I love Pentecost! It has magical memories for me as a young child, taking part in an annual walk of witness in Sheffield with thousands of other Christians, followed by a Whitsuntide tea and games in the park the following day. Several decades on, the sound of a brass band whisks me back instantly to those joyous days!
Of all the aspects of the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the miracle that everyone present in Jerusalem that day was able to hear clearly the apostles’ message both intrigues and thrills me.
How was it even possible?! Perhaps there is a scientific answer, but Christians believe that God’s Spirit enabled Peter and the disciples’ powerful testimony to be heard, leading to a turning away from sin and the request for baptism from over three thousand people.
That same transforming Spirit continues to break through into the lives of men and women today…
A few years ago, I got talking to some prisoners at HMP Elmley after the annual carol service there. I quickly realized that they spoke various languages and a spokesman for the group explained that they originated from several different nationalities, that English wasn’t the native tongue for any of them, but they had nevertheless formed themselves into a fellowship for support and Bible study. This was by no means easy, not least, I was told, because few of them had access to a Bible in their own native language. From this short conversation and everyone’s faces, I could see that God’s Spirit was at work.
We have seen many new opportunities for communication for ourselves over the last year and have been heartened that this has been possible even though cell doors have been closed for long periods of each day and few family members or PF visitors allowed into prisons. We can rightly thank God for Zoom, Prayer Line and the weekly Bible Notes – all ways we have been prompted into new ways of communication during the months of the pandemic.
Language isn’t simply words spoken or read. Tone, body language, facial expression, acts of kindness all play a part, as does holy revelation and divine intervention. If we have felt powerless in the last year, we can take heart that God’s power is greater; we continue to see it for ourselves in the form of answered prayer and changed attitudes.
The disciples in first century Jerusalem stayed in a single room, obeying Jesus’ instruction to wait. We can only imagine their emotions as they waited without knowing how long. This aspect of Pentecost – they all joined together constantly in prayer, resonates strongly with us today.
The Spirit powerfully present on that amazing day 2000 years ago continues to shape the lives of all those who will believe today.
Deacon Pru Cahill is a Prison Fellowship volunteer and part of the Manchester Methodist Circuit.
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