It’s Pentecost today, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. This hymn asks the Spirit to enter and direct our lives: not only to comfort us but to change our behavior and make us more Christ-like. Written in the 18th century, the text was adapted and altered for many different hymnals; our version was settled in the 19th century, when the tune was also written.
--Donna Wessel Walker
Come gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove,
with light and comfort from above.
Thou be our guardian, thou our guide;
o’er every thought and step preside.
The light of truth to us display,
and make us know and choose thy way.
Plant holy fear in every heart,
that we from thou may not depart.
Lead us the Christ, the living way,
nor let us from his precepts stray.
Lead us to holiness:
the road that we must take to dwell with God.
Lead us to heaven,
that we may share fullness of joy for ever there.
Lead us to God, our final rest,
to be with him for ever blest.
- Simon Browne (1680-1732), alt.
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The First Lesson
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples 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.' "
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Benedic, anima mea
25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
26 Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number, *
creatures both small and great.
27 There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.
28 All of them look to you *
to give them their food in due season.
29 You give it to them; they gather it; *
you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
30 You hide your face, and they are terrified; *
you take away their breath,
and they die and return to their dust.
31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; *
and so you renew the face of the earth.
32 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; *
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.
33 He looks at the earth and it trembles; *
he touches the mountains and they smoke.
34 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; *
I will praise my God while I have my being.
35 May these words of mine please him; *
I will rejoice in the Lord.
37 Bless the Lord, O my soul. *
The New Testament
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 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. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
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.
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.”
Optional parts of the readings are set off in square brackets.
The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
From The Lectionary Page: http://lectionarypage.net
If you browse through our hymnal or virtually any other book of Christian music, I think you will find that the primary vision of the Holy Spirit is rather different than what we have here in this text! The themes of gentle breezes and the subtle coming of the spirit of God is certainly at odds with the description of the violent wind pictured in the first paragraphs! The overwhelming picture is one of rushing loud winds, fire, prophecy and a confusing polyglot babble about the deeds of God!
There is a swirl of movement from private rooms out of public view to a scene of the disciples in middle of the public square. A verbal avalanche of images pours over and out of the room in which the disciples have until now been gathered. The Spirit and the people of God are on the move and loose in the world!
Two things are suggested by the story we consider today. First of all, the community to which the Holy Spirit is given is diverse. It is diverse in ethnicity, nationality and in language. It is a community gathered by God for the sake of the world. The picture is one of a multifaceted community beloved by God. Despite the differences it is also a community unified in purpose. Such is the body of Christ we are called to be part of.
The second thing which stands out is the connection with creation. The granting of the Holy Spirit helps us recall the image of the presiding of this Spirit over the first creation of all things. It is the same Spirit which moved over the deep in the beginning which now appears in Jerusalem. Creation is now being renewed and recommissioned.
In the beginning humans were called to be more than mere occupants of God’s Earth. We were created for a twofold purpose: to love one another and to care for what God has made. What happened that a second invitation to be what we were intended to be needed to be announced?
First, we have largely failed in our call found in Genesis to be caretakers of the earth God created and bestowed upon us.
Secondly, we have failed to love and care for each other as God’s beloved people.
Here and now in this account from Acts, humankind is once again invited to participate with God in the care and tending of not only each other but also of God’s good creation.
We find ourselves largely gathered in isolated rooms by the Covid pandemic. And while this pandemic is not of God, it is an opportunity for us to be bold in our proclamation of the mighty acts of God in new ways and to many more people than we every believed possible.
We may not be able go out together in our current circumstances but are discovering that is possible to be with and for people in many ways. We can call, write letters, use all the modern forms of communication at our disposal to reach out to people. We can advocate for clean air and water. We can help pay for necessary supplies for those in dire need. We can care for each other in many and varied ways!
The spirit called the disciples to leave their safe and isolated room to move out into the world with boldness. The Spirit gave them tools to do this work: language and courage. It called them to move into the world with boldness. They were given a new life of purpose and meaning.
The first disciples were given this life in a powerful and dramatic way: with fire and wind. The Sprit gives us this life in the waters of Baptism. Perhaps this is where our image of the serene spirt brushing our faces with a gentle breeze comes from. Regardless of how the gift of Holy Spirit was given, the call is to be a rush of wind in the world God created.
. What does that life look like and what does it involve? It is life of boldness, speaking against oppression, injustice and persecution. It is a life which involves speaking the truth to power. It means caring for God’s creation and all of God’s people as well. It means seeing people not only in our own neighborhoods and congregations as those needing and of being worthy of God’s love and care, but also those in refugee camps, detention centers and other places where the weak and powerless are discarded. We can be and are called to be, signs of the life-giving Spirit of God for and throughout the entire world. That is both disturbing and reassuring!
May the Holy Spirit Guide and empower you to be a blessing to the world and to all people you may meet.