Bradenton-Sarasota Community of Christ
Online Service – May 31, 2020
Unity through Spirit
Welcome on this Day of Pentecost, celebrated 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. Pentecost is the dramatic event in which God enters with spiritual power the house of gathered apostles, who came from many parts of the world. Amid diversity, the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to proclaim the peace of Jesus Christ. As the story unfolds, each person present could understand the preaching of the apostles, even though they spoke different languages. Pentecost for us today testifies of the continuing gift of the Holy Spirit calling us to live in Christ’s promise.
Song for Pentecost – A Great Song for Pentecost by Consuming Fire
Call to Worship – Acts 2:1-4
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it rested upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Dear Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, we thank you for this day of Pentecost. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for the vision of the peaceable kingdom of God on Earth symbolized by the first Christians in the book of Acts. May we experience the blessings of community and the hope of Zion this day and every day. Amen.
Ministry of Music – Of All the Spirits Gifts to Me by Jim Deering
Prayer for Peace
Holy Spirit of Peace, in our confusion we sometimes speak in the language of division. We ignore the pleas of brothers and sisters and pretend not to hear languages other than our own. Yet in our moments of connection with the Spirit of Peace, we find enduring truth through unity in diversity. We know that holy justice calls us into relationship with others whose superficial differences all too often become the brand of tribe—those who share values and passions. Let us insist on justice in the pursuit of peace. Let us find the ear of the powerful and give voice to the supplications of the weak. Let your Holy Spirit of Peace reign over the Earth, we pray in the name of the One who gives us peace. Amen.
Morning Message – High Priest Nanette Dizney
“Unity through Spirit” is the theme for this Sunday. What a much needed theme in our lives for today! We have just completed another biblical journey in the Christian and Jewish faiths, the Pentecost. This story is found in the second chapter of Acts.
Acts was written by the same author as the Gospel according to Luke. There are many parallels between the two books. If the Gospel is the story of Jesus, then the book of Acts is the story of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Spirit is responsible for the birth of Jesus in Luke chapters 1 and 2, in today’s text the Spirit is responsible for the birth of the church. The promise of John the Baptist in Luke 3:16 that people would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, is fulfilled in today’s text. The Spirit that descended on Jesus (Luke 3:22), now descends on the disciples giving power to the church. Just as Jesus began his ministry filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples are beginning their ministry filled with that same Spirit.
This is the second book in the Bible written by Luke, who was described by Al Mount in last week’s talk.
For the Jews, the festival of Pentecost is a celebration of giving the Law on Mount Sinai. During that encounter with God there were dramatic signs—thunder, lightning, smoke, and fire (Exodus 19:16–24). Celebration also included the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of the Harvest.
On this particular day in history, a large group of people were gathered in Jerusalem for the Festivals. Pentecost was one of three most important festivals for the Jews (the others being Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles). The word Pentecost means “fiftieth.” It was celebrated on the 50th day after the Sabbath on which Passover began. For Christians Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter.
This included mostly Jewish people from many lands. But the disciples of Jesus were still huddled together in a room having just experienced the Ascension of Jesus last week. They were still trying to figure out what they were supposed to do next.
Acts 2:1-2 – When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force – no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building.
The Disciples were together possibly fearing for their lives, Can you imagine a wind so strong that the doors fly open, their togas are flapping in the breeze, their hats blowing off, like we might feel at the beginning of a hurricane? It brings a bit of fear and wonderment at the same time.
V. 3-4 – Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them,
This part reminded me so much of the time we had the children running through the church with red, yellow and orange streamers waving in the air. The streamers were touching each child on their faces and bodies and some congregants, too. The story says that tongues of fire rested on each of them.
V.5-8 – There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?”
This was the moment of Unity through the Spirit. They hear in their own languages the Good News proclaimed by simple, Galileans.
V.9-14 – Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.” That’s when Peter stood up, backed up by the other eleven.
The people gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost were biblically literate, faithful folk who had come to the most holy city in search of an experience with God. Some place names and nationalities may not be familiar to us. Who are the Medes? Others like Arabs jump out at us. Arabs? Egypt. The list is even stranger when we consider that all these people were Jews and converts to Judaism. Jewish Arabs? This sounds like a contradiction in terms.
This day in Jerusalem is different from other days. This day a great tumult, the sounds of a party descend over the neighborhood. People rush out to see what was happening. Some make fun at the enthusiasm seeing public drunkenness to the reality of God’s presence. Peter seems to begin to fully understand what Jesus was trying to explain to the Disciples and his followers all along, Some of the people listen to Peter as he explains what is happening with a prophecy from Joel.
V.14-21 – That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk – it’s only nine o’clock in the morning.”
“This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen: ‘In the Last Days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy. I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, Blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous; And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved.'”
People stayed to listen to Peter because he was relating his real experience with God, the thing that many people came to Jerusalem to find. Peter explains who Jesus of Nazareth was, how he was crucified and rose again. Luke tells us that when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
Three thousand responded. Three thousand. Just as the Holy Spirit blew through Jerusalem some 2000 years ago, God’s spirit is blowing through this community – blowing through our church and our lives: blowing away fears – and breathing in new energy and life that we might continue to do the work God has called us to do: to spread the good news of Jesus the Christ.
Henri Nouwen has said, “The world is waiting for new saints, ecstatic men and women who are so deeply rooted in the love of God that they are free to imagine a new international order…Most people despair that (it) is possible. They cling to old ways and prefer the security of their misery to the insecurity of their joy. But the few who dare to sing a new song of peace are the new St. Francises of our time, offering a glimpse of a new order that is being born out of the ruin of the old.”
And I would echo Nouwens’s statement, and say that the church is waiting for new saints, ecstatic men and women… The Spirit calls us to figure out what it is that we hope for, and then to live inside that hope, under its roof, to run up and down its halls touching its walls on both sides. The Spirit calls us to envision the future as it should be, and then to live as if that future is already here.
Ministry of Music – A Million Dreams by Dave and Claire Crosby
Disciples’ Generous Response
We lift our voices, we lift our hands, we lift our lives up to you; we are an offering.
Lord, use our voices, Lord, use our hands, Lord, use our lives, they are yours; we are an offering.
All that we have, all that we are, all that we hope to be, we give to you, we are an offering.
Let us live these words through our willingness to share in response to the love and generosity of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.
As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings. When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.
Sent Forth with the Spirit – Spirit Song by the Maranatha Singers
O let the Son of God enfold you with His Spirit and His Love, Amen.
This service was prepared by Carolyn Deering and Nanette Dizney.