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Apologies… my posts have been running a little later than usual. I normally post 9 days in advance but with moving and having family in town, things are running late!
Revised Common Lectionary readings (note there are alternative readings this day): Acts 2:1-21; Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23; John 7:37-39
It is here! We have traveled through Lent and Easter and have arrived at Pentecost!
We celebrate Pentecost, the ancient Jewish spring harvest feast-day as the church’s birthday. We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early followers of Jesus, told briefly in John 20:19-23 after Jesus has appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection, and in great detail, wonder and confusion in Acts 2:1-21. John 7:37-39 foreshadows this coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Christian community, but we must read our English translations carefully where it says “for as yet there was no spirit” because we know the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, has been around since the beginning.
In Genesis 1:2 “a wind from God swept over the waters” and in Genesis 1:26 God says “let us make humankind in our image.” Wind and breath are the same word in Hebrew, ruah, and in Greek, pneuma. Throughout the story of Creation in Genesis, God creates, but when God speaks of creating humankind, God speaks in the plural. Christians have long interpreted the Trinity to be present since the beginning in God’s speaking in the plural. But Psalm 104 also eludes to the Spirit’s presence in the creation of all creatures, when God sends forth God’s spirit (Psalm 104:30). John’s Gospel begins with an illusion to creation that the Christ has been present since the beginning but became incarnate in Jesus. The Holy Spirit, while present from the beginning, was not experienced yet among the Christian community, for Jesus was with them. The ability to perform miracles and heal and teach and inspire were gifts from Jesus to the disciples, but once Jesus had ascended, these gifts were attributed to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.
Our passage from Numbers is another telling of the Holy Spirit coming down upon chosen leaders, seventy elders of the people, along with two others, Eldad and Medad. These elders along with these two named ones left in the camp were given the gifts of prophesying. The elders were able to prophesy once, but it appears Eldad and Medad received the Spirit in such a way that they could continue to prophesy.
Today, at ordination services for clergy, the tradition of laying on of hands is practiced, inviting the Holy Spirit to bless and gift the person being ordained for ministry. We attribute this practice to the early church, but in reality, the receiving of the Holy Spirit is a tradition going back to Moses. And from the beginning, there have been folks who were not among the considered “elders” or chosen leaders who have received the Spirit and have been able to use the gifts God has given them for ministry. And Paul expands the definition of spiritual gifts beyond prophesy and preaching, but that there are a variety of gifts, and we all have our own unique gifts given by the Holy Spirit to work together as the body of Christ, to build Christ’s reign on earth.
The Holy Spirit does not just come down upon the clergy, but upon all who believe. Jesus eludes to Isaiah and Zechariah when he says, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water,” in John 7:38, and verse 39 lets us know Jesus was speaking about the Spirit, causing believers to share in the life-giving power of Christ by sharing the Good News with others.
In my baptism preparation when I was thirteen, I was asked by my minister to choose two adults that I wanted to be mentors. Being the first person baptized in our little American Baptist congregation in Alaska, we didn’t have a Baptism class. I met once or twice with the minister before I was baptized. I still didn’t know exactly what the ritual meant, but I knew I wanted to be part of it. The two mentors stood nearby, along with my family and the rest of the church, while I was baptized in Meier Lake (in August, it wasn’t that cold!). When I came out of the water, and had towels placed around me, I was asked to kneel, and the two mentors along with my pastor laid their hands upon me.
In my Baptist tradition, we believe not only in the ministry of the laity but in the priesthood of all believers. In a sense, at our baptism we all receive the Holy Spirit and are ordained for ministry. We may not all be headed towards pastoral ministry (in fact very few of us are), but we all have a ministry God has called us to. Our little church rented space from the local Episcopal church, and in the bathrooms written on a card taped to the mirror were the words, “You are looking at a minister.” I have never forgotten that, and I hope, now that I understand more, that all who saw those words would remember that upon our baptism, we have become ordained for the ministry of Jesus Christ, equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit. And there are a variety of gifts, as Paul shares, and a variety of ways of fulfilling that calling. May we who are clergy remember the calling, blessing, empowerment and ordination of those who do not follow a professional clergy call but are fulfilling Christ’s ministry in other ways, as Eldad and Medad did long ago among the company of Moses, empowered by the Holy Spirit that we celebrate today.
Call to Worship (from John 7:37-39; Psalm 46:4; and Revelation 22:1):
Leader: Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.”
People: There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.
Leader: Jesus said, “Let the one who believes in me drink.”
People: The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb
Leader: Jesus said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
People: The river of life springs up in us
Leader: Let us come into this place of worship, ready to drink and share the Living Water.
People: Let us receive the Spirit of Life and Truth.
Prayer of Confession:
Gracious God, we confess that we have not lived fully into Your Spirit. We have denied our gifts, saying we are not good enough or worthy enough of Your call on our lives. We have denied others our ministry, believing someone else is more powerful or has more authority. We have denied Your Spirit by believing we are too small to make a difference, too powerless to be of any help. Forgive us, O God, when we deny Your gifts bestowed on us instead of denying ourselves to take up the cross, for when we deny our human excuses, we live fully into Your power and grace, knowing that we have the ability to follow You to the cross and beyond. Give us the courage to bravely live into Your call on our lives, to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Spirit, we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Holy Spirit, blow through us, renew us, restore us. Holy Spirit, call us into our true being as Your children. Holy Spirit, create in us a new heart full of love for You and for each other. We are forgiven, restored, and renewed, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Holy Spirit, guide us on this journey of life to follow The Way set before us by Jesus the Christ. As you blew open the windows and filled the house where the disciples were gathered on that day long ago, blow in us, renew in us our commitment to follow Jesus the Christ. Remind us of the great gifts You have given us for Your ministry, and call upon us again to remember our own ministry You have given us, for all of us are ministers, all of us have gifts, all of us are called by You. Renew, restore and revive us, O Holy Spirit. In the name of God our Creator, Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit, the Three in One, Amen.