This day, the Day of Pentecost, nearly two thousand years ago, the Church was born. We think of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church because it’s when the apostles first went out among the people and began spreading Jesus’ message, thus establishing the beginning of the Church. It seems to me that praying for God’s love to breathe new life into the Church is especially appropriate on the day we celebrate its birthday.
I find it virtually impossible to think of God’s love without thinking about that wonderful description of love Paul gives us in his First Letter to the Christians in Corinth:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13 (NRSV)
The widespread popularity of those beautiful words is understandable; it’s a magnificent depiction of love provided by Paul. It’s interesting to note, though, that Paul probably never intended those words to stand alone, as they so often do. In the context of what he’d been writing, the importance of love was provided as a solution for the various problems that had been dividing the Church. And that’s why I quote them today.
There is, sadly, much division and hostility in the Church today. There is also, still, I believe, a great deal of unity and good in the Church today, but much of that is being undermined by a vocal minority, which leaves an impression that it’s all division and hostility. People question how we can solve the problems without irrecoverably dividing the Church, again. And, yet, the answer is right there in front of us, and has been for nearly two thousand years. Love!
I’m sure that’s really quite an idealistic way of looking at things. But maybe birthdays are days when we can allow idealism to come to the fore. And, besides, with God breathing his love into our Churches, maybe there really can be a revival. A revival based on love.
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and renew the face of the earth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Additional Collect for the Day of Pentecost
is Copyright © The Archbishops Council