Reflection – Sunday 31 May 2020 – Pentecost

Here is Thomas Dodd’s reflection for Sunday 31 May.

Thomas will lead our online worship session at 11.00. I will be leading worship this week. If you want to join in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for log in details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

Reflections for Pentecost Sunday 2020

It is my privilege to lead these reflections on Pentecost Sunday and our Sunday worship, (these reflections will be different to our Sunday service), as I would normally be with you on the 5th Sunday of the month. I’d also like to add my thanks to Horace and Elspeth Liberty who were willing to record themselves reading the 1st Reflection and the prayers.

We are discovering what it means to do church differently at the moment aren’t we? Whilst we cannot physically meet together, we can still meet with our risen Lord Jesus, who on this day poured out from heaven the gift he promised, the holy spirit.

The church calls this day Pentecost Sunday.

For today, let us lay aside, whatever our theology, doctrinal beliefs or understanding of what the holy spirit is, let us not let that which can divide us be a stumbling block, for what unites us is our faith in the Lord Jesus, and he is at the centre of our worship today.

Let me gather up all our thoughts in a special prayer set by the church of England for today. A collect, which collects all the themes of the service for Pentecost together.

Holy Spirit, sent by the father, ignite in us your holy fire:

Strengthen us your children with the gift of faith,

Revive your church with the breath of love,

And renew the face of the earth,

Through Jesus Christ our lord.

Amen

Let’s say the Lord’s prayer together

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 trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

Forever and ever

Amen

Our first song in these reflections welcomes the holy spirit among us corporately and individually. Holy Spirit you are welcome here

There is nothing worth more, That will ever come close
Nothing can compare, You’re our living hope, Your presence Lord
I’ve tasted and seen, Of the sweetest of love
When my heart becomes free, And my shame is undone
Your presence Lord

Holy spirit, You are welcome here,

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

You all know by now that I love Frank Topping reflections so here is our first reflection on Peter’s reaction to Pentecost

Reflection 1 –

It isn’t easy to recapture the waiting time. Children remember their birthdays and days of festive celebration, but they forget the restlessness of the night before, the edgy excitement that turns minutes into hours. They forget the prickly, unscratchable itch, deep inside, that makes waiting so excruciatingly unbearable.

You could say that like children, we were restive, fidgety, on edge with expectancy, and not a little apprehensive. Truly, we were both eager and afraid. We longed for the time to pass. He had said, “Before many days”, but no one knew how many.

We had chosen Matthias, to make up the twelve, a disciple from the beginning, from John’s baptism to this very day, and a witness to the resurrection. So, he waited with us in the upper room, fingers tapping, no less impatient for the coming of the Paraclete.

When it came it was sudden, a roar of wind so loud speech was wasted effort. But our eyes spoke our terror as we realized that sound was within, not outside the room! The walls were bathed in such a glow as if a fire raged. And then we saw the flames, at least they looked like flames. Like tongues of fire dancing on our heads. And then, gone. As if recalled by a finger-snap.

And we began to speak in other tongues, not a babble, but a flow of words, in languages we didn’t know, yet understood. That sound had roused the people and they clamoured in the street. People of every nation, Parthians and Medes, travellers from Mesopotamia, from Egypt and Asia. Visitors from Rome, Greeks, Jews and Arabs and all understood.

And me, Simon Peter, the horny-handed Galilean, more at home hauling nets than standing in a pulpit, me, the fisherman from Bethsaida, began to preach, with such power! From the Psalms and from David, I declared our Crucified Christ, Lord and King. I told them they had heard the sound of the breath of God. I called them to repent, to be baptized, to beg the forgiveness of Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And that day, beginning in that hour, in the name of the Father, and of his son Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, there were baptized three thousand souls.

The deed, at last, fitted the word spoken by a total stranger, who called to us as we worked in our boats on the beach, the first words I ever heard him speak. Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”.

Let’s sing again – Holy Spirit we welcome you

holy spirit, we welcome you, holy spirit, we welcome you

move amongst us with holy fire
as we lay aside all earthly desire
hands reach out and hearts aspire
holy spirit, holy spirit, holy spirit, we welcome you

holy spirit, we welcome you, holy spirit, we welcome you

let the breeze of your presence blow,
that your children here might truly know
how to move in the spirit’s flow.
holy spirit, holy spirit, holy spirit, we welcome you

holy spirit, we welcome you, holy spirit, we welcome you

please accomplish in me today
some new work of loving grace I pray
unreservedly have your way
holy spirit holy spirit, holy spirit we welcome you

Reflection 2 –

Let me in this second reflection look at the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is understood in different ways, and so it is important that we don’t let this subject divide us as Christians. Some believe that the Holy Spirit is given to us when we accept Jesus as our friend and believe, others believe that we need to seek for the Holy Spirit and so be baptized in the Holy Spirit at a latter point in our faith Journey. I would argue there is no right answer.

The work of the spirit too is various, he convicts us of our sins and leads us to Jesus and the Father, because the spirit is just as an important part of the trinity and the Father and the Son, because the spirit glorifies them both.

The spirit is described in many ways, as water, as a dew from heaven, as fire, as wind, in a still small voice like a whisper, the spirit gives us power to go out and tell people about Jesus (evangelize).

Let us look at a few verses from Acts chapter 1, verses 4 – 8,

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received power until the Holy Spirit came upon them. This wasn’t just any gift, but it was the gift that the Father promised to give them. We can trust the promises of God in the bible because they are true, because he fulfilled and continues to fulfil today each promise in the bible.

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witness to the ends of the earth.

Power in the Greek here is dunamis, it is special strength given for a special job to do. It’s almost like we are all superheroes given a special mission to do and the special power we have is the Holy Spirit to go and make disciples of all nations until the day he returns.

If you go to a party, there’ll be cake, food, drink, games, music, dancing and sometimes balloons.

Balloons don’t look very interesting when you get them out of the packet, they flop and flip, they only work when you blow air into them. Only then can the balloon do what it’s designed for, to be a decoration at a party, showing their true colour, they may even have a number on their for a birthday party or a wedding anniversary, it could even display a message of love for valentine’s day. But this balloon without the person blowing air into can’t fulfil its job.

That is what the Holy Spirit does for us. Without the spirit we flip and flop like a lifeless balloon, but when God breathes his spirit into us, we can fulfil what God has created us to do, we can fulfil the special mission of making disciples. Yes. balloons leak air, and so do we, after we are filled with the spirit, ever so slightly we leak air in doing the mission God has set for us. God never turns us away when we need more power, he is willing and ready to fill us afresh with his Spirit, so we needn’t feel weak or helpless for the task that he’s given us. All we need to do is ask him to fill us again and again and again and again, and he will.

Reflection 3 –

In this final reflection, let us look deeply at one aspect of the Spirits work, we looked at how the spirit fills us, but let’s look at what the Spirit helps us to do.

Pentecost is a birthday party, because at Pentecost the church was born. Central to a birthday party is a birthday cake, you can’t have a party without a cake can you? Cakes come in all different shapes and sizes, some with chocolate cream some with vanilla, round, square, rectangle, some with layers others with none.

And that is an exact picture of the church. We are like a cake, each of us plays in part in adding to that flavour, and to the structure of the cake.

Let’s look at some verses from 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.

7 The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in a special way. That is for the good of all. 8 To some people the Spirit gives a message of wisdom. To others the same Spirit gives a message of knowledge. 9 To others the same Spirit gives faith. To others that one Spirit gives gifts of healing. 10 To others he gives the power to do miracles. To others he gives the ability to prophesy. To others he gives the ability to tell the spirits apart. To others he gives the ability to speak in different kinds of languages they had not known before. And to still others he gives the ability to explain what was said in those languages. 11 All the gifts are produced by one and the same Spirit. He gives gifts to each person, just as he decides.

I wonder what you need to make a good cake? Flour, eggs, butter, sugar? Maybe some flavouring or dried fruit to go in there?

And when the recipe has been followed, the right amounts added in, baked at the right temperature, the end result is a delicious cake.

But what do we need for a church? A Pastor? Deacons or Elders? Someone to welcome people at the door? Someone to make tea and coffee? Someone to play the organ or piano? Someone to lead Sunday School?

Each of us has a gift given to us by the holy spirit to use, just as the spirit has decided, and when these are all mixed together create a church. Not a perfect church because none of us are perfect, but looking to Jesus, conforming into the image of Jesus, each of us plays our part in helping the church to flourish and be a healthy community of people who are seeking to live our their Christian faith in a dynamic way in the community.

I can’t do what you are called to do, and you can’t do what I am called to do, because the spirit of God has decided what we should do. So, what’s stopping you this morning, trying out for yourself, what’s stopping you getting involved further to help the church to function. Perhaps God is calling you to be a deacon at London Road? Perhaps he’s calling you to phone someone up to have a chat? Perhaps he’ll equip you to start a Sunday School.

Whatever God has called you to do he has given you a special gift from the Holy Spirit, and the spirits power living in you will make this grow, so you can be an effective YOU in the body of Christ.

There are many and differing gifts that God through the Holy Spirit wants to lavish and pour upon us freely through his grace. All God wants from us is to be a willing and empty vessel, open to respond to his call and to the gifts that he brings to us. Gifts of the spirit and the fruits of his spirit too. So that like a good cake that rises whilst baking in the oven, we can grow up and rise up in Christ as a body of people, growing the kingdom of God until one day God comes again for a bountiful harvest.

The Spirit helps us to function and to be the church, God’s special idea and  ingenious idea, to be a community of people who are seeking to live out their faith in a dynamic way, to be the washed hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

Let’s sing again – Spirit of the living God

Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me,

Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me,

Fill me anew, Fill me anew

Spirit of the Lord fall afresh on me.

Prayers-

Missionary God, the followers of Jesus waited behind locked doors, yet your Spirit came to them in power, changing them from a bewildered band into a proclaiming people. We pray for ourselves and for your whole Church, that we might be, open to the empowering presence of your Spirit, open to the gracious gifting of your Spirit, and open to the adventurous leading of your Spirit.

Holy Spirit, as you filled those first Christians with an enthusiasm for the gospel of Christ, so enthuse us, that we may go out into the streets and marketplaces of our world, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.

Holy Spirit, all who heard the apostles’ preaching understood in their own language. Fill us with a vision of the whole earth filled with your glory. Send us out to all people of every race and colour, rich and power, powerful and oppressed, that we may be messengers of the gospel and servants of your kingdom.

Holy Spirit, that first Christian community began a life of sharing in worship and in living. Fill us with a generous spirit, ready to share what we are and what we have with others. Break down our pride, that we might have the grace to receive from the riches of others.

Holy Spirit, God with us, fill your people with power and love, vision and purpose, that we might be agents of your gospel for the whole world: Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Closing hymn – O God of burning Cleansing flame

Oh God of Burning Cleansing Flame, Send the Fire
Your Blood-Bought Gift Today We Claim, Send the Fire Today

Look Down and See This Waiting Host, And Send the Promised Holy Ghost
We Need Another Pentecost
Send the Fire Today, Send the Fire Today

God of Elijah Hear Our Cry, Send the Fire
And Make Us Fit to Live or Die, Send the Fire Today

To Burn Up Every Trace of Sin, To Bring the Light and Glory In
The Revolution Now Begin
Send the Fire Today, Send the Fire Today

It’s Fire We Want for Fire We Plead, Send the Fire
The Fire Will Meet Our Every Need, Send the Fire Today

For Strength to Always Do What’s Right, For Grace to Conquer in The Fight
For Power to Walk the World in White
Send the Fire Today, Send the Fire Today

To Make Our Weak Hearts Strong and Brave, Send the Fire
To Live A Dying World to Save, Send the Fire Today

Oh, See Us on Your Altar Lay, We Give Our Lives to You Today
So Crown the Offering Now We Pray
Send the Fire Today, Send The Fire Today [2]

Commissioning and Closing Prayer

As part of God’s church here in Newark, I call upon you to live out what you proclaim.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, will you dare to walk into God’s future, trusting him to be your guide?

By the Spirit’s power, we will.

Will you dare to embrace each other and grow together in love?

We Will

Will you dare to share your riches in common and minister to each other in need?

We Will

Will you dare to pray for each other until your hearts beat with the longing of God?

We Will

Will you dare to carry the light of Christ into the world’s dark places?

We will

God of power, may the boldness of our Spirit transform us,

May the gentleness of your spirit lead us,

May the gifts of your spirit equip us to serve and worship you,

Now and always. Amen

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, And the Love of God

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all, evermore, Amen

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