Service:- 31 May 2020
Hello and welcome to Elderslie Kirk online. This is our tenth our online services, and again I thank everyone who has taken the time to pass on comments and observations.
Once again this week we have some video greetings and a number of teacup pictures and I hope that many more of you will send in videos and pictures in the weeks to come.
This week we celebrate Pentecost the event which can in many ways be seen as the birth of the church. To mark Pentecost the Moderator of the General Assembly has put together an only act of worship for the whole church. If you want to watch this you will be able to find it on the Church of Scotland’s Facebook page or by following the link This service, and resources relating to it, are now available for download for those who wish to embed the video in websites or social media, or to use in other ways, at the following link: https://stream1.churchofscotland.org.uk/worship/weekly-worship/pentecost.
Our thoughts this week focuses on the power and work of the Holy Spirit
Reading: Acts 2:1-11
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. 2 Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world. 6 When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited, because all of them heard the believers talking in their own languages. 7 In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, “These people who are talking like this are Galileans! 8 How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages? 9 We are from Parthia, Media, and Elam; from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; from Pontus and Asia, 10 from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene. Some of us are from Rome, 11 both Jews and Gentiles converted to Judaism, and some of us are from Crete and Arabia—yet all of us hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things that God has done!” 12 Amazed and confused, they kept asking each other, “What does this mean?”
13 But others made fun of the believers, saying, “These people are drunk!”
Creating a People
Over the last ten weeks as we’ve travelled through Easter, and then the stories of Jesus resurrection appearances I have often found myself reading words and phrases that don’t (at first sight at least) fit with our present situation, and that is particularly true this week as we turn our attention to the events of Pentecost.
The Pentecost story, as Luke recounts it for us, is full of ideas that go against everything that’s happening at the moment.
Luke begins his account by saying: “They [Jesus followers] were all together in one place.” And I’m tempted to respond, “The chance would be a fine thing, we can only dream and hope for a time when we can gather together again.”
Luke describes the curious crowd that gathered outside, And again I’m tempted to respond, “The chance would be a fine thing. How long before a crowd of this size can get together?”
And Luke tells us how the disciples went out to speak to the crowd. And again I want to say, “The chance would be a fine thing, if only we could talk to anyone, even one or two people never mind a group of people.”
“They were all together in one place.” That’s how Luke sets up the Pentecost story. “They were all together in one place.” Of course they were. And that one place was behind closed doors, out of sight, out of harm’s way.
Perhaps they had decided there was safety in numbers; perhaps they just didn’t know where to go next, how to move on from here.
One thing was clear: They weren’t ready for public scrutiny, for the resumption of a daily routine.
So, “they were all together in one place.” The core group of Jesus’ followers, were in hiding, afraid of their memories, afraid of their world, afraid of their own convictions.
And suddenly the Spirit broke in, or should that be broke out, and could no longer be contained by the limits of that hiding place, by the limits of their fear. Suddenly the wind blows! Suddenly a fire ignites! Suddenly everything is turned on its head. The status quo isn’t just disturbed; it’s totally shattered! We look away for a moment, and as we look back, everything is different. The world, or at least the world of these disciples, is re-created.
Words fail to adequately tell the story, We use the words “wind” or “spirit,” as we attempt to communicate what happened. But, tempest or whirlwind, might better describe this spirit-filled moment, like the rush of a powerful, mighty wind.
What’s going on here? What is this wild and strange episode all about? It’s easy to make this an individual personal thing, to talk about someone being “filled with the Spirit” or having “the gifts of the Spirit”.
But, as one writer says: “the Spirit is not solely about the business of working within us but also about working among us, “The Spirit inter-dwells my neighbour and myself for our communion with God and with one another.”
Or as another explains: “The work of the Spirit… created a people who were so interesting and perplexing that outsiders came running and asked, ‘What’s going on here?’ ”
The curious crowd gathering with their questions might suggest that the disciples were “windswept and interesting.”
The Pentecost story is as much about God between us as it is about God within us.
And the clear result of Pentecost is the creation of a people. Pentecost was a collective phenomenon. The experience that was compared to wind and fire is a uniting force.
So this Pentecost drama isn’t just about what Simon Peter, or Mary, or James experienced, but about what all those who were together shared, about what empowered them, and about what sent them out into the city.
We’re getting into the essence of the church here, into what it is that has marked generations of Christians as interesting and perplexing. It turns out that it’s our common windblown look! Our shared experience of an indwelling and inter-dwelling Spirit pulls us together in ways that are both powerful and irresistible and then sends us out with strength and confidence.
It pulls us together in the same way that a whirlwind pulls everything it touches into its centre. And this is how the church is born: the Spirit pulls individuals together to create a people, a people who bear the signs of their encounter with that wild and powerful wind and who then carry that windblown wildness into all the corners of their lives.
They celebrate the community into which they have been drawn, and long for justice to be the mark of their life together. And they will move out into the world, telling Christ’s story and sharing their lives with others.
But, these windblown believers soon discover that the inter-dwelling Spirit doesn’t brings no rest or safety. Peace and serenity are not the marks of this Spirit, nor does its powerful tempest allow for things to be neat or tidy.
In this environment, the expectation is that we will bump up against things, will be thrown into new and challenging situations, that circumstances are never under our control, and that standing still isn’t an option.
What’s emerging here is an image of the church, a picture of the life of those who have been drawn together by God’s Spirit as a new people, and the connection they share doesn’t depend on physical closeness but on something far stronger.
And so we return to where we started. “They were all together in one place.” They were a community of people who knew Jesus and who found comfort and security in one another’s company. Well, we’re not together in one place, we’re not allowed to be together at all, at yet, through the Spirit, we are still joined together as one community.
Even though we are forced to be distant from one another physically, the Spirit draws us together and connects us to one another spiritually. We are a community of people who know Jesus and who find comfort and security in one another’s company, even if that company isn’t in person.
The questions that confronted those earliest disciples confront us as well. Like them, we can find ourselves asking: What awaits us in the weeks and months ahead? What will God call us to be and do? What will people say to us, or about us?
And perhaps the most critical question is, “What will happen when the wind starts to blow?” because, let’s face it, most of us come to church for a little peace and quite we don’t expect to be stepping into the teeth of a gale.
And so we affirm the inter-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. We affirm a perpetual Pentecost, the day when, by the Holy Spirit, God began creating, and continues to create, a new people. The wind, the Spirit of God, that we celebrate on this Pentecost Sunday is blowing us, forming us, shaping us into this new people, into God’s people, into a diverse but united community of people who share that windblown look; into a people who have known and shared the love of God, a people united by that love and compelled to go out and offer it to one another and to the whole of creation.
Gracious God, Spirit of Life,
surging freely, loving generously, seeking endlessly,
move upon the face of our world
and embrace all its creatures with grace.
Startle the powerful and the humble
with your power and tenderness,
your purpose and determination,
your patience and mercy.
Father of us all,
we thank you for your nurture and your care –
for how you pour your gifts out upon the earth
blessing your people
not only with bread and wine,
but with talents and abilities,
with dreams and visions,
and with all that goes to make us one body –
a body of light –
of love and of care –
of healing and of witness.
Lord, we come to you to thank you
for the privilege we have to be a part of your family.
We thank you for your goodness –
we thank you for your love.
Help us to remain consistent
in our relationship with you
and in our daily walk as believers.
May we return good for evil
and bless those who curse us.
Keep us focussed on following in the footsteps of Christ
and doing as he did.
God of beauty and power and compassion –
we know that you are in the business
of changing hearts and lives
through the witness of your people
and the urging of your Spirit
and we thank you for it.
Make us fitting witnesses
and grant us the grace to be people
who reach out at every opportunity that comes to us –
to be instruments of your healing
and transforming power.
We think, O Lord,
not only of ourselves, not only of our families,
but we think of the world and those in it
who need wholeness, who need peace,
who need a reason to have hope.
Lord too we ask you to listen as we hold up before you
those in this world who have little,
those who because of the country of their birth
or the social circumstances they face
suffer hunger and thirst,
injustice and war,
and the other plagues that nations visit upon nations
and even neighbours inflict upon neighbours.
Grant that there may be
a true sharing of those things that earth affords.
Lord too hear our prayers
for those people who even now
are upon our heart and minds.
Time of Silence
These things oh God,
we bring before as a family, as your family,
as people who would be one with you
and with each other
though Christ Jesus,
who taught us to pray to you saying…
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.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the kingdom
The power and the glory, forever.
Videos and / or pictures can be sent it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, please remember
that although the church building is closed
the church community remains open.
If anyone requires assistance please get in touch.
And may we all keep safe.
May the God of peace go with us
May the love of Jesus keep us
firm in hope and full of grace.