As this year’s Thy Kingdom Come initiative draws to a close, Dr Elizabeth Perry, the Anglican Alliance’s Programme and Communication Manager, reflects on Pentecost and shares images and music from “the ends of the earth”. Elizabeth writes…
At Pentecost, as Christians we remember and celebrate the moment when the Early Church burst forth onto the global stage – when it went from being a smallish, gathered community of those who had known and followed Jesus to an outward-looking, dynamic, global movement that was inspired by the Holy Spirit to do the work of Jesus in the world. In the account in Acts 2, God’s Spirit is poured out on the disciples, enabling them to speak so that the many different nationalities around them could understand. The believers are ordinary people who are empowered by God’s Spirit to do extraordinary things, to be bearers of good news, to be catalysts of transformation and to be witnesses of God’s ongoing story of love in the world.
I love working as part of the Anglican Alliance staff team. It’s a real privilege because we get to see what started at Pentecost as a lived reality today. For me, there is much about Pentecost that resonates with what we share and experience every day. For example…
- Pentecost shows the global reach of God’s love and concern. At his ascension, Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And at Pentecost all sorts of nationalities are listed as hearing God’s message in their native language. We see the reality of the global church every day as it bears witness to Jesus in love and action. Our own staff team spans the globe with regional facilitators in the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific – helping connect, equip and inspire the worldwide Anglican family and sharing the good news of the churches’ holistic mission towards a world free of poverty and injustice while safeguarding creation. It is wonderful to reflect that what Jesus said and what happened two thousand years ago at Pentecost is what we witness in the loving mission of God through his people around the world today.
- At Pentecost, when God took ordinary believers and gave them his Spirit, they spoke in a language the people understood. As the Alliance, we see the Church expressing the faith it professes in action: serving, being Christ’s hands and feet, meeting needs, acting for justice, living in solidarity with impoverished, vulnerable and marginalised people in its communities. As Rachel Carnegie wrote in her reflection earlier this week, we hear daily examples of loving and prayerful action taken by churches across the Communion. I used to think that the Body of Christ was a metaphor; now I see it as a straightforward description as well. Sparked by the Spirit of God, the global Body of Christ – unobtrusively and in a million ways – continues to speak in a language people understand: the language of love, care and service.
- Pentecost was a moment of change – dramatic change. Change is part of our Christian story. We see this too at the Alliance in the examples of transformation we hear of across the Communion, which come about through the faithful endeavours of Anglicans working with others and their communities to tackle human trafficking; bring development and more abundant life in their communities; safeguard and renew creation; respond to disasters and build resilience to future ones.
In Jewish tradition, the book of Ruth is read at this time of year. Ruth is my favourite Old Testament book. It is a beautiful story about grain, provision and security, about kindness, care and faithfulness. It’s a story in which God scarcely gets a mention. And yet this earth-bound, practical story is essential to God’s unfolding purposes and story of love in the world – because Ruth became the great grandmother of King David – and through him the lineage continued down to Jesus. In the book of Ruth, we see the practical and the spiritual inextricably and quietly linked. That is what I see in the work of all those around the Communion who take part in praying and acting for God’s kingdom to come on earth – as we have been reflecting these past days during the season of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.
The accompanying visual reflection for Pentecost is one I put together when I worked for Christian Concern for One World (there are lots of excellent resources on their website, please do take a look). It is reproduced here with permission. I have now set it against a hymn recorded in the Solomon Islands, which for me in the UK are about as far to the other end of the earth as I could go, but where Christians also sing of the gospel reaching earth’s furthest shores.