PRELUDE + MEDITATION
24O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
25Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.
26There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
27These all look to you to give them their food in due season;
28when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
30When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.
31May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
Flaming God of Pentecost,
Let us speak in tongues of comfort
to those weeping over the bodies of their loved ones
shot by troubled gunmen, killed in border clashes, dying from Ebola.
Let us speak in tongues of courage
to those living in fear
of the next shooting, the next bomb, the illness that threatens.
Let us speak in tongues of condemnation
against laws and policies that promote violence,
prioritizing the preferences of some over the lives of others.
Let us speak in tongues of care
for the most vulnerable in our world–
human beings, animals, and ecosystems.
Let us speak in tongues of love
for you and for your people,
that Your language might be our language.
And when our tongues are still,
when we have no words to speak,
let our hearts burn with your fire,
let our ears hear your words in our own native tongue,
let our skin feel the wind of your Spirit–
a mighty wind, blowing where it will.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
For all of the ways you speak to us –
in rushing wind,
in dancing flames,
in words we understand,
and in all that transcends language,
we give thanks.
Give us courage to speak your love,
everywhere we go,
to everyone we meet.
SCRIPTURE Acts 2:1-21
2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But 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. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, 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. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
CHANGE can be a dirty word or a positive experience. We have had quite a bit of change in the past 10 weeks. We are not the first to experience change – a different reality. The French theologian John Calvin during his life time dealt with the change of moving regularly or actually being chased out of towns for his theological teachings. He and many of his fellow protestants were constantly on the move because of the changing governments and theologies of different countries.
“Earnest believers don’t always get what they want, but rather experience all kinds of pain because they left their country. Let such people be consoled with a single thought: ‘Nevertheless, we are still in the house of God.'”
I was surprised to learn that these words of comfort for immigrants and refugees, were spoken by none other than John Calvin (1509-1564). The Genevan reformer held forth the importance of gathering to receive spiritual provision available only through the church’s ministry of preaching and sacraments, even if this means leaving places where such worship according to God’s design is not possible. Protestants across Europe made this choice, fleeing harassment and even the threat of death for their faith commitments. Many sought refuge in Calvin’s Geneva. Some came with their families. Others left family behind, along with property, livelihood, and social standing. A good number came from Calvin’s native France. These included the wealthy, who quickly transformed Geneva’s social elite. A significant group also came in poverty, representing a different kind of burden for their new city. Calvin’s congregation was mixed, comprised of native Genevans and an expanding throng of outsiders whose presence was not always welcome. He addressed Christians experiencing a sense of loss and displacement as the result of persecution, as well as those whose lives had been disrupted by the mass influx of foreigners. Nobody felt at home. As their pastor, Calvin offered this shared consolation:
Our true belonging is with Christ, who nurtures us during our lifelong pilgrimage through a world in which we reside as perpetual strangers and aliens. Gathering as a community of sojourners, the church in worship enters the “house of God” in exile, a foretaste of home for weary pilgrims.
Calvin’s message was personal. He lived most of his adult life as a religious refugee, having left France for good in 1536 after embracing the Protestant faith considered heresy in his Catholic homeland. He struggled with the changes within his life, but continued to proclaim the reality that through struggle, immigration and changes – we are still under the safety and protection of Christ! Change was part of John Calvin’s life. Change is part of our lives.
Today is all about change for God’s people. Pentecost mean change. Truly, there is nothing to this story except tremendous change. Change has already happened (Jesus is gone) and change is ongoing. As the writer pens this tale, he knows what some of the upheavals are going to be for this group of believers. They’ll struggle with pressures from outside and inside their society. They’ll want to bring in newcomers but will not be happy with some of the change’s newcomers bring. They’ll try to be inclusive, but not always successfully. They’ll attempt to carry on the way they think Jesus would want them to, and sometimes they’ll fail at it. They’ll argue about the best way to go on.
But change they must. It’s part of life; it’s part of a life of faith. Invited or not, welcomed or not, it comes to all of us.
As individuals or in institutions, we can resist change, ignore change, berate change. We often want to go back to those times when things were comfortable or exciting, important or fun, freer or more structured. But going back in time is impossible. Moving forward is our only choice. – knowing that Christ goes with us – knowing that Christ has left the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort helps us as we deal with the change of this season and all future seasons.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. [from Acts 2]
Like that group waiting, praying, hoping, we look to see what’s coming next. And probably hoping that things will go back to the way there were before. The one thing we know is that it won’t be what we expect.
Let’s meet the changes with our heads and hearts on fire – knowing that this is a time of God doing a new thing. A time of transformation. A time of alteration. A time of shifts. A time of seismic movement, that should not shake our faith in Christ because of the Spirit’s presence, So, regardless of these present circumstances, the gospel invites believers (invites you and me) into a deeper sense of belonging and hope in union with Christ: “Nevertheless, we are still in the house of God,” and the Holy Spirit is present as an advocate, a guide and a comforter on this Pentecost Sunday and all days!
Commentary provided by Margaret Aymer, Stan Mast, John Calvin, David Lose, Melissa Bane Sevier, Audrey West, Randall C. Stevens, Ken Woo, and John C. Lentz.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Come, Holy Spirit!
Come, Holy Spirit,
and fill us with your love.
Open our eyes to see the presence of God all around us,
in the stillness of this sacred space,
in the busyness and noise of our city streets,
in the joys and celebrations of our lives,
in the tragedies and struggles that break our hearts.
Come, Holy Spirit,
and comfort those who grieve.
Grant them the peace that only you can bring.
Stir within us a trust in life beyond death,
as we ponder the mysteries of Christ’s resurrection
and the hope we have in new and everlasting life.
Come, Holy Spirit,
and bring wholeness to the sick.
Strengthen those who are weak;
heal the wounded and broken;
give rest to the weary.
Come, Holy Spirit,
and inspire our warring world to seek peace,
to love our enemies,
to put away our weapons,
to remember the price paid for our freedom,
to care for those who have served.
Come, Holy Spirit,
and ignite a fire in our bones,
a passion for justice that cannot be quenched
until all of your children are loved,
until no one is marginalized or oppressed,
until everyone has the opportunity to thrive,
until the world is transformed and renewed.
Come, Holy Spirit,
and revive your church.
Liberate us from complacency and apathy;
inspire us with Christ’s vision for a world reborn;
help us to recognize our gifts for ministry
and to use them in service of others;
transform our hearts and our minds;
fill us with love that overflows;
remind us that there is no greater calling
than to love you with all that we are
and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
give us a glimpse of your kingdom
emerging around us
and drawing us into the new things
you are doing in the world.
It is for your kingdom that we now pray,
filled with your Spirit,
using the words Jesus taught us.
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
Go out into the world,
and labour to bring forth new life.
Dream dreams, pursue visions
and speak of God’s goodness
in the words of those who would hear.
And may the God who breathed life into creation be your delight.
May Christ Jesus give hope to your dreaming,
and may the Holy Spirit, your advocate and supporter,
……..set your hearts ablaze with a passion for peace.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
…In the name of Christ. Amen.