Thought for the week.
Before Jesus ascended to his Father he gave this instruction to his disciples, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my father promised…in a few day’s time you will be baptised by the Holy Spirit.’ We might wonder what they understood by this. Jesus had spoken of it before. He called the Holy Spirit the ‘Comforter’ meaning strengthener, the ‘Helper’, the one who reveals the truth and the one who will restore everything to their memory. He will never leave them so it will be as if Jesus had never left them. Perhaps they recalled the words of the prophet Joel, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on everyone, even servants both men and women’. They knew that certain people had received the Spirit at certain times in their lives. King David himself has pleaded with God, ‘Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me. (psalm 51)
However they perceived the promise, they did as Jesus asked. They returned to the house where they had hidden behind closed doors in fear a few weeks before. Now they spent time in prayer with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with other believers, and they waited.
Waiting is one of the hardest things to endure. We are so used to having our needs satisfied quickly and the virtue of patience is won only slowly as we grow older. Children can be demanding. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ ‘When will Christmas come?’ This year we are all having to wait for the end of this terrible Coronavirus. How many more weeks of isolation? Hopefully, like those first disciples, we turn to God in prayer and ask for patience and for the Holy Spirit to move in our lives too.
The disciples did not have to wait very long. It was on the day of Pentecost, the Jewish festival for the first fruits of the harvest, 50 days after Passover, that the promise was fulfilled. Acts chapter 2 tells us a noise like a mighty wind blew through the house and it seemed like tongues of fire rested on each of them. They became people whose hearts were on fire with the love of God so powerfully that they wanted to rush out and share that experience with everyone who would listen.
Jesus had left the work in the hands of eleven men who had been his close disciples. Now they were to take on the role of apostles or teachers. They could only do this with the help of the Holy Spirit. Our deanery of Middlesbrough has been left in the hands of eleven priests, who are in charge of twenty congregations. Some have no church buildings. Many of us remain behind closed doors.
Heavenly Father, may your Holy Spirit bring about a new Pentecost experience blowing through our homes and empty churches once again igniting the flame of joy in your priests and in your people that we may become the first fruits of a new harvest.