Call to worship
In the beginning… the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters.
Throughout history, the Holy Spirit has spoken to the people of God through his prophets,
After Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended on him.
At the beginning of the church, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers.
It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us, the Holy Spirit who sustains us, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
On this Pentecost Sunday, wherever we may be, let us join together as the people of God, and pray:
Almighty God, creator of all there is, send your power by your Holy Spirit to us, your people. Give us ears to hear your word and lips to proclaim your glory.
Unite us with all your faithful people throughout the ages and ignite the fire of your passion within us Lord. Let the fire of your Holy Spirit burn within us to give light and warmth to the ends of the earth, to the glory of your name.
Prayers of adoration and confession
Almighty God the Father,
gracious Lord of all,
whose glory knows no bounds:
we worship and adore you.
Lord Jesus Christ the Son,
eternal Word of God,
whose mercy never ends:
we worship and adore you.
Most good and loving Spirit,
source of power and life,
whose goodness lasts for ever:
we worship and adore you.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit: one eternal God,
to you we give all blessing, glory, honour and power, always, now and forever.
And we ask for your forgiveness, Lord,
when we forget the power of the Spirit who dwells within us,
and trust instead upon our human strength.
Remind us of that glorious day when your Spirit
transformed the lives of those who hid in fear,
into people of power.
Forgive us those things we have failed to do,
And those things we should not have done.
Renew our hearts which have grown cold
with flames of fire, as on that first Pentecost,
so that we and your whole church may be all you desire us to be.
God is light, in him is no darkness at all.
If we walk in the light, as God is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5, 7)
Almighty God our Father, on the first Pentecost opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation, by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit, offers us forgiveness today.
Hear anew Christ’s word of grace to us: “Your sins are forgiven”
Thanks be to God
Let’s calm our minds as we bring our prayers for the people before the Lord.
Let all of us gathered together in a virtual kind of way, to worship you, our families, our friends and even those on our minds who we don't know personally, welcome the presence of the holy spirit. Let You be their comforter and their guide.
Gracious Lord, we thank you for the richness of our lives, the peace we live in locally, the love of our friends and families, and the opportunity to worship you, where ever we are and however we are able, without fear.
Gathered together as God's people in Christ Jesus, let us pray for the church, those in need, and all of God's creation.
We ask you to uphold Richie and his family. Support his work in our congregation as he leads us through these strange and unusual times.
Gracious and loving Lord, we know and understand that the world is unfolding as you plan. We understand that we will never know what your plan will bring on any day, so we have a need for faith in our lives. We need to feel secure, trusting in you, resolute in our belief. We pray that you will bring us the peace and security that comes with faith in you.
We see so many things that we don't understand, that we don't like. Things that make us unhappy and frightened and frustrated and angry. Things happen in our lives that weigh us down with grief, we worry about our friends and family, we worry about ourselves, we worry about the changes happening in our society and the challenges these uncertain times bring. Remind us that worry ends where faith in You begins.
We don't like the wars in other lands, we don't like the violence that happens, across societies and within families. We don't like the corruption of people in positions of power, nor do we like it when good people doing good things are torn down. We don't like it when people are traded like goods, or when their desire for a better life for their family can be exploited by people who offer hope but deliver misery. We don't like to see love evaporate or respect wither.
We ask that the people across the world learn through your teachings that love and respect are as important for a society as food and water.
Remind us Lord that each of us, every one of us, has some special gift that you have given us. Each of us has a responsibility to use that gift, to do your work to the best of our ability, and in the way you intended
Gracious Lord, we ask that you show your great love to the smallest ones in your creation: to the young people everywhere, especially those who struggle to survive. Nourish them with all they need to thrive.
We pray for those who are ill, that you might arm them with strength, and smooth and hasten their way to recovery. Support them with your love through the difficult times and help them to know you in their hearts.
Emmanuel, Lord God almighty, we praise your holy name.
We commend to your keeping, Father, ourselves and each other, our families, our neighbours and our friends. Enable us by your Spirit to live in love for one another and for you.
Let us all use the gifts you gave us to show the world love, respect and peace.
Hear these prayers, Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
and now, we offer the prayer that our Lord has given us...
Our Father in heaven
hallowed be your name
your kingdom come
your will be done, on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
2 When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. 2 Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world. 6 When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited, because all of them heard the believers talking in their own languages. 7 In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, “These people who are talking like this are Galileans! 8 How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages?
12 Amazed and confused, they kept asking each other, “What does this mean?”
13 But others made fun of the believers, saying, “These people are drunk!”
14 Then Peter stood up with the other eleven apostles and in a loud voice began to speak to the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, listen to me and let me tell you what this means. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 Instead, this is what the prophet Joel spoke about:
17 ‘This is what I will do in the last days, God says:
I will pour out my Spirit on everyone.
Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message;
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will have dreams.
18 Yes, even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will proclaim my message.
19 I will perform miracles in the sky above
and wonders on the earth below.
There will be blood, fire, and thick smoke;
20 the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will turn red as blood,
before the great and glorious Day of the Lord comes.
21 And then, whoever calls out to the Lord for help will be saved.’
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. 5 There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. 6 There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. 7 The Spirit's presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. 8 The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. 9 One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. 10 The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God's message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. 11 But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person.
12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.
A few years ago, I attended a friend’s ordination as a Deacon in the Uniting Church, and as I’ve been thinking about it, I realise it’s the only ordination I’ve been to, so I don’t know what they’re normally like, but this one was huge. More than a hundred and fifty people there. A thirty-minute sermon. Lots of white albs and red scarves and sashes. Even an interpretive dance. The whole service was about an hour and a half, and it took everyone another half hour to file out of the church afterward.
Our last hymn was “How great thou art!” and the newly ordained deacon introduced it as “Christianity’s greatest hit”. As we filed out, I said to the person next to me “She’s wrong – Christianity’s greatest hit is ‘And can it be’”, and they responded that we were both wrong, because the greatest hit was obviously ‘Amazing Grace’.
They are, of course, all great hymns. And there are many, many more besides. But they will mean different things to us at different times. They will mean different things to different members of the church. They will highlight different things about God, Jesus and the life of the church.
They are all different, but together they make up the hymn book of the church – and I don’t mean a particular red-covered or blue covered book, but I mean all those songs we sing together as the church, from the most ancient to the most modern. If you’ve been following the YouTube links we’re including with our on-line services, you’ll have noticed there’s a wide range of styles and ages of music. Some of it will have been new, some of it will have been quite familiar, some of it you probably won’t have liked, but hopefully you will have got something out of at least some of them.
And those things won’t be the same for all of us.
It’s the same with the bible. What’s your favourite bible verse? What’s your favourite book of the bible? It’s not going to be the same for all of us, and I know my favourite books of the bible change regularly.
At some level, this is really strange: We are Christians, we are following Jesus, and we are all working to live our lives the way Jesus wants us to, right? And our human experience is to conform with others. When you join an organisation, you agree to particular things, to follow the rules of the organisation, and so on.
We like to fit in. And in particular, we like people to fit in with us, because we like people like us. In other words, we want other people to behave like us, to believe like us, and to generally be like us.
This is particularly true in the church. After all, we are supposed to be one big happy family. Shouldn’t we all behave the same way, believe the same way, and agree with each other about all aspects of doctrine and worship?
But that kind of thinking doesn’t match what we read in the scriptures. In today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about diversity and unity within the church. But he doesn’t say what people might expect him to say – that unity demands conformity. Instead he talks about how our diversity works within the unity the church.
Paul is speaking to an active and growing church. There were many people exercising a variety of gifts in Corinth, but one gift in particular, was causing trouble — the gift of ‘speaking in tongues’ which some people thought was the sign of a faithful Christian.
And I think that each year when we come to the day of Pentecost, we focus on the coming of the holy spirit – “the 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” as an event, rather than the start of something. And people often on the speaking in other languages, although it’s not quite the same as the speaking in tongues that Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians.
It was the beginning of the time of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the followers of Jesus, the beginning of the time of each of us being empowered by the Holy Spirit, the time when each of us is gifted by the Holy Spirit.
But we’re not gifted as those first disciples were gifted – we’re not empowered to be able to speak and have people understand us even though we don’t speak the same language. We might speak more than one language, which is a great thing, but we don’t have that supernatural gift that those disciples received on that first day of Pentecost.
But as we follow the story of the church from the day of Pentecost – in the book of Acts, and in the letters of the New Testament, and throughout history, we learn of other gifts of the spirit.
And a we don’t all receive the same gifts. Paul makes it clear when he tells us: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. (12:4-6)
So: Many gifts. But one source of all those gifts.
And one purpose of all those gifts: To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (12:7).
One source. Many gifts. One purpose. It’s all of those gifts coming together to work for that purpose.
Paul tells the Corinthians that their diversity is God’s gift – the Spirit’s gift. And together, embracing that diversity, they are the body of Christ.
And it’s the same with us. We are diverse as individuals, but together we are the body of Christ. In this congregation. In this denomination. And ultimately, in the one holy catholic and apostolic church.
As Paul says “For 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. For 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” (12:12-13).
We are one body. But a body with many parts. In the section after today’s reading, Paul goes on to point out that the eye and the ear and the hand all need each other to make the one body. They may not do the same things, but put them all together, and they make a rather nice body.
So as we celebrate the day of Pentecost, and we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, we should also be celebrating the gifts of the Holy Spirit and remembering that we have received those gifts so that we can be part of the body of Christ.
Paul is clear that we do not all receive the same gifts: We do not all speak in tongues, or prophesy, or teach. The Spirit has given each of us a gift according to God’s wisdom. And when we use them together, we are the church.
And as we grow in our faith, we need to remember and understand that. We need to listen to, and take to heart, what Paul told the Corinthians. Because we are part of a church, and a denomination, and a congregation with people who are different from us.
Those differences come in many forms. Different gifts. Different preferences in worship and music. Different approaches to working with each other. Different ways of talking about our faith.
Of course, the chances are that each of us is convinced that our way is the best, and so we often follow the very human response of competing with each other. We compete throughout our lives. We learned to compete with brothers and sisters as children. We compete for the best results in school. We compete in sport. We compete for jobs, and then for promotions. Competition, for most of us, is a way of life.
And so it follows that we compete at church. We might not intend to, but it happens. If I don’t like the same music as you, we are in competition – who’s music will we use? If we don’t use the same words our prayers, we are in competition. If we disagree on doctrine, we are in competition, and soon enough we will become obsessed with who is right.
But Paul commends to us not to competition, but instead to cooperation and community. If we view the church as one more place where we compete with each other, it will never be what the Spirit has called us to be.
If we view the church as just another place to compete with each other, then we have two options:
Option A: To fight it out – whether it’s by strength of numbers or finance or force of personality, we can beat each other into conformity. We can fight and scratch and claw until the stronger person or the stronger group wins. And the losers will either hang around disheartened, their gifts neglected, or bequite possibly waiting for the chance to get their own back.
Or there’s Option B: You know that bit in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus says “…if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matt 5:30a)”? It seems that sometimes, people want to apply that to the image of the body of Christ that Paul gives…
Chop off the bits we aren’t happy with. To drive away the people that don’t fit in. Decide that the body doesn’t really need the nose, or the hands or the ear. Which actually moves us beyond competing with others to judging them.
I was visiting a church once to take a service, and I was chatting to a someone after the service. He had some strong ideas – certainly more radical than most people in the congregation. “Out there” ideas. One of the Elders asked my afterward why I’d been talking to him – “he’s not really one of us” he said. I don’t what that man’s gifts were… but I don’t think anyone at that church was going to find out.
Neither Option A or Option B, are going to lead to a healthy church. If we go back to Jesus words in John’s gospel “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus says we need to love each other. And that loving each other will be a witness to the world! By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.
If people look into the church locally, nationally or globally, and see people in competition with each other or even openly fighting with each other, it’s not going to be an appealing thing for them. It’s not much of a witness to Jesus or his love.
But if we’re loving each other. If we’re in community with each other. If we’re exercising our gifts cooperatively, and appreciating the gifts of others – then it will be compelling.
And to do that, we need to accept our diversity, to work through differences, to compromise with each other, sometimes to hold our tongues, and to let each other explore our own gifts.
Because the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not given so that we can be ‘better people’, they’re given so that we can be a better church.
We are not here merely to use our gifts for our own benefit: Instead, we are here to use those gifts to worship God, to love God, and to support and encourage each other, and to witness to the world.
On this day of Pentecost, when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit, let us all remember also the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and who equips us with gifts so that we may work with all the other members of the body of Christ.
For 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.
We ask you to receive and bless the offering of our worship, wherever we are,
and so consecrate our bodies, minds and spirits
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may give ourselves to you, as a living sacrifice,
dedicated and fit for your acceptance;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Spirit of truth lead you into all truth,
give you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and to proclaim the word and works of God;
and know the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
today and always.
Hymns for this week:
Looking Out: The church never closed
Next week (7 June 2020):
Lectionary: Psalm 8, Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
For worship: Psalm 8, Matthew 28:16-20
Theme: “God’s glory, our mission”