From desolation to empowerment

Have you ever felt that everything you’d hoped for has been lost, stolen or destroyed? When everything seems hopeless it’s very hard to turn to thinking positively unless there’s some change – encouragement from a friend, an improvement in the circumstances, or a new resource to deal with the situation.

Last Sunday (31 May) was Pentecost Sunday. It used to be marked by the festival of Whitsun, and it had a bank holiday, now renamed Spring Bank Holiday. It’s a very important festival, because it marks a moment in the history of the world when some uneducated people in an unfashionable corner of the Roman Empire were empowered to tell a new story, a story which changed things for ever.

But this was unexpected – even by them – because they had been disciples of Jesus who not long before had been arrested and executed. Leaderless and with hopes destroyed, they had no alternative but to drift back to their old lives. However, according to their writings a series of events, culminating in an experience of God’s power, changed these people from failed revolutionaries into messengers of a new way of understanding of what it means to be human, and what a society of humans should look like. And this was very different to how people generally thought about things in the first century Roman Empire.

They announced that God was forming a new society, one in which love, kindness and mutual respect would be foundational. And against all the assumptions of their age, these disciples of Jesus asserted that everyone was loved by God, whether slave or free, of whatever race , and whether male or female. Even more outrageously, they claimed that Jesus’s death and resurrection were both evidence of God’s intense love for humans, and the key to his victory over evil and death.

However, they didn’t dodge the issue of human iniquity and responsibility and exhorted everyone to change their selfish, greedy, violent agendas and invite God to be the centre of their lives. Lastly, they didn’t leave people with the idea that such radical change could be made by personal effort or positive thinking. They asserted that God was on people’s side and that his power was available to bring personal and societal transformation.

That was and is the core message of Pentecost. Jesus, the embodied ‘Word’ of God, told his friends that he would have to go away, but that they would not be left alone because he would send them his Spirit, which would come in power. How do you feel this might apply to you as you face the difficulties and disappointments of this time? Spend a little time considering the possibility that Jesus is for you, that he has a ‘calling’ for you, and that he’s ready to pour out his Spirit on you.