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Happy Birthday!

May 23, 2015

What do you do on your birthday? I like spending time with those closest to me (family, close friends and God), with good food, wine or beer. I’m celebrating today. Today is my birthday – it’s the birthday of everyone who is part of the Church, part of Christ.

Today I celebrate our birthday as a Church. I celebrate the day when the Holy Spirit was given to Christ’s followers. But the Spirit came in power 2,000 years ago and we are still too like those disciples hiding in a locked room. We keep our faith in Jesus to ourselves, locked up inside us for fear, for fear of ridicule or of simply being thought of as a bit odd. But we’re English and for us religion is a private matter. Religion has caused too many divisions and wars in our country for us to want to make it anything other than a private matter. Put like this, even asking the question, “How do we bring ourselves to leave our locked room?” or “How do we manage to share our faith?” feels threatening, it makes most of us uncomfortable. It’s as though the Church has received an amazing birthday present but has decided to put it back in the box!

That is why our churches are so empty and the mosques are full. We don’t feel confident in our faith. We have received the Holy Spirit but some how we still don’t feel that we can really live for Christ. The Church doesn’t want to offend anyone – so we say nothing. We say nothing offensive. We say nothing of any great note. Nothing exciting. Nothing life changing. Nothing challenging. People say, “Good old Church of England”, they perhaps feel a warm sense of national nostalgia but that is all.

When the Holy Spirit first touched and filled me with power, it was like all the lights went on at once. The world was suddenly a different place. It was a little like that first Pentecost. Christianity may have been many things to me then but it certainly wasn’t warm and cosy! I suddenly realised that I was indeed worshipping the God who created heaven and earth. I felt alive with that divine power. I was filled with the one who gives life or death – The source of love, joy, peace, kindness, self-control and so much more – The one who made sense of my pretty mixed up life.

In that moment I realised that Christianity is not a faith of half measures. Christ demands everything and in a miracle gives even more back.

I know that people often need time and space to explore what God is doing in them – Time to come to their own conclusions about who Jesus is. That is people coming to faith, not me, nor anyone who professes to be a Christian. We have no such luxury. We have signed up to Christ’s army and need to be ready for duty. We are called to march and learn all that we need on the way.

I’ll stop saying ‘we’ and speak for myself.

I know that I don’t have the luxury of pretending that Jesus isn’t lord of my life. Jesus is lord, so I need to follow where he commands or stop calling him lord. I must trust everything to him and obey. Or at least I try to. The amazing thing is that even when I fail, I’m not court-martialled as I deserve. When I fall my lord becomes my loving brother, he helps me up and cares for me. Each time I fall I learn again that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The problem is that I am too often ready to fall when the Spirit has given me the strength to stand. I trust the loving safety net when I should be bold. I’m learning now to strive more for Jesus and use that safety net as it was meant to be – as a last resort.

I am learning that if I am not committed to Christ, how can I expect to invite anyone else to commitment. I have learned too that in trusting the Spirit in me I find meaning and contentment – I find healing and strength – I find love and joy too. In short I am finding the more I give, the more I receive. The more I receive the more I can live a godly life. The more I live a godly life the more I find myself sharing and giving. Then the more I give…

There are plenty of other creeds and faiths shouting to be heard. This Pentecost I need to open my birthday present, not leave it in it’s box. I need to remember the power of God, stand up, be counted and let the love and power of the Spirit flow.

Happy Birthday!

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