Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis

Gathered through the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship God with gladness. We encourage you to pray over the words that follow, and follow the links within the liturgy. Prayers in this service are adapted from Celebrate God’s Presence (UCPH). Thanks this week to Dave and Heather!

PRELUDE: “Minuet In G Major” (Bach)

OPENING PRAYER:

God of Pentecost, hear us as pray:

Unless the eye catch fire, you God, will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire, you God, will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire, you God, will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire, you God, will not be loved.
Unless, the mind catch fire, you God, will not be known.

Holy God of justice, living Spirit of power, Christ our peace,
may we burn, body and soul,
with love for you, each other, and all creation,
as these words are spoken and heard this day.
Amen.

HYMN OF PRAISE: “As comes the breath of spring”

As comes the breath of spring
with light and mirth and song,
so does your Spirit bring
new days brave, free, and strong.
You come with thrill of life
to chase hence winter’s breath,
to hush to peace the strife
of sin that ends in death.

You come like dawning day
with flaming truth and love,
to chase all glooms away,
to brace our wills to prove
how wise, how good to choose
the truth and its brave fight,
to prize it, win or lose,
and live on your delight.

You come like songs at morn
that fill the earth with joy,
till we, in Christ newborn,
new strength in praise employ.
You come to rouse the heart
from drifting to despair,
through high hopes to impart
life with an ampler air.

You breathe and there is health;
you move and there is power;
you whisper, there is wealth
of love, your richest dower.
Your presence is to us
like summer in the soul;
your joy shines forth and then
life blossoms to its goal.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Almighty God,
you poured your Spirit
upon gathered disciples to create
a new community of faith.
We confess that we hold back
the force of your Spirit among us,
and often fail to listen for your word of grace.
Have mercy on us, O God,
And transform our lives
by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

God will give us what we need:
strength for today,
hope for tomorrow,
and forgiveness
for all that is past.
Amen.

SPECIAL MUSIC: “Breathe on me, breath of God” (Hatch)

A NEW CREED:

We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new
who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.

FIRST READING: Psalm 104

O God, how manifold are your works!
With Wisdom at your side you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. 

There lies the great and mighty Sea,
teeming with living things both great and small.
Upon it sail the ships, and there is Leviathan,
the monster you made to play in it.

All these look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
What you give them they gather up.
When you open your hand,
you fill them with good things.

But when you hide your face they despair.
When you take away their breath, they die,
and return to dust.
But when you send out your spirit, they live again,
and you renew the face of the earth.

May your glory, O God, endure forever.
May you rejoice, O God, in your works.
When you look at the earth it trembles,
when you touch the mountains they smoke.
I will sing to God as long as I live.
I will praise my God while I have being.

SECOND READING: Acts 2.1-8, 12-21

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

Westonites, Mount Dennisians and Humberleans; residents of Pelmo Park, Rockcliffe-Smyth, Silverthorne and Lambton, The Westway and the Old Mill, Humber Heights and Emery, Richview and the parts of Brookhaven near Amesbury; visitors from the Junction (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Rexdale and Syme—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

HYMN OF PRAISE: “Spirit of God, unleashed on earth”

Spirit of God, unleashed on earth
with rush of wind and roar of flame!
With tongues of fire saints spread good news;
earth, kindling, blazed its loud acclaim.

You came in power, the church was born;
O Holy Spirit, come again!
From living waters raise new saints,
let new tongues hail the risen Lord.

With burning words of victory won
inspire our hearts grown cold with fear,
revive in us baptismal grace,
and fan our smouldering lives to flame.

Valentine Noh, c. 1470, Prague, Bohemia, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

REFLECTION

I think you can see what I did there. And I’m not sure it’s Mount Dennisians, but it should be.

The traditional reading, with all those exotic place names, tells us that Pentecost is about a gathering of people (from everywhere) that were present for the birth of the church. And while this is certainly true—and we can then speak of the worldwide spread of the nascent church—it might be more helpful to take a step back and try to understand what else the author may be trying to tell us.

Tip O’Neill famously said: “All politics is local.” Luke, who famously wrote both Luke and Acts, may have said: “All religion is local.” What we are tempted to read as “everywhere” is, in fact, more like “your place, and your place, and your place over there.” This is local religion, not in the tribal or parochial sense, but in the intimate sense that it belongs as much on my street as your street.

Some time ago we had the good fortune of visiting the Basilica di San Clemente, just a stones throw from the Colosseum in Rome. From the outside, it resembles many of the other churches you might find in Rome. But this one is a little different. You enter a 12th century church at street level, and then you head downstairs. One level below is a fourth century church, well-preserved, and below that is a first century house church, which began as a typical Roman home. Three layers and two thousand years of Roman history in a single stop.

With the tongues and wind and flames the message began. From the waters of baptism the church was born, carried off to those hard-to-pronounce places, but also an ordinary house in Rome. A community formed and met in that house. The community expanded, and knocked down a wall or two, making the circle wider. Walls were reshaped into a primitive form we might come recognize as a church—as kitchen table became altar and cup became chalice.

The journey from kitchen table to high altar, twenty centuries and perhaps thirty feet up, is not about the passage of time and the human effect on topography, but about the locality of our faith. It doesn’t happen in some far-off spiritual realm but right here, at 1 King, where the communion table faces east-ish to Jerusalem and makes a direct line from the day to Pentecost to today. It doesn’t happen in some far-off spiritual realm, but in your favourite chair when you close your eyes to pray. It belongs in kitchens and cubicles and neighbourhood churches; our faith belongs wherever breath is felt and language is spoken and love is made known.

But there is more. The message that these woman and men carried home, the message of death and resurrection, the message of a world made-new, was neatly summarized by Peter that day: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The conclusion of the dreamed dreams and the clearest visions, the surest signs and loudest prophecy is the simple truth that God saves.

It points to another prophecy, this one found in Zechariah. The angel of the Lord comes to the prophet and shares this wonderful verse:

Not by might, nor by power,
but by my spirit, says the Lord.

It has a musical quality to it, and this is not an accident. God wants the prophet to make no mistake about the source of human transformation, about the source of change in a hurting world, about the presence of God in the midst of adversity. I commend it to you, the kind of verse that reminds us that we are never alone, and that the presence of the Spirit is ever near.

Not by might, nor by power,
but by my spirit, says the Lord.

The other thing that happened that in the Day of Pentecost involves memory and longing, a sense of promise given and promise fulfilled. Only weeks earlier, Jesus made a simple (yet profound) promise:

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But soon the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Today the Advocate has come. The Advocate has come to your home and mine, to this place, and the many places like it. The Advocate has come to hearts broken and minds confused, and to troubled places and everyplace, where peace is elusive and the pandemic rages.

Yet the Advocate is still speaking. The Advocate is speaking through the least and the last, speaking through unsteady voice and faintest whisper, speaking to anyone who will listen. The Advocate chose the vessel we call the church to seek peace, to care for others, to continually remind them that God is the peacemaker, the caregiver, and the only one that saves.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Let the Spirit find you this day and always, Amen.

Albrecht Dürer, c. 1510, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Spirit of Life—
come as the breath of life, 
pouring energy and power into our dry bones,
rekindling all who are weary,
that they may have life and know God.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit of Life!

Spirit of Truth—
come as the flame of Christ’s light among us,
illuminating our hearts, our minds, our lives.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit of Truth!

Spirit of Hope—
come from the four winds, 
O breath, O restless searcher;
breathe upon your people,
that creation may be renewed with hope.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit of Hope!

Spirit of Love—
come as our Comforter and Consoler,
that all who are broken or wounded may be healed,
that all who grieve may be consoled 
by the power of your love and grace.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit of Love.

Spirit of Wisdom—
come as the light of understanding,
that diversity in all its forms may be respected
and may be understood as gifts to cherish.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit of Wisdom!

Spirit of Peace—
come as the winds of truth,
that our hearts may be kindled
by the passion for justice and peace.
Thank you, God, for the Spirit of Peace!

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

HYMN: “O Holy Spirit, root of life”

O Holy Spirit, root of life,
creator, cleanser of all things,
anoint our wounds, awaken us
with lustrous movement of your wings.

Eternal Vigour, saving one,
you free us by your living word,
becoming flesh to wear our pain,
and all creation is restored.

O Holy Wisdom, soaring power,
encompass us with wings unfurled,
and carry us, encircling all,
above, below, and through the world.

BLESSING

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless
until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. Amen.
—1 Thessalonians 5:23

God be with you till we meet again;
loving counsels guide, uphold you,
with a shepherd’s care enfold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

Unknown artist, c. 1030, Regensburg, Bavaria, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

2 thoughts on “Pentecost Sunday

  1. Thank you everyone for another inspiring Sunday Service. We are so blessed to have had these durin the last 14 months. They have been so vital in our Faith maintenance.9

  2. Thanks for the service this morning and for continuing to provide the two options during the pandemic. Dave and Heather thank you so much for bringing music into my home. So beautiful.

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