The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
May 23, 2021
Day of Pentecost
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Come, Holy Spirit, the one who sang a new melody as God’s Creation rose from Chaos, who wept at the dark shadow of a cross, and who danced early in the morning, at the opening of an empty tomb,
Come, Holy Spirit, the one who could not be contained by wind, or flame, or breath, the one who blesses the Church with courage, peace, and love.
Come, Holy Spirit, to us, who gather this day with trembling hands and uncertain hearts. Teach us to sing a new song and to dance with reckless abandon. Here in this gathering of believers, as you did with those so long ago, breathe on us now. Breathe on us, blowing away our fears and our hesitations. Breathe on us, transforming our hard-heartedness into passion-filled lives. Breathe on us, for we need peace, peace that only you can give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
PRELUDE “Come Gracious Spirit” Dennis Jenzer
CALL TO WORSHIP
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may God rejoice in all God has made —
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing, for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. It is new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness. Knowing that we will find mercy in the presence of our God, we have courage to confess our sins before God and each other. Let us pray together.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Merciful God, You poured your Spirit upon gathered disciples creating bold tongues and ready ears. We confess that we ignore your Spirit among us; we are silent about you when we should speak, and listen to almost any voice but your own. We do not listen for your word of grace which invites us; We do not speak the good news of your love which invites others. Have mercy on us, O God.
Gracious God, Transform our timid lives by the power of your Spirit. Fill us with a flaming desire to be a believing and witnessing people, doing your will for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Scripture announces that this is a true saying and is to be universally accepted: Christ came into the world to save sinners. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Friends, in Christ you are forgiven. Know this and be at peace.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
In sharing the peace of Christ, we express the reconciliation, unity, and love that come only from God, and we open ourselves to the power of God’s love to heal our brokenness and make us agents of that love in the world. Since God has forgiven us in Christ, let us forgive one another. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
ANTHEM “This Is My World. Pepper Choplin
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE Laken Franchetti
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
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.’
Have you had moments in your life when you just needed to get oriented?
To stop for a minute or two—or maybe a day or two—to catch your breath and get your bearings? Lots of events, big and small, bad and good, can cause such a need
- The end or the beginning of a job,
- a move to a new house,
- a new city,
- a major illness,
- the birth of a child,
- the death of one we love,
- even the beginning of a new school year, new classmates, new colleagues, new challenges . . . .
- the changes in quarantine protocols, again?
Things like this can make us feel like we need to stand still long enough to figure out what’s up and maybe even what’s next.
It seems to me that something similar might have been true for believers of the early church. In chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles, the people asked, “Brothers, what should we do?” The believers of the early church had been on quite a ride, and so their question hardly comes as a surprise. The things they’d experienced had to have been unsettling, even as they were wonderful. Perhaps, if we were present at that first Pentecost, we would have felt some of that awe and amazement, that grace and unsettledness with the coming of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost.
After the Spirit had come upon the crowd in Jerusalem, Peter tried to orient them, to give them some grounding. He recounted prophesies spoken by Joel . . . by David. . . . He assured the people that they could know with certainty that God had made Jesus both Lord and Messiah. And maybe those in the crowd, those who were soon to join the new community, understood the wonders around them, or maybe they didn’t. What happens to those early disciples is that they were “cut to the heart,” they were pierced, pricked in their very being. They were deeply troubled. Those events, perhaps Peter’s words, had a deep impact. But . . . those gathered around were still left with a question, “Brothers, what should we do?”
“Repent,” Peter tells them. “Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.” And about 3000 were.
And then, “Brothers and sisters, what should we do?”
After their baptisms, that question could only be answered thinking in terms of Christian community. Those new believers were no longer simply individuals—they had welcomed God’s message. They were the people of God. Called by God. Saved by Christ. They were those upon whom the Holy Spirit had come. They were part of God’s family!
“Brothers and sisters, what should we do?” As a community, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They did those things, not as lone individuals, but as the body of Christ. Their work and worship together oriented and grounded them – and the Holy Sprit guided them on the journey together.
Teaching and learning. Fellowship. The breaking of bread. Prayers. These are the activities that sustain us as a community, too. These activities done in and through Christ. I can think of no better way to find our bearings . . . to take a deep breath . . . to discern what’s up and turn to what’s next as part of God’s call and claim on our lives.
Brothers and sisters, it will be together, through God in Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we figure out, what’ next . . .
What should we do now? Together, we teach and learn and fellowship and break bread and pray. That is the rhythm of our life together here at the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury, even as we dealt with quarantine and a new way of being the body of Christ.
I offer thanks this morning for this community, and the Holy Spirit’s influence that allowed each generation of this church to have worked to understand and apply Jesus’ teaching for their time and place. Theologian and missionary Lesslie Newbiggin wrote:
The Holy Spirit is the one who leads the church through its encounters with new experiences, new cultures, new languages, and new forms of thought, until the fullness of the Truth is seen in Jesus, until God’s purpose for the whole creation is complete, and all things are brought into unity with Jesus Christ as their center. The true history of the church is the history of the Spirit’s activity leading the church through its successive encounters with all the ranges of human experiences into the fullness of the truth…. It is the work of the Holy Spirit from age to age to show who Jesus is and how completely adequate Jesus is to be the king and head of the human race and the sovereign ruler of all things.
The Spirit of God continues to show us who Christ is and we must answer the same questions as the believers who first experienced: the rush of a violent wind that filled the entire house and had divided tongues as of fire tongue rest on each of them, and filled them with the Holy Spirit, just like you and I: “Brothers and sisters, what should we do?”
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Lesslie Newbiggin, Heather H. Vacek, David Hosick, Fred Craddock, Margaret Aymer, Doug Bratt, Matt Skinner, Frank L. Crouch, and Brian Petersen.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Loving God, you have been called you El Shaddai, Adonai and Elohim. We have called you Creator, Father and Mother, and Source of our love. We need more than one name for you,
God, because you are bigger than our imagination.
You are God of all Creation, of all time and space, and yet somehow, you are here with us. You are here with us, just like you were there with Peter and the early church on that Pentecost day.
There might not be tongues of fire and a howling wind, but we wonder, nonetheless, if the room caught fire with your Spirit, would we be afraid, or would we have the strength to remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace? Would we remember the way you saved them, and the way you keep saving us? And if the room caught fire with your Spirit, would we tremble, or would we dance, overcome by your presence in our lives? We wonder, God, because the world is a dark place, and often, we would like to ask for a second helping of your Spirit. Often, we would like to ask that you break through these walls with a sign that you are here; with a sign as tangible as the wind on our skin and tongues of fire in the air.
However, until the day comes where you might blow through this room again like a mighty rushing wind, we light these candles as symbols of your good news. And we will take these beacons of hope out into the world, protecting your warmth with our feeble, cupped hands. And we will go find the people who need your light: those whose food has run out; those who have joined hospice, and those who ache for them; those who suffer from hate crimes and bigotry, and those who commit hate crimes and bigotry. We will carry your light to them, because we know that when we do, we have the best chance of feeling your Spirit whirl around us, which we so often need.
So, God, as we light these candles in memory of the fire that burned bright on that Pentecost day, help us remember your warmth. Help us remember the way in which a love like yours is contagious, spreading like a wildfire when shared with honest and open hearts. Grant us the strength to be bearers of that light. So, with praise and gratitude, we remember the words that Jesus taught us to pray, saying:
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.
The flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Hazel Skinner in loving memory of her parents Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Weldie; and by Kristen and John Franchetti and Family in loving memory of David and Alice Connell.
Women of the Church Jean Hills
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
I believe God’s heart will be full. However, if you are able to give another offering of some sort, and if it is able to impact another — providing worship that comforts them, food that feeds them, then perhaps God’s heart might overflow. So, let us give joyfully now, for the Spirit of God is moving, and there are many who need Her comfort. Let us give our offering now.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
God, you have given us absolutely everything we have. You gave us sunsets and speckled eggs, tiny newborn hands and silver moons, so that we could know what beauty looks like. You gave us major keys and harmonies, forgiveness and poetry, so that we could know what love sounds like. You gave us hands to build, fire to warm, water to clean and food to fill, so that we could know what peace feels like. And you gave us hearts to give, minds to hope, hands to serve and mouths to pray, so that we know what your Kingdom loves like. So today we pray that you might be able to use these humble gifts to bring your kingdom here, so that more may know what beauty looks like, what love sounds like and what peace feels like, saying all the while, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” For you have given us everything we have. Gratefully we pray. Amen.
Now may you go from this service of worship with refreshed faith from that same Pentecost wind, warmed with hope from that same Pentecost flame, and reminded you are loved in language you understand, just as It was spoken by those same Pentecost tongues. And may the God who gives, Jesus, the one given, and the Spirit who gives us to one another go with