Sunday 23rd May 2021.
Welcome to our Service this morning. This morning’s Reflections are written by Gwen as Val as at the General Assembly.
Hymn 581 Hail thee festival day
Prayer of Approach and Confession.
May the exuberant Spirit of God, bursting with the brightness of flame into the coldness of our lives warm us with a passion for justice and beauty.
May the exuberant Spirit of God, sweeping us out of the dusty corners of our apathy breathe vitality into our struggles for change.
May the exuberant Spirit of God, speaking words that leap over barriers of mistrust convey messages of truth and new understanding.
May the exuberant Spirit of God, flame, wind, speech; burn, breathe, speak in us; filling our world with justice and joy.
Let us join with the heavens in wonder, to marvel at creation and to praise God, our Creator who both creates and sustains, and in every generation gives new life to the earth.
With awe, humility and gratitude, we worship our God, who, amidst the vastness of creation, still reassures us that the ‘very hairs of our head are counted’. But in the presence of such grandeur and such Love, we do not always know how we ought to pray. We give thanks for the Spirit who makes our pleas to God in ways words cannot express.
We call to mind our contrition for the state of our world in the presence of the Pardoning God, Sender of the Spirit, and Spirit.
In our sorrow may we meet forgiveness pouring out on us even before we have thought and spoken and prayed and wept.
So, when creation is defiled; when homes are broken by war and violence; when oppressed people long to overthrow the tyranny of the greedy and powerful, may we be assured that love prevails in individual hearts all along and together we join in further prayer saying - - -
Hymn no. 586 Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire
Readings – John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Joh 15:26 "The Helper will come---the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me.
Joh 15:27 And you, too, will speak about me, because you have been with me from the very beginning.
"I did not tell you these things at the beginning, for I was with you.
Joh 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me where I am going.
Joh 16:6 And now that I have told you, your hearts are full of sadness.
Joh 16:7 But I am telling you the truth: it is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. But if I do go away, then I will send him to you.
Joh 16:8 And when he comes, he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about God's judgment.
Joh 16:9 They are wrong about sin, because they do not believe in me;
Joh 16:10 they are wrong about what is right, because I am going to the Father and you will not see me anymore;
Joh 16:11 and they are wrong about judgment, because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
Joh 16:12 "I have much more to tell you, but now it would be too much for you to bear.
Joh 16:13 When, however, the Spirit comes, who reveals the truth about God, he will lead you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own authority, but he will speak of what he hears and will tell you of things to come.
Joh 16:14 He will give me glory, because he will take what I say and tell it to you.
Joh 16:15 All that my Father has is mine; that is why I said that the Spirit will take what I give him and tell it to you.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
Act 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place.
Act 2:2 Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Act 2:3 Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there.
Act 2:4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
Act 2:5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world.
Act 2:6 When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited, because all of them heard the believers talking in their own languages.
Act 2:7 In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, "These people who are talking like this are Galileans!
Act 2:8 How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages?
Act 2:9 We are from Parthia, Media, and Elam; from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; from Pontus and Asia,
Act 2:10 from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene. Some of us are from Rome,
Act 2:11 both Jews and Gentiles converted to Judaism, and some of us are from Crete and Arabia---yet all of us hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things that God has done!"
Act 2:12 Amazed and confused, they kept asking each other, "What does this mean?"
Act 2:13 But others made fun of the believers, saying, "These people are drunk!"
Peter's Sermon at Pentecost
Act 2:14 Then Peter stood up with the other eleven apostles and in a loud voice began to speak to the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, listen to me and let me tell you what this means.
Act 2:15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only nine o'clock in the morning.
Act 2:16 Instead, this is what the prophet Joel spoke about:
Act 2:17 'This is what I will do in the last days, God says: I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams.
Act 2:18 Yes, even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will proclaim my message.
Act 2:19 I will perform miracles in the sky above and wonders on the earth below. There will be blood, fire, and thick smoke;
Act 2:20 the sun will be darkened, and the moon will turn red as blood, before the great and glorious Day of the Lord comes.
Act 2:21 And then, whoever calls out to the Lord for help will be saved.'
Hymn no. 453 Christ of God, unseen the image
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This Sunday is known as Pentecost. In the Old Testament there was a Feast of Pentecost. It was also called the feast of the harvest, and the feast of the weeks. It was 50 days after the beginning of the planting season, and was a thankful feast to thank the Lord for the bountiful harvest he was going to give. In today’s language that means 50 days after Easter which is when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Fifty in the Greek language is Pentecost and Pentecost became flagged as the day the initial outpouring of the Holy Ghost took place.
It also was the start of the first church! And we celebrate this as the church’s birthday for it is only after the outpouring of the Holy Ghost that the group of believers was referred to as a church and Pentecost then became synonymous with the experience of the Holy Ghost.
I always knew that Pentecost was the birthday of the church, but for me it always was “another chance” for God’s people.
After the flood in Genesis when Noah had built his Ark and had rescued or saved some specimens of God’s creation and the remainder had drowned, the Ark finally came to rest after the waters went down. All the saved animals and the people left the Ark and life continued again as normal – or so it seemed. Births and deaths and repopulating the planet – but the people all spoke the same language and stayed in the same vicinity. It had all become a bit predictable with very little challenge till someone came up with the bright idea to build a city with a tower that reached as high as possible, even to the heavens. God came down and had a look and decided that the people were becoming too ambitious as well as co-operating with each other too easily, the reason being they all spoke the same language and understood each other. So God decided to scatter his people all over the earth and to make them speak different languages so they couldn’t understand each other anymore.
It makes one stop and think! Originally we were all one colour, one creed, one nation, speaking the same language but by God scattering his creation we are now many nations, many colours and creeds and we need to learn each others’ language or have an interpreter, yet still we don’t understand each other or get along.
At Pentecost, one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gave to the people was the gift of being able to understand each other as they heard their own languages spoken. Indeed what they did hear was the disciples telling the story of Jesus Christ spoken in each person’s own “Mother Tongue.” In our reading in Acts the different nationalities were mentioned to show that the people were not just neighbours who could guess at what was being said as the dialects were similar, but came from far and wide and spoke very different languages.
A prosperous man was making a long journey. In his bag he packed all his valuable jewels and money. A thief started to follow him, pretending to be a friend, and waiting for the opportunity to steal the wealthy man’s riches.
The rich man was aware of the man’s motives and thought of a plan. Each night as he would stop at a local hotel he would invite the thief to share the room.
Once inside the rich man would say, “Here is a towel. You go and wash up for the night.”
While the thief took his shower the rich man hid his treasures.
When the thief returned to the room, the rich man would go and have a bath. While away, the thief searched frantically for the riches. He looked in the rich man’s luggage, searched the wardrobe, drawers, under the bed, between the mattresses, and under the rich man’s pillow. The treasure could not be found.
At the end of the journey, the rich man boarded a train to go home. He called out to the thief, “I know why you have been following me. You’ve been trying to steal my treasures. Each night you have looked in my bags, searched the wardrobe, rummaged through the drawers. You’ve looked under my bed, between the mattress, and even under my pillow. The one place you never looked was under your own pillow. The treasure was closer than you thought!”
So what are the benefits of receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost? Many think it is to “speak with other tongues.” Indeed, this is the initial evidence of receiving the Spirit. Paul said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18).
However, we look for power, protection, ability to overcome sin, hope for our future, wisdom, spiritual gifts, and progressive changes in our lives, never realizing the treasure is closer than we think. All these, and more, can be found and experienced through the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The power is available if we just plug in to the power source.
The search begins but what are we looking for? - The treasures we find in the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
One treasure we receive is power –
Last week we had a power cut. As a person regarded as vulnerable I received a text message to say the power had gone off in the DG6 and DG7 areas but they were working to sort it and it should be on by 1.45am. Ok I thought, I may as well go to bed. I was lying reading in bed when my son who was down for the weekend came through to my room and informed me there were two electricity vans across at a pylon in the field. He had been watching them and had heard one engineer say “You are not going to believe this George!” A wee while later, and I must have fallen asleep, I was awoken by another text message saying the fault had been fixed and had been caused by a metallic helium balloon!
If we don’t have a connection the power will not get through!
“But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Before the Holy Ghost outpouring the disciples were timid and afraid. At Pentecost they were strong and willing to stand up and explain the Gospel.
The Holy Ghost is a promise that God gave to everyone!
Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Even though there is only one God and only one Holy Spirit, the Spirit manifests itself in different ways to different people
There are nine supernatural or miraculous gifts that result from the direct operation of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12 -
Word of Wisdom
Word of Knowledge
Gifts of Healing
Working of Miracles
Discerning of spirits
Interpretation of tongues
The gift of the Spirit is for everyone and it is still being poured out today!
Hebrews 13:8 KJV Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
Our faith doesn’t become “old fashioned” or “out of date.” As we mature and our relationship with God deepens, the Holy Spirit reveals more to us and deepens our understanding of the Bible, the church, and how we should treat our brothers and sisters. He deepens our knowledge as we mature.
Sometimes it is wrong to change things just because we think it should be changed or because it has been a certain way for a long time. Because of the pandemic we have seen many changes within our churches lately, mostly temporary. It means our church experience isn’t the way we want or like but at the moment it is a safe experience. Other changes within church need a lot of consideration and as such the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland meets annually where ideas are put forward, prayed over, debated and as many opinions put forward as necessary till a way forward or change is worked out. The General Assembly is meeting this week on Zoom and we add our prayers for those who are charged as commissioners to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their deliberations.
We have the knowledge that God is presently active in our life. He can hear us right now and is concerned about the details that are going on in our life. We believe that God is literally next to us and all we have to do is to reach out for him.
The initial outpouring of the Holy Ghost was fulfilled in Acts 2, but it is still being outpoured today and Acts is the only book in New Testament that does not end with Amen - that is because it is still being lived out today.
The Spirit of God leads us, not from some distant throne or control centre, but from within our hearts. He is in charge. We are His sons and daughters. We have become heirs of our Father’s kingdom. Jesus Christ is “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2) and we have become joint-heirs. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Revelation 21:6-8, NIV).
Have you ever experienced a time when you did not know what to pray? At times, the Spirit takes over and prays through us using words we cannot comprehend. We do not know all the problems coming our way, but the Spirit does, and prays through for us.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
“And he that searches the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).
He is interceding for us, knows the will of God for our lives, and prays accordingly. God has a plan and is bringing it to pass.
Jesus wants to open the doors of heaven and give us an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He wants to flood us with the Spirit. Your heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts. He will “give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).
God made a promise and He keeps His promises (Romans 4:21; Numbers 23:19). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for “whosoever” (Acts 2:21).
Sometimes a caravan of travellers will be in the dusty, hot, dry desert, and about to perish for want of water. When this happens they will let one of the camels go. The instincts in this animal will lead him to refreshing waters. When the animal moves nearly out of sight one of the men will mount his camel and follow. When he is about to be out of sight another will do the same. When the camel discovers the water the man following on the camel will turn and wave to the second; the second to the third, and so on, until everyone has gathered at the fresh water.
This reminds us of the Scripture about the Pentecost outpouring. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
The disciples had been told to stay put until the helper came to them. We too have been “staying put” recently because of the pandemic and now are being given more freedoms with the lifting of restrictions. Now is our time to “wave” to the next generation to let them know about the “Living Water” Jesus Christ, and to let the Holy Spirit work in their lives and also refresh and renew ours.
Hymn no. 456 Christ is the world’s true light
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession.
On this day when we celebrate the Church’s founding let us pray for her work across Christ’s world, in places whose stories we know and in places we can only leave to the knowledge of the heart of God. And especially we remember those places where those who confess Jesus as their Saviour are still persecuted for His sake. May they know the emboldening power of the Spirit of Pentecost and the loving assurance of the Comforter. We pray for the Church in our land of Scotland, for the Church of Scotland and all denominations that share her mission in cities, towns, villages and countryside and islands. Especially today we pray for those meeting in The General Assembly. May they be guided by the Spirit and discern God’s will for the Church’s future and her witness in our world.
We pray for those experiencing illness in body or in mind, and for those who practise the healing arts of medicine and nursing. We remember families and communities emerging from pandemic still feeling the pain of loss of loved ones and pray for relief in India as they continue to struggle with this virus at its worst just now. May they all experience God’s love and comfort through our actions and our words and we hold up to you those who lie heavily on our own minds this day in the silence of our hearts. S-i-l-e-n-c-e ----------.
And as we pray for those who are feeling despair through the loss of employment or opportunity, we also pray that despite our feebleness we, with the assurance of the Spirit, may bring hope through the practical resolve of a Church ready to play its part in the work of healing and renewal.
Let us pray that in this land and in the world the Spirit will inspire and raise up women and men, young and old, to dream dreams and share a vision of a world where oppression is defeated by justice, where anxiety is vanquished by hope, where creation is cherished and the earth’s resources are harvested responsibly for a just sharing, where people everywhere will not be judged by the colour of their skin, or their gender or their creed or their orientation but by the content of their character. We pray for the continued peace between Israel and Palestine and pray that a lasting peaceful solution made be found. Where hate is overcome by love, and where the ‘earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’ All this we ask through Christ Jesus, our Lord, Amen.
Hymn no. 616 There’s a spirit in the air
Blessing and Dismissal.
Let us go now,
Redeemed in love,
Renewed in faith,
Restored in strength,
And refreshed in Spirit.
Let us return to our journey of discipleship
In the name of the Father,
The Risen Son and
The Holy Spirit. Amen
Exit voluntary L.J.A. Lefebure-Wely Sortie in Bflat