I guess most of us have been wrestling with that difficult question: where is God in this COVID 19 crisis? We made that question the subject of our two coMPass conversations recently. At the time, the experience of the virus was still very new and we were deeply troubled by the experience of suffering growing visibly around us. To that situation, the cross of Jesus, revealing God entering into the suffering of the world, speaks powerfully, and my May newsletter touched on that theme. As time has moved on, and the lockdown is being slowly lifted, our attention has also shifted a little and the question shows another facet: where is God at work in this COVID 19 crisis? Some clues to that may lie in Pentecost: the coming of the Spirit to birth and empower the church. I find this Russian Orthodox icon particularly helpful.
We see the apostles gathered round on the day of Pentecost in animated interaction as the tongues of fire descend from above. They are together in a united harmony in which no one figure stands out or above the rest. In contrast to the story of the Tower of Babel, in which human arrogance is shattered by the disruption of common language, God brings about a new unity within the spiritual building of the church. The curious focus of the icon lies with the strange little wooden king at the bottom, who represents the world. According to an old source: “The man sits in a dark place, since the whole world had formerly been without faith; he is bowed down with years, for he was made old by the sin of Adam; … the royal crown signifies sin, which ruled the world [as a tyrant]; the white cloth in his hands with the twelve scrolls means the twelve Apostles, who brought light to the whole world with their teaching.”
In other words, the world is a broken place in great need of the life of God which the church in the power of the Spirit has to offer as it participates in the mission of God to the world.
That seems to me to put its finger on the church’s vocation at this time, united in mission for the healing of a world confused and broken by COVID 19. Pentecost points us towards God alive and active in a COVID 19 world through the church.
Where we will need to focus now and in the months to come, is how we go about being that kind of church. As part of that conversation, we are going to offer our next Assembly on that theme. Further details will be available shortly, but please do reserve the date, Tuesday 7th July at 7.30pm, and join us via Zoom.
In the meantime, have a Happy Pentecost!
PS Please note that the Assembly date has changed.
pdf version to download – Mission Partnership Newsletter – June 2020 – FINAL