Sometimes we get past Easter and think that the big celebrations of the Church are over until next Christmas. The truth is that is not the case, for the Church also has another great celebration called Pentecost, which this year will be on Sunday 27th May.
As Christians we often make reference to God the Father and our Christmas Celebration reflects the Father’s concern for us, his children, that he offered a way back to humanity who had lost contact with him. The plan involved coming to earth as a baby and living as God on earth and we know him as Jesus. Jesus, our second view of God, died on a cross and was raised to life that the living relationship with God could be restablished. Pentecost concludes the story because Jesus promised he would not leave us alone and gave us the Holy Spirit to help us as we live our lives. The Holy Spirit is the third view of God.
So if Pentecost concludes the plan, why do we so often downplay this event in the life of the church? Many people are not sure of the Holy Spirit, because they are unsure about some of the gifts the Holy Spirit offers to the church. We are usually comfortable with the fact that God is with us and if we perceive the Holy Spirit in that way it’s Ok, so we look to the fruits of the Spirit as set out in the letter of Paul to the Galatians,
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (Galatians 5 v22)
Most people (not just Christians) would agree that these are good things to aspire to and the Bible tells us if we follow God that we should see all of these fruits developing in our lives. It is not a once and for all change but a development over time as we are slowly and gently encouraged to develop by a loving God who cares deeply for us. Of course, that means we are not fully there yet and so, as human beings, we are indeed capable of behaving in ways that are the opposite of the fruit God longs to see in our lives.
We need to be honest and recognise that possibility in ourselves and in those we worship with within the community of the Church. In recognising that fact we need to focus on encouraging those who fail and this starts by us all having an attitude of forgiveness to one another. In so doing we recognise that we have a significant part to play in God’s redemption of the world. In the Lord’s Prayer we are reminded that God forgives us as we forgive those who trespass against us.
The fruit of the Spirit is both an increase in the gifts Paul lists in Galatians and an increase in our ability to forgive others. May we spend our time actively looking for the development of the fruit in our lives and in those we know and as we see God developing us, let’s give thanks and celebrate together.
The fruits are but one part of the generosity of God to us through the Holy Spirit. Not only does God offer us the chance to develop our personal character, he also wants us to be fully engaged in the work of the Kingdom. Paul records a number of gifts and skills given to the people of God for the benefit of the church, gifts which include preaching and teaching, evangelism, administration and hospitality amongst many others.
Perhaps here we are more reluctant to step forward but the Bible tells us that everyone is given a gift to use in the Church. In this way God demonstrates to us that we are a community, that we need each other, because each of us brings something valuable and important to the work of the local church. After all it is through the local church (the people of God) that God so often reaches out to those who do not yet know him. So we need to ask God what he is asking us to do for him. The joy is that his gifts are so varied there is something to suit everyone.
In Acts Chapter 2 we read of an event where the Holy Spirit descended on a great number of people and those present from many nations heard God speaking to them in their own language. It’s a wonderful picture of God being present with his people and one which resonates with us as Epsom Methodist Church as we have members from a great number of places around the world.
That first Pentecost encouraged the people present and many we are told committed their lives to God on that day. As we look towards this Pentecost may we too gather expectantly to see what God might do in our lives as individuals and as the gathered people of God in Epsom.