Sunday 23rd May 2021
The Rev’d Jan Adamson
You may wish to light a candle at the appropriate point near the start of the service
Good morning and welcome to this Sunday service for Pentecost, coming to you from West Lothian in Scotland. I am Jan Adamson, a retired minister currently serving Bathgate United Reformed Church as Interim Moderator. This service will follow it’s usual pattern with the addition of celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion, please gather a wee glass of wine or water with some bread in order that you can participate at the appropriate moment, as you are all invited to join me in this celebration.
Call to Worship 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
2 Thy blessed unction
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.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and the Lord’s Prayer
Loving God, whether you come to us in the unexpected or the familiar, we are glad of your presence.
We want to live well in the life you have given to us.
We long to experience the fullness of your love.
Whether you come to us with a challenge to take risks or the offer of comfort, we welcome you into our lives.
We want to understand more about you.
We long to experience the fullness of your grace.
Loving God, whether you come to us like a rushing wind or on a quiet breath, we reach out to you.
We want to enjoy the gift of your Spirit.
We long to experience the fulness of your power.
Merciful God, forgive us when as individuals, or as a church
we limit your love and hinder the healing work of your Spirit.
May we not be restrained or restricted in our faith
but be agents of reconciliation, praying that your saving grace
goes out into every corner of the world, to your glory
In repentance and in faith, receive the promise of grace and the assurance of pardon: To all who turn to him, Jesus says: ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Thanks be to God
The Lord’s Prayer
Reading Acts 2: 1 – 13
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?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Hymn: 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.
For many years we lived in a village, not far from the M8 in Central Belt Scotland. It was an all-electric village with no other source of energy which was prone to very regular power cuts. In order to cope with this and rather than purchase and fuel a generator, we opted for battery-pack power which could be charged when there was electricity and yet be there for us when we were disconnected from the National Grid. Over the years we became very resourceful in ensuring that we retained some form of energy, enough for a warm drink, food and a tad of warmth. All-in-all, it worked! This resourcefulness to stay connected became beneficial back at Christmas as together with our neighbour, we changed from running external Christmas lights from mains electricity to rechargeable battery packs. All went well in the beginning, we managed to keep up the recharging and every night the lights sparkled. However, once the weather turned even colder, we began to draw lots as to who was going to venture out to change the batteries, as the cold weather, was affecting the packs. If we left it for a night, we could watch the lights gradually fade away into darkness. Visible evidence of the necessity to ensure all stayed connected.
Which brings me onto reflecting upon Pentecost. The disciples had been preparing themselves to receive the Holy Spirit that Christ had promised them, here they were, gathered together in one place when tongues of fire seemed to rest on them filling them with the Holy Spirit and speaking in differing tongues.
In reading Acts 2 we soon discover that the church in Corinth is arguing again! So much for the unity to which Paul had been hoping for. Perhaps as we hear the story of Pentecost we too long to see the drama re-enacted in our churches today. We may have expectations of something overwhelming, a drive towards proclamation, a sudden unity or connectedness just as described in this passage. The source of the church’s power is the Spirit of God. That where God’s spirit is there is unity and a concern for reaching out to others.
There is a deep longing in the human heart to be heard and understood, which is why we need to let our conversations with each other develop into a deeper understanding of each other, of our real joys and sorrows and of what God is doing and saying in our lives. AND at the same time, show our neighbours in the wider community and across the world that we are listening to what they have to say to us. To do that, we need to stay connected. Connected to each other. Connected to God.
I return to Christmas just past, when I received a box in the post. This box contained a packet of coffee, shortbread and tablet. A gift from Peedie Kirk on Orkney (The only URC permitted to open during the lockdown of mainland Scotland). This box had been sent to all ministerial colleagues, and with the reference to staying in touch and connected together through the sharing of a coffee. Through staying connected, in one way or another, might give us all the energy we require to keep strong and shine our beacons of light in our various communities.
The Spirit flowed through the disciples so that they were able to express themselves uninhibitedly and it is the Spirit that removes the blocks to a full and natural expression of what lies in the depths of our hearts – that of the Good News of Jesus Christ. But all this leads me to pose several questions:
Are we prepared to let the Spirit work within us so that we can shine with the truth? Can we allow the Spirit to come and go freely?
Can we allow the Spirit to awaken our God-given gifts and demonstrate the gospel through our natural hospitality?
As we live through these challenging times, how can the church portray the love of God and the good news of Jesus in a new way for a new generation?
The source of vitality or energy in the life of a healthy church is our faith in God as revealed in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. We may all express this differently, but we could easily become like the fading Christmas lights, if we do not want to serve God or one another, as by service to God and one another we find a renewed sense of eagerness and enthusiasm. In a healthy, brightly lit church, faith is not assumed, it is spoken about, witnessed through our actions and interpreted as central to the task of the church in the community.
At the time of preparing this service the UK is dealing with an enormous vaccination programme the outcome of that being the gradual easing of the lockdowns of the past year. For us in the United Reformed Church it signals the beginning of re-establishing our church life. Some churches will have taken the difficult decision to close completely, others to reassess their activities and church life. What may have been ‘normal’ or ‘traditional’ before COVID 19 may now not be so appropriate post-COVID. But what we have proved during this past year is our resourcefulness in staying connected, whether that be through Daily Devotions, Sunday Devotions or the various on-line local services. We also have proved that our faith lives on through this pandemic, that despite feeling weary, we’ve put our trust in God, allowed our batteries to be topped up and ready for the energy needed in order to be receptive to the Spirit at work in our lives and in the life of the church.
On this day of Pentecost, we are being called to use our God-given gifts and to be receptive to the Spirit at work in our lives, so that together we can serve God, serve one another and help people to experience God’s love.
And so I end this reflection with this blessing:
Blessing that undoes us:
On the day
you are wearing
like a cloak
and your sureness
goes before you
like a shield
or like a sword,
may the sound
of God’s name
spill from your lips
as you have never
heard it before.
May your knowing
May the Divine
in strange syllables
an ancient familiarity,
a knowing borne
in the blood,
bringing the clarity
not in stone
or in steel
but in fire,
May there come
one searing word –
enough to bare you
to the bone,
enough to set
your heart ablaze,
enough to make you
Hymn: 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.
Prayers of Intercession
God of power and might, you sent your Spirit to the apostles at Pentecost so that they could tell the world of your wonderful works.
Fill your Church with the same courage and confidence, and empower it to proclaim your deeds to all people is words they can understand. Inspire those who minister in your church, those engaged in mission, and those involved in training others for ministry. As you gave the apostles strength to withstand opposition and imprisonment, Give courage and hope to all Christians for the gospel’s sake. Lord, hear our prayer.
God of wisdom, your Son promised his disciples the Spirit of truth.
Give insight, understanding and discernment to all entrusted with shaping social and economic policies that affect the lives of others, so that justice may reign where now there is inequality and wrong.
Lord, hear our prayer.
God of compassion and love, through your Holy Spirit you gave the apostles power to heal the sick and to forgive sin. Give comfort to those burdened by fear and anxiety, and hope to the despondent and depressed. Bless and uphold those we know who are sick, and those who care for them at home or in hospital. Lord, hear our prayer.
God of life, we pray for our lives that are always changing, that in the midst of this we might find you at work in us. May we discover reasons for hope and peace in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Offertory and Dedication
The work and ministry of the church continues whether the actual buildings are open or closed for physical attendance and worship. Pastoral care, worship, dealing with the bereaved, lonely and sick continues albeit in new ways or formats. Your monetary contributions enable the church to continue in its various ministries and for this we now give our thanks. Let us pray together as we include the bread and wine for our Holy Communion :
Lord God, we bring to you the ordinary things of life – food and drink and money – and with them we bring ourselves. Take us, and our gifts of money, to do your work in the world. Take this bread and wine and feed us from your table with your love. Accept our sacrifice of praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
Hymn: Enemy of Apathy
John L Bell & Graham Maule
brooding on the waters,
hovering on the chaos
of the world’s first day;
She sighs and she sings,
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,
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.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Invitation and Narrative
Come, come all of you from many differing contexts
Come as you are.
It is Christ who calls us here – it is his invitation.
May we be instruments of grace –
not just to one another, but also in our communal life together.
As we gather, we are reminded by Paul of the following:
‘On the night of his arrest, Jesus took bread and having blessed it he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples saying: “This is my body, given to you.” In the same way, he took the wine and having given thanks for it he poured it out and gave the cup to the disciples saying: ‘This cup is the new relationship with God, sealed with my blood. Take this and share it. I shall drink wine with you next in the coming kingdom of God.”’
Prayer of Thanksgiving
God, Holy Trinity, we give thanks and praise for the revelation of your creation, for the skies in their order and the glories of the light.
We thank you that you reveal yourself in your word in the scriptures and in your incarnate Jesus, to whom the scriptures point, and in whom they find their meaning and fulfilment.
Gracious God, we thank you for your Son, Jesus who has changed the face of the earth, because he spoke of a great vision, of the kingdom of God which will come one day, a kingdom of freedom, love and peace. We remember that wherever Jesus came, women and men re-discovered their humanity and so we were filled with new riches, so that we could give one another new courage in our lives.
We recall that he went to search for all who were lost, for those who were saddened, and out in the cold, and how he always took their side without forgetting others.
All that cost him his life, because the mighty of the earth could not tolerate it, and yet, he knew he was understood and accepted by us. He saw himself confirmed by us in love. So, he became one with us and so freed from himself, he could live a life of liberation for others.
Send your Spirit upon us and these gifts, the good Spirit from you and your Son, that it may inspire us when we continue to follow Jesus. Jesus, from whom we have learnt to be free, free from the powers which estrange us, free to do good.
As best we can, we do what Jesus commands us to do. To celebrate his memory, offering and presenting our very selves, to be a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for your acceptance through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Breaking and Sharing
The peace of the Lord be with you
The bread we break is a sharing of the body of Christ
The cup we take is a sharing in the blood of Christ
Receive this holy sacrament of the body and blood of Christ
and feed on the lamb of God with reverence and with faith
‘The body of Christ – eat, remembering him’
‘The blood of Christ – drink remembering him’
Time of reflection Take This Moment, Sign and Space
sung from the church of St Martin’s in the Fields, London
Closing Prayer and Blessing
Gracious God, we thank you for nourishing us with the bread of life and with the cup of salvation. May we be strengthened in your service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
When we Breathe Together
This is the blessing
we cannot speak by ourselves.
This is the blessing we cannot summon
by our own devices,
cannot shape to our own purposes,
cannot bend to our own will.
This is the blessing
that comes when
we leave behind our aloneness,
when we gather together,
when we turn toward one another.
This is the blessing
that blazes among us
when we speak the words strange to our ears,
when we finally listen into the chaos,
when we breathe together at last.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you all, this day and for ever more. Amen.
Hymn: O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing
Charles Wesley 1707 – 1788
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 & listening to His voice,
new life the dead receive.
The mournful broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.
4: My gracious master & my God
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through the earth abroad
the honours of thy name.
Sources and Thanks
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship.
Prayers of Approach © 2002-2021 ROOTS for Churches (May-June 2005 & 2019)
Blessing that Undoes © Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. janrichardson.com
Prayers of Intercession © 2002-2021 ROOTS for Churches (May-June 2006)
Offertory Prayer Rejoice and Sing 10a
Closing Blessing © Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A book of Blessings for the Seasons.
Thanks to Anne Hewling, Addie Redmond, Dan Morrell and John Wilcox for reading the other spoken parts of the service.
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
Spirit of God Unseen as the Wind – Margaret V Old (1932-2001) © Scripture Union. Taken from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Enemy of Apathy – John L Bell & Graham Maule ung by the Arundel and Brighton Diocesan Choir
O For a Thousand Tongue To Sing – Charles Wesley 1707 – 1788. Taken from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Opening: Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing: Trumpet Voluntary in D by John Baston (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com