Order of service for 31 May 2020

Service for St Andrew’s – 31 May 2020

Good morning everyone – Kia Ora e te whanau.

I welcome you very warmly as we come together in spirit if not in place.  Because the Moderator is streaming a service at 9.00 am this morning (see it at https://www.facebook.com/modpcanz/), I have chosen to simply offer you a service including hymns, prayers and a sermon by email.  You can click on the links provided to view and listen to the Moderator’s Service and to the three hymns on YouTube.

How are you today?

Prayer for the week (Service material, Call to Worship and some Prayers, this week are based on Seasons of the Spirit – Lent-Easter 2020)
Holy Spirit, who came as wind and flames of fire,
fan into life the gifts and abilities of people everywhere;
unite us in a creative love that includes others,
celebrates differences, and brings glory to God.  Amen.

Call to worship
Sing to our God a new song!
Let every generation sing praise to our God!
Let our voices give praise beyond words and ages and cultures!
May our words and deeds blend in harmony,
giving voice to the SPIRIT who moves among us!
Come, let us worship.

Hymn – Bring Many Names (YouTube https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=bring+many+names+beautiful+and+good&ru=%2fvideos%2fsearch%3fq%3dbring%2520many%2520names%2520beautiful%2520and%2520good%26qs%3dHS%26form%3dQBVDMH%26sp%3d1%26pq%3dbring%2520many%2520names%2520beautiful%2520and%2520good%26sc%3d1-35%26cvid%3d88F93904BDA3419C881172F665E6E327&view=detail&mid=A0B84DD4EA62DCFBB7DBA0B84DD4EA62DCFBB7DB&rvsmid=)

Gathering prayer
Almighty God, You come to us in fire, rather than in ashes;
in water, rather than in dust;
in the breath of life that drives out the stillness of death.
Our breathing is life, our breathing is You.

(Silence – focus on breathing)

Cleanse us from all that clogs up our systems
and weighs us down.
Turn our hearts to reach for You.
Refine us until we shed the fears and worries
that keep us from reflecting Your light and love
throughout this community.
Purge us from the language of excuse and justification,
that our lives might preach Your gospel to all the world.
Help us, we pray, to leave behind the shadows
that threaten to overcome us,
so that we may live fully the resurrection life
to which the Spirit calls us.

Holy One, we confess that we struggle
to understand one another.
Open us to the presence of Your SPIRIT.
We confess that we have a hard time
hearing experiences that don’t match ours.
Open us to the presence of Your SPIRIT.
We confess that we are confined by our words.
Open us to the presence of Your SPIRIT.
We confess that we try to confine Your Spirit
within our words, our experiences.
Open us to the presence of Your SPIRIT.
Holy One, open us to the uncontainable,
wild presence of Your Spirit.
Teach us to see You, to hear You,
to feel You beyond our human experiences
and understanding.
Open us to the presence of Your SPIRIT.

The Spirit moves alongside us,
creating us anew in each breath.
As many times as we fear,
as many times as we try
to keep God in the box of our human experience,
the SPIRIT remains with us, breaking us open.
As many times as we fall short
of living God’s dream for us,
we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Song – Spirit of God (YouTube https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Spirit+of+God+in+the+clear+running+water&ru=%2fsearch%3fq%3dSpirit%2bof%2bGod%2bin%2bthe%2bclear%2brunning%2bwater%26form%3dWNSGPH%26qs%3dSW%26cvid%3daa261729ab7f48f6a65cd54bc1272343%26pq%3dSpirit%2bof%2bGod%2bin%2bthe%2bclear%2brunning%2bwater%26cc%3dNZ%26setlang%3den-US%26PC%3dHCTS%26nclid%3d595929F726ADD2F686D6C618655E1FC8%26ts%3d1590552574275%26nclidts%3d1590552574%26tsms%3d275%26wsso%3dModerate&view=detail&mid=B10383A282CDF9297EA2B10383A282CDF9297EA2&&mmscn=vwrc&FORM=VDRVRV)

Hebrew Scripture reading – Numbers 11:24-30 (Good News Translation)
24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said.  He assembled seventy of the leaders and placed them around the Tent.  25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him.  He took some of the Spirit He had given to Moses and gave it to the seventy leaders. When the Spirit came on them, they began to shout like prophets, but not for long.

26 Two of the seventy leaders, Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp and had not gone out to the Tent.  There in the camp the Spirit came on them, and they too began to shout like prophets.  27 A young man ran out to tell Moses what Eldad and Medad were doing.

28 Then Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ helper since he was a young man, spoke up and said to Moses, “Stop them, sir!”

29 Moses answered, “Are you concerned about my interests?  I wish that the Lord would give His Spirit to all His people and make all of them shout like prophets!”  30 Then Moses and the seventy leaders of Israel went back to camp.

Acts 2:1-21 (Good News Translation)
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place.  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.  Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world. 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.  In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, “These people who are talking like this are Galileans!  How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages?  We are from Parthia, Media, and Elam; from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; from Pontus and Asia,  10 from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene.  Some of us are from Rome, 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!”  12 Amazed and confused, they kept asking each other, “What does this mean?”

13 But others made fun of the believers, saying, “These people are drunk!”

 Peter’s Message
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.  15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only nine o’clock in the morning.  16 Instead, this is what the prophet Joel spoke about:

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.
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.
19 I will perform miracles in the sky above
and wonders on the earth below.
There will be blood, fire, and thick smoke;
20     the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will turn red as blood,
before the great and glorious Day of the Lord comes.
21 And then, whoever calls out to the Lord for help will be saved.’

Lots of stuff has been going on this week.  But one thing has stood out for me.  It was in Tuesday’s paper on the front page under the headline, Back Where it Belongs.  “Stuff” our major news agency was going to be sold off or swallowed up or closed down, and just plain lost.  But in steps Sinead Boucher, already its Chief Executive and she buys it up for one dollar!  Our mayor has called it “brave” and “innovative”.  Not only is it not going to be owned by an overseas buyer who has no real interest in it except as something to be bought and sold, but it’s going to be owned and operated by a quality journalist whose interest is in keeping it serving our country with good, quality news about us and the events of our country and world which do or should concern us.

Well, I think that’s good news of Pentecost proportions to be celebrated!

Pentecost is meant to be an encouraging time so let us look forward to coming together and celebrating the good things that have been happening in our country and world as we continue to be seriously vigilant as we work hard to defeat the silent enemy of COVID-19 that is threatening us.

You know we have got quite a lot in common with the people of the early church.  They have all been in lockdown.  It’s been 50 days since Jesus has died.  That’s been followed up with all the stories of members of their group meeting with the risen Jesus.  But, since then, they’ve just been waiting.  And then we’ve had the story that we referred to last week of Jesus being with them again and telling them to go to Jerusalem and wait there.  They’ve been really frightened at the beginning and with good reason.  Jesus has been killed as an example of what could happen if they disobey the rules of the lock down.  It’s a tough world back there in first century Jerusalem.  But something is stirring.  It’s the feast of Pentecost.  It’s like a great big thanksgiving event.  People have come from all over the place, Jews who have spread out all around the Roman world.  They call it the Diaspora – Jewish people moving out and establishing themselves in all sorts of other countries.  They’ve been doing it for so long that they even speak the languages of the places where they have settled.  But they’re still Hebrew people at heart and, whenever they can, they still come back to Jerusalem to celebrate the major feast days, and Pentecost is one of them.

I rather like our reading from the book of Numbers.  It says that when the Spirit comes upon the seventy leaders, they begin to shout like prophets.  Joshua tries to get Moses to stop them, but Moses’ says that he wishes all of God’s people would shout like prophets.  The picture of all the seventy leaders shouting like prophets is quite astonishing but they obviously feel that they do have something to shout about.  They stand in the tradition of the prophets who have a conviction of God’s truth which they fearlessly convey to the people.  I wonder if there is something that we feel compelled to shout about today.

Well the same kind of thing is happening in our reading from the book of Acts, when the Spirit comes on the people, immediately they begin speaking in praise of God so that all the people who are there hear God praised in their own hometown dialects.  There are Jews visiting Jerusalem from all over the place.  There is such a commotion that they come to investigate.  Luke says that all the languages represented in Jerusalem that day are spoken by Jesus’ followers.  These visitors to Jerusalem can’t make out what’s going on and they say to one-another, “What can this mean?”

That sounds to me like a pretty important question.  “What can this mean?”  Maybe we haven’t experienced anything like what Luke describes in the reading.  Clearly Luke sees this as a very significant event.  It comes at the beginning of the Book of Acts which is about the spread of the Christian Gospel throughout the known world.  There is a sign here that the Good News of the Gospel is not to be kept in one place by one group of people.  It is good news for the whole world.  God’s love in Jesus Christ is to be spread abroad.  It is to be announced and proclaimed to all the peoples of the earth.

You can see what Luke is excited about.  It is important for us to appreciate that the event that Luke is describing is happening in Jerusalem just six or seven weeks after Jesus has been tried, convicted and brutally killed, just outside this very city.  Jesus’ death was supposed to have put an end to all this, once and for all.  But what Jesus has begun cannot be disposed of that easily.  Jesus has opened up an understanding, an appreciation, an experience of God.  His message of God has an explosive quality which has burst open the locked doors of rigidity and prejudice.

The people want to hear more.  They have become used to the harshness of totalitarian government and legalistic rigidity of their religious leaders that has not served their needs.  So, this new understanding and experience of God has found ready acceptance.

The people on the edge of the crowd might well ask, “What does this mean?”  That becomes a question for us, too.  The people hear in their own dialects and languages.  This is good news for them.

And we must hear the Good News that speaks to us.  The Good News that we hear must be in a language that we can understand, that we can appreciate because it relates to our experience and situation in life.  We are not going to be impressed by something that is completely foreign to us.

The message itself is spot on.

But it’s still important that we go on asking the question, “What does this mean?”  We must go on asking it.  We must continue to be challenged by it.  The answer that comes won’t always be the same.  Pentecost is something to be re-lived, re-interpreted, and experienced again and again.  We need to re-hear it in our own languages so that we in turn may speak to the world.

Prayer – God of Risk by Deborah Bushfield, (Alive Now, May/June 2009, p38)
‘God, You call us to leave our comfortable ways,
to sing new and unfamiliar songs.
You ask us to invite absolute strangers into Your house
even though we feel awkward.
We are slow to do what You ask.

‘God, teach us to risk.
Help us win our struggle against fear,
our preoccupation with self.
Let us be open to dare to love
our yet-unknown sisters and brothers.

‘God, lead us on a new path, Your path.
When we hesitate, stumble, and even reverse direction,
reach back – grasp
our hands – pull us forward.
And when we start to grow deaf to Your voice,
call out to us – bellow out to us.
Make us hear.

‘God, overwhelm us with Your love.
Surround us with Your peace
so that we have no choice
but to share it
with those who have put it into our lives.’

Gracious God, be with those who are leading our country at this time of crisis and upheaval.  Help those whose lives have been turned upside down by the dreaded COVID-19, and those who are working hard to help them and bless us all to be and do the best we can in this challenging time.  Stir us up and sort us out.  In Your name we pray.  Amen.

Hymn – Holy Spirit, Truth Divine (YouTube https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Holy+spirit+truth+divine&ru=%2fsearch%3fq%3dHoly%2bspirit%2btruth%2bdivine%26form%3dWNSGPH%26qs%3dSW%26cvid%3d7f2e076b16584ab1bc6b44f9f9485547%26pq%3dHoly%2bspirit%2btruth%2bdivine%26cc%3dNZ%26setlang%3den-US%26PC%3dHCTS%26nclid%3d595929F726ADD2F686D6C618655E1FC8%26ts%3d1590662898716%26nclidts%3d1590662898%26tsms%3d716%26wsso%3dModerate&view=detail&mid=D83268CB844C357DA252D83268CB844C357DA252&&mmscn=vwrc&FORM=VDRVRV)

As we go on from this place,
Let us move with the SPIRIT!
Let us breathe in the SPIRIT!
Let us sing forth the SPIRIT!
Let us live by the SPIRIT!
Let us go forth in the blessing of God
to love and serve wherever the SPIRIT moves!  AMEN!