Pentecost: A Celebration of the Readily Available Gifts of the Spirit which is ours for the Asking

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In John’s gospel (7:38-39) Jesus speaks of the Spirit which those who believe were to receive, and then goes on to say that the Spirit had not yet come. This assertion, “that the Spirit had yet to come” seems to contradict the more that obvious widespread activity of the Spirit, recounted throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments, before Jesus’ death and resurrection.

John, of course, knew his Old Testament and knew about the Spirit in Jesus during his ministry on earth. Nevertheless, John could write that the Spirit was not yet because Jesus was not yet glorified. The point he is making is that in comparison with what was yet to be, with the pouring out of the Spirit through the upcoming Pentecost, he could say that all previous experience of the Spirit was as nothing. In comparison with what was yet to be it will be as if there had been no Spirit up to this point. Pentecost is a celebration of such an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in comparison with which it’s as if there was no Holy Spirit in our lives. Just as Mary, on whom the Spirit had come at the Annunciation, could still pray for the coming of power from on high, so we can pray with Mary before Pentecost for the Spirit’s coming in such a way that in comparison there was not yet spirit in our lives.

This opening up of the flood-gates of the gifts of the Spirit manifest itself in greater trust in God’s continuous guidance and support as we stumble through a dark period of life or the arrival of unexpected opportunities to serve others with newly discovered talents which have been dormant.

The Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit is a reminder that we are never entitled to be content with what God has given us and are always obliged to ask for more, in comparison with the best wine which if kept to the end. (Read the account of wedding feast at Cana in John 2:1-10) We show our gratitude to God precisely by asking for more. God can give us so much more than he has given us to date that everything we have received until now can seem as though we received nothing.

The church is facing many challenges coming from our surrounding culture. Most troublesome for denominations like ours is that “Millennials”- people born between the early 1980-2000 – are the most likely to self-identify with the unaffiliated to any religion. Only a small fraction of these belong to mainstream churches. We have been put on notice that young people view religious identity as more a matter of personal choice than lifelong ascription. This is a shaking of our foundations.

Obviously we are being faced with having to either search for ways of communicating with young people or risk being sidelined as irrelevant or antiques. Avenues of reaching out have to be found which will not result in watering down our core-beliefs such as our creeds. Changing our attitudes is vitally necessary. Denunciations from “on high” and grave warnings from clergy now fall on the deaf-ears of these millennials.

The church urgently needs the Holy Spirits’ gifts of insight and discernment to guide and enlighten our reading the “Signs of the Times.” Because of Pentecost, these gifts are readily available for the asking. I believe the Holy Spirit is sending us a message concerning the urgency of our responding to its gift of prayer.

Fr. David