The heat wave we are experiencing in many parts of the UK in week 10 of the lockdown due to the coronavirus, Covid-19, has brought out the crowds onto parks and beaches, all trying to adhere to the 2m separation rules for different households and enjoying the more relaxed rules allowing travel. The crowds however have caused consternation that the virus might start to spread rapidly amongst us again causing a second ‘spike’ of infections with the resulting deaths and the shutdown of all activities as we will be required to ‘Stay at Home’ again. All is still not well in the UK or the world.
This week has seen controversy over the Prime Minister’s chief advisor who has appeared to break the rules that he was part of setting. In his personal life, with the aim of caring for his family, he has left his home and travelled large distances to be on his parent’s estate. This has happened whilst many others have sacrificed their family contacts for the greater good. People continue to die alone, the sick cannot be visited and family life and wellbeing has been disrupted. In the midst of all of this we have also observed with horror video coverage of the death of a black man in Minneapolis, as he was arrested handcuffed and pinned down by police. Crowds have also gathered in protest.
In this week the Church has been called to prayer for our world, nation and community and friends to know the healing of Jesus Christ as we move to celebrate the birth of the Christian Church. God the Holy Spirit fell upon those who believed in Christ and moved amongst those who didn’t believe or even know about him. On the day of Pentecost the crowds gathered together from many towns, cities and countries into Jerusalem to give thanks for the first fruits of the harvest, almost like an outing on a bank holiday weekend. Here is the eyewitness account in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-13.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
God the Holy Spirit continues to come amongst believers today to equip them in living out their lives in the faith and belief of Jesus Christ and he moves amongst non believers guiding them to the truth of Christ in the world. It is the Holy Spirit who is the living presence of God in our world today, he points us to the light of the world, Jesus Christ, and brings us the gifts we need to spread the good news of Christ’s saving presence. We seem to have two competing forces that we see at work in our world, one of darkness and one of light, yet we know what will be victorious.
The crowds asked the Apostle Peter, himself filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking words from God, what they should do? Maybe we are asking the same question. What should we do? Peter replied (Acts 2:38-39)
“Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him”
Only Jesus Christ can forgive sins, only the repentant can turn to God and ask to be forgiven, only the forgiven and cleansed can give their life to Jesus Christ and be filled with his Holy Spirit. This then leads to lives transformed and this then leads to the light overcoming the darkness in our world.
Isaiah prophesied a time when those who walk in darkness will see the light. (Isaiah 9:2-7).
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named. Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
We live in the age of the Holy Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit made available to those who respond to the good news of Jesus Christ, a transformational and healing force in the world and we need that transformational and healing force today. The person of the Holy Spirit will move amongst us, but he will bring unexpected change and cleansing like fire, and God’s kingdom, not ours.
Maybe, in our current restrictions, our prayers in the age of the person of the Holy Spirit could be this:
“Lord Jesus Christ, you died for me so that my sins may be forgiven. You rose to new life so that I may give my life to following you and know a new life in God. You ascended into heaven so that I may call upon the person of the Holy Spirit to fill my forgiven life and empower me to do your will.
So I wait…
So I wait...
So I wait…
Come Holy Spirit and fill me anew with the love and power of Christ. May I know that I belong to you. Inspire my prayers in these difficult times.
I pray for your justice in the world where all are valued by you.
I pray for healing in this world, where the darkness of virus infects many and restricts life.
I pray for those who would come to know you….
I pray for your Church, that we may know a new outpouring of your love and see you at work in the changes in the world. Help us to be faithful, positive and caring and active.
Come Holy Spirit and bring your light in the storm of life. Amen”
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5)