This month’s letter is written ‘hot on the heels’ of Pentecost Sunday, and of this week’s Messy Church. Both of which have got me reflecting again on being transformed by God into the likeness of his Son, through his Spirit.
Let’s begin with that first Pentecost moment of the Christian Church. The disciples, being obedient to Jesus command to ‘wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about’ (Acts 1:4 NIV), were doing just that. It must have been an interesting and, maybe at times, most awkward of time. They had seen Jesus die and be buried. They had seen him alive again. They had heard him say ‘wait’ as he said he must go again, but that because of his going the Father would give them his promised gift. They had watched him go until he was out of sight. What now, what would become of them; a frightened, seemingly abandoned group of ordinary followers who dared to believe in the one they’d been following and who now meant everything possible to them? What was this gift, and what good would it be to them?
Continuing to meet together, praising & worshipping God, they were soon to discover the answer to those two questions in a way that was beyond anything they could have imagined or dreamed of.
The gift of course, as we discover on that Pentecost, was the giving of God’s Holy Spirit in a way that brought such a transformation in them that they would never be the same again. Filled with God’s gift of loving power they now found themselves equipped for the tasks to which God now called them. And what an equipping, as Peter gets up and delivers his first ‘sermon message’ to his cosmopolitan group of listeners!
Now skip forward two thousand years. It is Messy Church Friday at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Moredon. Children are sitting on the floor ready to hear a story. It isn’t one from the Bible but one that sits so well with the transformation of the Holy Spirit a Pentecost. It is the much loved ‘Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle. The story of transformation for the creeping, crawling caterpillar who naturally is ‘earth bound’, into the beautiful winged butterfly, that enables it to soar with the wind beneath its wings. Now it too is able to see and do more than it ever could have imagined or dreamed of.
The butterfly can no more go back to being the caterpillar it once was, any more than that group of believers could go back to the frightened and confused, yet faithful and hopeful group they were.
The Holy Spirit, experienced in wind and flame that first Pentecost, is the same gift from God offered to every believer. It is the ‘wind beneath our wings’ that enables and equips us to do more than we can imagine or dream possible for God and with God. It is the transformation that takes us and leads us forwards, in our witness and our service, in our faith and in our uncertainties. It reminds us too, as the people of God, that in all things we are not alone. Jesus by his Spirit is always with us. All this for God’s praise and glory.
Renewed by the Spirit, redeemed by the Son,
Thy children revere thee for all thou hast done.
O Father, returning to love and to light,
The children are yearning to praise thee aright.
(From ‘With Gladness we worship’ George Rawson)