Many Happy Returns to Christians everywhere! The Feast of Pentecost which we celebrate today, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the rushing wind and in tongues of fire upon the apostles with the women in the Upper Room, is sometimes known as the Birthday of the Church. Certainly from that moment the apostles and their companions were transformed; from a sceptical and fearful huddle they became a confident and determined band, leaving the security of that locked and barred Upper Room to go out to tell the Good News of Christ, crucified and risen. As Mother Lucy reminded us the other week, the Book of Acts (to which the Lectionary points us especially in Eastertide) tells the remarkable story of the rapid growth of the Church, first in Jerusalem and then around Asia Minor and even to Rome, the centre of Empire.
Birthdays are times for party and celebration, as we shall be doing in our festal liturgy. They are also opportunities to reflect on what has been, and to look forward to what will be. We give thanks here at St James’ for the rich heritage of faith we have inherited from those who have gone before us, our tradition of liturgy and worship linked with commitment to social justice and care for the poor and marginalised. It is good that today, the Church’s Birthday, we celebrate the sacrament of baptism, and welcome Alex into the family of the Body of Christ. As we look forward, we pray the wisdom and the guidance of the Spirit, that She will inform and inspire anew our liturgy and worship, and our commitment to social justice, that we may “proclaim afresh in this – and the next – generation” the wonderful mystery of God’s love for the whole of creation, and for each one of us, revealed in the self-giving birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Alleluia!