John Wesley tells us in his journal that his heart was strangely warmed when he attended a meeting of the Moravians. People down through the ages have encountered the presence of God in so many different ways. Pascal,the French philosopher and practicing Roman Catholic, describes a dramatic moment in his prayers when he had a burning bush encounter like Moses. He describes it as Fire, Fire the God of Abraham and Isaac!
Sadly the church has frequently lost this encounter with the divine. In the sacrament we can talk of the real presence but ,in truth, it lacks any spiritual umph because it is merely nice churchy words. We can talk about finance but forget the fire. We can devise endless programs of training and finish as ineffective as when we started. There is a world out there searching for fresh meaning to living and we remain incapable of saying anything that means something to our contemporaries.
On that first day of Pentecost Peter spoke to the crowd with immediate effect. We are told 3000 were baptized. Somehow we need a new Pentecost. The third great festival of the Christian year has become a bit of a Cinderella feast. It is the one thing we all need to rediscover the presence of the living God in our lives and in our churches. Where do we begin?
This Pentecost we could undertake a simple reflection in our prayers to empty ourselves of self promotion, naked ambition, and preoccupation with the secular and expect the encounter with God to be for real. We need to wait as they did to be clothed with power from on high. People about us are searching for fresh meaning in their lives. With this power from on high we can build bridges to them. We can draw them into the reality of God that we have discovered ourselves.
When I was first ordained I read a book about the post War Diocese of Coventry entitled Fire over Coventry. Of course, it was a play on words for a very different fire had brought terror and destruction to that ancient city during devastating air raids. The church with its new cathedral was challenged to renew lives as well as the building. For that the fire of Pentecost had to be discovered afresh in its life and in its members. The same fire needs to be over our churches and our Benefice. We need to encounter the God of the burning bush and to know that when He tells us “I am” has sent us such a reality fills us and surrounds those we seek to help. Renewed in spirit may we be ready to face the world with a fresh understanding of what it means to go into all the world and make disciples.
God bless you this Pentecost