June 2011

June 1, 2011

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

This month sees the celebration of Pentecost, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to his people. At his ascension Jesus told his disciples to wait ion Jerusalem for the gift his Father was to send them. Ten days later, on Pentecost, came the gift of the Holy Spirit and so this day, Pentecost, is often seen as the founding of the church. Strictly this is not true, God never intended there to be a church and Jesus never set up the church. Jesus came to remind people how God intended them to live. The early Christians continued to meet in the synagogues, to observe the Jewish laws, they were a meeting within Judaism until the Jews expelled them in AD70. Then they were forced to set up the church as we know it as a means of keeping the faith and a base for evangelism. Much later in church history we have a parallel with Methodism. The Wesley’s never meant to form a denomination, they started class meetings with the Church of England. It was only when they were expelled after John Wesley’s death in 1791 that the Methodist Church was formed.

Yet the giving of the Holy Spirit was the most profound, generous gift of a loving God. For it is through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that we can live, talk, think and act like Jesus. Just as Jesus did we can call on God for healing, we can communicate with God in ecstatic tongues, we can prophecy, we can teach, we can preach, in fact all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were used by the early church to see such tremendous growth can be used by us today and have the same effect. With the giving of the Holy Spirit human beings truly became to be in the image of God.

We need to remember that the Holy Spirit was given whilst the early believers were still very much part of the Jewish faith. It was not a gift to a fledgling church to help it get off the ground. As the early believers followed the commands of Jesus so they discovered the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives and situations. Jesus had told them to go ‘to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you’. This is precisely what they did and precisely why the number of believers mushroomed rapidly and Christianity spread like wildfire across the known world.

Of course it led to problems, for a thousand years the church was one, there were no denominations. Councils of the church and Heresy trials were commonplace as the church sought to work out precisely what the boundaries of faith were and precisely what we were to obey. Jesus himself had observed the Jewish law and had said that not one iota was to disappear whilst heaven and earth remained. As the church sought to discover the depth of this, excommunication and death for heresy were common. Whilst this was undoubtedly harsh it did preserve the purity and the unity of the church. Now we have an ‘anything goes’ approach to faith and the rate of decline of Christianity increases. As we celebrate Pentecost let us rediscover the cost of true discipleship, obedience to Christ, submit our wills to his and watch the transformation of the Church