Posts Tagged ‘Spirit’

Call to Worship

Welcome, Holy Spirit, 
we celebrate your presence. 
Welcome, Comforter, 
touch our souls with your peace. 
Welcome, Awakener, 
touch our souls with your life. 
Welcome, Disturber, 
touch our souls with your truth. 
Waken us to the truth, 
fan the fire of holy love, 
teach us the best way, 
and comfort us in distress or failure. 
May our worship honor your presence among us. 

Opening Prayer

Song of Praise
O Breath of Life 
Words by Elizabeth Ann P. Head  

Breath of Life, come sweeping through us, 
revive your church with life and power; 
O Breath of Life, come, cleanse, renew us, 
And fit your church to meet this hour.

O Wind of God, come bend us, break us, 
till humbly we confess our need; 
then in your tenderness remake us, 
revive, restore for this we plead. 

O Breath of Love, come breathe within us, 
renewing thought and will and heart; 
come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us, 
revive your church in every part! 

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Common English Bible 

Lord, you have done so many things! 
    You made them all so wisely! 
The earth is full of your creations! 
And then there’s the sea, wide and deep, 
    with its countless creatures— 
    living things both small and large. 
There go the ships on it, 
    and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it! 
All your creations wait for you 
    to give them their food on time. 
When you give it to them, they gather it up; 
    when you open your hand, they are filled completely full! 
But when you hide your face, they are terrified; 
    when you take away their breath, 
    they die and return to dust. 
When you let loose your breath, they are created, 
    and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again. 

Let the Lord’s glory last forever! 
    Let the Lord rejoice in all he has made! 
He has only to look at the earth, and it shakes. 
    God just touches the mountains, and they erupt in smoke. 

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; 
    I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive. 
Let my praise be pleasing to him; 
    I’m rejoicing in the Lord! 
But let my whole being bless the Lord! 
    Praise the Lord! 

Song of Praise
Many and Great, O God, Are Your Works
Words: Joseph R. Renville; paraphrased by Phillip Frazier
Tune: LACQUIPARLE  (Native American Melody)

Many and great, O God, are your works,  
Maker of earth and sky; 
Your hands have set the heavens with stars
Your fingers spread the mountains and plains. 
Lo, at your word the waters were formed; 
Deep seas obey your voice. 

Grant unto us communion with you, 
O star abiding One; 
Come unto us and dwell with us: 
with you are found the gifts of life. 
Bless us with life that has no end,  
eternal life with you. 

Prayer for Others 

Choral Anthem
Holy Trinity Prayer 
Words by David Knight
Music by Paul Ayres 

Holy Trinity, Holy Trinity, in whose name we worship, 
give us such love, that alone and together, 
today and every day we may reverence our Maker, 
radiate the presence of the Son,  
and live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Acts 2:1-21
Common English Bible 

When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. 

There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!” 

Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 

In the last days, God says, 
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy. 
    Your young will see visions. 
    Your elders will dream dreams. 
Even upon my servants, men and women, 
        I will pour out my Spirit in those days, 
        and they will prophesy. 
I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above 
    and signs on the earth below, 
        blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 
The sun will be changed into darkness, 
    and the moon will be changed into blood, 
        before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes. 
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

Reflection on the Scriptures
Rev. Tonya Vickery 

We are getting ready to move both of girls next month. Ally is moving to Maine and Elizabeth is moving to Chapel Hill. If you have ever moved, whether it was across town or across the country, you know what it is like to have to box up and pack all your stuff into a moving van or trailer. Moving forces you to decide what you really want to keep and what you can live without, because you sure don’t want to waste time, energy, and money on moving things that are unimportant to you.

We need to do the same sort of thing with our faith. Our faith in God should never be static or at a standstill.  Our faith in God should be active, growing, and changing each and every day.  As we come to know God better and better, our faith in God grows as well. So, it is helpful to examine our beliefs and understandings of God. We need to toss out the ideas and images that keep our relationship with God small and weak, and we need to hold fast to the ideas and understandings that are helpful and essential so we can build on top of them so our faith will grow.  With today being Pentecost Sunday, let’s turn our attention to the Holy Spirit. Let’s examine our thoughts and ideas about how relates to us through the Spirit. Let’s keep the ideas that promote and encourage our faith in God, and let’s toss out the beliefs that hinder and hold us back.

Most of you probably grew up with a different translation of the Bible than the Common English Bible. The CEB is what we have been using in worship since last year when the Pandemic hit. Written in “common English” it is easier to understand while still staying true to the original manuscripts of Hebrew and Greek. Growing up I read from the NIV or the NASB translations, and occasionally from the King James Version. I tell you, without any hesitation, that the story of Pentecost in any of those ~three translations can lead a child to be quite fearful of the Spirit of God.  Any ideas that lead us to fear God, like shake in your boots fear, those ideas and images need to be tossed out.

The most troubling image I gleaned from the story of Pentecost was what my Bible called, “divided tongues of fire” which were “resting on each person.” You may remember that language too. I could not begin to imagine a “tongue of fire resting on me” being a positive spiritual experience. Encountering tongues of fire sent by God was an experience I did not want to have. I preferred the image of the Holy Spirit coming to me like a dove, gently flying in and landing beside me, or circling my head. I greatly appreciate the Common English Bible translation of Pentecost. The CEB describes the scene as “individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them.”  Same meaning as the other translations without having to erase the image of a tongue of fire coming on you.

Moving past the flaming tongues resting on the people, the sound of the mighty wind didn’t shake me up too much. I had been through a tornado while visiting my grandma in southern Illinois. So the howling wind didn’t bring about fear in my heart. However, the sound of people “speaking in tongues” did scare me. By now you can probably see that I was not an adventurous child. I like the expected and norm, not the unexpected or spectacular.  And the possibility that God’s Spirit could take hold of me and cause me to “speak in tongues” just wasn’t the religious gift I was looking for. I knew the Bible said “speaking in tongues” was a gift, but I didn’t want that gift. I didn’t want that experience. I can vividly remember a high school friend who attended church where people spoke in tongues. It was a sign that you had the Holy Spirit with you. If you didn’t speak in tongues, you didn’t have the Spirit. She told my cousin and me that she could speak in tongues for us, but Missy and I were too scared of what might happen for her to do that. Unfortunately, our idea of “speaking in tongues” was more along the lines of a séance or using a ouija board.

Once again, I greatly appreciate the CEB translation.  All magic and mystery are cleared up. The strangeness conveyed by the phrase “speaking in tongues” removed by simply stating in common English what happened, “They began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.”  “Speaking in tongues” means speaking in another language. A gift from God so that others can hear about the mighty works of God in their own language and understand. So it’s good every once and a while to consciously toss out those old images with which we lived for years, images that brought fear and hesitation to our relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

It’s a pity that my understanding of the language created a fear of the Spirit’s outpouring on Pentecost. Instead of communicating the joy and wonder of the day, I had visions of tongues of fire and a cacophony of languages. All outpourings of God should be celebrated and never feared. All outpourings of God should be welcomed and desired, not shied away from. So let’s celebrate the Holy Spirit by recalling other stories of the Spirit’s work in the world. What other visions of the Holy Spirit do we find in the scriptures?

We are first introduced to the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2. Say the opening words of scripture with me. 

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 

The word for “wind” is ruah in Hebrew. It means, wind, spirit, or breath. It isn’t just a wind that blows over the waters of creation, it is the Holy Spirit of God who sweeps over the face of the waters. What did God do in the beginning?  In the beginning, everything was shapeless, without any form, and it was dark!  There was a complete emptiness.  The Holy Spirit comes and fills the void. What was once empty, is now filled. The Holy Spirit brings order to the chaos.  The Holy Spirit gives shape and meaning to what had no form. And the Spirit brings light into the darkness.

Perhaps I would have been a more willing recipient of the Spirit of God back in my childhood and youth age if I just could have put together the opening words of Genesis with the Pentecostal story from Acts. That little Hebrew word, ruah was covered up with words like “fire” and “tongues.” My cousin Missy (same age as me) readily remembers the word ruah from sermons when we were young, but I don’t.  Maybe I was day dreaming when Dr. Batson spoke of it. Ruah is the spirit, the breath, the wind of God. Maybe if I had been able to connect the Spirit of God first introduced to us in Genesis 1:2 and the Spirit of God at Pentecost, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so afraid of the Spirit showing up on Pentecost.

The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, was present from before the beginning.  There’s more to the work of the Holy Spirit than just an appearance on Pentecost.

  • When the Israelites were escaping Egyptian bondage, they had to cross the Red Sea to get away from Pharoah’s army. Exodus says it was the Spirit of God ruah who held back the waters so the Israelites could walk on dry land into freedom. The Spirit clears the path for us.
  • When the temple was being designed and built, it was the Spirit of God ruah who gifted the artisan with them ability and insight to cut stones, work with metals like gold, silver, and bronze, and carve wood in order to make the temple of God a house of beauty. (Exodus 35:31).  The Spirit enables us to praise and adore God.
  • When the people were led by judges and kings, it was the Spirit of God who provided wisdom. The Spirit provides us knowledge and insights to help others.
  • When prophets were called to straighten out the people, challenge them, correct them, or encourage them, it was the Spirit who provided the words to say. The Spirit gives us the words to say to help others have a better relationship with God.
  • Psalm 51 and 135 tell us that the Holy Spirit is our companion. Psalm 51 prays, Do not take your holy spirit from me. Psalm 135 asks, Where can I go from your Spirit?  The Spirit is with us always, at all times. The Spirit never leaves us.
  • The prophet Ezekiel teaches us that the Spirit gathers us and puts us back together. The Spirit gives life to dry bones. The Spirit takes us places: lifts us up, sets us on our feet, and bears us away (Ezekiel 3).  The Spirit is active and unifying.

It just so happens that on Pentecost, the Spirit of God comes with a mighty presence. There is enough of God’s spirit for everyone and it is poured out upon all. The Spirit enables them that day to tell others about God’s deeds of power. That’s verse 11. Recalling the words from the prophet Joel, the Spirit of God is poured out upon us so that we can speak the truth, so we can see God’s possibilities, so we can hope and dream, so we can boldly speak of God love with words and with our lives. The Spirit of God makes room for everyone–for every and anyone “who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

We are word loving people. If it is in writing, it is sure to be true. Just think how easily we humans are led astray by the internet. But if the words are bound in the pages of the Bible, then it is definitely to be believed. Well here in Acts we have this proclamation from Peter, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And surprise, surprise, Peter is quoting the Old Testament. The prophet Joel shared those words centuries before Peter was born. Yes, a message from God written down twice in God’s book but far too often overlooked. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

I feel I must highlight this again for us today because far too often people are telling others who can and cannot be saved. Far too often people are telling others upon whom the Spirit of God can alight and cannot alight. In the past we have heard others believe that the decision of salvation and calling were based on skin color. How many of you were taught that black skin was a curse? That black skinned people were more sinful because they didn’t know God as well. In the past we heard people base decisions of salvation and calling upon gender. Since I was a woman, some of my Russian born seminary collegues truly believed the only way I could be saved was to bear children. And you know people firsthand who do not believe a woman can be called by God to share the good news.  Well, presently today, and unfortunately today, we hear people base salvation and calling on sexual identity. How many of you have heard others say gay people go to hell and someone who is gay cannot be called by God to share the good news of God’s love for all people through Jesus Christ.

Are you kidding me? It is Pentecost. Peter proclaims what Joel had said ages ago, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. There is no exclusion clause. Joel and Peter say “everyone.” It is written right here in the book. People who follow the line of thinking that your sexual identity can damn you, they believe sexual identity to be a sin. I do not follow that path.  Skin color, gender identity, sexual identity, these are not sins, but myriads of ways which God has created us humans. But even if I believed such things were sinful–being black, or being woman, or being gay–even if I believed those things were sinful, I could never believe that a sin could be greater than God.

It is God who saves us, not the color of our skin, our gender, or our sexual identity. And therefore, being born with what others may consider the wrong skin color, or the wrong gender, or the wrong sexual preference cannot keep us away from God nor can it keep us from serving God. It is God who loves us, not because we are a certain way and not another way. It is God who cares about us, not because we are normal and others are strange. Here are the words written so we can plainly read them, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

Summer is almost upon us. I think you all have perhaps two more weeks of school left. Most college students have already moved back home. Most of ours have graduated. And we are starting to feel the blessing of freedom this summer! Free to be together again. Free to travel. Free to visit together. Free to worship together in one room as one body, not separated geographically. But don’t you get lazy in your faith.

Let these new freedoms, this new breath of fresh summer air, strengthen your faith and trust in God. May these new freedoms strengthen your relationships with God, one another, and creation. You know, Christ calls us to be co-workers in this world, with one another and with Christ, and with creation. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work of Christ in the world. As Ezekiel said, the Spirit will lift you up, set you on your feet and bear you away.

Borrowing words from of St. Basil who lived a long time ago in the 300’s,

may the Spirit enable us
to foresee the future,
to understand mysteries,
to grasp hidden things,
to receive spiritual blessings,
to fix our thoughts on heavenly things,
and to dance with angels.

So [our] joy [is] unending,
so [our] perseverance to God unfailing,
so [we may live as we have been created, in the image of God.}


Prayer of Thanksgiving 

Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen. 

Song of Affirmation
Oh When Shall I See Jesus
Tune: THE MORNING TRUMPET (B.F. White); arr. James Dooley 

O when shall I see Jesus and reign with him above, 
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning. 
And from the flowing fountain, drink everlasting love, 
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning. 

Shout, O glory! For I shall mount above the skies, 
When I hear the trumpet sound in that morning. 

Through grace I feel determined to conquer, though I die, 
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning.  
And then away to Jesus, on wings of love I’ll fly, 
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning. 


Gird on the gospel armor of faith, and hope, and love, 
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning. 
And when the combat’s ended, He’ll carry you above, 
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning. 


Sending Out  

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, 
    In the name of Christ. Amen. 

Closing Song
Blest Be the Tie
Words: John Fawcett   
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli)

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. 
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

The Call to Worship was written by Charles Polhill, Summer: Liturgical Resources for May, June, and July, ed. Ruth Burgess. Wild Goose Publications, the publishing arm of the Iona Community, ©2019.  Used by permission.   

The tune, LACQUIPARLE was written by Joseph R. Renville whose mother was Dakota and his father, French. An explorer, fur trader, and Congregational minister, Renville helped found the Lac qui Parle Mission in Minnesota in 1835. This song, which is also known as the “Dakota Hymn,” was sung by thirty-eight Dakota prisoners of war as they were led to execution at Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862. 

Permission to print the words to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors. 

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