Come, Holy Spirit...

Assistant Rector's House, May 1999

End of April images:

  • Close-ups of Kosovan refugees descending the aircraft steps as they land in England, bereft of home and family. Questions: ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘What have you suffered?’. Cameras following every step from plane to coach. But to what purpose? These are human beings in great distress, yet they are dehumanised, stripped of their privacy, by the need for ‘a story’. They were dehumanised in Serbia, labelled as ‘other’, but this seems more of the same.
  • The people of Shoreditch and Brixton, in a state of shock, homes and businesses ripped apart, friends injured by racist delivered nail-bombs. One group fears and hates another group sufficiently to do this. They see their targets not as fellow humans, but as ‘alien’, so they can be treated as ‘objects’.
  • A Denver School. Children killed by fellow schoolmates. The killers obsessed with a singer whose best known song ‘Irresponsible Hate Anthem’ contains the words ‘Let’s kill everyone’. Again, empathy and human feeling have given way to nihilism; people have been transformed into objects to be destroyed.

So much dehumanisation, in so many different contexts. ‘Love’s redeeming work is done’ we sang at Easter, but the work is manifestly not yet completed. There is an ignorance of love, a vacuum of humanity in so many areas of life. But this world cannot be changed by imposing love, and peace and justice. Sometimes, of necessity, the attempt has to be made to impose them on the unwilling or uncomprehending, but the result is always less than wholly just or peaceful. Ways of thinking and perceiving must be changed, so that the starting point is a recognition of our own common humanity, and a respect for the richly different ways there are of being human. From that point love and peace and justice can begin to flow. W H Auden makes one of the Magi on the way to Bethlehem say

To discover how to be human now
is the reason we follow this star.

May is the month of Pentecost. At Pentecost the Spirit of God poured down upon a fragmented, uncomprehending band in Jerusalem. His breath of love touched them from within and released them to understand each other and to build up a real community. The spirit gave them the gift of communication. He enabled them to speak and hear in a way which made a new world possible. The Spirit helped them to discover what it was to be truly human - not to be a Roman or a Judean or an Egyptian - but to be a child of God.

It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us which both makes us human and touches us with the divine.

The Holy Spirit brings gifts of guidance, wisdom, discernment, vision and healing. The world sorely needs a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand differences, to communicate honestly, to restore relationships, to build community and to recognise the meaning of love. The church needs to spread the message of Pentecost as enthusiastically and articulately as did those first Christians.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy people
and kindle in them the fire of thy love.
Send forth thy spirit and they shall be created
and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Eileen McLean


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St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 30th April 1999