Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 12 June 2011
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
I recently read that when we speak of the Church having a mission, we are putting the cart before the horse. It is Jesus Christ’s mission on earth which has a church. In the words of Jesus: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus’ farewell gifts to his disciples are peace, the Holy Spirit, the power of forgiveness, and a commission.
The Feast of Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Spirit which marked the birth of the Christian Church. With symbolism reminiscent of the giving of the covenant at Sinai, and with effects that suggest a reversal of the divisions between people-groups enacted in the Tower of Babel story, the fledgling church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to what God was doing. But this does not mark the beginning of the Spirit’s activity. The psalm reminds us that wherever there is life and renewal, the Spirit of God is at work. Christians do not have a monopoly on the Spirit of God, but their lives and communities ought to mirror and bear witness to God’s presence through the Spirit in a particularly potent and focused way.
What does it look like when the Spirit of God is manifest in an individual and a community? Any life which declares that Jesus is Lord, in other words, which incarnates that which Jesus stood for and which reflects his passion and his mission, is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. The Spirit works in different ways in and through different people, but it is the one God at work and the one mission that is being accomplished. Both the Pentecost story and Paul writing to the Corinthians stress the uniting effects of the Spirit. Old divisions are overcome. Just as in creation there is a dizzying diversity which nevertheless contributes to a harmonious whole, so we, who are so diverse, are brought together by the Spirit. As we follow in Jesus’ footsteps and live out his mission – God’s Spirit at work in and through us – together we can become church.