This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on June 5th at 10:30am
Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use for those who are not able to attend public gatherings. 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.
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“The church exists for those outside of it.”
CALL TO CELEBRATION
Now is the time to dance heaven’s dance, time to discern eternity’s face, the moment of knowing beyond all sight, day of God’s smile and tender embrace. Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of this God.
LIGHTING OF THE PENTECOST FLAME
L: The spirit of imagination is a gift to all people.
R:The spirit of faithfulness is the gift of the earth.
L: The spirit of hope breathes in the homeless and marginalised in this city.
L: The spirit of love is Christ’s gift to the church in every age.
R:We see the flame of the Spirit of God.
The Pentecost candle is ignited.
L: The spirit is dancing, moving, struggling, rising and calling to the ends of the earth.
R: We have seen the flame of the spirit in our midst. Thanks be to God.
OPENING SENTENCES (from Psalm 97)
L: Spirit Friend, you come like the wind and the earth grows hale at your breath.
Wm: You arrive like the wind filling a thousand sails on Sydney Harbour;
Mn: like moist air carrying refreshing rain to the Brindabellas;
All: Seed us with new patterns of life and leave us giddy with new possibilities as we breathe this Breath of Life.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Lord, we come to be opened by visions that can enlist us in larger causes and more caring actions. We come to hear stories that might take us into a deeper kind of integrity, and reconnect us with our better selves. So may the warmer fullness that we seek fill our hearts, our minds and our souls. Amen.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Meditation “Wind, Wind” by William Loader
Wind, wind, you come from nothingness
and go to nothingness,
and when you are still,
there is nothing we see, nothing we hear,
and you surround us in our not seeing and not knowing.
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, 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.
Call to Silence
Let us take a moment to settle into the silence. In these brief moments of silence and meditation may we find strength. May our lives be rich in affection, deep in understanding and sympathy for each other. May the blessings of life be known to all. (Maintain silence for at least 30 seconds)
REFLECTING UPON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
L: Let us seek the saving grace from Christ through the ministry of the Spirit within us. Spirit Friend, with the confidence Christ Jesus has given us, we come to you, confessing our sins and receiving your strength. Come as the gift of truth to expose all pretence and self deceit.
R: Come as the rushing wind and scour our being of all that is stale, dusty and sour.
L: Come as the tongues of fire and purge us of everything that is corrupt, base and infected.
R: Come as the breath of the risen Christ, bringing forgiveness and new beginnings.
L:`Come as the Counsellor to encourage integrity and faithfulness.
R: Come as the seal of adoption that we may rejoice as children of God. Silent prayer
L: O grace of Christ, redeem us. O love of God, enfold us. O power of the Spirit, invigorate us.
L: My Friends, The Spirit you have received is not a spirit of fear pushing you back into a life of drudgery, but a Spirit of love.
R: Amen! Where the Spirit is, there is liberty.
L: Be happy! You are a forgiven family to whom the gifts of heaven have been promised and on whom the first instalment has been poured.
R: Thanks be to God!
FROM THE STORY OF THE EARLY CHURCH – Acts 2:1-21
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days, God says
‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 ‘Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 ‘I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious
day of the Lord.
21 ‘And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS “The Prevailing Spirit”
On this day, we celebrate the triumph of the Spirit. Over all differences, even the differences of language, nationality, ethnicity, of class and gender; over all these differences, the Spirit prevailed. Over all the hindrances to understanding, the Spirit prevailed.
We see this portrayed so dramatically in Acts 2; a story of people gathered from every nation and speaking all those different and divisive languages (And there are few things that hinder mutual understanding so effectively as language and nationality), but at the Spirit’s coming all those differences were overcome. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit prevailed.
Of course, we more often led to talk about the human spirit. And there most certainly is a human spirit; that power within humanity that is sometimes labeled as indomitable. When the track star stumbled in the race, but got up, picked up the baton and finished the race, the sports commentator said, “That woman has great spirit.” He was speaking of the human spirit. When writer William Faukner received the Nobel Prize in Stockholm a few years ago, he gave a speech praising the human spirit. He said, “I believe in man. I believe that man will triumph, despite everything.” Faulkner believed in the ultimate victory of the human spirit.
And yet, the human spirit is sometimes God’s adversary. The same human spirit that, in times of difficulty, is able to take a deep breath, clench a fist and move forward against all odds, is also the very same spirit that clenches its fist in rage at God, in defiance and rebellion against the creator. How ironic that the human spirit is both the source of humanity’s greatest achievements and also its greatest follies.
Especially today, we recognise another spirit. One could look at human history from today’s religious perspective, and see it as a long series of interactions, conflicts and cooperation, between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they have been at odds, sometimes they have danced together, sometimes encouraged one another, sometimes resisted one another. As history continues on the jury is still out, but I would like to think that the Holy Spirit always prevails.
Pentecost was a Jewish festival that takes place not long – 50 days – after Passover, the time when Jesus was crucified and risen. His disciples had heard him say that, after he was gone from them, his Spirit would return to be with them. And so they waited, wondering if they would simply have to clench their fists, draw upon their human spirit and soldier on without Jesus. Some doubted, some despaired, some feared. Yet to this struggling bands of Jesus’ followers came an event that was later described in the language of rushing winds and tongues of fire, and their lives were changed, their batteries charged to carry on Jesus’ work, and the church was born. The once disheartened disciples moved out, prodded and enabled by the Holy Spirit that gave them what the human spirit could not.
The first followers of Jesus were Jews, and they held to their Jewishness, their laws, their traditions, which included a belief that non-Jews were unclean. Peter was a Jew in this fashion, but he had a vision in which God warned him not to call anything that God had created unclean. Later Peter met Cornelius, a gentile, and baptised him, thus opening up the church to become more than just a sect within Judaism. The Holy Spirit had prevailed.
1500 years later, the church that had begun at Pentecost languished. There was within it, wide-spread corruption and abuse of power. The church had become wealthy, complacent. Would the movement begun at Pentecost go the way of so many other human institutions that mature and die? From Rotterdam Erasmus wrote his satirical, passionate and reasoned criticism of the church, and an Augustinian monk in Germany attacked and called the church back to its biblical roots. Through Martin Luther the church was reformed, and the Holy Spirit prevailed.
Eighteenth century England was going through the trauma of urbanisation during the initial phases of the industrial revolution. Alcoholism was a plague upon the land. Poverty degraded the lives of millions, and the church seemed far removed these human tragedies; remote, privileged, apathetic. A priest in the Church of England felt his heart “strangely warmed.” He began a dramatic revival that swept through England, and transformed the hearts and minds of millions. This revival showed the resilience of the church. It also showed something else. What had strangely warmed John Wesley’s heart? The Holy Spirit had prevailed.
On into the 20th century, women, key leaders of the church, if the New Testament is to be believed, had long been pushed aside as the church fell back into the patriarchal patterns and mores of the surrounding culture. For the most part, the gifts of women for leadership in ministry were ignored or repudiated. Fortunately the Spirit still moved and the church awoke to the tragedy of such practices and mainline Protestant churches began ordaining women and thousands flocked into seminaries and the pulpits of our churches. Just and idea whose time had come? Just the church catching up with the times? A more biblical way to characterise this might be: the Holy Spirit had prevailed.
Here is how Howard Kasper describes this matter between us and the Holy Spirit:
Everywhere that life breaks forth and comes into being, everywhere that new life, as it were, seethes and bubbles, and even, in the form of hope, everywhere that life is devastated, throttled, gagged and slain; wherever true life exists, there the Spirit of God is at work.
Over our boundaries, leaping over our walls, throbbing, intruding, calling forth, the Holy Spirit prevailed. In our churches, in our own congregation, time and again, when we have been cold of heart, slow to move, timid and cowering, the Holy Spirit has prevailed. In your own life, in those moments when all seemed lost, where there was no way out, no way forward, and yet you have been surprised when a door was opened, a way appeared when their had been none, the Holy Spirit prevailed.
After an all-day meeting on the subject of the structural reform of the Methodist Church in the U.S., one of the ministers arose and declared that reform was impossible. The old structures were too entrenched; people too slow to change., etc. “What gives any of you the least bit of hope that we will change now or ever?” he asked the assembled throng. There was silence, and then a voice called out from the rear of the room, “The Holy Spirit!” Amen.
We, therefore, do not lose hope. We are kept on tiptoes, expectant, eager, often even nervous. The Holy Spirit that gave birth to the church continues to prod, cajole, and beckon forward the church. Just when we get all settled down, comfortable with our present arrangements, our pews bolted securely to the floor, all fixed and immobile, there comes a rush of wind, a still small voice, a breath of fresh air, tongues of fire and…the Holy Spirit prevails.
AFFIRMATION OF PEACE AND JUSTICE
L: In response to the word reflected on, let us stand and share an affirmation of peace and justice in our world. Let us dare to believe in the future:
Wm: They shall live in peace and shared respect and ‘none shall make them afraid.’
L: They shall be continuously hungry for knowledge, and none shall say it is forbidden them.
Mn: They shall live in trust, and none shall do them hurt.
Wm: They shall explore without fear of what they may find, and the difficulties they meet shall be stepping-stones upward.
L: Though this be slow in coming,
Mn: though it appears that all this may never be universally shared,
Wm: it will be open to all on the condition that each chooses individually.
L: None shall create barriers between a person and the fulfilment of the human spirit which the person may not alone overthrow.
Mn: It is the barrier we build against others which holds us, ourselves, back;
Wm: The defences we painstakingly establish become our own fetters.
L: This could be the future of humanity if we dare:
All: the people seek to master themselves instead of others, and rejoice in the fruits of disciplines they choose for themselves.
WE OFFER OUR CONCERNS TO GOD IN PRAYER
Spirit of creation, never resting, never hurried, we pray for all those who try to work with you for the care for the earth and its creatures. May they have your wisdom and your resilient determination.
Spirit of new creation, never confounded by folly and sin, we pray for the re-birth of individuals, communities and nations. May they be ready to suffer the birth pangs of your new age.
Spirit of good counsel, we pray for counsellors in medicine, psychiatry, social work, marriage guidance, family therapy and education. May they have sufficient compassion and insight to be your agents of rehabilitation.
Spirit of advocacy, we pray for all those who stand up and put the case for the weak, the deprived, the exploited, the oppressed, the abused , and the accused. May they find joy in small victorious and retain the boldness to expose major wrongs.
Spirit of truth, we pray for your churches which, like common clay pots, hold in trust the treasure of the Gospel for the enrichment of the nations. May we preach and exhibit not ourselves, but Christ Jesus and his abundant grace. Spirit of comfort, we pray for all who are broken or disillusioned, suffering, diseased, lonely, afraid, neglected, betrayed, or heartbroken. May they know your Spirit’s warm love, under-girding their being with everlasting arms.
Spirit of forgiveness, we pray for some who are prisoners of their own shame, and for others who are chained to their own anger and lust for revenge. May they trust your full forgiveness and find the joy of those who set the prisoners free.
Holy Spirit, choirmaster of life, please join our energies into one common anthem of love and praise. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour, who taught us to pray, “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.
A PENTECOST LITANY
L: We are one
R Yet we are many.
L: We speak a single language
R: Yet in different tongues.
L: We are joined together
R: Yet we live in separate lands.
L: We are one.
R: Yet we are many.
R: When I do not know her pain?
L: How can I carry my brother’s load?
R: When I do not know his child?
L: How can I recognise a hungry journey?
R: When my belly’s full?
L: How can I celebrate a stranger’s joy?
R: When I do not know the dance?
L: We are one
R: Yet we are many.
L: Teach me Spirit that I might know
R Show me Spirit that I might see
L: Touch me Spirit that I might feel
R Though we are many, yet we are one.