Sunday Worship for Pentecost

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 31st May

 
Today’s service is led by the Rev’d Andy Braunston who works with Barrhead, Priesthill, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in and around Glasgow in Scotland’s central belt.  You may wish to light a candle during the Call to Worship


 

You may wish to sing along with the invocation and make it a prayer or simply listen and pray the words quietly.
 
Come Holy Ghost Our Souls Inspire
attributed to Rabanus Maurus (c. 776-856), translated by John Cosin 1594-1672)
 

 

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire
and lighten with celestial fire;
thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.
 
2 Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love;
enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our mortal sight.

3 Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of both, to be but one;
that through the ages all along
this may be our endless song:
 
4 Praise to thine eternal merit,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Call To Worship
 
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love
 
who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain, and heals our wounds.
 
God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us.
 
May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
 
Prayer of Approach
 
Holy God, like a rushing wind your Spirit moved upon the first disciples, on this day long ago, and like a purifying fire your Spirit seared their hearts and minds, with the message of your salvation. Send your Spirit on your Church anew, in this time and place, in our scattered lives and homes, stir up our courage, and rouse us for prophetic witness, that we may join with the apostles of old to proclaim your mighty deeds of power.  Amen.
 
Confession
 
As we come to God in worship the Spirit reminds us of our failures to love, to love God, to love others and to love ourselves.  We bring those times to God now in a moment of silence.
 
O God,
You have searched us out and known us,
and all that we are is open to You.
We confess that we have sinned:
we have used our power to dominate
and our weakness to manipulate;
we have evaded responsibility
and failed to confront evil;
we have denied dignity to ourselves and to each other
and have fallen into despair.
We turn to You O God; we renounce evil; we claim Your love;
we choose to be made whole.
 
Words of Assurance
 
Like a mother eagle who tends her young; like a father who runs to welcome home the estranged; like a rock upon which we stand,  God is loving and faithful, and forgives all our sins.  God loves and forgives you, so have the strength to love and forgive yourself. Amen
 
Come Down O Love Divine
Bianca di Sienna c1350 – c1434
 

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
 
2 O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
 
3 Let holy charity,
mine outward vesture be
and lowliness become mine inner clothing
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part
and o’er its shortcomings weeps with loathing.

 
4: And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far out pass the power of human telling;
for none can guess His grace, till we become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.

 

Prayer of Illumination
 
Send forth your Spirit, O Lord,
that we may hear your word coming to us
in Scripture, song and sermon,
that we might hear, understand and obey. 
Amen. 
 
Acts 2: 1-8, 14-21 (NRSV)
 
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? All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’  But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

verses from Psalm 104
 
(join in with the words in bold if you can pick up the tune)
 
Send forth your spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth! (repeat)
 
Send forth your spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth! (repeat)
 
Bless the Lord O my soul,  Lord God how great you are.  
Wrapped in a garment of glory and might.  Clothed in light as in a robe.
 
Send forth your spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth! (repeat)
 
Lord my God great are your works in wisdom you made them all.
Rich is the earth and filled with your life. Bless the Lord, O bless my soul.
 
Send forth your spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth! (repeat)
 
All of your creatures look up to you to give them their food in time.
You give with abundance they gather it up. By your hands they have their fill.
 
Send forth your spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth! (repeat)
 
Sermon
 
We live in strange times; we’re getting used to a new way of living, working and being the Church.  We may not like it very much but it’s time to think what the Holy Spirit might be teaching us through all this.
 
Today as we celebrate Pentecost we do it in ways which are unusual in the West.  Instead of meeting in church for grand services we’re gathered at home around a computer, laptop, CD player, phone or tablet to listen.  Some of you are simply reading the transcript which someone has printed off and posted to you.  Instead of being in larger groups we’re either by ourselves or with one or two others.  The birthday party of the Church today is rather fragmented.  In worshipping like this we’re transported to both the earliest days of the Church, to some recent history and to the situation of many of our sisters and brothers around the world now. 
 
Not so long after Peter’s speech on the Day of Pentecost the Church had to go underground.  Seen as an illicit religion in the Roman Empire Christianity had to learn to adapt to a situation of persecution – sometimes severe, sometimes merely inconvenient.  The earliest Christians met in people’s homes and had to take care with coming and going so as not to disturb the neighbours and attract unwelcome attention.  They met early in the day, before the hours of work.  Heaven only knows how they managed to sing and not attract attention. 
 

At different points in history the Church has faced persecution and has had to go back underground and find ways to cope.  Ludmilla Javarová had a vocation to be a nun but this was not possible in Communist Czechoslovakia and so she worked for the Church in a variety of ways until her friend Felix Davidék, an underground bishop, ordained her a priest.  He ordained at least four other women as they could travel around freely to celebrate Mass and hear confessions; the authorities, after all,  knew the Catholics didn’t ordain women.  The women could also minister to other women in prison where male priests couldn’t.  Most priests had to get secular jobs and appear as every day workers.  Of course, after the fall of the regime the Vatican repudiated any such ordinations.  A lesson learned in persecution wasn’t welcomed afterwards. 
 

Today persecution is the normal situation for many of our sisters and brothers around the world.  My friend Ali fled Iran after his house church was discovered.  Christians in Pakistan live with the fear of being denounced as blasphemers and stuck for years in a court system unable, and perhaps unwilling, to uphold human rights.  Most Christians in the Gulf have to worship in secret.  In these places, despite severe persecution, the Church is growing.  The old adage of martyrs’ blood being the seed of the Church seems true. 
 
So today, as we’re still living in various forms of social isolation we can join in spirit with those who have to worship in stealth all the time and we can start to think about what we can learn from this for the next steps in our journey together or we can decide we’ve nothing to learn from this pandemic.
 
Our nations need to think about how to live in the future.  If we can fully fund the NHS and social care, if we can house the homeless and direct the economy to social utility in an emergency, we might want to think about doing this as a matter of course.  If we can value the underpaid nurses, junior doctors, NHS ancillary staff, supermarket workers, pharmacists and delivery drivers during a national crisis, why not all the time?
 
Of course it’s easier to think about what the government could do (especially if we think our lot could do better than the other lot) but it’s much harder to think about what the Holy Spirit might be saying to the Church on our birthday.
 
Of course, the restrictions will be lifted, we will go back to a form of normality, we can gather again week by week in our churches.  We CAN let the life and work of our Synods and national church can find their former patterns, or…
 
We might want to reflect on how we managed without all our Committees and structures instead of simply going back to normal; 
 
We might want to think about the ways we’ve been one church over the last few months instead of going back to the happy division between of being one church in 13 different silos. 
 
We might want to continue locally to call each other regularly, to find innovative ways to support the housebound instead of going back to normal and resuming the grumbling that the minister or Elders don’t call by enough. 
 
We can embrace the opportunities that are being shown us, or we can ignore them.
 
Our second reading, from Psalm 104, sung in that striking way by the Folk Choir of the University of Notre Dame in America, has the powerful refrain “send forth your Spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth.”  A striking prayer for us today.
 
Over the last few months we’ve seen tantalising signs of renewal.  Pollution in our cities has dropped as most vehicles have been off the road.  Wild life has ventured onto our streets no longer deterred by traffic and people; even in cities we’re hearing birdsong  – this all might make people listening on the islands or in the countryside smile as this is, after all, more normal for them.  It’s been acceptable to pump money into the NHS and other public services, to see the government start to direct our economy and we’ve learnt to rely on friends and neighbours, proving the Prime Minister’s adage that there is, after all, such a thing as society.  As much of our world has been forced to live differently, the planet has had a brief respite from the harm we do it every day, the Holy Spirit is given a chance to bring about some renewal. It remains to be seen if we listen to the Spirit’s voice in the weeks ahead or go back to normal.
 
We’ve seen new ways of being the Church – services have been live streamed from manses, recorded on phones, mixed together at computers, emailed, burnt to CDs and printed on paper and then posted out.  We’ve been caught up with calling each other, checking that we’re ok, ensuring that the most vulnerable in our communities are cared for and we’ve done all this with very little travel and minimal financial cost.  We’ve grieved those who have died and supported those who have been ill.  We’ve grown closer to each other through our isolation and our pain. 
 
The Holy Spirit continues to renew both the Church and the Earth. 

In the stillness occasioned by the lockdown nature has reasserted itself, our Earth has had a welcome respite from damaging human activity. 

In the stillness occasioned by the lockdown we’ve learnt to be Church in a different way – the challenge for us is to work out if we keep these changes as a viable way to live, worship and serve or go back to normal.
 
Will you pray with me?
 
God our deliverer,
whose presence still shakes the foundations of our world:
may we so wait for your coming with eagerness and hope
that we embrace without terror,
the labour pangs of the new age,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.
 
Spirit of God Unseen as the Wind
Margaret V Old (1932-2001) © Scripture Union
 

Spirit of God, unseen as the wind,
gentle as is the dove;
teach us the truth,
and help us believe,
show us the Saviour’s love.
 
You spoke to us, long, long ago,
gave us the written word;
we read it still, needing its truth,
through it God’s voice is heard.
 
2: Without your help,
we fail our Lord,
we cannot live His way;
we need your power, we need your strength, following Christ each day.

 

 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
At the end of each prayer I will say “Lord in your mercy” please respond with “hear our prayer
 
Holy Spirit, you gave birth to the Church as a gift to humanity, we pray the Church today.  Give strength where we are persecuted, bring to justice those who oppress, and increase the witness of those who suffer in your name.    Lord, in your mercy….hear our prayer.
 
Holy Spirit, you care for the poor,  inspire the hearts of the leaders of our world, and of our nations here in the United Kingdom, to learn from this pandemic, to find ways to allow You to renew creation, to work in harmony with nature, and to value those often treated with derision.  Lead us, O God, to change our world to better reflect the values of your coming Kingdom.   Lord, in your mercy….hear our prayer.
 
Holy Spirit, light in our darkness, bless those known to us who are ill in mind, body or spirit whom we name now in the silence of our hearts …bring comfort to those who grieve, especially for those who have not been able to attend funerals…and bless with your love those who have died and now rest in your presence until that day when they, with us, will rise to sing praise anew.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Enemy of Apathy
John L Bell & Graham Maule
 

She sits like a bird,
brooding on the waters,
hovering on the chaos
of the world’s first day;
She sighs and she sings,
mothering creation,
waiting to give birth
to all the Word will say.
 
2: She wings over earth,
resting where she wishes,
lighting close at hand
or soaring through the skies;
She nests in the womb,
welcoming each wonder,
nourishing potential
hidden to our eyes.

3: She dances in fire,
startling her spectators,
waking tongues of ecstasy
where dumbness reigned;
She weans and inspires
all whose hearts are open,
nor can she be captured,
silenced or restrained.
 
4: For she is the Spirit,
one with God in essence,
gifted by the Saviour
in eternal love;
She is the key
opening the Scriptures,
enemy of apathy
and heavenly dove.

 

Offertory
 
Giving is part of worship – we give of our time, our talents and our treasure.  Week after week we’ve been keeping our envelopes to get to the treasurer when we can, we’ve been making direct payments to the church and other charities, we’ve moved over to standing orders knowing that our churches need our support and that one measure of our discipleship is our generosity.  So let’s give thanks for the offering. 
 
Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth re-energise your Church that we may reflect your generosity in our live, in our church, and in our world, that we may not perish, but live for you. Amen.
 
Holy Communion
 
Our celebrations of Holy Communion are always imperfect – we are, after all, imperfect people.  Yet despite this imperfection through the sharing of Holy Communion we are gathered into Christ’s presence where He feeds us with his very self.  And so, in obedience to the Lord’s command we are gathered, separately but together, to show forth Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross by breaking bread and sharing wine.  As we eat and drink, Jesus himself, risen and ascended, is present and gives himself to us for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.  United with Jesus and with the whole Church on earth and in heaven, we, His people, gather at His table to present our sacrifice of thanksgiving.  We renew the offering of ourselves, and rejoice in the promise of His coming in glory.  As we prepare for Communion we listen to Issac Watts’ paraphrase of the Words of Institution, sung for us by Jamie Stewart from Barrhead URC.
 

 

Twas on that dark, that doleful night
when pow’rs of earth and hell arose
against the Son, our God’s delight,
and friends betrayed him to his foes.
 
2: Before the mournful scene began,
He took the bread & blessed & broke.
What love through all his actions ran!
What wondrous words of grace he spoke.

 

3: “This is my body, slain for sin;
receive and eat the living food.”
Then took the cup and blessed the wine:
“’Tis the new cov’nant in my blood.”

4: “Do this,” he said, “till time shall end,
in memory of your dying friend;
meet at my table and record
the love of your departed Lord.”
 
5: Jesus, your feast we celebrate;
we show your death; we sing your name
till you return and we shall eat
the marriage supper of the Lamb.
 
We give Thanks
 
We have shared bread and wine many times in our lives, in many places, for many different reasons.  The bread that we now break and the wine that we now share, are a sharing in the life of Christ. May our acceptance of it today be a sign of our faith:
 
•       in the ongoing goodness of a God who journeys with us
•       in the power of love to remove any barrier within or between us
•       in the mystery of the call given to each of us to make bread and life and beauty available to all
 
For it is the bread of heaven, the bread of the poor and the bread of our own lives. We pray, O God, that we may recognise You:
 
•       every time we join someone on a journey
•       every time we share a meal
•       every time we take bread in our hands
 
And may this recognition of You call forth such joy in us  that we might never lose sight of Your goodness.
 
We pray, Loving One, that Your Holy Spirit  will come upon these gifts of bread and wine which Mother Earth has given  and human hands have made,  so that they might be, for us,  the Body and Blood of Jesus,  our saviour and brother: who, before dying, took some bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to the others and said,
 
“Take this all of you and eat it. This is my body which will be broken for you, do this and make me real in your lives.”
 
Later on he took a cup filled with wine, said the blessing, gave it to the others and said:
 
“Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting promise of God  which shall be shed for you and for all, do this and make me real in your lives.”
 
Loving One, we pray that this bread and wine  will inspire such love in our hearts  that we may continually keep alive Your memory and promise. May this meal provoke such a longing for truth in us that we may never be satisfied until the whole Earth experiences Your justice and Your peace.  Amen
 
So let us eat and drink as Jesus taught, longing to invite the stranger to our table, and yearning to welcome the poor.  May their absence here serve to remind us of the divisions this meal seeks to heal. May their presence here truly transform us into being the Body of Christ which we share. Let us share this bread and wine as Jesus taught, knowing that our lives are forever changed by this and every  breaking of bread  and sharing of wine.
 
Music as we take Communion Sanctus from Missa Luba
 
Post Communion Prayer
 
O God for whom we wait,
you have fed us with the bread of eternal life:
keep us ever watchful
that we may be ready to stand before the Son of Man,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 
O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing
Charles Wesley 1707 – 1788

the lines in italic are repeated

 

O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of His grace.
 
2: Jesus! The name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life, and health, and peace.
 
3: He speaks and listening to His voice,
new life the dead receive.
The mournful broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.
 
4: My gracious master and my God
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through the earth abroad
the honours of thy name.



Blessing
 
May God, the Father of lights,
who was pleased to enlighten the disciples
by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,
grant you gladness  
and make you always abound with the gifts of the Spirit.

May the wondrous flame that appeared above the disciples,
cleanse your hearts from evil and pervade you with purifying light.

And may God, who has been pleased to unite many tongues
in the profession of one faith,
give you perseverance as you walk Jesus’ way
that, through faith you may journey from hope to clear vision.

And may the blessing of Almighty God,
Father,  Son and Holy Spirit,
come down on you
and all whom you love, now and always,
Amen. 

 

Sources 

 
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship.
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France (translated by Andy Braunston)
Prayer after Sermon and Communion by Janet Morely
Blessing adapted from the Roman Missal
 
Come Holy Ghost Our Souls Inspire sung by the Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral Glasgow.
Come Down O Love Divine sung by the Collegium Regale Network
verses from Psalm 104 sung by the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir
Spirit of God from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Enemy of Apathy sung by the Arundel and Brighton Diocesan Choir
Sanctus from Missa Luba (1965) sung by the Tim Keyes consort
O For a Thousand Tongues by the BBC’s Songs of Praise
 

Thanks to…

Jamie Stewart for singing Isaac Watt’s hymn,
the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith,
Myra Rose for recording the Prayer of Approach, Prayer of Illumination and reading,
Addie Redmond for recording the Prayers of Intercession
Liane Todd for recording the Offertory.
 
Where in copyright hymns are reproduced according to the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence. 
Music recorded and podcasted according to the terms of Barrhead URC’s OneLicence and its PRS Limited On Line Music Licence no LE-0019762.
 

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