The following service was streamed live via Zoom on May 23rd at 10:30am.
The entire text for the service is printed below for home use by those who are not ready to return to public gatherings or who are otherwise not able to be at church on the day. Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions. If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church.
There are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon . [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip] When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.
“I pray thee, God, that I may be beautiful within.” (Socrates)
CALL TO CELEBRATION
Come into the presence, the peace, and the power of God.
R: come, warm into the rock of our beginnings, alive with original blessings.
L: Spirit, run in the streets of the city.
R: Flow to the deep brown roots of our belonging.
L: Spirit, invade the air.
R: Stretch widely with whispering wings, and cover us with your healing.
L: Spirit, soar in the TV towers and shop fronts.
R: Carry the seed, call the song of the dance in the heart of God. Wake us to hope and freedom.
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Come, Holy Spirit, come, Breathe into our hearts this day. Bless our worship and inspire us, that we may live Spirit-filled lives of love and compassion for all. Amen.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Meditation – “Wind, Wind” by William Loader
Wild, wild wind, you whip the seas,
whirling great water spouts and fountains,
crashing the foamed edges of the shore,
sweeping the unsuspecting fisherman
from the slippery rocks,
terrifying force, uncontrollable, beyond our power.
Wind, wind, wondrous wind, hovering at the birth of creation,
whisking secretly among the wonders of new life,
bearing the seed, lifting high the heads of mighty trees,
swirling among the grasses, celebrating life.
Wind, wind, we know your ways,
we trace your web
on the map of highs and lows,
depressions and sea breezes,
we harness your power ,
our weather cocks point to you,
a cross shows where you have been and we do not know.
O wind, O silent wind, where do you go?
Do you go away and play in outback gorges
or bare mountains of the desert,
stirring small clouds of red dust among the bushes,
kissing the rippled smile of the billabong,
running down the slopes, exulting at the rock face,
passing by the mountain with none to see
and none to know your trail.
Wind, gentle wind, wind of our breathing, our life, our hope,
renewing, refreshing, sighing in our stress,
moaning in our pain, still in our dying.
O wind, wind, you breathed upon the clay and there was life,
you danced down to the forehead of a Galilean
and there was hope,
you shook the foundations of community
and there was Pentecost.
O wise, wise wind, whisper to us your grace.
(30 Seconds SILENCE)
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Holy Friend, come with your energy, blow through us like a wind, and cleanse our hearts of all staleness and pollution. Lord have mercy. /Lord have mercy,
Holy Friend, come with your truth, and lead us beyond the false values and arrogance of this world, into the only authentic enlightenment. Lord have mercy./ Lord have mercy.
Holy Friend, come with the free grace of Christ Jesus, forgiving, redeeming, healing and resourcing the things that are good and true. Holy Friend, come with your many gifts and replace our ineptitude and frustration with a better use of our abilities and an increased fruitfulness. Come with your supreme gift of love, and with Christ as our tutor, make us humble, but adept practitioners in the art of loving one another. Through Christ Jesus our Redeemer. Amen!
Sisters and brothers, perpetual failure and regret is not our destiny. The Spirit we have received is not one of fear, putting us into a religious slavery. The Spirit adopts us into God’s own family, enabling us to call God, “Abba! Our Father! And so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us./ Thanks be to God!
FROM THE EARLY CHURCH – Acts 2:1-21
2 1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were blown away. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvellous;
And whoever calls out for help to me,
God, will be saved.”
FROM THE GOSPELS – John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
26-27 “When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.”
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 favour. 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.
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 honour 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.’
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS – “Some Pentecost Thoughts”
Holy Spirit is often called the Counsellor or the Helper. I like that. It rings true to what happens in my experience and of other Christians around me. There is present, right now, an unseen Helper who is from God and is God.
Too often our chatter about the Spirit latches on to the unusual; the exceptional, the wildly flamboyant. People tend to limit the visitation of the Spirit to special, effervescent spiritual experiences. Like the talking in tongues. Or a rapturous moment of spiritual insight. By doing this, we can miss the prime importance of the normal, loving activity of the Spirit in our lives, and through our lives to others.
As a result of an over-emphasis on the flamboyant, there are some wonderful ‘salt of the earth’ Christians who are induced to needlessly worry whether they have missed out on something. Some who have sought my counsel actually feel guilty because they cannot recount any extravagant spiritual experience. Yet those who know and treasure them, observe lives that steadily bear the beautiful fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self control. Such folk touch lives around them with the greatest fruit of all: love.
In contrast, among those who claim remarkable Spiritual experiences are found some (note: “some” not “all”) who appear to bear very little of the fruit. Their lives are not a witness to a love that can be identified as the kind of love Jesus exhibited. Indeed, among the self-proclaimed ‘spirit-filled’ people, I have met some of the most arrogant and insensitive, egotistical yet insecure, dogmatic yet frightened, characters.
Those who only connect the Holy Spirit with the spectacular, are missing the point. The majority of the Spirit’s works are done quietly. The Spirit is our Counsellor, our Helper, our Enabler. The Spirit is that holy Friend who unobtrusively works in us and through us day by day, among the many ordinary, basic activities of life.
That young church was a remarkable phenomenon! Not many members were educated like St Paul. Most were as ordinary as ordinary comes. They were people whose capacities had seemed limited, whose charisma and influence appeared minuscule. Yet they were in-flooded and renewed by the Holy Spirit so that old gifts became enlarged and fruitful, and new gifts were developed to the glory of God in the service of humanity.
To a multilingual scholar like Paul, this fact was astounding! Once he wrote: See what kind of people you are that have been called. Not many of you were sophisticated by university standards, not many held influential positions, not many of you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. But God has chosen what was foolish to put to shame the clever, God has chosen weaklings to put to shame the powerful, those who were nobodies to downsize those who thought they were something!
Within the church, itself a fruit of the new creation, the Holy Spirit is shown to be tirelessly fruitful. No person is too unimportant for the Holy Spirit to notice, no one is too ungifted to be of use. It is never out of season for love and all the other fruits of the Spirit. I repeat: never out of season for love and the other gifts of the Spirit. Throughout life’s winters and summers, springtime and autumn, the Spirit continues to bring forth abundance.
For our part, as we journey through spiritual seasons of winter or summer, springtime or autumn, the gifts are to be used and the harvest is to be shared. The fruits are to be expected in spring as well as autumn, and new blossom may be found in deep winter as well as springtime. The prolific grace of God neither sticks to a schedule, nor does it ever weary or dry up.
So much of this basic activity of the Spirit is taken for granted after a while. The novelty wears off. But a new convert is keenly aware of this quiet work of the Spirit. The newcomer sees it in action and wants to get a part of that action. One such newcomer, a woman who had attended an informal worship service for a few weeks, wrote to me: “It’s like looking at a most beautiful painting but being left on the outside. Please tell me, how do I get in there?”
We tend to get used to the ongoing, quiet beauty of the Holy Spirit at work in ordinary lives around us, especially within the church. We start to take it all for granted, but as I see it, the Holy Spirit is graciously and unobtrusively busy all over the place. The quiet Helper. The unpretentious Friend. The Helper is quietly at work:
- in the sincere concern of a friend for our health,
- in those who take a stand against injustice,
- in the grace of folk who go the second mile,
- in the inner resources we discover in times of crisis,
- in those who dare to go against the tide of popular opinion,
- in the grace that enables us to admit when we are wrong,
- in the resilience of people who fight for the rights of others,
- in those who surrender some of their rights for the larger good,
- in times when we share the Gospel in spite of our inadequacy,
- in finding joy in unexpected places,
- in taking on responsibilities that we once thought beyond us,
- in refusing to let the greed of society take over our soul,
- in giving thanks always, even through the hard times of life,
- in rising above past failures and putting past hurts behind us.
- in finding a central core of peace in the midst of turmoil,
- in daring to laugh in situations where some would curse,
- in knowing ourselves to be children of God,
- in knowing ourselves loved, even when we have been very unlovable.
And that is just the edge of the Spirit story. I could go on and on, reflecting on the quiet, pervasive ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst; that inspiring Lover whose fruits we tend to take for granted. It is only by the Holy Spirit that Christian congregations live and give themselves in love to the world for which Christ died.
As far as I know, there is only one test for the gift of the Spirit: love, the Jesus kind of love. Never forget, not for one second, that the most Spirit-filled person of all time was Jesus. Love is the only infallible sign of the Spirit. For me, for you, for believers around the world, love or be damned.
Love then, is the accurate test, and (thank God!) you will find that test reading positive all over the place. Among charismatics and high church Anglicans, among Salvation Army folk and unobtrusive Quakers, among Roman Catholics and members of the Uniting Church; among Baptists and Lutherans, among all the other denominations, there are souls who pass the love test. The greatest gift of the Spirit is love. Where love is, quiet Pentecostal miracles happen, and occasionally spectacular miracles occur. But the spectacular is not more important than the subtle work of the Spirit. Precious is the quiet influence (inflowing-ness) that transforms our dailyness. On this Pentecost, this Whitsunday, let us give thanks for both, but most of all for the fruits, especially love.
A PENTECOST LITANY
L: On this day of Pentecost, our stories tell how God sends the Holy Spirit
R: to come among us:
R: to move us,
L: as wind
R: to cleanse us,
L: as fire
R: to consecrate us. Spirit of the living God, come upon us.
L: Fill us with your empowering strength,
R: empower us with your full love;
L: send us into the world proclaiming your mighty works in every tongue.
R: Help us be the church that goes forward to where there is need.
L: Build us into a place that makes a haven for those discriminated against.
R: Make us a church of disciples filled with the wonder and creative imagination of your love for ever more!
PRAYERS FOR OTHERS
When we pray for others, it is our contract to try and serve them. Let us pray. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we seek your blessing, God, on your church in its service to the world. Come Holy Spirit, come with healing breath of the risen Christ; come, sweep us with your wind and inflame us with your love.
Work, holy Helper, in our own denomination, and within the others around us. Especially bless and encourage those with whom we feel the least affinity, that we may see your Spirit at work in them and have the grace to give thanks.
Bless those congregations that are facing radical change, the ones who are teetering on the threshold of new possibilities and must make difficult decisions. May they choose well and step forward with courage.
Inflame with your love congregations which have become lukewarm, and any members whose faith, hope and love have grown cold. May they recover their first love and find once more the sheer joy of living as your own children.
Bless your church in its service to the wider community and world. Guide and inspire those special church agencies which care for the homeless, the social misfit, the prisoner, the addict, the refugee, the broken family, the hungry and the abused.
Inspire your contemporary prophets who challenge unfairness and corruption; those who work within community organisations, and some who serve from within political parties, that our land and all lands, may find greater justice and peace.
Be the wise Counsellor to the priests and pastors of all denominations, and send your Sprit of truth upon Biblical scholars, theologians, and ethicists, that they may prove capable in facing the complex issues of these days.
Loving God, please be to each of us the Helper in times of weakness, the Guide when circumstances confuse us, the Warmth when our hearts feel cold, the Counsellor when we need straightening out, the Comforter when hearts are broken, the Fire when our faith ebbs low, and the Light when deep darkness falls. And inspire our prayers as we pray as Jesus taught, “Our Father…”
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us in the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
WORDS OF MISSION
L: The God we worship is never confined to this holy place. So go and travel with the God who is found in ordinary and surprising places. Go out and live as citizens of God’s realm.
L: You are a chosen people. Through you, the family of faith may grow.
R: Others will know they are God’s own through us.
L: Be empowered as you tell of the wonderful deeds of God in your life.
R: We will share the love we have received, with others.
The worship of this gathered community in this sacred place is ended. May the holy mystery of God be found along the road. The wonder of the costly love of Jesus embrace you. And the Spirit bless and keep you, always.