Pentecost. May 31, 2020. Leighmoor UC
TIS 572: O thou who camest from above
TIS 398: Come down, O Love divine,
TIS 675: Lord, the light of your love is shining
TIS 407: Breathe on me, breath of God
TIS 416: Great God, your Spirit, like the wind
TIS 418: She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters
TIS 421: Where the Spirit is, there’s freedom
The mood of Pentecost is one of great energy.
Images of fire, wind, breath and flowing water.
Colour, sound, movement.
Let us open ourselves to the moving of the Holy Spirit of God in our midst, in our lives.
Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Confession
O God of glory,
You created the earth by your power,
you save the human race by your mercy
and you make all new by your grace.
We give thanks for your Spirit.
-active in creation.
The Spirit of Jesus, Spirit of love
-present in the church.
We rejoice in your presence
around us and in us,
like wind in our faces
and breath in our lungs.
Your Spirit gives us life.
We give thanks that in your power, by your Spirit
you give new birth and new life,
Like fire, warmth and radiance,
like life in dormant bulbs
which burst forth in spring.
We rejoice that you seek us,
with love older than the mountains you created,
older than the distant stars you set in the heavens.
Your love is old…yet new every morning.
We thank you
Spirit of love.
And yet, you who created us for life together,
We confess that we have turned from your way.
We have not loved you with all our heart;
we have not loved one another as you commanded.
We have been quick to claim our own rights,
but have been careless of the rights of others.
We have taken much and given little.
We confess that we have tried to relegate your movement as Spirit, to our command and understanding.
(in a time of silence, we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness).
God is love
Through Christ our sins are forgiven
(thanks be to God).
Take hold of this forgiveness
And live your live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2: 1-21
Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b
1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13
John 7: 37-39
Sermon: A strange gift.
What is the strangest gift you have ever received? A wedding present, unused? We received a unique wedding present-a set of long handled filigree forks and a matching spoon-an exotic item that one uses to dip figs in honey!-well-I don’t like figs-and I don’t eat honey- so-needless to say-perhaps like wedding presents you received-it has never been used!
Perhaps your unusual gift was a birthday present, maybe an item of clothing, hiding at the back of your wardrobe, never seeing the light!
Today is Pentecost, a day when we remember the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the birthday of the church.’
It is important to remember that Pentecost doesn’t celebrate the Spirit coming into being. Sometimes Christians speak about Pentecost as being the ‘coming’ of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, God’s Spirit, has been active from before creation; today’s psalm, Psalm 104 speaks of God’s spirit being active in every age and generation-and for all species.
What WE celebrate at Pentecost is a moment of new openness and receptivity to this Spirit which gave birth to the church. In a sense, we ‘see’ the gift of the holy Spirit with new eyes.
A strange gift, the Spirit. Imagine wrapping it up…and giving it to a child to open.
A box full of nothing…and everything!
The Spirit-symbolized by fire, breath, the dove, and wind. Our Uniting Church logo has the dove, and the red flame.
Living in bush fire prone Australia, we fear the hot summer, for we know that a fire burns more brightly with a strong wind. We know that so well from last summer, don’t we?
1.Wind can be violent, or destructive. It can force us, or push us, to change direction.
Think of how hard it is to walk when there’s a strong head wind! At times, we may feel like autumn leaves-tossed about, buffeted by the wind-having no real control over our movements.
We think of the power of cyclones, hurricanes and tornados.
When we lived in Canada, we visited the equivalent of the mid-west, which was prairie country. We noticed how strange the air was-and the sky-which was a yellow-brown colour. It was so quiet. That evening, as we sat in a restaurant-we marvelled at its strangeness, not knowing the reason. The following morning we were told that the danger of the tornado had passed.
We were babes in the wood!
The destructive power of wind.
2 On the other hand, wind can be cooling, refreshing, life-giving.
Think back to summer-the still, hot days-and then the most welcome evening breeze.
Wind can be life-giving. If our lungs do not fill with air-we die.
At the birth of a child, it is important to have the baby breathe-to scream is even better-better for its lungs, maybe not so for the new parents!
The kiss of life-we can save lives with our own breath.
Mouth to mouth can be life-to-life.
Sadly, these days we are learning that our breath, or the breath of others, can be deadly.
In Genesis: ‘then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being’(Gen 2:7)
And in Psalm 104:
‘when you take away their breath, they die
And return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit (or breath) they are created;
And you renew the face of the ground.’(104: 29-30)
Wind can be life-giving, the Spirit is life giving.
Most of us have watched the much-loved film, The Wizard of Oz.
(if we has been allowed to gather to worship, I would have us sing ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’-so you have been spared!)
The storyline, for those who need a refresher:
Dorothy is unsettled at home, she and Toto her dog get caught up in a cyclone in Kansas. Uprooted, she ends up in the land of Oz (which can mean quite a different thing for we Australians!)
She meets a lion-who is searching for courage
A tin man who wants a heart
And a scarecrow who thinks he is missing a brain.
Dorothy travels with them to find the Wizard of Oz-to request these things (courage, a heart, a brain), and then Dorothy wants to return home.
Along the way they are caught up in a battle- a battle of Good vs Evil-the wicked witch of the East against the Good Witch, or fairy, of the West.
The film speaks to me about Pentecost, about the work, power and gifts of the Spirit.
In their adventures-in their struggle against the danger of the wicked witch, in their time together-in their brokenness-their humanness-this little band of pilgrims find friendship, acceptance, and LOVE.
When they request the things they think they need-courage, the heart of compassion, the brain (intelligence and wisdom)-the Wizard of Oz points out to them that they possessed these attributes all along. It wasn’t anything he did-it was what they did-recognizing these qualities within themselves.
The fairy, or good witch, says that she has always had the power to go back to Kansas, BUT she had to learn it for herself (this was also true for the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow).
Who can forget Dorothy’s heart-rending speech:
“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there I never really lost it to begin with.”
She realizes that
“There’s no place like home.”
In Acts 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.’
For Dorothy, it meant a cyclone- the strength and power of that wind changed her life forever.
The Spirit’s power transformed the apostles-from people unsure of themselves, with no credentials-to the founders of the church.
We can be sure that the Spirit is still potent-it continues to transform lives-people are changed, renewed, energized. The Spirit has always been here-it is seen in the Hebrew Scriptures in many different ways-brooding over the waters of creation, to transforming the valley of dry bones in the prophecy in Ezekiel. In the land of Oz, the gifts of the Spirit can be seen. The fruits of the Spirit-courage, love, compassion, wisdom, a sense of belonging, knowing right from wrong. They were always present-but they needed to be named, and called upon, in order to recognize their existence.
In Romans 8: ‘For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.’
Courage! says Paul
In John: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’
We do not rely on our own strength, or courage.
We have received God’s gift of strength, of courage, of perseverance through the Spirit.
The tin man came to the realization that he already had a heart-he loved and felt loved.
Another gift of the Spirit.
God loves us so much that he gave his only Son who was willing to die for us.
God still loves us-in John’s Gospel we are told that the Spirit will be an Advocate, a Helper.
‘You know him, ’says the writer ‘because he abides with you, and he will be in you.’
We don’t have to search very far-the Spirit is in the very core of our being.
The scarecrow wanted a brain-but his wisdom and intelligence were always present-just un-named.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth-not conforming to the world’s rules and laws-but to God’s.
And Dorothy? What did she realize?
-that she had a home, that was she loved, that she belonged with her family, that her heart’s desire, her dreams, her visions, her pot of gold at the end of the rainbow-they were all there-right where she was.
The search was within her own heart, not out there in the world.
The Spirit allows us this peace. Our home is both here, and with God. We belong to God’s family. We are children of God, even heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
Isn’t that marvellous?
We belong to God in such an intimate way-God is a loving, compassionate parent.
BUT as children of God, we are also open to pain and suffering. Our lives and the lives of those around us, bear witness to that.
We are not promised a life of comfort.
The trials of our lives will lead to glory in the end-as Christ suffered and was glorified-so shall we be glorified.
Take heart, my friends.
The Spirit calls us to continue Jesus’ work in the world. The Spirit dwells with us-like the pillar of fire, and the cloud, for the Israelites during the Exodus. The Spirit is here-within us, within this place of worship, in our communities, families, places of work, where we volunteer, where we play bowls, or tennis or golf!
When we are quick to anger, or slow to forgive-allow the Spirit to blow within.
If, at times, the coals of compassion are but sparks-burning low due to tiredness, or compassion fatigue-allow the wind of the Spirit to breathe on the coals of our hearts to whip up, igniting the fire of love so that it burns deeply and brightly.
In the film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wore red shoes (in the book-they were silver). We too wear red: we wear the Spirit-its eternal flame burning within our hearts.
What a wonderful gift for us all. The church.
The Spirit also reminds us that ‘there is no place like home!’
Prayers of the People
Holy Spirit, Spirit of life, full of compassion, wisdom and truth,
Take flight across the length and breadth of our world this day, we pray.
You, who created order out of chaos, restore our polluted planet, we pray.
May the earth be fruitful and beautiful, rich with your creative energy.
Touch our tiny planet with your power.
Like a dove, you settled upon Jesus at his baptism, affirming his sonship.
Come again to those whose humanity is tarnished, whose self esteem has been beaten down and crushed.
Affirm again the uniqueness of every individual.
You are our comforter, companion and counsellor.
Be present, this day, to heal the sick, to help heal broken hearts, to encourage the lost, to guide the confused.
Be alongside those with covid 19, and with their families, and medical and health teams.
You are the creator of community.
Break down the barriers that separate us-one from another.
Build harmony and understanding in the affairs of the nations.
You are the Spirit of Peace.
Spirit of God, breathe into us the generosity of love, so that we may be your hands and feet in the world.
In the words our Saviour taught us, we are confident when we pray to say-
‘Our Father in heaven…’
Filled with God’s Spirit, go out to love this world, and all of its inhabitants.
‘Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly dove,
With light and comfort from above;
Come, be our guardian and our guide;
o’er every thought and step preside’
(from TIS hymn 402: words by Simon Browne)
In the name of the Father,
and the Holy Spirit,