When many of us awoke on Pentecost morning we heard the news of the callous attack on London Bridge. In the wake of each of the three terrorist attacks the UK has experienced over the last three months, a phrase has been found all over the Internet - “Look for the helpers”.
The phrase is from a story told by children’s television host, Fred Rogers. When sharing the news of awful situations his mother would say to her young son, “Always look for the helpers. There’s always someone who is trying to help.” Rogers, recalling his mother’s words, said “I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”
The events on London Bridge stir up a range of emotions - anger, fear, terror. But, when we follow the advice of Fred Roger’s mother we find another emotion: hope.
As police officers run towards rather than away from danger we find hope.
In strangers receiving shelter in local residents’ homes we find hope.
When doctors and nurses come into hospital on their day off to offer assistance we find hope.
At Pentecost we celebrate the Holy Spirit being given to the Church. We read of how the previously bumbling and flaky Peter, stood and gave the sermon of his life after receiving the Spirit. He declared the Good News, and three thousand people responded and were baptised. We hear how the Holy Spirit brings boldness; it sustains, guides and brings life.
It is often heard from preachers that we ought to be “Easter People” but today, we ought to be “Pentecost People”. A people sustained and guided by the Holy Spirit, with an unnatural boldness to speak life into dire situations.
In the early fourth century, a plague swept through Caesarea and many people fled the city for safety. But, the historian Eusebius wrote how as people fled, one group remained - the Christians: “All day some of them tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all part of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”
These self-sacrificing acts made people stand up and notice the Christians in their midst. Eusebius explains how the Christians’ “deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians. Such actions convinced them that they alone were pious and truly reverent to God.”
What the Christians did were small acts of kindness but, because they were a Holy-Spirit-infused people, they had the courage to perform them in the face of fear.
Where do you want me to help?
Today, many are angry and fearful, cancelling their trips into city centres, reconsidering their relationships with their Muslim neighbours, unsure of how the future looks.
But as we reflect on this weekend’s attack, we can keep those words of the mother of Fred Rogers in mind- “Always look for the helpers” and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance saying, “Spirit, where do you want me to help?” And if we act on the Spirit’s guidance our actions will be infused and will bring life to our broken cities. People will speak of our deeds and God will be glorified.