31st May 2020
Today’s passage from the Book of Acts presents quite a challenge to anyone who attempts to read it aloud. It’s that long list of names: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia - and so it goes on, and on. Why does Luke think it so important to tell us where they came from - those men and women in the crowd on that never to be forgotten morning in Jerusalem – that he puts his story on hold in order to do so?
The day of Pentecost was the moment when the transforming and healing power of God, which had been focused in the person of Jesus, was let loose into the world through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The experience was at the same time universal – everybody heard the same message - and particular - each person heard the apostles speaking in their own language. That is why the diversity of the crowd is so significant. It shows us that, in sending his Spirit, God respects where we come from – our history, our talents and everything that makes us what we are. He doesn’t wipe out our individuality. In a reflection broadcast last week from Salisbury Cathedral, the Bishop of Ramsbury described it like this. 'The Holy Spirit', he said, 'is God speaking in your accent'.
The picture you are looking at is a mosaic from Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. This image of Christ is made from thousands of individual pieces of glass, some no bigger than a pinhead, carefully angled and arranged so that they catch the light. Each piece matters, and together they create something magnificent, which reflects and proclaims the glory of God. That is what the Church looks like when it is filled with the Holy Spirit.
'There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit', writes St Paul to the Christian community in Corinth. 'The Spirit is revealed in different ways in different people, but for the common good. Just as the body is one and has many parts, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into the one body'.
When we are separated, as we are now, it’s easy to forget that each of us matters to God, and that we are still part of the body of Christ. But today we can rejoice that, though we are apart, we are united by God’s Holy Spirit, poured out on each one of us and joining us together in prayer, praise and love for one another and the world we are called to serve. May that Spirit fill you with hope and encouragement, this week and always.