The month of May sees the church celebrate both the Ascension of Christ, following his resurrection appearances (Thursday May 9, there will be a communion service in the Soltau Centre starting at 7.45pm) and Pentecost - the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit on the Apostles (Sunday May 19)
Why did Jesus have to leave?
As a younger man I used to wonder why the church celebrated Ascension Day - the day when Jesus' post resurrection appearances stopped and he kind of disappeared into the heavenly realms never to be seen again, or at least, not in the same way. Surely it would have been better if Jesus had stayed around!
But that was not the way Jesus saw things. In briefing his disciples shortly before his arrest and execution, Jesus said: T tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Holy Spirit will not come to you; but if I go, 1 will send him to you.' The coming of the Holy Spirit was to be better than being in the presence of Jesus himself!How on earth could this be so?
God's empowering presence
Well, Jesus also said to the Apostles: 'But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything... When the advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf...When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.'
The Holy Spirit is to be their ever present guide in life, but more than that, as St Paul explains, the Spirit is also to be their empowerer and enabler.
'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control,' Paul says. 'To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another the discernment of spirits; to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.
'All these are activated by one and the same Spirit who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.' The gift of the Holy Spirit is a giving gift, a gift that gives us all we need to live fulfilling, abundant lives; a gift that enables us to be the people that God always intended us to be.
I pray that as Pentecost approaches you will allow God's Holy Spirit to fill your life and that you will experience for yourselves the gifts that He gives.