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Come Holy Spirit

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Our celebration of Pentecost has begun with Vespers. It’s is full of passion and drama. There’s the Apostles transformed and inspired by the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel in new ways and new languages. There’s Jesus’ appearance to the disciples offering peace and sending them out to take the Good News to the whole world. There’s Paul’s beautiful image of unity and diversity. Out of this rich tapestry of inspiration it’s these words from St Paul’s letter to the Romans that have stayed with me:

“Since in our weakness we do not know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit comes to help us and intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

They’re words I return to regularly because they describe so clearly a reality that I often experience. There are many times in life when we need to pray and want to pray, and simply don’t have the words to express our need. I find that especially true in times of hardship and suffering. In these times when hardship and suffering seem to be multiplying in every direction there are many times when prayer is needed and we feel too overwhelmed by the circumstances to articulate our need.

In those situations, I find St Paul’s words full of consolation and hope. It is a great comfort to know that when we are unable to pray the Spirit is there to speak for us, to bring our prayers into the presence of the God who understands even the wordless sighs that come from the very depths of our hearts.

As we celebrate the joy and hope of Pentecost what does the Spirit carry from the depths of your heart to the presence of God?

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Pentecost, Empowerment & Surrender

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Pentecost is full of contrasts. The fearfulness of the disciples in the upper room contrasting with the serenity of Jesus as he stands among them offering peace. The disciples, gathered in one place, yet each grappling alone with their doubts and fears. The multitude of voices clamouring for attention in the crowd and the unity when the Spirit enables the disciples to proclaim the Good News in a voice that everyone can understand. It all feels a bit chaotic and I sympathise with the disciples huddled safely in that upper room.

Yet Jesus, even as he promises them his peace, will not allow them to stay there. He recognises, if they don’t, that it’s not a life giving choice. So he sends them the Spirit, the gift they need to make, a choice that is truly life giving. It’s a gift designed to stir them up, coming in two uncontrollable elements, wind and fire:

“Suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.”

I’m struck by how these powerful signs of the Spirit both encourages the disciples to make a life giving choice and takes them into the unknown. Maybe the most striking contrast of Pentecost is that the Spirit both empowers the disciples and compels them to go in directions where they have to surrender all semblance of control.

As we invite the Spirit into our lives this Pentecost, we are called to embrace the same contrast of empowerment and surrender in the midst of our lives.

Where is the Spirit empowering you to surrender control this Pentecost?

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In Wind and Fire

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As we begin to celebrate Pentecost I find myself reflecting on how our Pentecost tapestry highlights the themes of the feast, listing our hopes for the coming of the Spirit into our lives:

“Come, cleanse, renew, heal, guide, fill, strengthen.”

I often find myself thinking that it seems a little bit crowded. The words seem to be jostling for space, almost overflowing the narrow hanging. This thought was in my mind as I read the first reading from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. He tells us:

“There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them.”

In the light of his words I it seems hardly surprising that the words on the tapestry seem to burst out of the available space. Pentecost is a feast overflowing with a generosity and energy that are impossible to contain. The variety of gifts God pours out at Pentecost cannot be contained. They overflow, just like the words on our tapestry, insisting that we use them in all sorts of different ways to help, support and nurture the people of our times. Just as the disciples were compelled to reach out to the world by wind and fire the Spirit demands that we burst out of whatever upper room imprisons us to share her gifts generously with our needy world.

What overflows in your heart this Pentecost?