The great festival of PENTECOST (the other name used is WHITSUN) occurs on Sunday 19th May. We will be holding an “in house” Songs of
Praise that night at St Peter’s to celebrate. Do come along at 6.00pm to sing favourite hymns.
Pentecost celebrates the gift and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the first disciples were so inspired that they were transformed from being a group hiding away, to a determined missionary movement, boldly speaking publicly about Jesus. We read about this in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
In church we use the colour red, recalling the tongues of fire that alighted on the apostles (Acts 2.3). We also use red as a colour in church when remembering martyrs such as St Peter. If you saw picture of the recent Conclave that elected Pope Francis, you will have seen the cardinals dressed in red. Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church wear red robes to remind them that they must be prepared to die for Christianity. They will have prayed to be guided by the Holy Spirit in that election. We pray for Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin of Canterbury and all church leaders, that they may be guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the presence of God active in our lives and the world. The Holy Spirit inspires and at times challenges us (well certainly challenges me), to respond as Jesus would, to express the Love of Jesus in the world today. The Holy Spirit encourages us to live lives of generosity and thanksgiving, of love and peace.
St Paul many centuries ago, described the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23). The theologian Stanley Hauerwas wrote If Christians are to survive (or deserve to survive) in a world that has no capacity to acknowledge our created status, they will do so only because our communities are still capable of producing and locating there among us those whose lives are “living prayers”.
I am sure it is the “living prayers” we will have encountered, whose lives radiate the fruit of the Spirit, that have encouraged us in our Christian journey and community. They may not be famous or well known, but their lives speak more eloquently than any words of mine, about the gift and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
APRIL 2013 VICAR’S LETTER
As you may know, earlier this year I was on a TRAIDCRAFT Meet the People tour of Sri Lanka. One great surprise on this tour was when we visited the Anglican Church at Nuwara Eliya. I was amazed to discover that the organ in that church was from the old Unitarian Chapel in Wellington Street. The plaque on the organ declared:
A gem of an organ that served Stockton-on-Tees Unitarian Church, England from 1895 to 2005. May the music bring joy to Holy Trinity Church.
In addition to seeing ancient ruined cities and elephants, we also visited the areas rebuilt after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami devastated parts of the coastland. It was a very sobering experience to be standing on the walls of the old fort in Galle: if you had been on the walls you would have been safe, while the cricket ground and bus station just outside the walls were destroyed by the force of the water that day.
One of the main purposes of the visit was to visit some of the Fair Trade producers who supply TRAIDCRAFT (a company based in Gateshead). We saw the effect that Fair Trade had had on a tea planation, where the workers chose to use the fair trade premium to support a school on the estate. Another supplier was also building a new secondary school because of the fair trade support.
The final company we visited was Gospel House. As the name suggests, this was founded - 20 years ago - by one of the Christians on the island. (Christians are about 7% of the population of Sri Lanka). He was concerned about unemployment among those with few if any qualifications. They make toys for export to TRAIDCRAFT and other companies such as TEARFUND. We have acquired some of those toys for the Toddler Praise (Mondays at 9.30am at St Peter’s), and a second set for the Baby and Toddler Group (1.30pm on Fridays at All Saints’).
The founder’s son, now runs GOSPEL HOUSE and he said – If you have no qualifications, that is your qualification to come here. The whole trip gave me a lot to ponder. It struck me that his phrase summed up the Gospel message - we are accepted by God without Qualification. God accepts us as we are.
Easter challenges us with a new beginning, a new start. It is a time of hope because God accepts us as we are.
GENEROUS GOD is not a form of words we use in our prayers in Church. We are much more likely to use the phrase Almighty God. Words are important. Maybe the phrase we use in our prayers, says a lot about how we imagine and describe God. Is God an Almighty Lord (King of Kings, Lord of Lords), or do we also consider that God could be pictured as Generous or as Vulnerable?
There is something extraordinary to ponder about the generosity of God:
who has created this world,
who accepts us who are failures and sinners,
and who comes to us in humility and vulnerability,
in the person of Jesus.
Over Holy Week we are confronted with that absolute commitment of God for us. In the words of the famous hymn Praise to the Holiest:
O Generous Love, That he who smote
In man for man the foe
The Double agony in Man
For man should undergo.
How do we respond to that costly generosity? What follows comes from a pamphlet issued the Diocese of Oxford, but is worth reflecting on and praying.
We have an abundantly generous God. Jesus’s death on the cross was the ultimate demonstration of that generosity. How do we as Christians respond? Giving is an outworking of our faith. It’s all about living generously, something that’s at the heart of our ‘Living Faith’ vision. Generosity is part of our discipleship; it’s how we make a difference in the world, and it’s an indication of the vibrancy of our Christian communities.
you give us so much.
Every breath is a gift,
every sight, sound, taste and touch;
every friend and loved one.
Teach us now to respond to such abundance
with love and imagination
and to share your generosity with a needy world
through a servant Church.
May ours be a ‘living faith’
that makes a difference in the lives of others
through the extravagant love
of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen