05-31-2020 Sermon

SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2020DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR A

Introduction

Pentecost derives its name from the Jewish festival celebrating the harvest and the giving of the law on Mount Sinai fifty days after Passover. Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate the Holy Spirit as God’s presence within and among us. In Acts the Spirit arrives in rushing wind and flame, bringing God’s presence to all people. Paul reminds us that though we each have different capacities, we are unified in the Spirit that equips us with these gifts. Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples, empowering them to forgive sin. We celebrate that we too are given the breath of the Holy Spirit and sent out to proclaim God’s redeeming love to all the world.

Confession and Forgiveness

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.

P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God, full of compassion and mercy, abounding in steadfast love.

C:Amen.

P: Trusting God’s promise of forgiveness, let us confess our sin against God and one another.

Silence for reflection and self-examination.

P: Eternal God our creator,

C:in you we live and move and have our being. Look upon us, your children, the work of your hands. Forgive us all our offenses, and cleanse us from proud thoughts and empty desires. By your grace draw us near to you, our refuge and our strength; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

P: Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. In the mercy of almighty God, Christ died for us while we still were sinners; and for his sake, God ☩ forgives you all your sins.

C:Amen.

Special Music “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Prayer of the Day

P: O God,

C:on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival that marked the fiftieth day after Passover. Luke portrays the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the disciples before the gathered and astonished people assembled in Jerusalem for the festival. Filled with the Spirit, the disciples were able to witness to the power of Christ’s resurrection.

1When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] 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.’ ”

Psalm: 104:24-34, 35b

24How manifold are your works, O Lord!
  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures..
27All of them look to youto give them their food in due season.28You give it to them; they gather it;
  you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
33I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;I will praise my God while I have my being.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

Paul is helping the Corinthians understand the relationship between our God-given unity and Spirit-created diversity. The Spirit creates the unity of faith and gives all Christians diverse gifts for the common benefit of all. We need one another’s diverse spiritual gifts because the same Spirit has given them to each person for the common good.

3bNo one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
  4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
  12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Gospel: John 20:19-23

The risen Jesus appears to his disciples, offering them a benediction, a commission, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Special Music“We Are the Church”

Sermon

Prayers of Intercession

P: Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

P: We call on your spirit of unity, giving thanks for our different vocations. Activate and utilize the diverse gifts present in your church, that they reveal your love for all. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: We call on your spirit of life, present in air, wind, humidity, storms, and oxygen in our atmosphere, breathing energy into all things. Heal with your breath the whole creation, especially those who struggle to breathe due to air pollution. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: We call on your spirit of righteousness. Wherever we as a people are divided, unite us. Wherever we are prideful, humble us. Give each one of us a heart for justice and empathy. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: We call on your spirit of healing. Bless nurses, doctors, midwives, chaplains, counselors, and hospice workers as they care for those in need. We pray for all who long for comfort (especially). Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: We call on your spirit of friendship. As Elizabeth welcomed Mary to her home, give us a spirit of welcome to those whom we meet in this congregation and outside these doors. Surprise us daily with unexpected grace, that we rejoice in every blessing you send. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

P: We call on your spirit of hope. As you have led your saints in all times and places, stir in us the desire to follow their example, leading us from death to new life in you. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.

C:Amen.

Blessing

  As you go on your way may Christ go with you.  May he go before you to show you the way; May he go behind you to encourage you; Beside you to befriend you; Above you to watch over; Within you to give you peace.  In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.  Amen.

Streams Theme Song

See the streams of living waters, 

springing from eternal love, 

well supply your sons and daughters, 

and all fear of want remove.  

Who can faint while such a river 

ever will their thirst assuage? 

Grace which, like the Lord, the giver, 

never fails from age to age.

PASTOR’S SERMON

PENTECOST DAY—5-31-2020—ACTS 2:1-21

A woman named Alice tells about her nephew’s 10-year-old son who came for a visit one hot, July weekend. “Look, Alice,” he said as he ran over to where she was sitting. “I found a kite. Could we go outside and fly it?”

Glancing out a nearby window, Alice noticed there was not a breeze stirring. “I’m sorry, Tripper,” she said, “The wind is not blowing today. The kite won’t fly.”

The determined 10-year-old replied. “I think it’s windy enough. I can get it to fly,” he answered, as he hurried out the back door.

She peeked through the slats in the Venetian blinds to watch determination in action. Up and down the yard he ran, pulling the kite attached to a small length of string. The plastic kite, proudly displaying a picture of Batman, remained about shoulder level. He ran back and forth, as hard as his ten-year-old legs would carry him, looking back hopefully at the kite trailing behind.

After about ten minutes of unsuccessful determination, he came back in. Alice asked, “How did it go?”

“Fine,” he said, not wanting to admit defeat. “I got it to fly some.”

As he walked past her to return the kite to the closet shelf, she heard him say under his breath, “I guess I’ll have to wait for the wind.”

At that moment, she says, she heard another Voice speak to her heart. “Alice,” the voice said, “sometimes you are just like that. You want to do it your way instead of waiting for the ‘Wind’–the “Wind of God.”

Today we are gathered to celebrate one of the most important festivals of the church year.  Pentecost is the church’s birthday.  What a day of celebration it should be!

Now there are some things about that first Pentecost that we need to see.  In the first place,we notice that the disciples were all together in one place.  The old joke asks, what car is mentioned in the Bible? The answer is, of course, a Honda. The King James Version of this verse reads like this: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”

There was visible unity among the followers of Christ; there was extraordinary love and charity.  They cared about one another and they cared about the work that Christ had given them to do.  No wonder the Spirit could work with such power.  Think what the Spirit could do through us if we were more loving, more harmonious, more committed to the same cause. One of the great scandals of our faith is that Christians have spent almost as much time fighting each other as they have fighting the forces of evil and injustice.

Dr. Eugene Brice tells a disturbing but somewhat humorous story about a minister who returned to visit a church he had once served. He ran into Bill, who had been an elder and leader in the church, but who was not around anymore. The pastor asked, “Bill, what happened? You used to be there every time the doors opened.”

“Well, Pastor,” said Bill, “a difference of opinion arose in the church. Some of us could not accept the final decision and we established a church of our own.”

“Is that where you worship now?” asked the pastor.

“No,” answered Bill, “we found that there, too, the people were not faithful and a small group of us began meeting in a rented hall at night.”

“Has that proven satisfactory?” asked the minister.

“No, I can’t say that it has,” Bill responded. “Satan was active even in that fellowship, so my wife and I withdrew and began to worship on Sunday at home by ourselves.”

“Then at last you’ve found inner peace?” asked the pastor.

“No, I’m afraid we haven’t,” said Bill. “Even my wife began to develop ideas I was not comfortable with, so now she worships in the northeast corner of the living room and I am in the southwest . . .”

That will either make you laugh or make you cry. One of the strengths of the early church was their love for one another. If we who are the church—Christ’s body—the  light, the leaven, the salt of the earth—Christ’s own bride—if we cannot love one another and work together for His glory, then God have mercy on the world.  Christ’s disciples were gathered together “with one accord.”

They said about those early followers, “See how they love one another.” There’s power in such mutual concern.  It is a power that we need in the church today.

There is somethingelse to be said at this point, however, and that concerns the celebration of diversity within Christ’s body as well as our essential unity.The sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence was a tongue of fire.  It was a most suitable emblem.  The human tongue is always God’s most effective instrument, but unaided by His Spirit the tongue’s utterance often deteriorates to “babble.” The human voice needs to be quickened and supported by that divine fire, that super-human energy and power, which the Holy Spirit alone can confer.

But notice, distinct tongues of fire appeared over each individual gathered there in that room.  We are one in the Spirit.  Unity must be maintained.  Nevertheless, it is critical that we note that each of us will have our own experience of God’s Spirit, and because we differ so much, your experience will not be exactly the same as my experience.  Jesus is the Lord and Father of us all.

This brings us to the final thing to be said, and that is concerning the missionary nature of Pentecost.  The Christian movement was never intended to be an exclusive club directed only toward a small segment of humanity.  It was not for the church that Christ died.  It was not for the Jewish nation that Christ died.  It was for the world that he died.

We know that we are to be a missionary church, but Win Arn, a church consultant, did a study that showed that 89% of church attendees believe that the church’s primary purpose is to take care of the member’s needs. Only 11% believe that the church’s purpose is to reach out to the world. To me, that’s scary.

This points out the real message of the Pentecost event.  The disciples began speaking as the Spirit gave them utterance, and each person present—from a wide array of nationalities—heard the Gospel in their own language.  What an exciting thought this is!

Jesus gave a universal commission to twelve men, chiefly Galilean peasants, to go forth and found the church.  God gave them a special gift of languages, for it has always been God’s will that all people in all places should receive the Gospel.  That is the primary reason for the existence of the Christian church.  We are still called to be a missionary church.  The Gospel still overcomes barriers of race, language and culture.  It was never intended that we should keep the gospel to ourselves.

We must not let that movement die.  On this Pentecost day as we celebrate our unity as the church of Jesus Christ, as we celebrate the remarkable diversity within his family, may we also remember our responsibility to those outside this fellowship—whether they live next door or around the world.

On Pentecost a missionary movement was born.  God’s spirit entered into the hearts of those who believed.  They in turn shared what they had received with everyone who would listen.  May we also have that Spirit within us and may the world know by our love and by our witness that we are His.

People magazine did a most encouraging article on Tom Monaghan once, the man who invented Domino’s Pizza. He’s a multimillionaire, worth about 400 million dollars. Here is what that People magazine article said:

Each day in his briefcase Tom Monaghan keeps two spiral notebooks, the kind that school children use. One is red like the devil . . . for material things. The other is blue . . . like heaven for spiritual things. For a long time entries that would have belonged in the red book played the larger role in Monaghan’s life. After all, he ran the second largest pizza chain in the nation next to Pizza Hut. More recently the only notation scribbled in the red cover notebook have had to do with a dream house he was building near Ann Arbor, Michigan. He spends most of his time in the Blue Book. He’s had a midlife change of heart.

The article talks about how he’s now investing his whole life serving God. It said he has spent time overseeing construction of a church in Honduras. “We have 5000 pizza outlets,” he explains. “My goal now is 5000 churches.” He said, “I’ve always felt the most important thing for me is getting to heaven. When I die, I don’t think St. Peter is going to ask me how many pizzas I sold.”What do you think God is going to ask you and me? Today is a very special day. Today is the day we celebrate the birth of the church. And as we do, may we ask ourselves: do we have the kind of unity, diversity and missionary spirit to do the things God has called us to do? If not, let’s pray that a wind will blow into our lives and give us the Spirit that we need to be that kind of church.  In this different time, let’s ask God how He wants us to be church in new and wonderful ways, and then follow His direction. AMEN.

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

The Book of Common Prayer reminds us that if one is unable to actually consume the consecrated bread and wine due to extreme sickness or disability, the desire is enough for God to grant all the benefits of communion (BCP, p. 457). When being present at a celebration of the Eucharist is absolutely impossible, this act of prayer and meditation can provide the means by which you can associate yourself with the Eucharistic Action and open yourself to God’s grace and blessing.

Blessed be God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Let the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me, O Lord, to mercifully cleanse my heart and defend me from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: Revelation 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.

The Psalm: Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Gospel: John 15:5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.

If time and circumstances permit, confess your faith with the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

In your own words, pray for your own needs, for those on your heart, for the peace of the world, and for the Church. 

After offering these intercessions, continue with the

Act of Contrition

O God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and for all the wrongs I have done and the good I have not done. Especially I confess….Forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and grant me strength and wisdom to amend my life. Amen.

Act of Reception

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, (and remembering particularly my own parish and those worshiping there) I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.

And particularly for the blessings given me…. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.

Our Father…

Come Lord Jesus, and dwell in my heart in the fullness of your strength; be my wisdom and guide me in right pathways; conform my life and actions to the image of your holiness; and, in the power of your gracious might, rule over every hostile power that threatens or disturbs the growth of your kingdom, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ my Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, + the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with me now and always. Amen.

Spiritual Communion is excerpted from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.