We have just celebrated the festival of Pentecost, a day that changed the People of God forever. Exodus 31 is the first use in Scripture of the language of the Spirit filling a person. Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah was a specific person identified for a specific task, the creation of the instruments of worship that would host the presence of God among his people. At Pentecost, the wild wind of the Spirit blew indiscriminately on all those gathered: young and old, women and men. The gifts given that day were not limited to the ability to worship in foreign languages. The Spirit gave gifts that were to empower every aspect of the life, worship and mission of the Church.
Yesterday, in our weekly chapel service, the living flame of Pentecost was evident among us. Our worship was led by one of our Nigerian scholars, a country where the Anglican church alone has over 160 bishops, almost 4 times that of the UK. Others in residence included Wondimu from Ethiopia, David from Guatemala, Alf from Chile, Brent from the USA. Timothy from Kenya led a seminar on corruption in Kenya while Tara, delivered one on Women’s Agency in Religion: The Pentecostal Empowerment of Panamanian Women in Latin America. The wild wind of the Spirit was reflected in the ethnic diversity of our community, equipping a diversity of kingdom research foci.
It was also seen in the rich streams of Christian spiritualities among us. We prayed for two of our faculty, leaving to share in the leadership of the latest consultation of the Lausanne Orthodox Initiative, bringing together evangelicals and Orthodox. We also prepared to welcome leaders from the WCC’s Commission for World Mission and Evangelism, as OCMS hosts the closing session of the global study process that has marked the centenary celebration of the founding of the International Missionary Council, a body established to promote collaboration in mission. The paradigmatic shift from the filling of the Spirit on select individuals to the anointing of all God’s people continues to blow across the church.
In my recent, wonderfully refreshing sabbatical, one theme that marked this extended retreat was the invitation to move into a spacious place. Psalm 31:8 contrasts being ‘shut up, or hemmed in, with the invitation to take a stand in God’s spacious place. The same contrast is seen in 2 Samuel 22:20, Job 36:16 and Ps 18:19. The nascent church in the upper room felt hemmed in, anxious that the Jewish authorities might do to them that which they had done to Jesus, and for good reason. Pentecost changed them. A joyful boldness overwhelmed them such that they could not but speak of the wonders of God’s mighty acts in Jesus. From being hemmed in, they experienced the wide-open, invitational spaces where the Spirit of God blows.
Every follower of Jesus faces the choice of living hemmed in or in the Spirit’s open space. What hems us in varies: personal circumstances, past experiences, hostility from those around them and many other things. The invitation remains, to live in the freedom God’s Spirit brings; the freedom to declare ‘abba, father’, with all the security, forgiveness, joy and power those words bring. As a community, in OCMS we seek to live in that spacious place and in so doing, to be a spacious place for others. Please pray that we might grow more and more into the open spaces created at Pentecost. Thank you.