Rector's Blog


Some Thoughts on the Feast of the Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongue as the Spirit enabled them.   Acts 2:1-4

One of the loveliest things about the present time, serving in the Church in Wales, is hearing Welsh spoken.  It’s a great thing that Welsh is a living language, a growing language and that we are a bilingual nation as compared with say, Scotland where, whilst numbers of Gaelic speakers are growing, the language is not widely spoken.  And today in this part of Wales, Welsh and English are not the only languages one hears. When I’m down in Sandycroft  particularly, I often hear Central European languages spoken: Polish, Estonian and  Lithuanian. When I go back to Manchester, in the city centre, you hear all sorts of different tongues – Italian, Urdu, Spanish and many African languages whose names are unknown to me.

But whilst it is a wonderful thing that there are so many different languages in the world the truth is, speaking different languages can divide us.  It makes it harder for us to understand each other. People in the United Kingdom are famous for not learning other languages in the way that many of our European neighbours do.  Perhaps we get lazy because so many people around the world speak English or should that be American?

And culture can also get in the way.  My brother is an artist and on a visit to France he started to sketch a line drawing of a barn.  A man came out from a little house across the road and started talking loudly at him in French – very quickly so my brother couldn’t understand him – he waved his arms about and then turned round and went into his house.  My brother thought oh heck he doesn’t like me drawing this barn.  I’ll finish quickly and move on.  But then the man came out again with a chair.  He had been saying you shouldn’t be stood up there – I’ll get something for you to sit on so it will be easier.  He bought a cup of coffee over too.  

So it’s easy to jump to conclusions if we don’t understand the words and misunderstand the body language.

At the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and in the Acts of the Apostles  we read that miraculously the disciples were able to speak in all the different languages that were spoken in Jerusalem at that time – and it seems that first century Palestine was a bit like the United Kingdom today: there were loads of different languages being spoken.  People were amazed to hear their own language.  

It would be wonderful if we could all understand each other’s languages but even then there could still be misunderstanding because at the end of the day what really matters is real communication. Once that man brought out the cup of coffee for my brother it didn’t matter that they didn’t speak the same language.   They understood each other. They were communicating.

We live in a world where: whilst on the face of it with mobile phones and social media and the internet we are more connected than ever; we actually often don’t communicate at all. Instead we have information overload.  

The poet TS Eliot wrote:  “Where is the Life we have lost in living? 
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? 
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? “

I love that last line.

T S Eliot was writing in a very different time to us but that line sums up for me, what the world can be like today, especially with 24 hour news: we have information but does that give us knowledge and wisdom?

Another problem with our information overload today is that we often aren’t helped to listen to others who might bring a different perspective to us.  We can choose which news channel to watch or which paper to buy or read on-line.   We tend to be friends with on FB or follow on Twitter those who think like us. This all can reinforce our prejudices.  Sometimes this can be harmless.  If you saw my Facebook you would  think the whole world was obsessed with Anthony Trollope, Miss Marple and the Anglican communion. There is a darker side to this hidden community. As we know, it is often through the internet that young people have been radicalised and gone down very destructive paths in life.

Communication is about learning to listen as well as speaking.  There is a saying “you never know what you have said until you find out what someone else has heard”.   

Part of learning to communicate better and learning from each other is to examine our own hearts and motivations.  Are we quicker to judge that we are to listen? Quicker to condemn than understand?  Are we avoiding the mote in our own eye by enjoying picking out the speck in someone elses?

But as Christians we also need to look outwards. 

We need to look into each other’s eyes and see God there.  We especially have to do that when we meet someone who is different, might look different to us, sound different or who might not fit in our idea of what someone should be wearing or worshipping God.

It’s really is all about communication. Communication with God – and that’s listening as well as talking to God – and communication with each other.

Pentecost is the time we celebrate that following Jesus’ Ascension into heaven God sent down his Holy Spirit, his comforter to us.  If we allow the Holy Spirit to flourish in our lives,  communication can happen and real understanding can happen.  It strikes me that this has never been more necessary in the world today which seems so fragmented and divided.

To quote T S Eliot again:  “What life have you, if you have not life together? There is not life that is not in community, And no community not lived in praise of GOD.”

Rev’d Canon Andrea Jones