Chairman’s Letter Pentecost 2020
Beloved in Christ Jesus: Greetings in the name of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
At Pentecost we rejoice that we are indeed ‘not left as orphans’ (John 14:18), but through the crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us in fulfilment of God’s promise. It is by the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts that we are able to cry ‘Abba! Father! (Galatians 4:6) and even though many of us may not be able to able to sing the praises of God together in this time of pandemic, may our hearts nonetheless overflow with praise and adoration to God who so wonderfully restores us through his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit!
But this work of the Spirit in our hearts is part of a much bigger picture. When my brother Primate Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit addressed the Kenyan nation on 25th May he began with a reference to Romans 8:22,23:
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
Much of his pastoral address is very practical, rightly directed to the pressing needs of those who are suffering, as are many in East Africa, not only from the impact of coronavirus, but also from locust plagues and flooding. But the biblical context he chose helpfully reminds us of the bigger picture of Pentecost.
Authentic life in the Spirit involves groaning as well as rejoicing. Disease is a sharp reminder of the pain, frustration and decay built into this present world order, but these things should not lead us to despair because the groaning of our hearts resonates with the whole creation in a deep sigh of longing that comes from the Spirit himself. And just as Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23), likewise the first fruits of the Spirit anticipate all that is to come. So we can face the brokenness of the present, but with hope.
We can see that hope in action through the Anglican Church of Kenya’s B2B (Balcony to Balcony) service initiative where people have joined in worship from their balconies while churches around the world are reaching beyond their regular congregations with online services, even pressing forward with planting new churches as the Anglican Mission in England is doing.
So we see that biblical ‘waiting’ is not merely passive, but leads to action because of what we hope for. This includes a special care for the vulnerable. In my previous letter I mentioned the work being done in North America and around the world to meet the needs of those who have lost livelihoods. But there are other challenges. For example, my brother Primate Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba has strongly warned against an increase in violence, especially towards women, during the coronavirus lockdown.
Underlying all the anxiety about the current pandemic is of course the fear of death. Some have been affluent enough to sustain lifestyles which seek to deny this reality, but the virulence of this disease has broken that illusion allowing the Christian hope, imprinted in our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit, to shine forth with new clarity. As Archbishop Emmanuel Egbunu, Bishop of Lokoja in Nigeria, has so rightly said “If death meets you now, your inheritance is already waiting for your arrival.”
What better time than Pentecost to ask the Father to fill you afresh and anew with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). The promise of Pentecost is that ‘you shall receive power’ (Acts 1:8) to be Christ’s witnesses. As all of us witness to the saving truth of the gospel in this broken and suffering world, may Christ be enthroned anew in our hearts and lives, and may we be daily sustained by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit until that day when we see him face to face!
Your brother in the hope and faith of Christ,
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Chairman, Gafcon Primates Council
P.S. You can subscribe to Archbishop Beach’s daily audio one-minute devotional (comes to your email) at www.awordfromthelord.org