Minister’s Letter

A Pastoral Letter from our Minister – Rev. Peter Sharpadvent candles 1

Although it has seemed a long and tedious winter, as you read this letter we shall have entered the month of May. World news proves ever more awful, and yet, from the perspective of our Christian faith, we are encouraged. Over Easter, the gospel according to St John was our companion this time around, and we thought about how Jesus the risen One visited the weary and dejected disciples in an upper room somewhere in the city that crucifies its Messiah. He gave them his benediction, “Peace be with you” (John 20: 19-21), then he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them and issued a commission giving them power to forgive, or to withhold forgiveness, in his name. This, then, is the impetuous Christ, who does not ask them to wait fifty days for the day of Pentecost in order to become Spirit-filled. The moment is the evening of that first Easter day, according to St John.

It is good that we have all four gospels, though, for they offer us different truths, varying perspectives on the Good News of Christ risen and exalted. St Luke ends his beautiful first narrative with Christ`s plea to disciples to “stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Following this, he led them out as far as Bethany, blessed them, and was parted from them. The Ascension is commemorated this year on Thursday 10th May, and it helps disciples to understand that Jesus, in the flesh, now has to leave them so they themselves might continue the work Jesus began in the strength God will provide. Evidently they were not distressed to hear this, for they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24: 52-3)).

That strength comes with power, “like the rush of a mighty wind,” with “tongues of fire resting on each and every one” (Acts 2: 2-3, also authored by St Luke), as a very cosmopoliltan crowd gathers together in Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost. They witness to the interpretive power of God`s Holy Spirit speaking to each and every heart in a way each can comprehend. Being one who delights in the theory of evolution, and in the ever-patient God who is creative through that medium, I like to think of Pentecost as the `big bang` which gave birth to the Church, just as scientists tell us a big bang gave the universe its origins. Certainly Luke`s `Volume 2` (the Acts of the Apostles) is testament to great things, and so, according to Luke, the Gospel is taken from Nazareth of Jesus` upbringing to Rome (centre of the then world) in just a couple of generations. This year, Pentecost (or Whit Sunday) the birthday of the Church, is 20th May.

In truth, the Whitsuntide gift of God is for every day of every year we have. Let me leave you with a verse written by Revd George Croly in 1854 (`Rejoice & Sing` 305):

I ask no dream, no prophet-ecstasies,
no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel-visitant, no opening skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away.

I`d say that`s miracle enough for me.
Every blessing to you all,
Your friend and minister,