This worship service premiered on YouTube at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, May 31, 2020. A transcript of the service is provided below  for those who are unable to watch the video.

CALL TO WORSHIP

One: Come! Let us bless the Lord who commands the wind!

Many: Come! Let us worship the Three-in-One who appoints fire and flame as messengers!

ALL: Come! Let us bless our great and glorious Maker, Giver of All Good Gifts!

Let’s pray …

God of rushing wind, coming from where it wants and going to where it wants,

pour out your Spirit upon us.

God of fire, flaring on gathered disciples and burning away their stubborn pride,

pour out your Spirit upon us.

God of miraculous speaking and hearing, amazing the faithful and riveting their attention to what is about to happen,

pour out your Spirit upon us.

God of the young who see visions, of the old who dream dreams, of male prophets and female prophets,

pour out your Spirit upon us.

God of wonders above the signs below, God of blood, fire and billowing smoke,

pour out your Spirit upon us.

You raised up Peter to prophesy on Pentecost, Peter to preach straight truth to a crooked generation, Peter to accuse people he loved of complicity in the death of Jesus.

pour out your Spirit upon us.

God of wind and fire and tongues, God of visions and dreams and prophecies, God of signs and wonders,

pour out your Spirit upon us.

You raised up Peter to preach Jesus to a skeptical audience, and with the two-edged sword of Peter’s word you cut through the armor of a crooked generation, you pricked their hearts and saved them.

Great God, send your Spirit to save us too.

You sent your Spirit to assail hard hearts. You sent repentance and faith., baptism and forgiveness, teaching and fellowship, communion, and prayer.

Great God, send your Spirit to save us too.

We pray this in the name of Jesus, who loves us, and who has prepared us to receive your Spirit. Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of fire and wind, we confess we have missed the movement of your Spirit in our lives and in your world. We have not been a Spirit-led church. We have not pursued your anointing or your sanctifying presence. We have not lived in holiness. Forgive us, we pray. Free us from bondage so that we may live a life in the Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We lift up the lives of those who have suffered needless death to COVID-19. We lift up those who have been killed because of the color of their skin. We lift up those left behind who grieve the loss of their loved ones.

We lift up this nation, Lord. We ask you to open its eyes to injustice, to inequality, and to its own complicity in the oppression of “other”. We ask you to cleanse it of the enemy that would seek to divide, to destroy, and to kill. We ask you to lead us to right the wrongs perpetrated on our black and brown brothers and sisters.

We ask that you heal the church, God. We ask that you open its eyes to its own complicity in these injustices and that you guide us to be the instrument of your peace and of your kingdom building.

We ask these things in the name of your son, and now, with the confidence of the children of God, we pray to you in the words he taught us to pray …

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.

Amen.

SCRIPTURE READINGS

John 7:37-39

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”

Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 20:19-23

When 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.”

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound, the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But 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.

Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.

No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

One: The word of God for the people of God.

Many: Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – HOLY FIRE

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer. Amen.

The rush of a violent wind, tongues of fire that came down and rested on each of them, they suddenly began speaking not in their own language but in the languages of all those present … languages the speakers didn’t know themselves …

The coming of the Holy Spirit that day almost two thousand years ago, the helper that Christ had promised he would send, was tangible. It was visible. It was audible.

The Spirit came down and filled the disciples, the disciples began to simultaneously speak to the crowd around them in languages that anyone … that all nations under heaven … hear that again … ALL nations under heaven … could understand.  Acts 2:41 tells us of the outcome of Peter’s preaching that day. Those who accepted his message were baptized … three thousand were baptized that day! Which is why that day … and this … Pentecost … is considered the birthday of the Christian church.

Understand that this was not a one-time event and over. Not at all.  Acts 2:43-47 says, “Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

This was not only how the church began, but what the early church was: A community of believers who cared for and helped one another, who carried out the teachings of Christ, and who strove to live the way Christ had taught they should live.

We hear stories today of modestly tangible occurrences of the Spirit … for example, the Wesley’s both spoke of their hearts being “strangely warmed.” Other than those types of examples, though and let’s be honest … we have not experienced any unleashing of the power of the Spirit as tangible, as visible, as audible as that long-ago day of Pentecost. That day, life was given, life was poured out, life was shared in that Pentecost that took everyone present by surprise … even the disciples.

But what about this day? What about right now? How are we supposed to know the Spirit is present if there is no sound of violent rushing wind and we see no tongues of fire descending from the heavens?

It would be easier, wouldn’t it, if there were some visible means of knowing whether the Spirit is present with us, in others? Spirit, why won’t you make yourself visible so we know where you are and who you are and we can understand what it is you want us to do?!?!?!

Surely, right now, in a world more broken than it’s been in most of our lifetimes … right now when we’re faced with a plague, beginning to see possible or even real food shortages, watching economies around the world get rocked on their heels, watching injustice after injustice after injustice occur and our cities burn and clatter with protests and provocateurs, when we aren’t even allowed to gather together under one building for one hour a week to worship … surely now would be a great time for another bout of violent rushing winds and tongues of fire.  Something tangible, visible, audible, and instead, all we can do is watch and wait and groan in frustration and despair. When will it all end ….

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Groans which cannot be uttered are often prayers that cannot be refused.”

The Spirit is the hearer of those groans. It is the Spirit who carries them for us, who gives them the words we cannot find and delivers them to God.

Around two thousand years ago, Spirit made her grand entrance into this realm of God’s kingdom, and she has never, ever left or abandoned us.

Two thousand years ago, violent rushing wind and Holy Fire manifested in words spoken so that every nation under heaven could hear and understand.

She still uses those same methods today. Individually, she nudges and pushes and pulls and boots and, like a violent rushing wind, blows us to where we need to be through all manner of ways from a faint whistling whisper of a word in our mind’s ear to dropping hints and clues through things and people…   

Individually, she causes our hearts to be strangely warmed, heated, fired up … collectively, she fans the flames of Holy Outrage … the righteous outrage at injustices that can no longer be allowed to stand.

She fills us with the ability to “speak” in a way others can understand by guiding and leading us to make visible, tangible, audible actions …

Actions like reaching out to a neighbor in need, helping a stranger find rest or their next meal, providing a comforting shoulder for those who mourn to lean on and cry into, and even through the kind of Holy Outrage we are seeing right now in our cities.

The flame she arrived with two thousand years ago has never stopped burning. It is a glowing ember embedded within each of us waiting for a Holy Breath to fan it back into a Holy Fire when that Fire is most needed, and to keep us warm and give us the light of Christ when we find ourselves in the cold and darkness.

We just need to learn to recognize her … to see her … to hear her … to feel her … We call her regularly … preachers all around the globe will call her each Sunday … Spirit come and fill us, God send Spirit to fill us … Perhaps that’s why we have trouble understanding she’s already here. Perhaps if preachers and each of us stopped saying “Come, Spirit, come,” and started saying, “God we welcome your Spirit here with us today! We thank you for her presence today and every day!” 

Perhaps then, we’d be more comfortable in accepting the warmth of her presence, in listening for her breath of instruction, in hearing … and speaking … so we and others could understand.

I want to speak for a moment to the presence and actions of the Spirit right now, right here in this land.  Is she present in the frontlines? In the movements that have sprung up to make sure folks are getting fed? In the innovating and creative ways that folks are using to take care of one another in this new normal of physical distancing? Oh, you bet she is.  But she’s present in an even more visible, visceral way and yet … we may be denying her presence there.

Remember that Jesus taught us to serve the least among us. Remember that his entire ministry was almost always in the margins of society … out among those who were largely unwanted, unaccepted … it would make sense, then that the helper he promised us, the Spirit, would push us in that same direction, would it not?

Standing against injustice was The Way that Christ taught us… standing against the injustice of Rome, the injustice of the Temple priests, the injustice of the money changers, and others exploiting and corrupting His Father’s house …

These most recent protests happening around the country are people standing up against an injustice that has been allowed to continue for too many centuries.

They now know that there were provocateurs from outside those cities involved in and instigating the looting and property damage. Some of the protesters, outraged at the injustice, may have gotten caught up in those actions, but the vast majority of those protesting were peaceful, unarmed people just asking for one simple thing … JUSTICE. Because for them, there can be no peace because there is no justice.

Spirit is there in every raised voice and every raised sign and every raised fist. Spirit is saying without justice there can be no peace and the time for justice, the time for this virus called racism and othering to end once and for all is now.

Seeing one another as children of the living, loving God, as brothers and sisters of Christ, and working to ensure that all God’s children are the beneficiaries of justice is not political. Standing up with them? For them? It’s The Way. The way Christ taught us to do for one another as we would have others do for us. It’s scriptural, it’s biblical, it’s what we are called to do. To love and serve one another.

Next week we will be looking further into this in observance of Peace with Justice Sunday. This week, let us pray, knowing our prayers are heard and Spirit who is here with us will carry them for us.

Spirit, Breath of God, Ezer, Helper … I know your presence and I know it daily. I thank you for your presence in my life. I know whose hand is putting these words to paper and it is not mine. Thank you for believing in me, for guiding me, for leading me. Thank you for giving me these words today.

Warm our hearts to our brothers and sisters. Teach us how to stand up for the oppressed, speak out for the silenced, heal the broken and wounded. Help us be the peacemakers we are meant to be.

In Jesus’ name, we pray.

Amen.

BENEDICTION

Now hear this benediction:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. [i]

Go in peace.  AMEN.

[i] Ephesians 3:20–21

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Credits & Thank Yous:

Gracious God, We Will Not Gather – Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Hymn Tune: Beach Spring, Public Domain.

All other hymns and music are public domain. Performances by Dean McIntyre used with permission, and by Clyde McLennan at smallchurchmusic.com used with permission.

Rev. Ohle’s words are her own.