I have a special affinity for Pentecost Sunday. It may have something to do with a bit of Pentecostal background (and the fact that I wrote a book on spiritual gifts -- Unfettered Spirit: Spiritual Gifts for the New Great Awakening), but nonetheless -- Pentecost Sunday stands out as powerful witness to God's ongoing presence and work in the world. The texts that David Ackerrman has chosen for Pentecost Sunday are intriguing. In his Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary we start with a reading from Isaiah 60 -- a text full of promise of harvest blessings as the responsive Call to Worship. From there we move to the reading from Deuteronomy, which reminds us that Pentecost was a harvest festival -- and such is the case with that first Day of Pentecost. The reading from Galatians 3 reminds us that the Spirit of God comes to us as a gift. We don't own the Spirit, control the Spirit, or even deserve it -- it is, after all a gift of grace. Finally, the reading from John 3, reminds us that not only does the Spirit come to us as a gift of grace, the Spirit is given without measure. As Pentecost nears, let us prepare to receiving the harvest of God's overflowing and unfettered Spirit!
“God Gives Us the Holy Spirit”
Call to Worship: Isaiah 60:19-22 NRSV
One: The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Many: Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
One: Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever. They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified.
Many: The least of them shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the Lord; in its time I will accomplish it quickly.
Gathering Prayer: Come to us today, Spirit of God, and fill us. Show us your presence here as we gather to be with you, to praise you, and to give you glory.
Confession: So often, God, we have grieved your Holy Spirit. We have wasted your gifts on things that do not matter, and we have lived as though you weren’t really real. Forgive us, God. Help us to know that even though there are times when you seem far away, you are closer to us than our nearest breath.
Assurance: God lavishly and abundantly pours the Holy Spirit into our lives so that we have grace beyond measure. Through this generosity, we know that our sins are forgiven and that we have been given new lives this day. May we respond with overflowing gratitude to God for this amazing gift!
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 16:9-12 – “The Feast of Weeks”
Galatians3:1-5 – “Spirit and Flesh”
John3:31-36 – “The Spirit without Measure”
Commentaries and sermon helps are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
- What, connections can you see between the Feast of Weeks as it is described in Deuteronomy 16 and the Christian celebration of Pentecost? Do you see any connections between this festival and the promise shared by the prophet in Isaiah 60?
- Why do you think Paul’s tone is so edgy in Galatians 3? What point is he making to them about the difference between the Spirit and flesh?
- When John 3 states that the one whom God has sent “gives the Spirit without measure” what does that mean to you? What do you think is the reason for the reference to God’s wrath in v 36?
- Some Christians say that they have a hard time relating to or understanding the Holy Spirit. Do you believe that God gives you the Spirit? What do you think the Holy Spirit is like? Do we have the Spirit or does the Spirit have us?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: Our expressions of gratitude are not enough to thank you for the gift of your Spirit in our lives. Teach us to show how thankful we are by living as you call us to live.