Pentecost Sunday

May 28, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Acts 2.1-21. The disciples experience the Spirit so powerfully that Luke describes them as if they were on fire. They go into the streets of Jerusalem and begin talking about God’s love to people from all over the known world, each in those people’s native languages. Peter explains the event by quoting the prophet Joel’s vision of God pouring out the Spirit on all people of every age, gender and social station.

Psalm 104 praises God’s Creation and care for all creatures. “When you send forth your spirit they are created.”

1 Corinthians 12.4-13 speaks of the many ways that the Spirit lives in the members of the Church through varying gifts.

John 7.37-39. Jesus’s Spirit is a life-giving stream that flows to us (“Come to me and drink”); this stream, by the grace of the Spirit, also flows from us to others.

Preaching Thoughts

Speaking in tongues
I’m intrigued that the Pentecost story of “speaking in tongues” is about communication—the disciples speaking in other people’s languages (“tongues”) to communicate the gospel they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to communicate—and yet within twenty years “speaking in tongues” was understood not as speaking in known languages for the purpose of communication but in ecstatic utterances that were meaningless, even to the speaker, with out interpretation. I wonder how that reversal came about? I think the pentecostal challenge is not to experience ecstasy but to communicate the good news in ways people understand—which is not in our religious language, or even in words, but in love and justice.

That involves more listening than talking: paying attention to people and their lives, their context, their needs, and listening to them, to what they experience and need and ask for—a kind of “listening in tongues.” Pentecost invites us to check our tendency to center ourselves, our desire that others “speak our language,” our temptation to impose our own values on them. Sometimes the most pentecostal thing we can do is affirm people as they are, rather than ask them to conform to our standards and expectations. Pentecost invites us to assume God has been with them in their journey, even if it’s very different from ours.

The Holy Spirit
It’s helpful for us to personify the Spirit, to imagine the Holy Spirit as, well, a spirit—a sort of invisible “someone” who comes to us and acts upon us. That’s cool, as long as we remember we’re anthropomorphizing a member of the Holy Trinity, that is, God, who is not a god, but beyond all gods—the Mystery of Love that gives rise to all being, that is Being itself. The Holy Spirit is not some ghost, but God in us. In both Greek and Hebrew the word for wind, spirit and breath (and hence life) is the same: ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek. The Holy Spirit is the living energy of God (which is love) in us. When we love, that’s God doing God’s thing.

Jesus says “I am in God, and you in me, and I in you (Jn. 14.20). Sounds a little spacey, but it’s literally true. God is infinite; we are within God. The Holy Spirit is our inter-penetration, our inter-being. Jesus was both human and divine; so are we.

We speak of the disciples “receiving “ the Spirit at Pentecost, but they already had it. They were born with it. (Joel says the Spirit is poured out on all flesh.) And just to make sure, Jesus has breathed on them in John 20. But Pentecost is the moment when the spark catches fire and they burn with it, overcoming their fear and grief. Acting in the power of the Holy Spirit isn’t some ecstatic experience, but simply being a vessel for love. It’s not our love, our effort, but God’s. We let the Spirit, God’s love in us, do its thing. That’s what enables us to do things that seem beyond our capacity or expectations—like communicating love in languages we haven’t studied.

Pentecost is a great day for baptisms, baptismal renewal, Confirmation, and receiving new members. People often conflate baptism and confirmation. Those who believe in “adult baptism” see it as a way to affirm one’s faith. But baptism, like birth, isn’t something you do; it’s something you receive. Baptism is a symbol of God’s unconditional love of the person being baptized—whether or not they like it, or understand it, or even know it. (That’s why we baptize babies.) Confirmation is the act in which we respond—we confirm our baptism; we accept our divine belovedness and vow to live in harmony with it. We can only be baptized once, since our belovedness is permanent, eternal and unchanging, and isn’t dependent on the pastor or church or denomination that pours the water, nor on the person receiving it. But we do need to continually re-affirm our baptism, to re-commit ourselves to the vows that were made at our baptism. Pentecost is a great time for baptismal renewal services. See a service of Baptism/ Baptismal Renewal/ Confirmation here.

Call to Worship

Leader: Breath of Life, raise us up.
All: Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Wind of Grace, carry us always.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Light of God, show us the way.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Spirit of God, make us one.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Flame of Love, send us forth.
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Alleluia!

Leader: Spirit of Creation, you call us into being.
All: Spirit of life, you breathe your presence into us.
Spirit of love, you fill us with blessings for others.
Spirit of Christ, you breathe us into the world.
Spirit of God, be our life and our power.
Spirit of God, make us your Body, the Body of Christ.

Leader: In the beginning the Spirit brooded over the waters.
All: Come, Holy Spirit, come.
God formed a human from the dust from the earth and breathed into it,
and it became a living person.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
John said, “I baptize you with water but one is coming
who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Jesus said, “The water that I will give will become in you a spring of water
gushing up to eternal life.”
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Jesus said of the Spirit, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Alleluia.

Leader: Eternal God, by your Spirit you create us.
All: Risen Christ, you breathe your Spirit into us.
Holy Spirit, with each breath you give us life and love.
What beauty! What power!
You pour out your grace on us, like rain on thirsty land.
Your spirit is a well within us, gushing up to eternal life,
and flowing our of our hearts.
You are our breathing, our loving, our life.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5. (Jn. 7.37-38)
Leader: Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.”
All: God, we are thirsty for you.
“Let the one who believes in me drink.”
We come to drink deeply of your Word,
your presence, your grace.

“As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart
shall flow rivers of living water.’”
Flow in us, God, with your love,
and by your grace flow through us
into the world. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Heavenly Lover, you who are the Spirit of love, breathe in us. Create us. Fill us with your life. Fill us with your love. Fill us with the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Breath of God, wind that blew over the sea at Creation; breath that brought to life the human form, made of the dust of the earth; Spirit that led Jesus through all his days: breathe life into us now; re-create us, and fill our bodies and souls with your Word of life, your song of blessing. We breathe deeply of your presence. In the secret language of the heart, speak to us. Amen.

Holy One, Light of Love, Sun of Life, Blaze of Heaven, we turn to you like flowers to the sun to receive your light. Draw near to us and set us afire with your love. We are the lamp and you are the flame; we are the lighthouse and you are the light. Shine in us, until we are pure light, pure love, pure life! You are the river and we are your riverbank. Flow in us so that we may bear your grace to all the world in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, you are our breath. Give us life, and ewe will praise you. Light of God, we come to shape ourselves to be vessels of your love. Give us grace, and we will serve you. Holy Spirit, you are our Wisdom and our life. Speak to us, and we will listen. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Spirit of God,
you breathe in us.
You make us alive.
In the stillness we breathe
and you enter us.
You come in and out of us
with life-giving love.
We breathe you in and out,
and we give thanks.

You have said to us who thirst
to come to you and drink.
O Love, we drink deeply of your presence.
You said out of our hearts shall flow
rivers of living water.
O Love, flow in us
with life for all Creation.


Graceful power, move in me.
May my living give language to your miraculous ways.
May my words express your goodness,
my actions reveal the abundance of your blessing.
Spirit, be the nerve that moves me as your body
to do your will, that all that I do
might clearly embody your grace
and be your living example.
May all whom I meet be given to understand
in the language of their hearts
your loving presence.

2. [May be led by two readers.]
Rejoicing in the presence of the Spirit, let us pray for the church, the world, and all of God’s creation.

Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle the flames of our witness to God’s presence.

We pray for the leaders of the church and all the people of God, that together we might live the gospel, and reach out to those with needy hearts. God in your mercy… you hear our prayers.

Come, Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
We pray for oceans and sky, for rivers and deserts, for lakes and forests, for mountains and grasslands. God in your mercy…

Come, Holy Spirit, and pour out your justice on all nations.
We pray for countries wracked with violence, for soldiers and civilians, for peacemakers and relief agencies. God in your mercy…

Come, Holy Spirit, and give hopeful visions to the young and life-giving dreams to the old.
We pray for those whose lives are wracked by fear, for those who feel distanced from your light, and for all those in need in any way, especially…. God in your mercy…

Come, Holy Spirit, and guide us in our work.
We pray for firefighters and scientists, for midwives and custodians, for writers and housekeepers, for parents and students, for all who live out the gifts of the Spirit in their lives. God in your mercy…

Come, Holy Spirit, and bind us to the communion of saints who have gone before us.
We remember with thanksgiving all those who served and witnessed by your power, especially… God in your mercy…

Into your hands, O God, we commend ourselves and all for whom we pray, trusting in your abundant mercy. And now with the confidence that is ours in being sons and daughters of God, we pray to the One we call Abba, Father, the prayer of Jesus:


           A sun within

I’m wondering how to love
such a big tough world,
where to find the strength to bless
the unending mass of the poor,
the problematic, the people who
annoy me. But You say to me,
“You don’t need to find anything.
You only need to breathe deeply
of this fire within; receive
what you have been given. You have
perfected your simple costume,
your blank demeanor.
But something deep within you roars:
not a flame, but a sun,
a wind that sweeps vast cities clear,
a heaving sea. Don’t you feel it?
The light seeps out through your joints.
The great tide swells
with every pulse of your heart.
You weary yourself trying to contain it.
Lie still for a moment in the sun
of God’s passion for you, the single flame,
the only light, that fills all things,
that loves each soul, until you catch fire.
Open your eyes, and let it stream from you.
Your heart is not a cistern. It is a river.
It is the sun. Wake up, for it is rising.

             Pentecost Prayer

Fire of God,
be my light.

Heat of God,
be my fuel.

Furnace of God,
purify me.

Blaze of God,
be my upward leaping.

Flame of God,
be my breath.

Wind of God,
be my steady leading.

Spirit of God,
may I burn with your love,

your passion to spread mercy
in this flammable world.

             Pentecost prayer

Holy Spirit,
River of love, divine delight,
flow through me.
Flame of sun, burn in me.
Wind of heaven, breathe in me.
Tongues of strangers, speak in me.
Love of God, sing in me.

Lead me beyond myself,
to return to you in the other,
to love you in my stranger,
my foreigner, my enemy.

Burn with your fire in me,
that it may be mine.
Breathe yourself into my life,
that it may be yours.
I am your song, and your singing.
I am your candle; you are my flame.

Holy Spirit,
love the world
in me.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

[From 1 Corinthians 12, Jn. 3. 5-6]
[Try experimenting with various ways of responsive readings in addition to Leader and Congregation. This merely an example.]
         Left side: No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.
         Right side: Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
         Men: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit in all people. To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
         Women: The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
         All: We are the body of Christ, and each one of us is a part of it.
Under 50 years old : God says: “Here is my servant community whom I have chosen, the ones I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on them, and they will proclaim justice to the nations.”
         Over 50 years old: The Spirit of the Holy One is upon us, for God has anointed us to preach good news to the poor. God has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the grace of God.
All: Alleluia! Holy Spirit, be in us the light of God for the world. Alleluia!

[Based on Romans 8. 2, 11-17]
We rejoice, for the power of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the power of sin and death. Since the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, then that same Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies also. So we belong not to our separate lives and desires, which are doomed, but to the one life of the Spirit. For all who are led by the Spirit are children of God. The Spirit does not restrict us, or shove us back into fear. The Spirit is our connection with God, as God’s children. When we cry, “Mommy! Daddy!” it is that very spirit in us crying out. So in the Spirit we are siblings with Christ: we suffer with Christ, and we are glorified with Christ.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We thank you God, for in the beginning
you gathered up dust from the earth and breathed your breath into it,
and it became a living being: us, your people.
When we were lost and enslaved
your pillar of fire led us to freedom through the wilderness.

When we were defeated and lifeless
your wind brought life to our dry bones.
In our need you sent Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit.
So we sing praise and thanks to you,
with all Creation breathing together:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who taught and healed, who fed the hungry and included the outcast.
He breathed upon us his Spirit,
renewing your Covenant to be with us always in love,
and empowering us to love as he loved.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
one in your grace and aflame with your love,
for the sake of the world, in the name of Christ.

     [Spoken or sung]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us. / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) In gratitude we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. May your Spirit always flow through us, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us. / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) In this meal you have poured yourself into us, and filled us with your Spirit of love. Send us into the world to convey your love to others, that they also might know your powerful works. We pray in the name of Christ. Amen.

Spirit of Life, flow through us. Flame of Love, burn in us. Holy Presence, shine in us. May our whole lives be a song of praise for you, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Bearers of Light (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

God, how you love us, hold us and bless us,
reign from above us, lead us by hand
Call us to healing, bound by your Promise,
your Word revealing, by your command.

Great holy giver of life and wonder,
deep like a river your blessings flow.
Gladly we give you praise and thanksgiving:
gifts we will give wherever we go.

Baptized, anointed, filled with your Spirit,
we are appointed bearers of light:
for liberation, servants of justice,
bringing the nations joy and delight.

Breath of God (Tune: Londonderry Air – “Oh Danny Boy”)

O Holy One, Creator of the stars of night,
whose dust we are, created with your light,
now breathe your spirit into us and give us life;
give us new hearts that beat with your delight.
Our dust and ashes, Love, we give in faith to you.
Receive our lives, our sin, our wounds, our death;
and raise us up with Christ from death to life by grace.
God, may we be your love and you our living breath.

Breathe into us the breath of your compassion, God,
the breath to sing your praise in all we do,
the breath to run the race of justice, long and far.
Breathe, holy breath: empower and renew.
O be the grace that fills our lungs, reviving us;
O be the wind on which our hearts can soar;
O be our life, our beauty and our living breath.
O Spirit, come breathe in us now and evermore.

Fire of Love (Tune: HOLY MANNA)

Holy Spirit, you have gathered us as on that Pentecost
when you gathered Christ’s disciples and their fears and doubts were lost:
breathing life into their souls, and shining out of every face,
you sent them into the streets to tell of God’s amazing grace.

Each aflame with your compassion, eager that your praise be sung,
fearlessly they filled the streets to tell your news in every tongue.
So we ask you, by your life within us, giving us new birth,
send us out to spread God’s love in Jesus’ name to all the earth.

Holy Spirit, you have granted gifts to each, in our own way,
so that we might serve you as we live and work and share and pray.
By your pow’r we love our neighbors, work for justice, act with peace,
reach the lost and serve the lowly: so your work will never cease.

Holy Spirit, energy of God that links us soul to soul,
by your grace we are the Body of the risen Christ, made whole.
Be the breath that lifts our singing; be the wind that fills our sails;
be the fire of love among us ‘till the Reign of God prevails.

Holy Spirit, Burn Within Us (Tune: BEECHER, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling)

Holy Spirit, Sun of Heaven, source of light and warmth and power,
fill us and transform us like a seed that turns into a flower.
Kindle in your willing people joy’s bright spark, compassion’s flame.
Set us all afire to bear your loving light in Jesus’ name.

Holy Spirit, burn within us, radiant with your healing grace.
Give us brand new ways to meet and love the stranger face to face.
Help us find new ways of caring. Help us set new, daring goals.
Give us brand new languages to speak your love to seeking souls.

Holy Spirit, let your fire consume us, changing us at last.
Let us rise like light emerging from the embers of the past.
May the star of pure compassion shine within and set us free.
Holy Spirit, make us all your flame that burns eternally.

Holy Spirit, Wind of Heaven (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)

Holy Spirit, Wind of Heaven, Breath of Life, our warmth and light,
Power of Creation, bringing hopeful dawn from darkest night:
you have birthed us, you have borne us; you have blessed us all our days,
now you fill our lungs with singing; how you fill our hearts with praise!

Holy Spirit, flame of passion, you who brought your Church to be,
re-create us as your Body, holy in our unity.
Fill us with your fierce compassion, gentle courage, trust and peace.
Lead us all to love each other; make our sad divisions cease.

Holy Spirit, Dove descending, mind of Christ within us all,
speak your wisdom, move among us, help us hear your inner call.
Be the only pow’r that moves us; be our life, O singing Dove!
Holy Spirit, come, revive us! Fill us with your heart of love!

Spirit of God (Original song)

Spirit of God, bright Wind, breath that bids life begin,
blow as you always do; create us anew.
Give us the breath to sing, lifted on soaring wing,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.

Spirit of God, bright Dove, grant us your peace and love,
healing upon your wings for all living things.
For when we live your peace captives will find release,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.

Spirit of God, bright Hands, even in far-off lands
you hold all the human race in one warm embrace.
No matter where we go you hold us together so,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.!…

Spirit of God, bright Flame, send us in your holy name,
with power to heal, to share your love everywhere.
We cannot fail or fall or know defeat at all,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.!…

Spirit of God in all, we gladly hear your call,
the life in our hands that sings, the power of your wings.
Born of your grace we rise, love shining in our eyes,
held in your hands, borne on your wings.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit, come.!…

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