Good morning, Cheviot Churches! This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well and keeping both safe and sane. We have our service today for Pentecost. The Moderator is leading worship for the whole of the Church of Scotland on Sunday morning at 10 am on the church website https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/, and I would encourage everyone to tune in, if you are able. We do have our podcast as usual, and you may wish to listen to that earlier or else later on.
Come, Holy Spirit; fill us with your peace.
Come, Holy Spirit; unite us in our worship.
Come, Holy Spirit; raise us by your power.
Come, Holy Spirit, come now.
Hymn 584 – Like fireworks in the night
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Exuberant Spirit of God,
bursting with the brightness of flame
Into the coldness of our lives
To warm us with a passion for justice and beauty,
We praise you.
Exuberant Spirit of God,
Sweeping us out of the dusty corners of our apathy to breathe vitality into our struggles for change. We praise you.
Exuberant Spirit of God,
speaking words that leap over barriers of mistrust
to convey messages of truth and understanding,
we praise you.
Come Holy Spirit! Exuberant Spirit!
Flame, wind, speech
Burn, breathe, speak in us and fill your world with joy and with love.
Merciful God, forgive us when we bar our minds and hearts to Your Spirit at work. Forgive us when we refuse to acknowledge the Spirit’s action in others and in situations out-with our own comfort zones. Forgive us when we block the Spirit’s constant promptings to share the good news with others, by word and loving action. Forgive us when we choose safe and comfortable paths in place of the sometimes risky routes of service to which the Spirit directs us.
Friends, hear and believe the good news of the Gospel! In Christ, we are forgiven and set free to begin again in the renewing power of the Spirit. Thanks be to God.
Readings: Acts 2: 1-13
Hymn 582 – O day of joy and wonder (vv 1,3)
Here is our weekly prayer from Arthur and Kathleen: Creator God, on this Day of Pentecost, we rejoice in the wonderful gift of your Holy Spirit. Send Him again into our hearts, into our lives, and into our world so that we may experience Your salvation and know Your peace . Amen
Happy birthday! I know that many of us have celebrated birthdays in lockdown. One of our members had her 90th birthday a few weeks ago, and I know the Session Clerk and Treasurer and even the minister have had birthdays during this time. Happy birthday to all. And today happy birthday, dear… Church! Happy Birthday to you. For Pentecost is often marked as the day the Church came into being.
On the day of Pentecost, a mighty wind surged forth from heaven, pushing the followers of Jesus out of the house where they had been skulking, and into the streets. They went public. Flames danced above their heads, their tongues began to wag, and suddenly all barriers of gender and age, language and culture were blown down by the wind, and Peter gave a sermon which would cause Billy Graham to turn green with envy – and three thousand people were baptised. The Church certainly started with a bang.
One of the countries that has coped well with this Coronavirus crisis has been New Zealand with its Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She was on television earlier this week, when the studio began to shake – an earthquake! But she seemed to take that in her stride and continued with what she was saying. I would have been terrified. But reading the story of that first Pentecost, I would have been terrified if I had been there. What with gusts of wind and flames of fire, it doesn’t seem to have been a safe experience at all. Luke, the writer of Acts, was trying to put into words the sheer energy of the Spirit coming upon the disciples and transforming them. It is sometimes not safe to be Christian. Someone gave the illustration of fishing boats being safest in the harbour, looking so pretty, but that isn’t what boats are for – they are made for the high seas with all its potential dangers. After Pentecost the disciples couldn’t keep hiding away in safety; the days of fear and whispering were over – they went out into the world, propelled by the Spirit, ready to be the Church in a dangerous world.
Pentecost can be frightening; it can also be very exciting. It was the Jewish festival of Shavuot, 50 days after Passover, and celebrating the barley harvest and also the giving of the law to Moses on Sinai. People had gathered from all over the Mediterranean world and beyond to celebrate it, but suddenly they heard the disciples speaking in their own languages. How I envy the disciples! Having struggled with German irregular verbs and Arabic plurals and various African languages, how I wished that I could just wake up and be able to communicate with ease. It never happened. The disciples were, however, able to communicate to the people around in their own language. That is a challenge to us, both to realise that we are part of something global, but also to communicate to the people around us in ways they understand – and probably most so in the language of love and kindness and service.
Pentecost also signalled movement. The Church was on the move, led by the Spirit. We can have our dreams and our visions. We can think that we in the Church are doing the Spirit’s work – but the Spirit is always one step ahead, calling us to catch up. R.S. Thomas said, ‘Such a fast God. Always before us, and leaving as we arrive’. It reminds me of hill-walking and going at a slower pace. My friends are ahead further up the hill, but kindly wait for me to catch up, only to move immediately on the moment I get there, when all I want to do is rest.
The Spirit is moving even in this Covid crisis, urging us to discover new ways of being the Church. Some of us have discovered new ways that technology can be used, and these are lessons to be learned for the future. While we yearn to be back in our church building singing our hymns, it may not be for a while yet, we have to be open to new ways.
Therefore this Pentecost let us call on the Spirit of God, the encourager, the one who prods us on, that a fire may be kindled in our hearts that will defrost what has become cynical and safe, that we may travel on, like the apostles, with courage and openness to face our future ever with hope and ever with the Holy Spirit.
Prayer of Dedication
God of fire, burn brightly in your Church. Consume our petty concerns and jealousies, purify our deeds and intentions, kindle in our hearts the fire of your love. Spirit of grace and power, bless the gifts we offer, so that they accomplish surprising things in Jesus’ name. We offer ourselves, too, so that our lives may proclaim the Good News with your grace and power. Amen.
Hymn 600 – Spirit of God, unseen as the wind
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Wind of the Spirit, blow through us on this day of Pentecost and renew our faith.
Re-awaken our love for God, let your flames warm our hearts with trust in Jesus Christ and dare us to do great things in his name.
Wind of the Spirit, blow through us and give us energy to serve you in Christ’s church.
Open our eyes to recognize needs for ministry and mission, and to learn from this time when we have had to do things differently in worship and pastoral care.
Open our hearts to connect with those for whom the time of social distancing has been very difficult.
Open our hands to share in the tasks that need doing,
and open our lips in prayer and praise.
Wind of the Spirit, blow through us and give us understanding:
For those whose lives seem so different from ours
and those facing situations because of the pandemic that we haven’t encounter;
Understanding for problems and challenges at home, at work, and in our world as the restrictions are slightly eased.
We pray ever for wisdom for our leaders and for your blessing on those on the frontline in hospitals and care homes.
Wind of the Spirit, blow through us and bring healing
for all who face pain or illness, discouragement or disappointment, made so much keener because of isolation;
healing for all who know sorrow, sadness or grief,
and for those who face stress and pressure as they try to rebuild their lives.
Bring healing to the earth, to places of upheaval, where war and discrimination and persecution are rife.
Bring healing to our world and ecosystems at risk.
Hymn 616 – There’s a spirit in the air
we leave this space of worship
And while so much of the road ahead is uncertain,
the path constantly changing,
we know some things are as solid and sure,
as the ground beneath our feet,
and the sky above our heads.
We know God is love.
We know Christ’s light endures.
We know the Holy Spirit is there,
found in the space between all things,
closer to us than our next breath,
binding us to each other,
until we meet we again,
Go in peace. May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and be with all whom you love, this day and even forevermore. Amen.