A Pentecost Reflection from Lyndon
New pieces in my jigsaw. Rev Derek Jones, a Sunday school lesson, an encounter with God and a little help from the Rolling Stones. Pentecost Sunday 1984.
Pentecost Sunday 1984 was an amazing day for me, one which I will never forget. However, let me give you some background information before we get to the big day.
I had recently become a regular attender of St. David’s Church, Fleur de Lis. God had called me back to church after years in the spiritual wilderness (I had stopped believing). I had become a sides-person along with Trevor, the man who I mentioned before, who prayed to God in his garden. Cynth and I were really enjoying church and we were blessed by the sermons and Bible study sessions from our vicar Rev David Elias. David taught me so much.
Cynth had been asked to assist in the Sunday school, by its leadr Diane, who possessed every gift and talent that was needed to teach children about Our Lord. Diane was an excellent musician, choral leader, brilliant at crafts, and was full of enthusiasm which rubbed off on the children and Cynth.
Diane was the beating heart of the Sunday school and laid the foundation for its future. Cynth was inspired by Diane and they both became close friends. Cynth and I had joined a Christian Focolare group, led by my brother Stewart, which explored how we could live our lives through the teachings of Scripture.
Diane was also instrumental in introducing us to members of the local Ebenezer Baptist Chapel. This chapel had been a quiet place of worship; it was quite sedate, until a wave of change swept over it. Young people, some were the children of members, who had left the chapel, gone to universities and colleges, had experienced new forms of worship, and they all seem to return home at the same time, with change on their mind. They introduced new and exciting forms of music, different styles of worship, and they also put on special events, for example a play by C. S. Lewis which I attended, enjoyed but didn’t really understand.
One evening we were invited to see an evangelist, called Jim Sepulveda. The chapel was full to capacity and I was amazed by the evangelist’s style of preaching and by the power of his message. During the service he prayed for the Holy Spirit to bless, and to empower us. People were truly affected by God’ power, and prayers were also said for healing. We were taken out of our comfort zone, experiencing God in a different way. Cynth and I left the church feeling drunk and were filled with a great joy.
Cynth and I were being taught so much about God, but I had no real understanding of why this should be.
Oh! I almost forgot, we went to see a Rolling Stones stadium concert.
At around this time Diane, announced that she would be getting married and would be moving away. Our vicar asked Cynth to take over her duties as Sunday school superintendent, and he also asked me if I could assist her.
Now we come to the big day, the very sunny and warm, Pentecost Sunday 1984. Cynth was pregnant with Sarah, our first child. She had been told by the doctor she need some peaceful rest, and so before going to the morning Eucharist service I put a sun lounger in the garden with a shade for her to rest, and off I went for my church duties. The service was led by our curate Derek Jones, who had been a Church Army evangelist. He preached a sermon with the theme of “going all the way with God.” I was mortified. I felt that I was the only person in church, and that Derek was preaching just to me. He concluded his sermon by suggesting that we ask God to show us His purpose for our lives, to give us guidance and to strengthen us, so we could “go all the way with Him.” I was trembling as I quietly prayed, and all of a sudden felt very scared. I ran home to tell Cynth who was relaxing on the sun lounger, she told me not to bother her as she was trying to sleep, and also I would be leading the Sunday school, something I had never done before.
I had no lessons prepared, I just picked up my Bible, put on my jeans, grabbed a T shirt and off I went. It was very warm and so I decided to take the lesson in the church grounds. There was about ten, ten year olds, sitting around me. I started to tell them about Pentecost, the birthday of the church. I read from the Book of Acts, and explained how the Risen Jesus had told the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. The apostles were all together in a house, when a great wind came down from heaven and filled the place, and tongues of fire came over the apostles, giving them spiritual gifts and the ability to witness the Gospel to thousands. The Holy Spirit was giving birth to the Christian Church. The children then started pointing to my T shirt, and they got very excited. “Is that a picture of one of those tongues?” they asked. I looked down and realised that the T shirt I was wearing, I had bought in the Rolling Stones concert, it was emblazoned with a big red tongue, the Rolling Stones motif.
All of a sudden I felt relaxed and we had a great discussion which went on for over an hour. “Can we all have T shirts for Pentecost with a tongue of fire on” they asked. For the first time in my life I was teaching the faith. My T shirt had become a means to fire their enthusiasm. I realised the importance of telling the Gospel message in a way people could relate to. I was elated, I ran home to tell Cynth, but she was sleeping.
Later that evening, in my bedroom, I experienced the Holy Spirit, just as I had that night in the Ebenezer Chapel. Derek’s sermon was prophetic, my prayer was being answered. God was putting His jigsaw pieces into place. Cynth and I, with church friends, continued to run the Sunday school, for many years, which was for us a great blessing, I was shown that ministry was to be our future, though no idea what that would be. I was ordained and was sent to Ebbw Vale. Cynth started, what she called the FOG club (Friends of God), for young people which she ran for twenty years until my retirement. I studied C. S. Lewis for my Lampeter University theology course, and this time I did understand, Derek Jones became my rector in Ebbw Vale. Here, Derek also invited Cynth to train as a Lay Reader. Derek later moved to Caldicot and asked me to join him there. Cynth and I started up Focolare groups, inspired by those whom my brother had run. We ran these groups in the Caldicot Benefice. Whilst in Caldicot, Led Balloon, our praise band was formed, with Cynth as a singer, playing the kind of music that inspired us in the Ebenezer Chapel, to coexist with the traditional services. I felt God calling me to work in schools telling children about our faith.
Cynth and I have been involved in the healing ministry, for many years, which was inspired by that evening in the chapel. As we continued our journey, more pieces in our Christian jigsaw have been added. Finally, last year we went to Twickenham Stadium to see the Rolling Stones, wearing Stones T shirts emblazed with those big red tongues.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)
Be safe, be blessed and ask God to help you go all the way with Him. Happy Pentecost.