Didsbury United Reformed Church Worshipping Together at PENTECOST 31st May 2020

COMING TO WORSHIP : Come, Holy Spirit (Iona, John Bell)

May the glory of the LORD endure for ever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.
Bless the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 104:31, 33-34, 35b)

HYMN: LISTEN OR JOIN IN: Spirit of God, unseen as the wind

Creator God, we praise you: your Spirit was a powerful creative force, right from the beginning when you moved over the face of the deep; your breath is still the in-spiration of all creatures; you whose wind blows over the deeps, and mountains, valleys and every part of your beautiful world.

Saving God, we worship you: you have sent your Son upon whom your own Spirit rested as a dove at his baptism, and filled Him for his ministry on earth, and who, then, calls us also to wait upon your Spirit’s coming that we can follow after.

Loving and holy God, this day we remember and celebrate the overflowing of your Spirit – poured out, just as you promised, on the people gathered from every corner of the world.

God of all faithfulness, we praise you: you who have poured out Your Spirit, upon the fearful and cautious, upon young and old, women and men, slave and free, upon the simple fisherman and the former tax collector and transforming even the murder-breathing pharisee [Saul/Paul]; and as you breathed out your Spirit and gave birth to your Church in those days so we celebrate that same life of friendship and purpose with each other today.

On the day of Pentecost, the faith community turned from hopelessness to joy.
Forgive us if we cling to what we know and do not open ourselves to the new things you want to do amongst us.

On the day of Pentecost, the barriers between peoples, languages and cultures came tumbling down.
Forgive us if we look with suspicion and fear at those who are “not like us”, or if we try to hold on to what is “ours”.

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples found their voice, no longer hiding behind closed doors but proclaiming the Gospel.
Forgive us if we do not acknowledge the gifts within us that are the bounty of your Holy Spirit or if we do not use those gifts in the building up of the whole church.

The Holy Spirit frees us!
Life-bringing Holy Spirit, give us light in our darkness, strength in our weakness, gentleness in our resolve, peace in our struggling, and love in all things.

[Take a moment to offer your own confessions]

Pardon and new life are ours in Christ Jesus!
Thanks be to God!

Now as God’s beloved and forgiven children we share in the words of the prayer that Jesus taught us … 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. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever Amen.

You might like to read the first part of the reading whilst there is the sound of a rushing wind filling the room :

READING (1): Acts 2:1-4
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.


READING (2): Acts 2:5-15
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.’

It’s ironic that, although we’ve gathered together to worship, we are certainly NOT all in one place. We also meet here a significant number of ‘foreign tourists’ gathered in the city of Jerusalem, something else that’s not happening at the moment.

But here’s what struck me so powerfully – these people might have been gathered together in ways we can’t, BUT the Holy Spirit was the power of God cutting across barriers and can still be today. On the Day of Pentecost, the barriers were of race and language. Today, the things that divide us the safety of isolating and distancing. By gifts of speech, and of hearing, the Holy Spirit worked that day so that each person heard what God had to say to them … that the promises made through the prophets were being honoured and the Spirit was being poured out on all people, today, we receive other gifts.

During the last few weeks, many of us have had to learn new skills in using technology and social media – I honestly admit that this is me. I am so not at home with IT (my daughter says to me, really mum! you’re an intelligent person and you think that technology has got it in for you!? – well, yes, I do! it has!!) but we’ve been teaching via Zoom, and sharing screens and putting people into discussion groups. We been having meetings, reviews and interviews. I’ve been ‘having a coffee’ with my other daughter, and it’s genuinely more sociable than just a phone call. People are organising quizzes all over the places. We are being enabled to ‘be together’ and break down barriers because of fresh gifts – gifts we never knew we would have because we’d never needed them before.

The apostles found themselves in a situation where the Holy Spirit equipped them to do just as Jesus asked them to do, to spread the Gospel throughout the world – and we notice that the list of peoples in Jerusalem on that day represent regions at the extent the world known at the time. Not only were they given the gift of speech, where before they had been cowering in a room – their hearers were given the gift of understanding.

We are used, in our churches, to thinking about the different gifts shared amongst the Body of Christ and valuing what everyone has to offer, from handling money to arranging flowers, from organising rotas to being a pastoral carer and so on.

Today we need the Holy Spirit’s gifts in ever fresh ways; we need, ourselves, to be strengthened and supported in our spirit, and perhaps our mental health, as well as our physical well-being as we face these challenges. We need to care for ourselves, because if we don’t there will be nothing we can offer to others. The synod, the missional discipleship enablers, are offering support in all sorts of ways; daily devotions are helpful; services are being provided in all sorts of creative ways – surely the Holy Spirit is hard at work breaking down all the isolating boundaries we’re experiencing in these sad and strange times. We need to rest and not feel guilty about it. If we’re working, we need to take care we don’t overdo the online things that are much more tiring.

Let’s pray that, as a ‘new normal’ emerges and our local churches start to consider preparing and opening up again, the Holy Spirit will continue to gift us in the ways that these fresh challenges will require. God has been faithful – God will continue to be faithful. Thanks be to God.

Bidding: Come, Holy Spirit     Response: Come as fire and wind and dove

To you, the Living God, we offer our prayers in the Name of Jesus our Risen Lord and through the power of your own Holy Spirit.
Hear us, we pray, as we offer the concerns of our hearts and minds and spirits.
Come, Holy Spirit
Come as fire and wind and dove

In the places of injustice, that have largely dropped out of the news that’s overwhelmed with Covid-19 information and advice, may the Holy Spirit burn brightly.
Amongst the ethnically-, economically-, age- and health-disadvantaged who have suffered so much more from Covid-19 crisis in many different ways, showing up new ways that inequality is a reality in our nation, Holy Spirit burn through the hearts of those who can truly make a difference.
Come, Holy Spirit
Come as fire and wind and dove

Into lives full of worry and fear, especially for those who suffer from anxiety, depression and mental ill-health, God breathe your creating Spirit that new quality of life might lift those spirits. Into lives affected by unemployment, businesses being closed, workers being made redundant, and also those lives affected by additional pressures of work and risk, God breathe your Spirit of life.
Come, Holy Spirit
Come as fire and wind and dove

Into nations, communities, homes and lives suffering war, terror or violence or threats and fear, God send your Spirit of peace. Amongst the increasing tensions of rocky relationships being forced together under lockdown, God may your Spirit of peace rest.
Come, Holy Spirit
Come as fire and wind and dove

We open our own lives to your Spirit.
May your Spirit help our spirits to pray – even with groans too deep for words.
May your Spirit come as the Comforter – if we are grieving, if we are fearful, if we are lonely.
May your Spirit come as breath of life – lift our spirits in these difficult times.
May your Spirit come as the bonds of fellowship – even when we cannot meet together.
Come, Holy Spirit
Come as fire and wind and dove – and make a difference to all our lives. Amen.

HYMN: LISTEN OR JOIN IN: Come down, O love divine

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the Love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit of the Living God
rest and remain with you,
and with those whom you love and those whom you feel isolated from,
this day and in the coming times.

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