There’s a legend that St Patrick had a dream in his old age. This occurred after about twenty years of working to convert the barbarian Irish. It goes like this:
Patrick was standing in a field and could see the lights burning in the darkness. In front of him was Christ, silently motioning for Patrick to follow him. The Lord led Patrick up a high mountain overlooking the valley and there Christ pointed down into the darkness below.
“Look”, he said.
Patrick looked down and saw, amidst the shadow of the night, a great many flames burning, lighting up the countryside, warming Patrick’s heart. He knew that symbolized the Christian faith he had planted, the faith that had grown and now spread all over the nation.
He looked at Jesus and smiled.
But Jesus wasn’t smiling. He pointed back down the valley and said again, “Look.”
Patrick looked. To his horror, he watched as one by one, the flames died out.
One by one—and they were gone.
In the darkness, the old and weary bishop looked back at Jesus with tears in his eyes.
“Oh tell me,” he said, “Lord, tell me, that Ireland will never lose the faith!”
And as he broke down and cried, he felt a strong arm lifting him up, and a gentle hand pointing his face down again to the valley below. There upon the meadow in the darkness was a single lamp burning, a tiny flame that had been there all along, though Patrick had not noticed it before.
Suddenly, as before, another flame appeared that seemed to draw itself out of the other, and another from that one; and another and another, until the lights spread once again all across the countryside, and it was more ablaze than ever…
Wherever there is a single Christian, there is undying hope, because God himself, the unconquerable light, is present in every Christian heart—that’s what Pentecost is all about.
Today we bring to a conclusion, the Easter Season—Christ’s Paschal Mystery is brought to completion. Let’s take a broad view of what we have witnessed: On Good Friday, life is lost; on Easter, new life is received; during the Forty Days the Apostles have to adjust to a new presence of Jesus; at the Ascension, the Apostles let go of the Jesus they once had; and at Pentecost, they receive the fire of the new Spirit for the life they’re now being asked to live.
Pentecost can be seen as an ongoing lifelong experience and a mystery. We all suffer many losses—loss of youth, loss of health, loss of loved ones, loss of wholeness, and the loss of countless things that are precious to us. Yet we are never dead! We are always given new life. But if we are trying to life that new life with the old or former spirit, we find ourselves not adjusting well to the ebb and flow of life. Pentecost is about the new Spirit that Christ offers us—the Spirit that transforms us as it did the Apostles.
Pentecost can also be about reigniting the fire of our faith. You see in St Patrick’s dream, that the flame of faith can go out, but as long as there are those who are faithful, as few as we may seem at times, the fire of faith can be lit once again! And we know with God the flame of faith will never completely go out!
Our closing hymn this morning (evening) is a call to light the fire of faith in our hearts so that we can live our lives with the right Spirit. And with this new Spirit, find the courage to reach out to those who still may be in darkness. Here these words from the refrain:
Send down the fire of your justice,
Send down the rains of your love;
Come, send down the Spirit, breathe life in your
people, and we shall be people of God.