Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday when Christians all across the world celebrate the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on the Church. In the book of Acts we read that ten days earlier the disciples had witnessed the Ascension of Jesus, and in his last few hours with them he had promised them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you …” You can read the passage in Acts ……
For the past week, I like many others have been preparing my heart for Pentecost; for a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit on my life, body, mind and spirit.
Yesterday was another day of vulnerability, with hospital appointments, scan machines and waiting rooms. I found myself sitting with a group of three women and we got chatting about how living with cancer changes us. Each of these women had been given a terminal diagnosis, each hoping desperately that the harsh treatment they were enduring would give them an extra few months of life to spend with their families. We talked about the loneliness of the scan room, being left with the machinery making load sounds, a cannula in your arm to feed the dye to your body to identify the size of the cells that are slowly consuming your body. And the contrast of when scan results are good and the overwhelming elation you feel as the dark shadow lifts for a few more weeks before the cycle begins again.
Although all my recent scans have been clear, sitting with these brave women left me with a haunting shadow that perhaps this will be the time when my dark night of the soul returns. Driving home I felt a need to go and pray in the place where God often waits for me. It was raining and I had no coat with me but I made my way to the green spaces of Dunham Park. With brolly to shelter me I made my way across pathways of grazing deer to a small lake and the tree that I have sat beneath for the past 30 years when I know I need to hear from God.
I sat and I waited and I waited – the rain continued to fall and so the park was quiet. I watched and listened to the duck and birds, shed some tears and made my requests known unto God. I waited silently, hoping that God’s Spirit would fall afresh on me in a powerful and distinct way. I have been preparing my heart for a new encounter with him and now I really needed to know his presence with me. So I waited some more.
Gradually my soul quietened. I was seated on a curve in the trunk of a large beech tree, whose long lush green branches provided shelter from the heavy rain that was now falling. As I looked I became aware of how this tree was open to receiving everything that each weather front and season brings to enable it to grow and flourish. It’s leaves and roots were absorbing the rain water that I was trying to shelter from. The leaves were so brightly green they almost shone with joy. They knew they were being fed despite the wind and chill in the air. I realised that I must learn the lesson of this tree, that I too should stand with arms outstretched and heart wide open to whatever the Spirit of God brings to my life, whether it is what I want or what I try to hide from. I need to trust in the promise that God will not let me be tested beyond my ability; that whatever befalls, He will always be with me. And if I am open to receive, then I, like my tree, can be fed and filled and grow to maturity even when the circumstances are harsh.
When the Spirit came upon the disciples they were sent out to proclaim God’s love to the world. It is easy for us to call out to God this Pentecost to fill us afresh, but are we truly open to what that might mean for us? The disciples didn’t live easy lives in the months and years that followed Pentecost. They were beaten, imprisoned and even put to death. Being fulled with God’s Spirit isn’t just a nice feeling in church when being prayed for, but it is the power to live out the calling on your life no matter what the cost.
So in church this Pentecost let your prayers be deep and honest as you ask for the Spirit to touch you. Ask for courage as well as joy. Ask for faithfulness to walk forward into the life you were made to live in whatever circumstance that might be. In a hospital ward as patient or medic. In your neighbourhood as a gift to friend or stranger. In church, family, workplace or just alone with God.
Ask for the Spirit of God to fall on you to enable you to be all you were made to be.