Two Dates for New Beginnings
AS I write this parliament has been dissolved and we are heading towards a general election on 6th May. By the time you read this we will have had about a month of intense party politics with each party trying to outdo the others, and prove that their policies are the best solution for our country.
In all the media hype that surrounds elections and the negative campaigning that can go on between parties it is easy to become cynical and lose interest in the election process. However politics affects us all, policies on health, policing, government, education, etc impact on us whether we vote or not. On top of this whichever party or parties form the next government they will be faced with some hard decisions about where to make some big cuts in public spending so that they can start to make some inroads into the huge national deficit, and those decisions will directly impact our daily lives. So despite any cynicism we may have towards politics, and suspicion towards politicians following the expenses scandal, it is important that we use our vote.
However, I believe that whatever legislation is passed by the new government, laws on their own will never change our society. Societies change when people change the way they act and relate to one another, and history shows that that change cannot be brought about by a change in legislation, but only by a change in heart.
About 3,500 years ago God gave the people of Israel the 10 commandments, and the story of the Bible shows how for 1,500 years they struggled and failed to live by these laws. The laws given put boundaries in place, but did not change the hearts of the people. But the story of the Bible also shows that God knew they would struggle and planned ahead to provide another way. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised to put his law in his peoples minds and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). And that brings me to the second date for a new beginning
Sivan is the third month in the Hebrew calendar, and it is on this date that the Jewish people celebrate the festival of Shavuot, the anniversary of the day that God gave the 10 commandments to Moses. The date of Shavuot is always 50 days after the date of Passover (when God led the Israelites out of Egypt) hence the Greek name for the festival – Pentecost (meaning fiftieth day).
Pentecost is also hugely significant in the Christian calendar as it marks the birthday of the Church. It was on Pentecost about 2000 years ago that God poured out His Spirit on the disciples of Jesus. Just 50 days after the Passover when Jesus had been crucified. The Holy Spirit brought about a new change of heart in the disciples. Through the power of the Holy Spirit this group of fishermen, tax collectors and zealots grew in their love of each other and their love of their neighbour. They committed themselves to loving and serving both God and people and, one life at a time, this group of nobodies brought about a massive change in society.
Over the last 2000 years the church has not always got it right, but still today there are Christian communities all over the world that are, in the power of the Holy Spirit, reaching out and making a positive difference in their communities, gradually bringing real change to the societies in which they live.
This year Pentecost is on Sunday 23rd May, when we, together with churches throughout the world, will be celebrating the birth of the Christian Church. The birth of a movement that has changed, and is changing the world in which we live.