The 2000th birthday
Assistant Rector's House, June 2000
During this coming month, on 11th June, we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost, called this from the Greek word meaning ‘fiftieth’. Sometimes the period from Easter to Pentecost is known as ‘the Fifty Great Days’, for Pentecost is the last great day of Eastertide. To all the joyful celebrations of Easter, at Pentecost we can add the words ‘and His Spirit is with us for evermore.’
Before Jesus left his disciples he promised that he would not abandon them, but would send them the Spirit of Truth to be with them for ever. Fifty days after his resurrection, the disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem, and they knew that promise to have come true. They underwent an experience of transformation and excitement as the Holy Spirit poured out upon them gifts of warmth and love, gifts of understanding and communication and confidence. The Holy Spirit brought new life for a new community. No longer were the disciples clinging on to their need for the physical Jesus to be with them. Now they knew that the Spirit had come to complete the work of Jesus in them. They were now the ‘Body of Christ’ in the world. That day of Pentecost was truly the birth-day of the church.
Of course the whole church throughout the world will be celebrating this birthday in a few weeks time, but perhaps this year we can especially turn our minds to the place where it all began, and think about the Arab Christian community in present-day Israel and Palestine. These are very much the direct descendants of those first followers of Jesus, in a physical as well as spiritual sense. It is their ancestors who were part of those events in Jerusalem at that first Pentecost, who first began to pass on the Good News (later in the magazine see Jim’s Saint of the Month, Justin, born in nearby Nablus only a few decades later).
Sadly the number of indigenous Christians in the Holy Land have decreased dramatically of recent years. Because of the Jewish/Palestinian conflict all Arabs have difficulty in moving around and hence getting jobs, so there has been a large amount of emigration from that community.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has written a letter to all parishes concerning the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem - “Although numerically small and facing significant financial challenges (they) offer an heroic ministry in that strife-torn land…” “I am asking you to join me during this Jubilee year of our Lord 2000, in following the example of the early Christians by offering spiritual and financial support…”
For us at St Peter’s, as for all Christians, Jerusalem has a unique meaning and significance. It seems right and proper that as a birthday gift to our sisters and brothers there, we should offer not just our prayers and empathy but also tangible assistance. I am proposing that on Pentecost Sunday we have a special collection in church for this purpose, and would ask that you give it your support.
And birthdays, of course, always offer an opportunity for reviewing the past and looking forward to the future with new resolve. A particularly pertinent opportunity this Pentecost - as we look back with thanks on all that has been and look forward to the arrival of our new Rector, and the beginning of new relationships and experiences. I am looking forward immensely to working with Andrew who comes with great gifts of ministry and worldwide church experience - and is a very nice person!
At this new stage in our communal life we pray that the Holy Spirit will be with us as he was with the Apostles - pouring out his light of understanding, his guidance, his strength - enabling us to work together, to pray together and to enlarge our vision in new ways of faith and hope and love.