Last Sunday, Pentecost, I was sharing with Friends in St Albans in an online meeting for worship.
There were several contributions about the healing stories of Jesus. There was a rejection of anything ‘supernatural’ about the stories, but a recognition of the wonderful things that happen. The stories became linked to the theme of connectedness. How we need each other and the stimulation that relationships bring which make us healthy.
My own thoughts had focussed on the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the friends of Jesus on that day which has become known as Whit Sunday, Pentecost. (It coincided with the Jewish festival of Weeks, fifty days after Passover.) I began to wonder whether it was possible to consider that the gathering of those first friends of Jesus had in some way been a creative moment. The way the event is described in the Acts of the Apostles is that they were all together in the same place. Some speculate that it was the same ‘upper room’ where the Last Supper had taken place, and where the disciples hid, afraid, after the crucifixion.
I reflected that perhaps coming together again after being apart for a while, meant they shared stories of their experiences since the death ofJesus and this sparked a renewed faith in what Jesus stood for, a new confidence and a courage that made them willing to be open about their convictions. What happened next we are told is that Peter spoke openly to a crowd about the important and significance of Jesus in the Jewish story. Many were convinced by what they heard and saw in these empowered and inspired disciples.
So, what the ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’ was something that was created by the coming together in community of these friends. Was faith set alight by their shared stories of experience? And if so, then this connects with the experience of people of faith throughout history. Not only Quakers, but other strands of the Christian tradition, and those of other faith traditions. It is possible that this still happens today.
So the hope that in meetings for worship something will spark off insights, truth, love, and a motivation to action for justice and peace is not misplaced. Certainly it is my experience that many times in silent worship I have found insights and a grasp of what I believe to be truth which have been profound.
Being together is something we have re-discovered to be vitally important during these weeks of lockdown. The scenes of families re-uniting after long separation are powerful signs of the importance of connectedness. Having the blessing of sharing these last ten weeks with a partner has made the experience one of joy rather than one of loneliness. I dread to think what it would have been like on my own. Yes, connecting through telephone and social media is helpful, but being physically close and touching is fundamentally important to my being.
Creating a spirit of community is perhaps the most important act we can do as human beings.