May 31, 2020. The Day of Pentecost
Theme: Power from on high
Sentence: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,’ says the Lord, ‘and let the one who believes in me drink. For out of your heart shall flow rivers of living water.’
Collect: Almighty 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 to witness to your redeeming love and draw all people to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Acts 2. 1-21 The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early Christians is linked with the great Jewish harvest festival.
1 Corinthians 12.3b-13 Paul sees the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of love, of agape or self-giving love.
John 7.37-39 At harvest time a libation (pouring out) of water was offered in the temple. Jesus uses that libation as a picture of the living water that he offers.
The Holy Spirit empowers people in many different ways, but these gifts carry with them a responsibility to share them with others. By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit gives some the ability to withstand great trials and adversity (look at the Judges) and others inspiration to see great truths (see the Prophets), and here the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ disciples the ability to speak to and be understood by the people of scattered nations and languages – a kind of reversal of the Tower of Babel story.
But if the disciples or anyone else takes their gifts and keeps them to themselves, they are wasted. The Good News that God has given us is likewise wasted if we do not then share it with others and welcome them into finding the love of each other and love of God to which we are all called.
It is not enough, however, to share God’s Word with those who are like us, think the way we think, and speak the way we speak. God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost points to our responsibility to share our gifts and our love with those who are different from us. The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the power to literally speak to others in their own language, but we can also approach people where they are in life. We cannot place the burden on others to cross cultural, social, and language barriers to find us – God empowers us to stand up and bring the gifts of the Spirit to them.
This is a familiar story of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the followers of Jesus, and ends just after these verses with the mass baptism of thousands into the Body of Christ. Notice that this gift of the Holy Spirit wasn’t meant solely for the disciples, but resulted in their ability to proclaim the good news to everyone. It was a gift that was given to individuals, for the benefit of a community, with the intention that it enable the spread of the gospel to all. So often today we hear people say that they are “spiritual but not religious,” engaging in individual faith practices. They are seeking a fuller relationship with God outside of the church. Perhaps it is because the church is often seen as something one does, rather than something one is. Church is not the destination. Church is where we are given strength for the journey, renewed with the body and blood of Christ to do the work we are called to do in our baptism. It isn’t something we do on our own, but as part of the Body of Christ, gathered to do his work in the world. It is a communal thing. We need one another, as each of us together make up the whole.
- How do you see yourself as a part of the living Body of Christ in the world?
- Do you feel renewed and refreshed to live into your baptismal covenant – to seek Christ in all persons, proclaim the good news, and serve all people – when you come gather as a community on Sundays? If not, how can you help to be a part of the renewal of your own faith community?
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
It is hard to pay attention to God working in the world when we are surrounded by pain and suffering. As I write this, the world is currently facing a pandemic that is dim and scary. A feeling of “there is no God working in the world right now,” seems more appropriate. However, as we move through the words of Psalm 104, there is a sense of relief that fills me. It is one of those psalms that can take you to a place of peace.
Imagine floating in the ocean on a warm day. The water is still, warmth covers the body, the pressures of the world begin to disappear, you hear the birds in the sky and the noise of laughter from children playing, and the water is gently moving you back and forth. This place of peace can be hard to find when the chaos of life is constantly interrupting it.
Psalm 104 gives us a few examples of where we can go to be reminded of this peace. Though we may not understand why something bad is happening, God is still working in this peace; God is working in both the grief and the joys of life. It is okay if we do not always see the good. It is okay if it doesn’t always make sense. It’s okay if we cannot always see God in a situation. It is okay to be upset. God still meets us in this place.
- What is your peaceful place when the world around you becomes too overwhelming?
- How does God meet you in this place?
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
As a world, we are always on the go. There is a saying that time stops for no one. To compensate, we balance the busy with the idea of self-care. We are fed by statements like, “Do what you have to do to get to the top,” “self-made,” “time to focus on me,” or “all work no play.” While focus and determination are not bad things, sometimes these ideas can bring us to a place of tiredness, loneliness, and unhappiness; we are drained of things that are physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually life-giving and healthy. Our gifts are many, but when we lose sight of staying connected to others, maintaining healthy relationships, taking care of ourselves and others, we lose sight of the concept that we are one body and join in one spirit.
Have you ever been in that unhappy place? Are you currently in it? This is not to criticize if you have or are; rather, it is an invitation to further reflection, because it impacts us all at some point. This idea of one body and one spirit can remind us that in a busy world, influenced by individualism, in that individualism and busyness, there is room for God, for love, for yourself, and for your neighbours.
- What are the barriers that keep you from sharing your gifts with others or allowing others to share their gifts with you?
- In a busy, individualized world, what can you or the Church do to remind us that we are one body and join in one spirit?
Most of the Bible was written in the Middle East where much of the land is desert, and water is quite simply the number-one requirement wherever you go. ‘Living water’ (Jn. 7:38-39) was the regular way of speaking of running water. Announcing that anyone who was thirsty could come and have a drink was obviously an echo of Isaiah 55:1, one of the great evangelistic invitations in the Old Testament. John is careful to tell us that Jesus is making this invitation on the last day of the festival of Tabernacles, which had among its celebratory rituals a moment when the priests would pour out water and wine around the altar. Among the prayers that were regularly prayed at the festival were prayers for rain and for the resurrection of the dead. So, not only the theme of water, but also of new life, were spot on for the subjects that would be in people’s minds. But where does the Bible say that rivers of living water will flow out of people’s hearts or innermost being?
In Ezekiel 47, as part of the prophet’s great vision of the Temple and Jerusalem wonderfully restored after the exile, there is a description of how a new river will flow from under the Temple threshold. It will get deeper and deeper and make its way to the Dead Sea where it will make it fresh, that is, fit for fish and fruit trees along its banks. This is the same picture that is used in Revelation 22:1-2 as part of the description of the New Jerusalem.
The promise of John 7:37-39 stays close to that which is found in John 4. Instead of a new city and Temple, Jesus is suggesting that the promise will be fulfilled in individual human beings. Standing there in the Temple, perhaps at the time when the priests were solemnly pouring water out around the altar in thanksgiving for God’s blessing and in hope for the future, Jesus shouts out his invitation to anyone who wants to have the water of life bubbling up inside them, and flowing out to the world around. Jesus was speaking about the Spirit. Anyone who believes in Jesus is promised that the Spirit, God’s refreshing personal presence, will come to live within them after Jesus has been glorified through his death and resurrection.
Join us at St John’s Woolston…
Every Sunday 10.00 a.m Eucharist followed by morning tea.
First Sunday of the month 8.30 a.m. Holy Communion
– Book of Common Prayer.
Third Sunday of the month at 5.00 p.m. Evening Worship, followed by tea.
Community Events at St John’s
- Women’s support group-friendship and craft-Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
- Mainly Music held 10.00am Wednesdays in school term time.
- Café Soleil community lunch held 12 noon on Thursdays during school terms.
- Friendly Hour once a month on the third Tuesday of the month commencing 1.30 p.m.
- Community Fruit and Vege Stand
- Food Bank
- Eldercare Fridays at 9.30 a.m. Exercise and fellowship.