May 23, 2021 – Day of Pentecost
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Message from the Rev. Bob Smith
Welcome to the service of worship for Pentecost Sunday, here at Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church. Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church itself. As we gather, it is a different sort of gathering, thanks to Covid. We face all sorts of challenges, but as I think about it, so did the brand-new church brought to life that first Pentecost in Jerusalem. And we, like them, will move on into the future God has for us, in the strength of that Spirit which reminds us of God’s presence in our midst, unites us in our faith, and empowers us to face those challenges in confidence and joy.
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Bob Smith
Call to Worship
You can listen to the audio recording of the Call to Worship with Rev. Bob Smith, joining in unison with Rev. Helen Smith, while consulting the text below (the audio is part of the Welcome message recording above); or just use the text below.
Spoken by One / Spoken by All
One: Come, Holy Spirit, breathe on us this day.
All: Pour out you Holy Spirit upon us, and fill us with the wonder of your creation.
One: Bless the Lord, O my soul. God’s works are many, and in wisdom God has made them all.
All: Send forth your Spirit upon us and renew us this day.
Book of Praise – 757 “Come sing, O Church, in joy”
- Video with on-screen words exactly as in the hymnbook.
- This hymn was the 1989 bicentennial hymn for the Presbyterian Church (USA).
- Words (1989) by American Presbyterian minister Brian Gill; music (1793; tune “Darwall’s 148th”) by English clergyman and hymnwriter John Darwall (1731–1789). Words © 1989 Brian Dill; music in the public domain. Arrangement in the video by English composer John Rutter (1945–).
- This recording made by First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on September 9, 2018.
Prayers of Adoration, Confession, Lord’s Prayer
God of power, on the first Pentecost your Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh, filling them with your fire, and unleashing that power in the world. We praise you that that same Spirit is your gift to us still today, that among us, upon this group of your faithful people, the flames of the Spirit’s fire, and the breath of your mighty wind are felt. Empower us this day so that when we have worshipped you in spirit and in truth, we may go into the world singing your praises and proclaiming your name.
God who gives gifts to your church, we know that the gift of your Spirit created bold tongues, open ears and a community of faith which would change the world. We confess that we hold back the force of your Spirit among us. We do not listen for your word of grace, speak the good news of your love, or live as a people made one in Christ. Have mercy on us, O God. Transform our timid lives by the power of your Spirit, and fill us with an overwhelming desire to be your faithful people, doing your will for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is in his name that we pray, and that we join together now to offer the prayer he gave 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 forever. Amen.
Declaration of Pardon
Friends in Christ, hear the good news. Jesus tells us that he came not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him. Receive the forgiveness that God offers you in Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
(And also with you.)
- “In the bulb there is a flower”. Book of Praise (1997) hymn #674. Words and music (both 1986; tune “Promise”) by American composer Natalie Sleeth (1930–1992). Words and music copyright © 1986 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by the GCPC Senior Choir. Keyboard, direction and video production by Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- This video and audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Did you see the movie, “Bruce Almighty”? Bruce is Bruce Nolan, a TV journalist played by Jim Carrey, who aspires to be the anchor for the show. He’s competing for that position with a co-worker whom he can’t stand.
A number of things conspire for everything in his life to fall apart all at once — not only does he not get the promotion, he loses the job he does have, his love life is pretty much falling apart, and he drives his car into a lamp post.
And overplaying the part as only Jim Carrey can, Bruce blames God. For all of it.
He blames God for getting him into all these troubles, for not looking out for him for actually going making a point, of tormenting him with all these problems. “You’re the only one around here not doing his job,” Bruce screams at God. And he demands an answer.
The answer is that God, played by Morgan Freeman, shows up in Bruce’s life — in person. And God, nicely underplayed by Freeman, says to our complaining friend Bruce, “Do you think you can do it better? The job is yours. When you walk out of here, you will have all my power.”
So Bruce struts out of his meeting with God, singing, “I’ve got the power.” And he does, although without the tact or wisdom to handle it. He walks across a puddle of water without getting his feet wet, he makes the soup in his bowl part like the waters of the Red Sea, and removes the clouds from in front of the moon to improve the effect on a romantic evening. He even gives himself a new luxury sports car to drive, and makes all the traffic pull over to the side, a bit like the soup in his bowl, so that he can get to work on time.
Well, the movie is kind of fun, in a crazy, Jim Carrey sort of way. It didn’t win any Academy Awards, but it’s interesting in the way it plays with the idea — What if we had all of God’s power for a few days? What would we do if we had that kind of power?
Well, the message of Pentecost is — stop dreaming about it, we already have that power. With the gift of the Holy Spirit to the believers that day, God’s power was poured out on them transforming them into the church.
The question is not, “What would it be like?” The question is, “We’ve got the power — now, what will we do with it?”
It’s something we easily forget. We know that, by some strange miracle of hearing, the Spirit enables people of different languages to understand one another that day. We know that through the Spirit, Jesus is present to us, even though he is physically absent.
But the other thing that happens that day is that a church is born, new, transforming life is given and power is imparted. Because of Pentecost, we have the power.
The disciples have been living in the expectation that something is going to happen. Our text from Acts 2 tells us about Jesus, before his death promising his disciples that although he had to leave them, he would not leave them alone. He spoke to their fear with a promise. He would be with them through the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would abide in them and in all believers wherever they found themselves.
And just a few days before Pentecost, when he was about to ascend into heaven to take his place with the Creator, Jesus spoke again of the coming Spirit. They are filled with anxiety and uncertainty about the future, so he goes back to the same promise, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.”
And today — Pentecost — it happens. And what happens is so magnificent and overwhelming it stretches even Luke — the writer’s — ability to describe it. There is the sound of a rushing wind. And then it’s as if flames of fire descend on each of them. Then strange languages are heard and understood. They are being bombarded on every side, so that their heads are spinning in a sensory overload.
Only God could be responsible for such wonders. Surely this is what Jesus was talking about. Surely this is the promise fulfilled — whatever any of them thought Jesus meant, their expectations are left in the dust by their Pentecost experience.
The Spirit is loose in the world. A church is born. There is new life for God’s people. No one is left out — young and old, men and women, and a remarkably diverse collection of personalities — the Spirit which is given in that moment touches everyone present. They have the power. And as their descendants in the faith, we have the power.
It’s a funny sort of power, though. Here we are, children of God. And we may even be able to say that we have accomplished great things in God’s name. Now, I don’t know about you, but, unlike Jim Carrey in the movie, when I walk through a puddle, I get my feet wet. As hard as I wish for it, or even pray for it, I don’t think a luxury sports car is going to appear in my driveway.
And as much as the early disciples are able to heal, and are the first witnesses to carry the good news of the gospel out into the world, it is not an easy road.
Even their message is not accepted by everyone. Some doubt and ridicule them, and suggest that there is another explanation than the power of the Spirit for what is going on. “This is not what it seems.” they say. “God would not give away power like this.” They say that what the disciples say is the joy of the Spirit, is just the fact that they got into the bottle a little early that day.
And just two chapters after Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost, he and a few of the others are hauled up on the carpet in front of the high priest, and soon after, find themselves in prison. And a few chapters after that Stephen is stoned to death — the first Christian martyr. So what’s going on?
Well, there may be power here, but it is a different sort of power.
Spirit-power is not the power to impress with cheap tricks or to prosper or pamper ourselves with rewards. It is based on the power exercised by Christ in his ministry; a power which served the suffering and proclaimed good news to the poor; a power which lifted up the downcast and brought healing to the broken; a power which denied self to provide a way to others and risked all to give life away; a power made perfect in weakness and demonstrated through obedience to a higher calling.
It is the power of the gathering together of the faithful, who in the babel of noises clamouring for our attention, are able to hear and understand the voice of the one who calls and shepherds us.
It is the power of a group — a community — gathered around a common cause of loving God and neighbour, devoted to a common ministry of seeking, and helping others to find, our identity in Christ, seeking their direction in a common text called the Scriptures, being nourished at a table with bread broken, and a cup shared, and grounding their work in a common resource called prayer. It is the power of the body of Christ continuing that same ministry that he came to accomplish. And while we keep that aim before us, the Spirit will empower us for that ministry.
That is the power that we have. You can’t always see it, or feel it?
Is the problem that the Spirit does not dwell in us, or that we find it hard to give ourselves to the Spirit’s possibilities? What would it look like to unleash that power in the world today?
Nelson Mandela, certainly no stranger to power being exercised in unlikely places, once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to [be great in this cause]? Actually, who are you not to be?”
We are those on whom God’s Spirit has been poured. We have the power, have been equipped for ministry in the world, have been promised food and strength for the journey, companions along the way, and the words to say when needed.
These are wonders only God could do in us. Can we trust the power?
Let’s dream big. What might we accomplish with that power — not for ourselves, but to build up the reign of God? What need in our community might we be able to identify that needs just the encouragement and support that we can bring to bring positive change to people’s lives? What cause that is so much bigger than us could use the gifts and enthusiasm of our family of faith to find a foothold right here in this community to give people a point of connection to be involved?
What new opportunities might lie just around the corner for us under leadership of a new minister to build on the accomplishments of our past to respond to fresh new opportunities in mission, outreach, worship, and education? Maybe the least we can do is allow ourselves to dream big in terms of making room to let loose the power of the Spirit in us. Who are we to be the agents of such change? Who are we not to wield such power?
Those who doubt may still say, “God wouldn’t give power away like that. This cannot be what it seems to be.”
But Pentecost is exactly what it seems to be. We have been given power from above. We’ve seen it. It has happened before, and we are living proof of it.
The Spirit of God is unleashed in the world. New life — sudden, unmerited, irresistible new life is ours, ours to discover, ours to celebrate, ours to share, as we give our witness to the world.
We have the power. The Holy Spirit has already taken care of that. Now, what will we do with it?
- “Shine, Jesus, Shine”. Music composed 1987 by English singer-songwriter Graham Kendrick (1950–). Music copyright © 1987 Make Way Music; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed on the keyboard by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- Audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Prayer of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Hope
Holy God, your love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. In response to your goodness, and at your invitation to share in your work, we return these gifts to you. Use them to move forward your mission in the world, so that by the power of your Spirit, the name of Jesus Christ may be proclaimed.
Loving God, the maker of all things, in the beginning you created heaven and earth. And in the fulness of time, you restored all things in Christ. Hear us as we pray that you would renew our world in our day, with your grace and mercy.
Life of the world, you breathed life into the flesh you created, bringing to birth a church and empowering it for work in your name. Now, by your Spirit, breath new life into the children of the earth. Turn hatred into love, sorrow into joy, and war into peace.
God of peace, you desire the unity of all Christians. Set aflame the whole church with the fire of your Spirit. Unite us by your Holy Spirit to stand in the world as a sign of your love. We remember particularly the conflict in Israel and Palestine, and pray that the destruction and fighting might end, and a peaceful and just solution be found to the conflict.
God of compassion, through your Spirit you supply every human need. Heal the sick, and comfort the distressed. Befriend the friendless, stand with those who are alone, and help the helpless.
Source of peace in our lives, O God, your Spirit restores our restless spirits. In our labour, give us rest; in our temptation, strength, and in our sadness, your consolation. For those who grieve, may they know the promise of resurrection and the good news of your presence in their lives.
Great God, your people continue to struggle under the toll of the Covid virus. We pray that you would give to all of us patience for enduring the restrictions; that you would give strength and perseverance to health care workers, and those who provide for us the essentials of life; that you would be encourage families who are tired of exhausting adjustments to their lives, and walk with students who struggle with learning online while schools are closed. We are grateful that things are improving, but pray that you will keep us strong as we work together to put it behind us.
O God, at the feast of Pentecost, you sent your Holy Spirit to the disciples, filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel; empower us with that same Spirit, so that we may know your presence, and have courage to be your witnesses and to draw all people to you. May the boldness of your Spirit transform us, may the gentleness of your Spirit lead us, may the gifts of your Spirit be our goal and our strength, now and always. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Book of Praise – 384 “O breath of life, come sweeping through us”
- Video with on-screen words identical to those in the hymnbook, except for verse 4; follow along on the screen.
- Words (1920) by Anglo-Irish hymnwriter Bessie Porter Head (1850–1936); music (1914; tune “Spiritus Vitae”) by English composer Mary Jane Hammond (1878–1964). Words and music in the public domain.
- Audio and video recording made in June 2020 by St Mary’s Speldhurst in Speldhurst, England.
Commissioning and Benediction
Go now in the power of the Holy Spirit,
to offer your gifts in the work of God’s kingdom.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all, now and forever. Amen.
- “Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio and video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-05-22 at 12:50 – First version.