art: Wenzel Hablik; written content: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber
As we continue selfless practices such as remote worship, as we adapt and welcome new, safe ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times.
- You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
- Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed.
- A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
- Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
- Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
- Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence as the Holy Spirit as we do at church on Pentecost Sunday – images of doves, flames, and the color red. Wear something red.
Time for Children
“Out of the Bag: Love-Listening” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Call to Worship
Amazed and astonished where those who gathered in the name of a gift-giving God. Amazed and perplexed where those who did not understand each other finding themselves praising God together.
On Pentecost, we join the original Ring of Fire celebrating the foundation of the universal Church the birth of the Body of Christ. Are we ready to be amazed? Are we ready to be astonished? Are we ready to be perplexed?
Come Holy Spirit, Come! Surprise us and move us. Heal us and change us. Amen.
Light the Christ Candle
Song for Welcoming the Holy Spirit
Suggestion: “Surely the Presence of the Lord” – L Wolfe, WOLFE (#263 Chalice)
We Unburden and Gather Hope
Naming Our New Reality
Pentecost is a day of gathering… so how are WE to celebrate together when we are separated from each other? Let us assemble the memory of our church friends, dear ones in heaven, and loved ones around the world. In their spiritual presence, reflect upon the past week with your housemates or speak directly to Jesus. Be honest and kind as you remember the highs and the lows of the past week.
We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God. (pause)
Be still and know that I am. (pause)
Be still and know. (pause)
Be still. (pause)
Sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. Your mind and feelings will be active; this is natural. With compassion, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings but do not engage them. Practice choosing to refocus on God. Don’t worry; we all get distracted. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our fleeting thoughts, we give God a beautiful gift. Please be kind to yourself. Each act of inner compassion helps us be kinder to others. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God and say, “Amen.”
Acts of Unburdening and Affirming
Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle thinking or speaking whatever you wish to offer to God for release or gratitude. These offerings need not be named. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.
Prayer of Thanksgiving for God’s Grace
Holy God, just when we think it is impossible— You break into our lives in new ways. You appear in new forms. You speak through the voices of strangers. You open our ears to hear voices enflamed with praise. We are humbled and grateful, Almighty God, for the on-going gift of Your presence as the Holy Spirit.
Today, we still into Your grace which releases us from old misunderstandings; which cures the word-wounds we have spoken and heard; which opens us to the very persons we push away. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Acts 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version)
(Need help with pronunciation? Visit: https://biblespeak.org/p-words/)
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs— in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon this Holy Word. Amen.
Reflection Upon Being “Amazed, Astonished, and Perplexed”
(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead or with this material.)
Today we Christians celebrate the Church’s birthday which occurred at an ancient Jewish festival. International Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks, or Shavuot, fifty days after Passover. Greek-speaking followers of Jesus came to call this historic event “Pentēkostē” πεντηκοστή) — Greek for “fiftieth day” – thus our word: “Pentecost.”
The first Christian Pentecost took place as Jews observed the annual celebration of the gift of the Torah (God’s Law) presented to Moses on Mount Sinai. You may recall that when the liberated Hebrews were in the wilderness their leader Moses had gone to talk directly to God. When they saw the sacred mountain burst into flames, they believed Moses had been consumed by God’s fiery presence. Instead, Moses returned with the stone tablets etched by God – The Law (Ten Commandments) – a holy gift to ensure moral guidance.
The Shavuot celebration after Jesus’ death and resurrection was a time of deep confusion for the followers of Jesus. They missed Jesus and were disappointed that the promised helper had not arrived. How fitting that during a celebration of the Torah (Holy Law) God gave another holy gift of spiritual guidance — the Holy Spirit!
Those gathered in Jerusalem that year may have shared a religion, but there were turbulent divisions among them. They were diverse in belief and practice, status and wealth, culture and language. Between those who believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and those who did not were serious conflicts. Imagine a divisive Christian gathering today and you’ll get a good idea what that Shavuot festival was like. Yet, it was into that very real human conflict and suffering, a gathering of mistrust and hostility, that God appeared in a new way.
Scripture describes a mighty wind blowing and non-destructive flames burning on the tops of people’s heads — harmless flames like the bush from which God spoke to Moses. And then something even more amazing happened. Despite their diverse languages and heated misunderstandings those present heard each other praise God in their mother tongue! Absolutely unimaginable! They were amazed, and astonished, and perplexed! Can you imagine?
We certainly can imagine a world of competing forces – of “us” against “them.” Such divisions exist everywhere including within our own religious communities. We often study this reading for insight into the spiritual grace of speaking in tongues or the beauty of the linguistic diversity of The Church. Today, let’s consider “speaking and interpretation” as symbols of a much larger grace. This story tells us about a God-granted ability to hear and understand the nobility of “the other.” God’s mighty work as the Holy Spirit tears down what we mortals have built up which separates us from each other and from God, too.
Pentecost Sunday is the perfect time to reflect upon the people in our lives who “speak another language.” These may be family members or neighbors, fellow church members or co-workers. They may actually speak other languages or come from a different culture or ethnic group. More likely, though, they are aligned with social and political movements different than our own. Daily we are encouraged to mistrust others. We’re taught to take sides. God wants something different from us – a humanity of diversity which lifts up everyone.
What might God’s Holy Spirit be doing today? Have you noticed new hope or compassion bringing people together? Have you been surprised by conversations creating new bonds of respect and understanding? Maybe God is reforming us again, guiding us back to each other?
This Pentecost Sunday most Christians will not be gathering together physically due to an invisible coronavirus. Maybe, God is using this unique time to “infect” us with a spiritual agent that draws us together spiritually through increased respect, concern, and affection for each other?
May we be amazed, astonished, and perplexed as God fills us with the Holy Spirit.
Song of Commitment
Suggestions: “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove” – I Watts, ST AGNES (#248 Chalice, #157 HOL) “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” – E Hatch, TRENTHAM (#254 Chalice)
Prayers of Petition
Let us pray not only for Christ’s Church but for all humans on earth. Today, let us allow the pain of human separation and violence to rise in consciousness that we may offer this suffering to God. May our prayers ripple out from the personal to our households, through our neighborhoods and communities, among the nations around the globe, and out into the vast cosmos. May God’s Holy Spirit come and fill all of us with an inclusive and surprisingly sweet, sweet Spirit.
Song for Prayer
Suggestion: “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” – D Akers, SWEET, SWEET SPIRIT (#260 Chalice)
The Lord’s Prayer
Imagine the sanctuary where you usually worship. Let the memory of your Beloved Community fill your soul and let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:
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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
We Give Thanks
“Be the Church” is popular slogan encouraging Christians to focus upon service and engagement. The Holy Spirit empowers us to make these actions. How is the Spirit stirring in you, your household, your faith community? How are you called to care about those you’ve been taught to discount, push aside, or hate? How might you give your time, talent, or treasure to uplift communities you have not supported? (please see donation footnote)
Suggestion: “Imagine” John Lennon, performed by Taliamondine (Janice Young and family, permission granted) YouTube: https://youtu.be/uSpV1zVKY74
We Continue in Hope
Song of Hope
Suggestion: “Help Us Accept Each Other” – F Kaan, ACCEPTANCE (#487 Chalice)
Prayer of St Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
May the Ever-Giving God send a new Spirit upon all of us – a spirit of mutual affection, a Big Love, so radical that everyone will wonder what we’ve been drinking. Let us go forth in peace. Amen.
* this concludes the service *
Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995
Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995
HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.
YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results
Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to a group that benefits people under special duress. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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