Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Narrative Lectionary: Pentecost, Fruits of the Spirit, Acts 2:1-4; Galatians 4:1-7 (5:16-26) (Luke 11:11-13)
For more ideas for Pentecost, see the Pentecost page under Special Resources.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts takes place on the day of Pentecost, the spring festival of the first fruits of harvest. It was one of the pilgrimage festivals in which Jewish people from all over the Roman Empire would come to Jerusalem. Many of them only spoke a little Hebrew that was needed for worship and were native speakers of the local languages from where they lived. When the disciples began speaking to them in their own languages, they were astounded. For the disciples had experienced the Holy Spirit while they were gathered together, like the rush of a violent wind, and divided tongues as of fire had rested on their heads. Peter proclaims to the crowds, some of whom are grumbling that the disciples are drunk, that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, prophesied by the prophet Joel, and that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
The prophet Ezekiel was told by God to prophesy to a valley of dry bones in 37:1-14. Ezekiel lived during the time of the Babylonian Empire’s attack in Judah and later siege of Jerusalem. All he could see was death and destruction, probably an old battlefield. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, and they rose up. However, there was no breath in them. Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, and they became alive. God declared that though the people of Israel had been without hope, God would bring them hope. God would bring them back to live in the land they were promised, even if God had to open the graves to do it.
Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise to God, giving thanks for creation. In vs. 24-34, 35b, the psalmist sings of how all God’s creatures are made from God’s wisdom, and how God provides for them. However, when their breath is taken from them, they die and return to the dust. When God sends forth the spirit, they are renewed. The psalmist sings praise for all of creation and rejoices in God the creator.
Paul writes of all creation groaning in labor pains, until now, in Romans 8:22-27. All of humanity and creation has been waiting for redemption. Paul reminds the church in Rome that while they are groaning, they are waiting for a hope unseen, and the Spirit intercedes in their prayers with “sighs too deep for words.” God knows our hearts because of the work of the Spirit in us.
(If Ezekiel is chosen as the first passage, then Acts 2:1-21 is used instead of Romans 8:22-27).
Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Advocate to come in John 15:26-27, and 16:4b-15. Jesus spoke to the disciples before his arrest and death, and he knew some of them are afraid and full of sadness. Nonetheless, Jesus told them he must die in order for the Advocate to come. The Holy Spirit as Advocate would prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the spirit will guide the disciples into the truth and declare what is to come.
The Narrative Lectionary also focuses on Pentecost, with Acts 2:1-4. In these first four verses, we know that the disciples gathered together for Pentecost in one place, and the Holy Spirit came upon them like a rush of a violent wind, and divided tongues like fire rested upon each one of them. They were full of the Holy Spirit and had the ability to speak different languages.
Paul continues his argument to the Galatians in 4:1-7 that Gentiles are also heirs of the promise. Those who were born under the law also needed redemption, the same as those outside the law, and through Jesus, gentiles are children of God and heirs of the same promises of God. Because of the Holy Spirit, we all call God our Abba, our Father, our Parent. In 5:16-26, Paul speaks of two different ways of living. Living by the flesh, living by the world, means satisfying one’s desires through whatever feels good, including hate, fighting, adultery, idolatry, jealousy, and other things. These things go against God’s teachings and harm others. Living by the Spirit, however, produces the fruits of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There’s no law against those things. To live with the Spirit means to live by the Spirit.
In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit gives good gifts to those who ask of the Spirit, for even people who are evil give good gifts to children. So God also gives good gifts to God’s children through the Holy Spirit.
Ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek are the words for wind, spirit, and breath. God breathes life into creation, and that life is the Spirit. When breath ceases, the Spirit goes on. We know the work of God through the Holy Spirit in the good works we do, through the gifts of God that we use and share, through the fruits of the Spirit that we bring forth—in our very way of life. People will know we are faithful followers of Jesus by the way we live. This is more of a testimony to our faith than a spoken or written confession. Our lives are examples of our faith.
Call to Worship
God’s Spirit has poured out on all flesh,
All our children shall prophesy.
Young people shall see visions,
Seniors shall dream dreams.
Even upon those whose voices are marginalized,
God’s spirit is poured out, and they will prophesy.
Rejoice, and worship God!
For the Spirit of God has come upon us all!
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Spirit of God, we confess that we have failed to live into Your ways. We have failed to trust You in our lives. We have failed to use the gifts of the Spirit to further the reign of God in this world. Forgive us for our shortcomings. Forgive us when we have focused on our own personal gains, on our own security and well-being, and neglected the call of the Spirit for the sake of the world. Forgive us, call us into accountability, and move us into Your ways of love, justice, and mercy. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
The Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. God knows our hearts. God knows our prayers. God hears us when we confess our sins, and when we turn back to God. God knows we desire to set our lives right. Receive these words of assurance: you are God’s beloved child. Whenever you turn back, God is waiting with open arms. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Go and share the Good News. Amen.
Holy Spirit, come into us as a cleansing fire. Purify our hearts from the blemishes of this world: the desires for wealth and notoriety, the consuming of vital resources, the lust for power. Burn in us so that we might live into the ways of the Spirit: love and kindness, mercy and peace—ways that live for others and not only for ourselves. Holy Spirit, dwell in us, burn brightly in us, and help us to shine Your way into the world. Amen.