and he had commissioned them and given them authority even as he continued to teach and guide them. They did make lots of mistakes – ‘We saw someone driving out demons in your name and we stopped him, because he was not one of us’. And they misunderstood – ‘Teacher, promise that we will be able to sit at your left and right hand in the coming kingdom’. And they outright failed on occasion too – ‘Why was it, even when we tried so hard, we could we not drive out the demon?’
So what happened on the day of Pentecost that led people to point to that event as the birthday of the church? It would be easy to highlight the outward signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit – the tongues of flame, the speaking in tongues, the new courage of disciples who had been so traumatised by the crucifixion that they had become totally paralysed by fear and shame. But there is a more subtle change here that I think signifies a complete shift in the identity and reality of the community. During Jesus’ ministry, his message was essentially: ‘The kingdom of God is here. The kingdom of God is among you and within you. This is what God’s kingdom is like….’
After the resurrection and on the day of Pentecost, we hear the first sermon that essentially says: “Jesus the Christ is the good news of the kingdom of God!”
Peter’s message explains how God’s faithful intention for all of creation was fulfilled by Jesus, and how we can participate in the life, love and joy of God’s kingdom here and now through Jesus. If you can believe this, and trust in Jesus, then your life will reflect your acceptance of your place and your part in the community that lives to be God’s eternal kingdom breaking into the here and now of our earthly time.
So our celebration of the birthday of St. Aidan’s helps us remember that there was, in this place, an upwelling and flowing out of the life of the Spirit that formed one more community of people who take their places and fulfil their parts as God’s love is shown and made discernable – however imperfectly – through each one of us.
Blessings as you journey on in Love,