Encountering the Spirit

May 19, 2013

Introduction: Instead of the usual sermon today I decided to share with you a series of reflections on the themes of Pentecost and on the readings for today. I’ll invite you to stay seated for the hymns, except for Dance with the Spirit. I have a story for the children today, as well as a special craft, so it would be great if the kids can make their way to the front while we hear our first reading from the book of Acts.

Acts 2:1-21:
2When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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.’

Children’s story – “We are One” Craft – making simple kites
Hymn: #156 More Voices “Dance with the Spirit”

Anthem: As the Wind’s Song

Psalm 104, 24-34 The Psalm today is a Psalm in praise of God’s might and creativity in creation. The earliest story of creation in Genesis chapter one says that in the beginning the Ruach of God moved over the waters – ruach in Hebrew means breath, or wind, or spirit. The Spirit of God moved over the waters, and brought life to creation. Hear the Psalm again, in a modern paraphrase by Jim Taylor:

24 Abundant and plentiful are your creations, O Lord;
you imagined them, and they came into being. The world is full of your vision.
25, 26 You fill the abyss with the ocean, the seamless womb of life.
Upon its surface, you support tankers and freighters and cruise ships;
in its depths dwell creatures beyond counting–
sleek and gaudy, strange and deadly,
anchored like rocks and faster than fear.
From invisible plankton to playful whales,
the Lord God made them all.
27 All these owe their existence to you; you set each in an environment where it can survive.
29 But if you turned your thoughts away from them, they would vanish,
a fleeting figment of your imagination.
Your spirit gives them life, as your spirit put breath in our clay;
without it, we return to the dust from which we came,
the dead elements of bygone stars.
30 Blow your breath through our being, Lord. Create us afresh; renew the life of your creation.
31 Then the glory of God will go on forever; all living things will rejoice in God’s gift of life.
The vision of the Lord will be evident in all creatures great and small;
32 from coral cells to the continents themselves.
God strokes the earth and it trembles in ecstasy;
The Lord excites the mountains and they erupt in lava.
33 Is it any wonder I sing the praises of God? As long as I live, my life itself attests God’s glory.
34 So may even my imagination be devoted to God, and let the Lord fill all my thoughts.

The Spirit of God is a spirit of innovation, of creation, of life.

Hymn: # 388 Voices United “Spirit Dancing”

Romans 8:26-28
26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Speak, Spirit. Say the words I cannot.
Sometimes my soul is too gripped with emotion – I cannot force a prayer past the lump in my throat.
Sometimes my spirit is too barren to produce even a whisper of a word, a thought, a hope.
I sigh, breathing out … I breathe in again,
and another gust of wind escapes me.
Spirit, Ruach, breath of life, breathe in me,
blow in me, move in me;
take my heart, my will, my mind,
and carry to heaven the deepest longings of this storm-tossed spirit.
Speak, Holy Spirit, for I cannot.
Sing the song of my soul when all else is silent.
(Pause in quiet – take deep breaths, then announce the hymn)

#378 Voices United “Spirit Of God, Descend Upon My Heart”

John 14:8-17:
8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

Let us Pray: Advocate, Comforter –
Jesus said you would come to those who love.
If we have not the Spirit, is it because our love is too small?
Your love embraces the world, Most Holy and Awesome God.
You stand with each of your children,
ready to offer the strength of ages,
eager to defend from soul-tearing threat,
generous with the gifts of hope and faith.
You stand beside us and call us your own –
do we recognize others as belonging to you, too?
Holy Father, may we be one in Christ, as Christ is made one with you.
Grant your Spirit of truth, that we may see ourselves and others as you see us –
for by the truth we are set free from false pride or harsh judgement –
by your truth we know ourselves to be children of God,
part of a universal family.
Come, Holy Spirit, come to us today. Amen.
Fire from heaven, rushing wind, tongues speaking words that draw people of different languages and cultures together – these are the gifts of the Spirit. Unconditional love, true faith in God, the power of new life working inside each one of us – these are the gifts of the Spirit. Unity, harmony, a sense of one-ness in Christ – these are the gifts of the Spirit. Prayer, meditation, connection with God when all else in life may seem disconnected – these are the gifts of the Spirit. Today we celebrate the birthday of the church. Out of the fires of Pentecost and the babble of that spirit-filled day, comes the church in all its diversity, with all its zeal for good and its human failings. Each year at Pentecost we pray that God will once more send upon us a purifying fire, a spirit of truth, to cleanse the church of the short-comings we may not have recognized, and to call us once again to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that the world might know that the God of love dwells with us, and that there are none excluded from the circle of God’s concern.
We call on the name of God, to sanctify God’s people once again. Come, Holy Spirit!


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