Reflection on John 20:19-23
Pentecost Sunday, 31st May 2020
We watched the Disney film Frozen 2 this week – we love the first one so were excited to catch up with Ana, Elsa, Kristoff and, of course, Olaf the snowman – and although none of the songs were quite as catchy as “Let it go” from the first film, we absolutely loved it!
Now I don’t know about you but at the moment everything I read or watch seems to resonate with our current situation, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with Coronavirus or lockdown, and Frozen 2 was no exception.
There was one line in particular from the film which I was so struck by that I wrote it down straight away. It was from, I think, Elsa and Ana’s father, the king, and he said this: “When you can’t see the future all you can do is the next right thing”.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, when we give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church. In our Bible Reading from John‘s Gospel Jesus breathes on his disciples (which is not something that we should be doing at the moment!) and says “receive the Holy Spirit”. This of course echoes the creation stories from Genesis where God breathes life, breathes Spirit, into Adam and Eve.
A few weeks later, after Jesus has ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit comes again but this time it is not just on the disciples, it comes on the whole Church and if you read the book of Acts you’ll see just some of the amazing things that followed.
The Holy Spirit, in the Bible, goes by all sorts of different names but one of the most common is, in Greek, paraklete (and no that’s not a kind of exotic pet bird!). The name paraklete derives from the word parakaleo, which means to call alongside. And so when the Holy Spirit is called the paraklete it means God coming alongside and calling out on our behalf.
It’s not an easy word to translate and so you’ll find it in your Bible in different places as things like comforter, helper, mediator, guide, teacher, encourager, or advocate. You might say that the Holy Spirit helps us to see, and to do, the next right thing.
On that first Pentecost the disciples were gathered together in fear and secrecy. They didn’t know what to do, they couldn’t see what the future would hold now that Jesus was gone. But when the Holy Spirit came among them like fire and wind they knew that the next right thing was simply to open the doors, go outside, and tell people about Jesus.
And all the way down through the history of the Church, Christians found themselves in the same position – locked away, fearful and anxious and uncertain – and over the centuries Christians found that although they may not have known what the future had in store, the Holy Spirit gave them the confidence and the courage to do the next right thing.
And now it is our turn, our moment of anxiety, as our Church buildings are closed and our future is uncertain. But we, like our sisters and brothers in Christ before us, have the Holy Spirit within us – the comforter, the guide, the teacher, the encourager – to help us, not to solve all the world’s problems, not to map out the next five years or even the next five weeks, but simply to do the next right thing, and then the next right thing, and then the next right thing.
And so we pray, with our fellow Christians around the world, that great Pentecost prayer: “Come Holy Spirit.”