Sunday Worship May 31st - Pentecost
Opening words: Acts 1:4-5
Holy Spirit, you are welcome. Come among us like a wind, like a fire, like a dove. Come gently or come boldly. We are waiting for you. Amen.
Pour out your Spirit, loving Lord, that your sons and your daughters may hear your prophetic word. Pour out your Spirit, loving Lord, that your sons and your daughters may know how to live according to your ways.
Pour out your Spirit, loving Lord, that your sons and your daughters may worship you in spirit and in truth.
The Lord’s Prayer
Acts 2.1-21 John 7.37-39 Psalm 104.1-27,35b 1 Corinthians 12.3b-13
My personal story of the Holy Spirit
It was the Easter weekend at Thundersley Congregational Church in Essex in 1979 when I first felt the full force of the Holy Spirit. Having attended church from birth, my family stopped going for a while and a friend took me to Narborough Congregational Church at the age of 12. I fully immersed myself into Church life going every Sunday twice a day. My ‘A’ level years were the best, but leaving school and my friends made me feel sad. It was a feeling I could not shake off, so at that youth conference, Easter 1979, I needed God and I prayed for His presence. Well, He answered my prayer and this amazing sense of joy and peace and happiness filled me from within. I wanted to sing and dance and laugh, I wanted to tell everyone why I was so happy. When I read the Pentecost account I am transported back to that Easter in 1979.
I can understand how the disciples felt, they were so filled that they could not help but break forth from the upper room, where they had lived in fear and tell everyone how they felt, they were compelled to talk and sing and dance and share.
One of the saddest things I find, is that this, one of the three most important Christian events is so forgotten in our churches. Christmas and Easter we make so much of, yet Pentecost almost comes and goes un-noticed. How is it that we can celebrate God (He sent His son at Christmas) and Jesus (His death and resurrection at Easter) but forget the third part of the trinity, His Spirit.
Pentecost is the coming of God in the form of the Spirit. We need to celebrate and give thanks that Jesus has now sent ‘the helper and guide’ as He promised He would. Of all Gods gifts this one is the best, for it contains all the other gifts, with Jesus by our side we can do anything, anything. So today let us worship and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost! To some it is the birth-day of the Church. It is the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, overflowing and pouring out over the gathered disciples who were then ‘poured out’ from their hiding place into the community around them, sharing God’s story with confidence, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter so filled with the Spirit flung wide the door of the upper room and began to speak about Jesus.
While some believers understood what was being said (by the power of the Holy Spirit), others in the crowd could not comprehend what was happening, and argued that the only ‘spirit’ present was of an alcoholic nature!
The miraculous power of the Holy Spirit brings the people together from their different tribes and nations. All are able to hear and understand the word of God. Here, the good news of Jesus becomes the invitation: ‘let anyone’. Here, everyone can hear, understand and respond to this open invitation. There are echoes in the passage from Acts in the Gospel reading. In the latter, Jesus invites people to come to him. He will pour out water to anyone who thirsts for him, promising them the Holy Spirit. In Acts, the promise is delivered.
The Holy Spirit is described as ‘wind’ and ‘fire’ in Acts. In John, Jesus uses the analogy of water. In the musical Pharisee by Roger Jones, there is a song the chorus of which goes ‘out of my heart shall flow living water, a stream of living water, let it flow through me’ The Spirit is a moving being, it is not in one place, it is not confined, it is God let loose in the world living in you and I. All the power of Jesus is found in the Holy Spirit. We, who are filled with His Spirit, possess that power. Like Peter we too have to speak out, tell others about Jesus for we cannot remain silent.
Those who experienced what was taking place in Jerusalem were taken aback, despite the prophet Joel and Jesus predicting the Holy Spirit’s arrival. Peter, who preached what was arguably the first sermon, used the Scriptures to explain what was taking place. This is how he convinced many to believe.
How good is our knowledge of the Bible when it comes to speaking about our faith? And in terms of reading it, do we tend to ignore those portions that make uncomfortable reading, or are ‘difficult’ to understand? This is why Bible study is so important, all manner of gems are hiding in plain sight for us to find. They point to Jesus and all that He promised. Jesus would often use the Old Testament scriptures when he was arguing with the religious leaders. Faced with facts they were silenced.
How well do you know your scriptures that you can use when speaking about Jesus? This was what Jesus used the 40 days between Easter and the Ascension for – locked in the upper room Jesus taught them, so that they would be ready for this moment. And boy, was Peter ready!. What a sermon, 3000 believed and were baptised that day. How I wish I had that inspiration!
John 7 reminds us that Jesus who called the thirsty to Him was not just talking about physical thirst (although many thought He was) He was referring to spiritual thirst. We come to Jesus are we are and He will fill us with the water of His Spirit, until it overflows, until it fills us and then bubbles out of us to the people and the world around us.
Imagine a glass, empty, now imagine turning on the tap and watch as the water fills the glass and then overflows. That is what the Holy Spirit does to your life, fills and overflows, the Spirit in abundance bubbling out from you to the world. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus for this living water and it is clear He supplied it to her as she ran back to the village and told them all she had met the Messiah.
On the road to Emmaus the disciples who walked the road , knew Jesus had been there ‘did our hearts not burn within us’ and they ran back to tell the others - we have seen Jesus. The spirit comes, it fills and then we go and tell.
Today, we too hear the story in a language we can understand; the promised pouring out of the Holy Spirit is for us too, when we respond to the same invitation. Like Peter and his companions, this must lead to us pouring out of our ‘hiding places’, and sharing the good news with those around us.
May the God of Pentecost fill you all with His Spirit today.
Questions for and thoughts on the image
Where might the water be flowing from, and to, in this image?
Is the unifying power of the Spirit perceptible in your church life?
…and in your own life?
Holy Spirit of peace, we pray for homes and nations where there is discord and conflict. Pour out your breath of peace that people may listen to each other; may respect one another;
may honour each other. Holy Spirit, hear us. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Holy Spirit of hope, we pray for those who live in despair; for those who can see no purpose in their lives; for those who cannot see a way ahead; for those who feel completely alone. Holy Spirit, hear us. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Holy Spirit of unity, we pray for your Church, for its ministry to the faithful; for its mission to the world. May the Spirit of Pentecost breathe upon us, that we may witness to the world the comfort, meaning and love that you offer. Heal our differences and make us one in you. Holy Spirit, hear us. Come, Holy Spirit, come. In the name of our Saviour we pray. Amen.
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