Text Size

Search Articles

More By This Author

More From This Category

Article Information

  • Added June 14th, 2017
  • Filed under 'All Sorts'
  • Viewed 647 times

Pentecost Manchester

By Ken Russell in All Sorts

In response to the bombing in Manchester, the writer suggests that a new Pentecost is possible providing positive potential to galvanise a generation of the world's youth to claim a better way, of peace, unity and mutual acceptance.

PENTECOST MANCHESTER
Kiwi woman Judy Parker is credited with this story, originally titled "The Hat" A priest looked up from the psalms on the lectern, cast his eyes over all the hats bowed before him. Feathered, frilled, felt hats in rows like faces. But there was one at the end of the row that was different. What was she thinking, a head without a hat!
As the congregation rose to sing the hymn, the priest discreetly left the lectern and sidled up to the offending hatless woman. I'm sorry, madam, you must wear a hat and gloves here in the house of God. You are unseemly.
The woman flushed, raised her chin, and strode out.
“That’s the last we’ll see of her,” muttered resplendent Mrs Dewsbury.
Later, as the great organ rang out, the priest allowed his eyes to lower from the magnificence of the lofty rose window to behold a sight that would forever haunt his memories. He saw the woman in hat and gloves advancing down the aisle as though she were a bride. The hat, enormous, such as one might wear to the races. Gloves, black lace, such as one might wear to meet the Pope. Shoes, high-heeled, such as one might wear on a catwalk in Paris. And nothing else.(abridged)

Not bad as a Pentecost metaphor. The heroine of this story puts us all on notice that the Spirit of God, even if squeezed into a mould by convention and snobbery, will break out, free, uninhibited, and unashamed. Rather than asking ourselves whether we should be even slightly offended by such an outrageous image, let's admit the story and let it speak to our situation this Pentecost day.
Many Pentecost scholars have made links with the Tower of Babel story in Genesis. Babel would have been a familiar one to the people in Luke's community, telling of the chaos that ensues when tribalism goes rampant. Human arrogance is laid bare. The futility of selfish human ambition is displayed for all to see, and the result is doom and destruction. By contrast, in the Pentecost narrative tribalism is set aside and the crowd in Jerusalem, of every race and creed in the Mediterranean world, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappodocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene, even Romans, experience a spontaneous, overwhelming spirit of unity.
I like the Babel/Pentecost association. It is as significant of the world of the 21st Century as it most certainly would have been for the people of the Judean/Gentile community for whom Luke wrote. The perils of tribalism which pits one people against another and one culture against
another were deeply ingrained in the religious traditions of the first century. Jesus is not just another prophet polarising even further the multitude of ethnicities in the ancient world. With his radical ethic of self giving, of unconditional goodwill, he draws people together, not by the rule of authority but by the persuasion of love and compassion.
On this day of Pentecost we should be eagerly searching the modern world for contemporary pentecosts. And we should expect to find them. And I do not mean we should be looking for supernatural evidence, flames, tongues etc.
The media is overloaded with "babel" - homelessness, famine, violence, genocide, crimes against humanity, and we cry out daily for respite from the catalogue of human misery and fear which every day's news presents in graphic detail. So I'll give you a Pentecost, or at least the potential for it! Where, and when, you say.
On this very day in Manchester England pop star Ariana Grande will return to headline a star-studded "One Love Manchester " concert in memory of the victims of the bombing attack on her show. "We will not quit or operate in fear. We won't let this divide us. We won't let hate win," she says. "Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before."
World television rights for the show are already arranged, and I can foresee one of the largest Tv audiences ever is guaranteed as younger people in every nation and culture identify with the aims of the return show.
Some of the biggest names of the pop world, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams are hardly everyone's idea of a new Pentecost, but don't be too quick to dismiss the versatility of the Spirit! The first Pentecost did not feature religious or political leadership - it
was a spontaneous outpouring among dejected disciples, children, fishermen, artisans, pilgrims and tourists, people with ostensibly nothing in common. But the Spirit tapped into a common need, a thirst, a hunger, and tribalism was defeated even in the heart of tribal Jerusalem. And it proved irresistible.
And what will be different about Pentecost Manchester? Nothing much. Millions of the youth of the world, whether at the Old Trafford stadium or through the world-wide television audience, will unite in a popfest so laced with positive potential as to galvanise a generation of the world's youth to claim a better way, of peace, unity and mutual acceptance. Such is the power and influence of pop culture, borne by television into every corner of planet earth, that a 21st cent Pentecost uprising should be prayed for TODAY.
At the Jesus Pentecost the followers of the way are challenged to think beyond tribalism, to dream dreams and see visions.
Imagine! Imagine a 21st century Pentecost where rather than speaking in languages that we’ve never understood before, we begin to listen to those who we’ve failed to understand before. Imagine a 21st century Pentecost where Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists, Baha’is and atheists begin to listen to one another. Imagine an audacious Spirit calling us beyond Christianity’s exclusivism.
Imagine a vision of Pentecost where the wind and the fire represent God out of the box. Reign of God is to be realized in all its chaotic splendour,we must put on a new hat, and strip ourselves of the ethnocentrism and chauvinism that cloaks our faith and walk brazenly down the aisle.
Ken Russell