Pentecost - Happy Birthday!
Sunday 27th May 2012The Archbishop's column in The Sun today looks at Pentecost - the Birthday of the Church! His column follows...
Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!
Today is the Birthday of the Church. Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came like a rush of violent wind and filled the Disciples of Jesus with new life; sudden, unmerited, irresistible new life.
When our son Geoffrey was five years old, we bought him a kite. In the splendid Brockwell Park, in South London, we tried to fly it. There was no wind at all. So I decided to walk to the top of the hill and run down with it. The faster I ran the higher it flew - but as soon as I got to the bottom and stopped running, it fell down flat. He kept on encouraging me to do it again and again - boy oh boy, wasn’t I exhausted! Wind! - come to my aid please! I gave up after several attempts. I couldn’t control or create the wind. However, a few days later the wind was blowing so vigorously, Geoffrey and I went out again to the park. As soon as I opened the kite the wind lifted it up to such a height and my battle this time was holding on to the strings. It was as if I was being lifted up. Letting go meant losing the kite to the strong wind.
The Holy Spirit came like a powerful transforming wind. Not like a destructive tornado, but like a strong cleaning breeze which blows away all the rubbish – breaking down the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding which are often built between people of different languages and cultures.
The Holy Spirit enables not only common language but new speech, through which the Good News of God’s love-affair with humanity may be heard.
So often, what causes us the greatest hurt and misunderstanding comes from what we hear those hurtful people saying, and not necessarily the words they are using. Pentecost’s greatest gift is the gift of hearing.
God says to each of us, “I love you”. His Spirit, as the mystics observed long ago is ‘His kiss’. Therefore, to be filled with the Holy Spirit means simply allowing ourselves to be kissed by God.
Don’t be afraid of being ‘kissed’ by God, embraced by his love, filled with his Spirit. He has promised to do this as his love is poured into your life.
What Did You Get For Your Birthday
Happy Birthday to all of you who are celebrating a birthday today,
I don’t know about you, but sometimes family and friends give me presents for my birthday that I’m not sure I want, and so I put them away and don’t use them. But the gifts God gives to us are ones we can share. He is longing to give a gift to every single person on the planet, and doesn’t want us to stick them at the back of a drawer and hope he never asks us whether we’ve used them!
The gifts he’s got for us aren’t the kind of gifts we usually think about. We don’t get showered with Playstations from heaven. The gifts he gave to his first disciples were things like being able to speak really persuasively; being brave and ready to go and work in dangerous places, being able to see which people really need help, being able to love people who aren’t really very loveable. And they’re the kind of gifts he’s still giving to his family now.
They’re there to enjoy. So let’s celebrate them together.
Let’s Have A Party
Talking of sharing: one of God’s gifts to us is the gift of Generosity. Last week I visited Bradford to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Church Urban Fund (CUF) – another birthday! CUF is a charity which gives grants to projects helping people who don’t have very much. We heard from two projects which had been helped by funding from CUF. One was the Bus-stop Youth Project, which provides a mobile youth club in the deprived areas of Bradford, with up to 70 young people going each evening. One 13 year old, who wouldn’t go home at night because he just got shouted at, said “Then the bus started coming. I’ve calmed down loads and am not a angry. Mum still shouts, but not as much, and I stay in much more”.
The other is ‘Inn Churches’, in initiative with more than 400 volunteers and 70 churches providing 3000 temporary beds for the homeless and vulnerable people in Bradford, during the coldest months.
Love and hospitality – two wonderful gifts we can share.
So on this special birthday of the Church, why not see what gift God might have given you, and see how you might be able to share it with your friends and neighbours. Because sharing is always like a party.
Being An Inspiration
This week I took a group of young people involved with my Youth Trust’s Young Leaders Course to see TV survival expert Bear Grylls give a talk in Sheffield.
Bear is an inspirational leader. Someone who we can all look up to and admire for his achievements and his determination. He gives of himself freely to the young people in the Scout Movement.
I told him about these young people across the North of England who are making a real difference in some of the most deprived areas in our country. He was equally inspired by their stories. They too have given their time, talents and youthfulness to the service of others who are in need.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu once described a 15 year old girl helping others at a Church community project in Leeds, supported by funds from my Youth Trust, as his “hero”.
Heroes come in many shapes and forms but remember what really matters is being willing to do things differently, even in the face of adversity.