The day before I turned 11 years old, my mum made me one of those 90s hedgehog birthday cakes: a round moulded cake, topped with a load of butter cream and chocolate fingers sticking out of the top. It had a little face with chocolate buttons as eyes. The cake was made and put in the fridge to be saved for my birthday tea the next day, but throughout the day a strange thing kept happening.
The Hedgehog started getting smaller, by evening I was sure that he had less spikes and by bedtime he was also missing his eyes! It turns out that my older sister had been helping herself to the topping... the telling off for this was minimal so I’ve always suspected that my mum was doing the same (I’ll show them this and see if they remember!).
I don’t actually like cake. People find this shocking. I do however like doughnuts. Now I’m going to say something really controversial, the comments section might go crazy about this: Doughnuts are far superior to cupcakes. I feel quite certain about this because with a cupcake, by the time you’ve had the first few mouthfuls, all the good bits have gone. Whereas with a doughnut the best bit is the goo waiting in the middle, making it a far worthier bakery product.
We humans spend a lot of time focusing on our outside appearances, I confess, I’m one of the worst for this. We can be like cupcakes where all the attention is on the decorative outside, as we spend time and worry on clothing, make up, hair and physique. Sometimes even our religion can be used as an adorning sprinkling; something we add on to make ourselves feel better or to make us look like good, decent people.
In contrast, during the Pentecost story we see the disciples being truly transformed from the inside out. The same people who had been arguing about who was the greatest among them, now have unity and they start radically sharing their possessions with each other. The Holy Spirit has ‘flooded their hearts with God’s love’ (Roman 5:5). This isn’t a sweet (sickly), frosting type of religion put on for show, but the genuine power of God’s loving presence working through them. The Spirit filled each of them (like doughnuts?) and began an inward transformation.
Of course the story doesn’t end with the first disciples.The Pentecost story continues throughout the ages. It continued with John Wesley’s 1738 mystical experience as he felt his heart strangely warmed, which ensured that love, rather than dogma became the basis of Methodism. And today, the Pentecost story continues with us. The same loving power comes to each of us: God with us, God in us, God for us.
You might still prefer cake to doughnuts, that’s ok, to be honest as a fitness instructor I probably shouldn’t be promoting any, but carrots and peas didn’t really work as an analogy. The Bible talks about each of us having the fruit of the spirit (jam?), this isn’t a decorative sprinkling of religion but God’s loving, transforming power, working within us. Of course, when God works within individuals, the story never ends there. The first disciples were moved to share Jesus beyond their own groups and boundaries. Wesley began to see the whole world as his parish. So it is with us, the Spirit moves within us, healing and strengthening our inner being but the Spirit also enables us to courageously share love and faith with others; like a gooey doughnut, the love of God knows no bounds, it always ends up oozing out.
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.