Service for Christian Unity,
Thursday, June, 10th, 2021
The Holy Spirit is not the possession of the Church
Meditation for the Pentecost Vigil 2021 organised by CHARIS international
As the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, mother of our Lord, so that the life of Christ might be conceived for the world, so the same Holy Spirit overshadows God’s people, and brings to birth the body of Christ afresh, to proclaim the love of God and serve God’s kingdom in a needy world.
Let’s be clear – the Holy Spirit is not the possession of the church. The Holy Spirit is not contained within our walls. I have learnt that, especially in the last year, acting as a very inexperienced assistant chaplain in the local hospital, massive hospital, one of the big London ones, during the COVID pandemic. And the thing I have seen most clearly, the theological truth and practical truth that has been born most deeply in me, is seeing the work of the Holy Spirit beyond and ahead of the church, levelling the ground, preparing the way. That sense of the Spirit’s presence as on one occasion I knelt by the bedside of a Muslim woman dying of COVID. Where the chaplain had been asked if someone could pray for her, anyone – I was the anyone. And a sense of the presence of the Sprit was so deeply profound. A reminder of God seeing our humanity.
The Holy Spirit is the freedom of God. The reaching out of God from beyond God’s own life so that we may be caught up in His reality. Oh, we use all kinds of bad analogies. We say, the Holy Spirit is the fuel in the car’s engine. No, no, no, no. We are talking here about the abundance of God. The super abundant God – the God of infinite abundance who also made the stars! Remember that passage in Genesis? He made the stars also.
The Holy Spirit makes the church to be in the world, that the Holy Spirit continues in existence. There is nothing we are, nothing we do which isn’t enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is no moment in the world’s history where we are not sustained by the Holy Spirit in the whole of creation. And across every church that bears the name of Christ, the Holy Spirit makes the distance up by filling the space we put between us. By calling us into unity and love. God willing, by grieving us when we grieve one another.
Is this essential work of the Spirit evident to us? Are we aware that we are utterly dependent on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit? We can’t even get out of bed without the Holy Spirit. Our hearts will not beat another beat without the Holy Spirit. I encourage you, with all my heart, to pray to the Father in the name and for the glory of the Son, to send the Spirit to his people, afresh in new power, that the life of Christ may be renewed in us and his church begin to look like Christ, for the sake of the world he loves.
Come, Holy Spirit and set our hearts on fire with the flame of your love.
Archbishop Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury
Prepared by our brothers and sisters of Villeneuve D’Ascq in France.
To adapt according to the place of worship
1/ The house called ImaGO, which is situated near Lille in the north of France, will be opened in renewed premises on June 14th. It is run by the Chemin Neuf Community and has a vocation to be an international hub for creativity and formation in the world of media, through the Beautiful, the Good and the True.
Lord, we entrust to you those who live and work there: the teams of Net for God, New Media and the young people who do the Media School; may the Holy Spirit direct their audiovisual productions for the proclamation of the Gospel.
2/ An exhibition was launched on Pentecost Monday in the cathedral of Lille: “Apocalypse, revelation of a future and of a hope”, with fourteen works in fabric by the English artist Jacqui Parkinson of the Baptist Church. This exhibition has allowed different churches, especially evangelicals and catholics, to join together in a step of shared witness.
Lord, come and give this world a new hope and reveal your love to those who are seeking your light.
3/ We pray for all journalists and for our own attitude to news, bearing in mind the words of Pope Francis on May 16th at the end of his message for the 55th day of social media communications:
Lord, teach us to leave self behind
and to step out seeking the truth.
Teach us to go and to see,
teach us to listen,
without rushing to hasty conclusions.
Teach us to go where no one wants to go,
to take time to understand,
to pay attention to what matters,
not to be distracted by what us superfluous,
to spot erroneous portrayals of the truth.