“Where We Hear God’s Voice Still Speaking”: Wrapping Up the Holy Habit of Biblical Teaching
Rev’d. Tanya Stormo Rasmussen
Congregational Church of Hollis, U.C.C.
31 May, 2020
Pentecost
Acts 2:1-13

Today, we are concluding a 7-week exploration into the Holy Habit of Biblical Teaching.  One of the things we discover as we learn the stories and teachings of Scripture is that, in times of crisis and upheaval in life, the lessons and passages we’ve taken to heart will come to us and strengthen us.

When we were able to gather in the church meetinghouse, toward the end of each Holy Habits series, we would take one Sunday and talk with a neighbor in the pews about the Habit we’d recently been reflecting on.  It’s a great way to get to know other church members a tiny bit, and also practice sharing about what’s meaningful to you in your faith life.  This morning, we’re going to that on Zoom!  Here’s how it works…  (refer to Breakout Room Procedures).  A time of small-group sharing for 8-9 minutes.

Congregation will share their favorite Bible story or teaching passage, and how it helps them in their daily faith journey. In ZOOM BREAKOUT ROOMS.
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The following Reflection, and the Prayers of the People for today are based on a blog and prayer published by Christina Brennan Lee at https://prayersofthepeople.blogspot.com/2020/05/prayers-of-people-fire-in-souls.html

The word Pentecost comes from the Greek for “fiftieth” and carries much ancient history and tradition along with its place on the Christian calendar. On the Jewish calendar, this ancient feast is Shavuot and follows 50 days after Passover. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai; there’s a good chance the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem as part of their celebration of that holiday.  It’s a holiday that remembers and celebrates the giving of the Written Word of God to the people.  So, what we’ve been doing, sharing our favorite parts of the Written Word of God to us in Scripture, is very appropriate on Pentecost!

Being together, conceivably comforted by a familiar and time-honored ritual, the first disciples waited for the unknown sign promised by the resurrected Jesus in his final in-person teachings.

Keep in mind that, in the previous month and a half alone, the disciples had experienced the arrest and violent execution of Jesus, his resurrection, various appearances to them, his ascension, and their own grief and fear and uncertainty at these inexplicable turns of events.  In other words, their world was as being rocked at least as much as ours is today.

In our reading, here they were gathered together again without quite knowing what was next, or when.  Suddenly, Luke says, a sound like a violent wind and tongues of fire are resting on them, and they’re speaking in multiple languages they’d never learned!  It gave them more than good reason to be bewildered, astonished, and amazed! And then, their ministry began in earnest, taking Christ’s message far and wide.

Yeah, yeah.  We’ve heard the story a hundred times.  We probably know it too well; it’s long since ceased to amaze or mystify us because we hear it every year.  In “normal years” we pack the churches at Christmas and Easter.  Yet, come Pentecost, often called the “birthday of the Church”, there’s often less enthusiasm than there over a child’s birthday party.  Of course, Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter are all critical to our Christian history–we’d never have gotten to this point at all without Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection.  But it was the arrival of the Holy Spirit, on that Pentecost, that fired up the Apostles. That was the moment that sent them around the known world proclaiming Christ, converting, and making the way for us to be the Church here, now, more than 2,000 years later. Without that Pentecost, would we still know about Christmas, Good Friday, or Easter?

It is in these pandemic times – fraught with fear, frustration, anger, and intolerance moving with ever-increasing intensity – that we can take the time to stop and read the Biblical texts with new understanding.  A fresh awareness of what it must have been like for those in that Upper Room.  From the devastation of the Crucifixion, to the confusion and the wonder of the resurrection, to the joy of his return among them and suddenly bewildered by his ascension.  As I said earlier, the world of those earliest disciples was being rocked as hard as our own is!  And now, only 10 days after his final leaving…they are waiting…and wondering…for what?  They aren’t sure.  And here we are, 50 days after Easter, 10 days after observing Ascension Day – are we waiting for something?  Wondering?  For what?

For us, today is the day to move beyond merely knowing and repeating the story—though knowing the story well enough to tell it is an important piece of helping us to live the truths of our faith.  Today, let us try to be fully open to the feeling and activity of the Spirit within us – to be as amazed and astonished and bewildered as the Apostles were – and to be reinvigorated and excited.  Because we have that very same powerful, enduring Spirit that was present on the first Pentecost present within us!

On this fiftieth day from Easter, let us know and remember that we, too, are filled with the Holy Spirit!  God in Christ wants us to accept and welcome the extraordinary gifts and abilities bestowed on us, chosen for and unique to each of us.  To be eager and enthusiastic in embracing all that a true life of faith calls us to be and to do.  To live fully in the belief in Christ that we claim to have.

We also celebrate, in keeping with the Jewish faith story that provides the foundation of our own, the giving of the Law on Sinai as our rules of life.  The Law, the Commandments given to Moses were transformed by Jesus into the Greatest Commandment—to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39)

On this “Birthday of the Church”let us claim and share our identity as children of God, equal one and all.  Let us use the language of love with each other, and especially with those who aren’t so lovingly inclined, and with those who have been told in so many ways that they are unlovable.  It is in troubled and troubling times such as these, as we strive to be all that Jesus has shown us we can be, that the Spirit gives us what we need to withstand and overcome the challenges.  Christmas is wonderful, and lovely, and blessed, Easter is fragrant and joyful and full of divine promise.  But with Pentecost comes the true gift that brings fire to our souls and lifts our life’s journey to a new level!  Hallelujah!  Amen.

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Prayers of the People:  (by Christina Brennan Lee)
LET US, GOD’S PEOPLE, PRAY:  When I say the words, Spirit of Goodness and Glory, please respond, “Fall afresh on us.”

Leader:  ~ Most Holy Spirit, Breath of God, let us breathe deeply of Your sacred fire and the gifts that it brings into us, onto us, and through us, to fuel our desire for faith-filled living and action, in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Spirit of Goodness and Glory
 Fall afresh on us

~ Most Holy Spirit, Breath of God, set our tongues alight to speak in the fervent language of Your Truth to the leaders of this Earth, this Country, and this Community, as the voice of those crying in the continuing wilderness of sickness, poverty, intolerance, and injustice. We remember and lift before you those whose names and concerns have already been named, and ask that you also hear our unspoken prayers for the others who need your presence and strength.

Spirit of Goodness and Glory
Fall afresh on us

~ Most Holy Spirit, Breath of God, lighten the burden of pain for those who are weakened in body, spirit, and soul; and ease the worry of all who give comfort and care, if only at a distance. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need.

Spirit of Goodness and Glory
Fall afresh on us

~ Most Holy Spirit, Breath of God, soothe the weary hearts of those who struggle in the midst of grief, as You carry those who have left us into the loving and eternal arms of Christ. We remember those whose names have been mentioned, and we also pray for those who are separated from their loved ones, forced to convalesce in isolation due to the ravages of COVID-19.

Spirit of Goodness and Glory
Fall afresh on us

~ Most Holy Spirit, Breath of God, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials in the silence of this moment …

Spirit of Goodness and Glory
Fall afresh on us

~ Most Holy Spirit, Breath of God, grant an extra measure of Your gifts to those who lead us in Your Church throughout this world, as they earnestly strive to guide our spiritual journey through these trying, uncertain, and in some ways devastating times.

Spirit of Goodness and Glory
Fall afresh on us                                                                                                  

God of Creation, Redemption, and Wisdom, though we are many, we are one body in the one Spirit, all equal yet unique by Your design. Set our hearts ablaze again, that we may seek Your will, keep Your Commandments, and use our earthly lives for the common good of all. We ask through Jesus, who taught us to say:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

 

 

© 2020 The Congregational Church of Hollis, UCC