Dunsford United Church Bulletin – May 23, 2021
Pulpit Supply: Lisa Norman
CALL TO WORSHIP
Come, come, come, in Jesus’ name!
Take our hearts by storm.
All the world lies open:
Pentecost is now!
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF TERRITORIAL LANDS (in unison)
We acknowledge that the Creator Entrusted the land on which we gather this day to First Nations Peoples of the Anishnabeg/Mississauga. May we strive to open our hearts, minds and spaces; to make right with all our relations. May it be so.
While we can‘t take up the offering as we used to do in the sanctuary, it is still an important part of our ministry. We acknowledge and thank you all for your contributions to the church whether via PAR or other means.
“For the love of the world Jesus offered everything he had, even life itself. In response to his generosity we offer our gifts and our lives to God. Amen”
Written by Frances Flook Gatherings 2021 p.37, used with permission
You speak to your people in so many ways.
In wind and fire…
In cloud and thunder…
In moments of great confusion
And in the spaces in between.
In our lives-in the busy-ness and the quiet-
Help us to hear your voice.
Help us to live your love.
Help us to be your people…
This day and forever!
Written by Richard Bott, Gathering, Pentecost 1 2018, pg. 28, used with permission.
LIGHTING OF THE CHRIST CANDLE
May the Light of Christ illuminate the Spirit already within us. Amen.
Our first New Testament reading today is from the Gospel of John. We are once again joining the disciples and Jesus on the night of the Last Supper. Here we can listen in as Jesus explains the coming of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:4-15 (The Message)
16 1-4 “I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.
The Friend Will Come
4-7 “I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.
8-11 “When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.
12-15 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’
Second Scripture Reading
Our Second Scripture Reading today is from the Book of Acts. Here Luke describes the coming of the Holy Spirit. I think it helps to remember the words Jesus left with the disciples as he ascended, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1 :8) And now we join the disciples, waiting in Jerusalem.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
OPENING HYMN: #375 VU “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” (Words: James K. Manley)
Let us join together for our first hymn which gives us that wonderful image of the spirit throughout our story of faith.
I am delighted to be with you this Pentecost Sunday for many reasons, but I must confess that singing that hymn is one of them. “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” has always spoken directly to my soul. It was actually the hymn we chose to sing at our wedding almost 30 years ago. Another reason is that traditionally Pentecost is viewed as the birthday of the Church and quite frankly, I love any excuse to eat birthday cake. So please feel free to enjoy whatever birthday treat you have brought to worship today during the sermon.
In our first scripture reading today from the Gospel of John, Jesus promises the grief-stricken disciples that they will be visited by a Friend, the Spirit of Truth, who will empower them. In a type of Trinitarian tag team, God has given us Jesus, who in turn, gives us the Holy Spirit as our guide. We can only imagine what image this creates in the minds of the disciples. But I doubt it involved gale force winds, fire, and the ability to speak different languages.
50 days after Easter Sunday, the disciples are pretty much keeping to the status quo. They have remained in Jerusalem and replaced Judas so there would still be 12 of them. They are waiting but they don’t really know what they are waiting for. And then Pentecost happens! Although this day is often regarded as the birthday of the church, we’re not actually celebrating a building or even an organization. What we are celebrating is the day the Holy Spirit blew life into the Church. On that day, followers of Jesus Christ received the power to take the gospel to the streets there in Jerusalem and eventually throughout the earth.
Last week, a group of us shared images of the Holy Spirit. One friend described the Holy Spirit as a wind that swept you up and moved you. It might move you only three feet from where you stood in your own backyard, but it might pick you up and drop you into a stranger’s yard. I think that perhaps the disciples could relate to this image. Luke’s description of Pentecost, is to me, nothing short of chaotic.
On that day a mighty wind from heaven blew the fire of the Holy Spirit into those followers gathered together and the disciples started preaching in a variety of languages so that people who had gathered in Jerusalem from all different countries could understand. Such a commotion was made that the people of the city had to stop and wonder; what on earth was going on?
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples. The promise of Jesus is fulfilled. The disciples change. Remember, mere weeks ago, Peter had denied knowing Christ, not just once, but three times. Here we see him boldly proclaiming to the confused crowds, that Joel’s prophecy is being fulfilled.
Pentecost is a life changing occurrence. The Holy Spirit changes the disciples and can change us.
We have often been in the same situation as the disciples. Waiting. We don’t know what we are waiting for. Sometimes this waiting is easy because we are quite happy to remain comfortable with the way things are and we try to ignore any gentle breezes the Holy Spirit might send our way. At other times, this waiting is hard. For me, this usually happens when I feel a sense of helplessness. I either can’t see what my next step needs to be, or I can’t figure out how to achieve it. You will notice the focus in these last two sentences is the word “I”. We have talked about my love of control before. Do you remember my favourite five-year calendar that I shared with you? When this happens I need to stop myself and pray. I pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and relax into the knowledge that I am beloved by God and am never alone. We can rest assured that the Holy Spirit guides us and leads us by the hand in the Spirit of Truth.
My goodness but I feel better just saying this. Perhaps you are feeling this calmness too. Sitting there eating your birthday cake, and listening to me remind us that the Holy Spirit is with us all. I should just end my sermon right here. But I keep getting those gentle breezes pushing me. Whispering “Have courage for I am with you.” And once again, the Holy Spirit has blown me into a new yard.
I have stories I keep close and share with only a few. But if we can’t openly communicate and testify in the United Church on Pentecost Sunday, when can we? Isn’t this what happened all those years ago?
This past Monday, our family was in chaos as my daughter was endangered. She is fine and the police are investigating the situation to ensure the safety of our whole community. But it reminded me of the image of the Holy Spirit that I hold.
I spoke of waiting earlier. Well sometimes that waiting can seem unbearable. I think of all the people in the Gaza strip, living in terror, waiting for a ceasefire. I think of the people in India waiting for medical supplies like oxygen to arrive. I think of people watching a loved one suffer from mental illness, hoping that the next time, they will receive good sustained medical treatment, for which the wait can seem endless. This waiting is harder than hard. This powerlessness is absolute. We can be left feeling like an empty shell. We are not trying to discern our next step, we are just trying to exist. I have been there. When our daughter was 17 months old, she was diagnosed with cancer. It took three days to grow a culture from her biopsy that would determine her treatment or even if there was to be anything other than palliative care. I was barren. I felt like the dry bones in Ezekiel.
As a teenager, I trained to be a lifeguard. Back in the good old days, you actually had to do mouth to mouth resuscitation to pass your exam. For a minute, someone else gently blew their exhaled air into your lungs. This life-giving breath joined you. This is the image of the Holy Spirit I clung to in those dry bone, broken hearted, waiting days. I was so focussed on waiting for the biopsy results, I was not prepared for the Holy Spirit. But she came. Yes, she came for me, just as Jesus promised. She breathed life -giving breath into my hurting body and soul. She mothered me so that I was renewed and able to be the mother that this situation called me to be. She joined with me. I was not alone.
I share this story for you to hold onto. It is my testimony. Remember it in dark days. Even if we are not looking for the Holy Spirit. She finds us. She blows through closed lips and changes us to be what we need to be, to do what we need to do.
Have you felt the Holy Spirit blow into you? Breathe new life into you? Or fill you with courage, love, understanding, mercy, compassion, clarity, LOVE? Perhaps gentle breezes are surrounding you now, gently guiding you to truth and discerning your next right step. Or perhaps you too are regularly blown into an unfamiliar yard.
In this time of uncertainty in so many areas of our collective lives, we aren’t expected to have all the answers and solve all the problems. Just the thought of that is overwhelming.
Jesus promised us a friend. A friend who would guide us in the Spirit of Truth. A friend who bestows God’s love upon us. Let us rejoice today and celebrate our friend, the Holy Spirit. Yet another promise fulfilled! We are never alone! We are beloved by God. We are taught by Jesus and we are sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit.
CLOSING HYMN: “Spirit Blowing Through Creation” (Marty Haugen)
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Eternal Spirit you are the holy breath by which we live. You renew the hearts of all your people, burning through our weary souls. You awake us to the needs of those around us and empower us to be the people of the Gospel that the world needs. You are all around us and in us.. We are your Beloved and we lay our burdens before you as you ask us to.
Please be with……
Knowing that you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God.
Go out into God’s world filled with the spark of the Holy Spirit. Let love guide your actions. Listen for the Spirit of Truth. Spread the peace of Christ and remind everyone you meet that each one is a beloved child of God. Amen.
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