Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ!
I begin this edition with a ‘thank you’ for your presence at the Testimony Service on 19th May. I thank you all for your support and prayers and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to call us all, ordained and lay, to use and share our different gifts, with each other in a community of “unity in diversity,” (Pope Francis) on Pentecost.
We are approaching two important Christian festivals in the calendar: Ascension Day, on 30th May and Pentecost, on 9th June. Festivals mark the major turning points in our Christian story and point us toward what is central about the Christian faith. But it can also be said to be dangerous, because of temptation to commemorate it. Festivals are important because they prompt us to remember God’s faithful action in the past, which is a good thing…so long as it prompts us to seek God’s action among us in the present and prepare for God’s action through us in the future.
Yet Ascension Day has been described as the ‘poor cousin’ among church festivals because it is often overlooked and passed over without being missed. Few congregations worship on Ascension Day, which falls on the Thursday that comes 40 days after Easter, or some may observe it on the following Sunday. But many will simply forget or not observe it at all.
This seems like poor treatment for one of the great ecumenical feasts. Ascension is a story that sets the stage for the giving of the Spirit. Jesus’ going to the Father meant that the Spirit will be poured out on God’s people (Acts 2:33). But all too often, when we look back to commemorate God’s action in the past, our attention lingers there, and we grow nostalgic for days gone by and compare unfavourably to those we currently live in.
Fewer holidays also present themselves as ripe for nostalgia as Pentecost. Pentecost is the day on which the Church was born, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, made evident by the tongues of flame and rushing wind, creating a community of believers, empowered to share the good news of Jesus with the world. These were the glory days of the church, with spirit-filled preaching; miraculous listening and three thousand converted in a single day. Pentecost is not merely a festival of remembrance or nostalgia, celebrated with a big cake and candles but one which points us to God’s ongoing work for the present and future.
So to this end, Ascension Day and Pentecost needn’t be nostalgic but rather a window to make sense of the present and prepare for the future. These great festivals should not be seen as nostalgic commemorations but a means by which to anticipate and make sense of God’s ongoing activity in our church and in the world.
With every blessing, and a Happy Church Birthday to us all!
Revd Abe Konadu-Yiadom