Suddenly we find ourselves standing at the end of Easter. These 50 days of celebration of new life have brought us through to Pentecost once again. It has been called the birthday of the church, which, while true, always strikes me as a little trite for what this feast day is all about. Yes, the mission of the Christian church was launched, but I think God’s intent on that first Pentecost is much broader than that.
As we hear that Pentecost story proclaimed, we hear of God pouring out the Spirit upon all flesh; we hear how the apostles begin to speak in all the languages of the people gathered there. What we hear about is how in that one moment, God makes a way to breakdown all the walls that have sundered humanity. In the ancient world, perhaps that strongest one of those walls, said that women were not allowed. To this day, in a conservative Jewish synagogue, women were expected to stand outside and watch from there. The Pentecost story tells us that “In those the Spirit was poured out on “all flesh” and then details how it was a gift for young and old; men and women. Pentecost is for me, a day on which we hear the call to not simply proclaim the gospel, but to proclaim it without limits.
I have always attempted to be prepared on Pentecost, to administer the sacrament to any of my congregation in their own mother tongue. A couple years ago, I stood at the Communion rail and one of our sponsored families from Syria came to the rail. She was unprepared when I came to her and said, جسد المسيح. She began to cry, and as she walked back to her pew, she turned to her daughter, still with tears in her eyes, and said, “He said it to me in Arabic. Wonderful things happen when we find ways to scale the walls of division and reach beyond.
So I guess I will say it, “Happy Birthday” to the church, but then I will say, “Let us remember today that we are called to be a movement in the world to smash down the walls that divide, so lets get to it.
Father Don Davidson, Priest-in-Charge, St. Philip’s Anglican Church, Milford, ON