Guest post: The Revd Dr Leslie J. Francis (Professor of Religions and Education at the University of Warwick).
BECOME sensing people, and savour the rich imagery of this powerful prayer. Go back to the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts, and mingle with the crowd. Relive the experience of those original apostles on the day when the Holy Spirit was outpoured on God’s chosen people. Go back to the Day of Pentecost, and stretch out your arms. Feel the power of the Holy Spirit blow through your world like a mighty rushing wind. Hear the roar of the wind as God blows into the Church. Know that you are empowered. Go back to the Day of Pentecost, and open wide your eyes. See the fire of the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of all around. Smell the flames as they alight upon countless heads. Know that you are anointed. Become intuitive people, and imagine how God longs to transform you through the burning fire of God’s love. Pray that you may be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel, eager to assemble with fellow Christians, eager to hear and to discern the word of God, eager to meet the risen Christ in the breaking of bread. Pray that you may be found steadfast in faith and active in service, eager to listen with Mary at the feet of Jesus, eager to serve with Martha the needs of Christ’s world. Let the burning fire of God’s love transform you. Become feeling people, and recommit yourselves to the active service for which Christ longs to commission you in God’s world. Hear afresh the challenge of Jesus’s teaching. When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was naked, did you clothe me? When I was homeless, did you open your door? When I was lonely, did you walk alongside me? When I was depressed, did you listen to me? When I was sick, did you visit me? When I was dying, did you bring me hope? Recommit yourselves to active service. Become thinking people, and face the theological issues raised by this prayer. Here is a prayer addressed to a generous God, addressed to a merciful God. But remember that this is not the whole story. The generous God longs to give us more than we deserve, more than we desire. The generous God longs to give us full measure, pressed down and overflowing. But remember: God’s generosity should not be taken for granted. The merciful God longs to forgive us, longs to restore us. The merciful God longs to set us free. The merciful God longs to be gracious to us. But remember, God’s mercy needs to be tempered by God’s justice. Face the theological issues raised by this prayer.
The Revd Dr Leslie J. Francis is Professor of Religions and Education at the University of Warwick, and Canon Theologian of Bangor Cathedral.
Church Times, Pentecost, 2008
Ordained Anglican. Thinking out loud about church.