Sunday, June 5, 2022

Pentecost

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INTROIT
Burning in My Soul
by Matt Maher

CALL TO WORSHIP       
We are given water
To renew our arid paths.
We are given fire
To ignite our dreams.
We are given winds
To move us towards our visions.
We are given the earth
In which we plant seeds of hope.
Through the pieces of Creation, we see the steadfast presence of God.
Through the stirring of the Spirit, we no longer standstill.

PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Divine Spirit, your holy wind moves seeds to be trees, bulbs to be lilies, and clouds to be rainbows. We especially thank you for the unique ways we are all created. You breathed, and we came alive. We breathe and you are alive within us. May the wind and fire of Pentecost give us the courage and inner strength to be the body of Christ in all the world. As we celebrate Pride Month, may we see Christ in others and Creation as a friend on our journey to share your steadfast love.  In Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We can hide nothing from God, who knows our every thought.  God is aware of sins we have not recognized. We cannot be right with God unless we examine ourselves and repent. Let us confess our sin before God and one another, and may God have mercy.
May Christ have mercy.
May God have mercy.
O God, our lives are an open book to you.  Help us to recognize in ourselves what you have seen there. Remove the distortions that keep us from acknowledging our sin.  Awaken in us a sorrow over the wrong we have done and the good we have neglected.  Create in us an earnest desire to change. O God, we are in touch with the pain we have caused and the pain within us. Because of your love and care, we can face and overcome the sins we here confess. Amen.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE
Hear now these words of assurance:
Your struggles to know yourself are prompted by God’s love.  God leads the community of faith beyond what is lawful to what is holy.  We are not our own. We are Christ’s. By God’s grace, we may turn from self-serving ways to selfless ministries that glorify God.

GLORY PATRI
Glory be to the Father, and to the son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


All readings are from the New Revised Standard Version bible.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON ………………………………………… Genesis 11:1-9
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.  And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”  So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over

the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

PSALTER LESSON ………………………………………………….. Psalm 104: 24-34
O LORD, how manifold are your works!
   In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
   creeping things innumerable are there,
   living things both small and great.
There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
These all look to you to give them their food in due season;
   when you give to them, they gather it up;
   when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
   when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
   and you renew the face of the ground.

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
   may the LORD rejoice in his works—
   who looks on the earth and it trembles,
   who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
   I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
   for I rejoice in the LORD.

NEW TESTAMENT LESSON ………………………………………………………… Acts 2: 1-12
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?”


SERMON ………  From Confusion and Chaos to Community and Clarity ……….Rev. Mike Daly
Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the church. In the passage from Acts, we have a description of what is referred to as the founding of the church on the day of the Jewish festival of Pentecost. It was the second great celebration of the Jewish year, occurring on the fiftieth day after the Passover feast. 

We have also read the story of the tower of Babel from the book of Genesis. What do the two have to do with each other? 

The Tower of Babel story comes at the end of what might be called the background stories before we have the sagas of Abraham and his descendants. The creation story credits God with creating harmony, which is disturbed by rebellion, estrangement, murder, mayhem, and then the destruction of the flood. 

There is a new start but the same bad, destructive spiral. The Tower of Babel story starts with the description of a technological breakthrough three thousand years ago, as important as the microprocessor in our day. It was the invention of the brick. Before this time, humans had learned to fashion crude bricks from mud and straw dried in the sun. But this material, similar to the adobe used in the Americas, could only support structures of one or two stories. 

Building multistoried towers like those of Babylon required the innovation of oven-baking to produce much harder brick. The story’s lesson has less to do with language than with the human drive toward self-aggrandizement. Pride of achievement becomes a mania for fame and power, resulting in destruction and meaninglessness and an absence of communication. It is symbolic of the fact that technological advances often lead to, or amplify, divisions among people. Just look at Facebook today. 

In the telling of this story in Genesis, God is clearly distressed by how this self-aggrandizing construction project distorted the values of the people of Babel. According to one rabbinical embellishment on this story, mud and mortar became more precious in Babel than human life. When a brick fell to the ground and broke, the people wept aloud. But when a worker fell from the tower and died, no one paid any attention. 

The builders of the tower of Babel succeeded in “subduing nature” by baking a soft brick into a hard one. But with this simple technological advance came overweening pride in their own creations–the beginning of idolatry. Architecture became an object of worship rather than a tool for serving human needs. 

Most of us are familiar with the phenomena where what we own begins to own us. One writer suggests, “a modern graphic example of the folly of human vanity is the stretch limousine, an absurdly distorted automobile that serves no purpose but to draw attention to itself and the unseen passenger sequestered behind its darkened glass. In fact, limousines are explicitly designed not to function as transportation. The more they tie up traffic and the more attention they attract, the better.” (Naomi Rosenblatt, Wrestling with Angels) 

The story of the tower of Babel concludes with a confusion of languages, a lack of understanding, and a scattering of the people involved. Right after this story, we have the call of Abraham and the long history of God’s chosen people down to the birth of Jesus, his life, his death, resurrection, and ascension. Then what is recorded in the Acts passage for today – Pentecost. 

The disciples (with Matthias having been chosen to replace Judas) are gathered together in a house in Jerusalem when they are overcome by a great, wind-like sound from heaven. It is called the coming of the Holy Spirit. Devout Jews from all over the world are able to understand the disciples in their own language– communication occurs. It is the Babel story in reverse! 

I have always heard the story as the disciples had the gift of speaking in other languages (tongues), but I have wondered if the miracle occurred in the hearers—who understood. In the Acts lesson, we have the story of the Holy Spirit’s first activity among the apostles and an indication of the Spirit’s capacity to reach beyond obstacles to bring people to faith. Faith comes in this story, as it has ever since, through hearing. Whatever their differences, and there were probably many (language and place of origin are mentioned in the text), the Holy Spirit drew these people together and made them one in faith, a community. 

It can be difficult to communicate with people who are from different places or who speak different languages. I remember well the initial meeting with my college roommate’s parents. Daisuke and his family are Japanese. They spoke very little English. I knew no Japanese words (other than “domo arigato” (thank you very much). We had no translator. But by the end of the first evening, the laughter and communicating became no-problem. Facial and hand gestures, along with some basic words we forgot we knew, won the day. 

Of course, there is the reality that it can be difficult to communicate with people who live just across the street or with those who sit at your dinner table. It is difficult to speak with anyone if you must do so across any kind of barrier (like political or social opinions). But, in this story, Luke indicates that communication with all people is possible when the Holy Spirit takes control. Language and geography are not barriers to the working of God’s will. 

In his pastoral rounds, the minister often visited an elderly woman in a nursing home who was originally from Russia. She spoke virtually no English. The minister spoke absolutely no Russian. When he first visited her, he tried to indicate who he was. He showed her his Bible and his kit for sharing communion with the homebound. He was moderately successful in this, and she seemed to perceive that the minister was a priest or some such thing. 

While he could not converse with her in any usual sense, she seemed gracious to put up with his babbling in English. He could see by the warmth in her smile and how she stroked his hand that she was grateful for his visits. Not much passed between them by way of shared information. He could not let her know that he wished to hear her story and learn about her Orthodox faith. But, there were moments of crystalline communication. 

These occurred when they entered the communion liturgy. Suddenly, all confusion and miscommunication fell away. They both entered into the language of the church. They would recite the Lord’s Prayer – English and Russian blending together in perfect unison. Then, they shared the bread and the wine – no words were needed.  There was a 50-year difference between their ages. During most of their lives, they would have been considered political enemies. Given the events in Ukraine, perhaps they would be considered enemies now. Neither age, nor language, nor ideology divided them in those moments when the Holy Spirit drew them together in communion with one another.  The Spirit of God moves humans from confusion to community. Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER
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.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

SPECIAL MUSIC
Wildfire
by Crowder

DOXOLOGY
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

Benediction
May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are apart one from the other, Amen.

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