I have returned recently from a holiday in France. I studied French at college and spent three summer vacations working as a leader in holiday camps for French school children. I am able to communicate reasonably well in French, although I am sure I make lots of errors and my accent must sound strange. It is extremely hard to replicate the sounds of another language if you have not had the opportunity to copy a native speaker from an early age. I have a tendency to speak French instinctively when I am abroad, which really doesn’t help if I am in Germany or Italy!
At Pentecost I am always intrigued by the description of Peter and the other disciples being understood by a crowd from many different countries, whose languages were unlike that being spoken by him. It must have been an amazing experience for them to understand Peter as if he was speaking in each of their languages.
It is also inspiring to reflect on the power and drama of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the flames and the wind. This event certainly changed the disciples as after it they no longer hid away but spoke with confidence about Jesus and what they had experienced.
Not everyone has a sudden revelation of the Holy Spirit. As our preacher, John Hitchcock, said on Pentecost Sunday, sometimes the Holy Spirit can be more like a glowing ember, persistently warming the heart, rather than a fierce burning fire. However the Holy Spirit is experienced by individuals, He is sent as our helper to support and encourage us in our faith.
Katrina, from St John’s had brought a passage to the May Prayer Meeting that showed the Holy Spirit at work in someone’s life. The someone was Corrie ten Boom who was suddenly confronted by a guard from the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. After her talk he had come forward, confident that he had been forgiven. She, however, was struggling to forgive, as she and her sister like so many others had been mocked and humiliated in front of this and the other guards. Seeing him again took her right back to the camp and the death there of her sister. Corrie breathed a silent prayer,
“Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.
As I took the former guard’s hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”