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Pentecost message 2007

24 May 2007

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from Heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they where sitting. Divided tongues, as a fire, appeared among them. And a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2:1-4 NRSV).

The Feast of Pentecost reminds us that there is a new dispensation of the Grace of God, renewing the Old Covenant. This new law is also granted through a marvellous experience, an impressive rush of wind and fire, which is granted not just for one people in particular but for all people in all times so that all tongues can speak of the wonders of God.

The Feast of Pentecost thus reminds us of the emergence of the Church as a community of faith called to live out a new covenant in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Spirit. Pentecost marks the fulfilment of the promise made in the Old Testament and by Jesus. The Spirit calls, empowers, shapes and forms the confession, life and hope of the individual Christian and the Christian community so that they give witness to all nations in the world.

Pentecost confirms that the Spirit of God never stops moving, from the beginning to the end, it is the Spirit's dynamis that drives the history of the universe, of this world, of every community of believers everywhere in the world. 

This feast of Pentecost is called in some traditions Trinity Day, because the appearance of the Holy Spirit reveals to us something profound about the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The Church in its prayers and hymns for this day honours and praises all the three persons of the Holy Trinity who participated in the descent of the Holy Spirit - God the Father, who sent the Holy Spirit; God the Son Jesus Christ, who, in communion with the Father, promised to his people the gift of the Holy Spirit; and God the Holy Spirit, who descended on that first Pentecost in tongues of fiery flame.

In the words of St Gregory the Theologian: "The Holy Spirit always was, and is, and will be, neither beginning nor coming to an end, but always ranked and numbered with the Father and the Son". We believe that the Holy Spirit that called the Church into being continues to sustain and inspire the Church. This Church, the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Spirit, is the central concern of the ecumenical movement. We are called, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to work for its unity and to be together in bringing God's love and reconciling power to God's world.

On this day of Pentecost we are challenged to discern the signs of God's Holy Spirit calling together our divided churches. What does the Spirit say to the churches this Pentecost as we seek to be faithful to Christ's prayer that ‘all may be one'? While we are assured that the preservation and unity of the Church are ultimately in God's hands, we know that we are called to co-operate, here and now, with the Spirit by using our gifts to preserve unity and to bring together separated churches so that the world may believe.

Today we experience difficult times. The world around us seems to take us back to the chaos and disorder described in Genesis in fearful images "the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep..." (Gen 1:2) We need to remember that the effects of the Spirit's work are both eschatological and social and God calls us now in the power of his Spirit to be churches together acting for the healing and transformation of our world.

May the Church of Jesus Christ, brought together in the power of the Holy Spirit, never fail to praise the Lord in every part of the world with joy and with the psalmist cry continually - "Come, Spirit of God, and renew the face of the earth" (Ps 104:30).

The Presidents of the World Council of Churches

Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania

Mr John Taroanui Doom, Maòhi Protestant Church, Tahiti

Rev. Dr Simon Dossou, Protestant Methodist Church in Benin

Rev. Dr Soritua Nababan, Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP), Indonesia

Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba

Patriarch Abune Paulos, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ, United States of America

Dr Mary Tanner, Church of England, Great Britain