Planning - Pentecost
- Revised Common Lectionary Readings
- Worship Notes
- Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship
- Suggestions from Worship & Song
Back to top.
Today is Pentecost, the final Sunday of Easter. While we have been reading from Peter's Pentecost sermon during Eastertide, this is the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. It is also a day for baptism, confirmation, and commissioning persons for their ministries.
Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost, is June 19. While our singing, praying and liturgical texts consistently recognize and praise God as Three in One, this is the day for celebrating and exploring this mystery most fully.
Next Sunday is also both Peace with Justice Sunday on the United Methodist Program Calendar and Father's Day on the U.S. civil calendar. Plan worship today with Trinity Sunday as the core. Address the other emphases in ways that connect with that core.
The next denominational emphasis is Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15. The next denominational special Sunday is World Communion Sunday, October 2. In preparation for World Communion Sunday, consider viewing "Living into the Mystery," either in worship or as part of a class. You can view it online if you have broadband Internet; or order the DVD. The video and ordering details are available here.
Back to top.
Atmospherics: I Will Pour out My Spirit
The common theme across these texts is the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon people and what happens when the Spirit flows.
Acts 2:1-21 is the first part of the Pentecost story. "Pentecost" is from the Greek word meaning "fiftieth," because it was (and still is) celebrated beginning fifty days after the Sabbath following Passover, which is also the day of the giving of the Torah, fifty days after the original Passover caused Pharoah to let the Hebrew people leave Egypt. Known as Shavu'oth in Hebrew (Feast of Weeks -- "a week of weeks" after Passover, Leviticus 21:15-21), Pentecost, like Passover, was a major pilgrimage feast. Jewish pilgrims from the whole of the diaspora would flood into Jerusalem for the celebration of Torah and the wheat harvest. The usual smells around the city would have been overwhelmed by the smell of the baking of bread from all this wheat. Pouring, flowing, moving, breathing, chanting Torah -- these are the sights, sounds, and activities that characterized this two-day festival.
But this Pentecost was something more. It was also fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. And on this day, the Spirit came with power on his disciples as Jesus himself had told them to expect (Acts 1:8). Into this flood of pilgrims, the Holy Spirit drove a band of 120 disciples of Jesus to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God announced by Jesus and ratified in his death and resurrection. The hubbub their proclamation created rose above the general hubbub of the pilgrims, in part because it came with great power and in many languages.
Apart from concluding these Galileans were drunk (as apparently some did), there needed to be some public explanation for what was going on. Peter stands in the midst and provides it. "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy" (Acts 2:17).
Peter's message here was critical for them and for us to understand. What these pilgrims were witnessing that day in Jerusalem was not simply an amazing miracle. It was, as Peter's message alludes, nothing less than the inauguration of an entirely new era. The "last days" had begun. This Shavu'oth was no longer just about wheat, but the Bread of Life coming down out of heaven. It was no longer about Torah given by God on Mount Sinai long ago, but the Giver of Torah being poured out among these people on this Mount Zion here and now. It was no longer fifty days after the death of many lambs that brought deliverance so the people could receive Torah. It was fifty days after the resurrection of the Lamb of God who had conquered Sin and Death. This festival of the Week of Weeks was now the site of the outbreaking of the Day of Days.
Our witness as church on this day as on that day was exactly what Peter declared it to be -- the beginning of an entirely new era, an era in which we still find ourselves at the generous, if also frightful, mercy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh.
And so today is a day to remember the era in which we actually live -- as Peter announces -- and guide your worshiping community to live in the flow of the Spirit in very way you can, not just in worship, but in all the ways the Spirit already flows among and through and even without you whether you gather for worship or live as Christ's representatives in the world. Among other things, this means that today is a day for those who may have been discerning their ministries throughout Eastertide to be blessed with an anointing in the power of the Spirit to engage the ministries they have discerned.
Let the imagery and soundscapes you work with today help your congregation experience and not just think about outpouring, blessing, the word of God moving through people like an overflowing river. Let all see the wine being poured into the chalice -- a sign of God's love poured out for us all in Jesus Christ. Pour water into the font -- a visible and audible sign of the unending cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. Have the bread baking before people arrive, and let the flow of the aroma embrace them and sweep them as it would have at the first outpouring at Pentecost. Eat and drink all the bread and wine today, continuing to share with one another until all have received and all has been received, saving enough for those to whom you will flow from worship to share it later that day.
I Corinthians 12 addresses the outpouring and flow of the Spirit in more concrete ways -- as empowerment that flows in and through everyone who has been baptized by water and the Spirit in nearly as many ways as may be imagined. Paul's list of gifts here is expansive, but by no means exhaustive. Every disciple of Jesus Christ who is walking in the power of the Spirit has been given many gifts not just for use within the Christian communitywhether a congregation, a society or a class meeting, to use Wesley's ecclesiology-- but to bless people wherever we may go as representatives and embodiment of Jesus Christ. All of these gifts not only "build up the body," they also send that body out to be the body of Christ in the world. With only one exception (tongues, according to Paul himself), all these gifts have both an "inside face" for strengthening Christian communities and a "public face" for blessing and a witness to others.
I Corinthians 12 provides a good starting place for putting names to some of the ways the Spirit is flowing among you and through you to bless the world. Who among you is prophesying, not just in worship but in daily life? How is healing happening around you because of the work of the Spirit in your midst? How are people growing in knowledge and wisdom, and who is helping folks do that with the Spirit's power? Gather up these stories, these witnesses, and leave room for testimonies -- perhaps from folks who witness what these people do and the impact it has on the world around them.
John 7 records the words of Jesus at another Jewish pilgrimage festival, Sukkoth (soo-KOTE), the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths. Beginning five days after Yom Kippur, this week-long celebration remembers the wilderness wandering of Israel when the people lived in tents (sukkoth) and ends with an even greater time of rejoicing in a day called "Simchas Torah" (rejoicing in the Torah). It is also historically a fall harvest festival (barley), in which, as at Pentecost, there would have been a great "ingathering" of the harvest past and blessings for the new planting season to come.
The "great day" of the festival (John 7:37) probably refers to the day of Simchas Torah. In later rabbinic Judaism, this was the day that marked the ending AND the new beginning of the daily readings from Torah, as the final readings from Deuteronomy were completed and Genesis 1 would be taken up immediately to start the new lectionary year. Torah itself was understood to be the "living water" (or flowing stream), as the Psalms often refer to it. See Psalm 1.
"Blessed is the one who meditates on Torah day and night Such are like a tree planted by streams of water whose leaves do not wither."
The words of Jesus in the temple on Simchas Torah were thus incredibly provocative. "You want living water? Come to me! Come to me, and you'll not only get living water streams of living water will flow out of you!"
This teaching is still provocative today, even for longtime church members. He's not saying, "Come to me and I'll bless you and make you feel good and loved by God." He's saying, "Come to me, and become stream-sources yourselves!" The end of the work of the Spirit is not the individual. The end of the work of the Spirit is not realized until every corner of creation is reached with living streams. The streams aren't there just for us individually, to make us feel good. Instead, Jesus intends us and the Spirit that empowers us to become life-giving change agents for the most abundant harvest of blessing the world will ever see.
Drinking Jesus is the key here (7:38). Christians (including Methodists) have regularly taught that this includes drinking Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion. But that is only the start. This is mystery, but it isn't magic. Jesus does mysteriously indwell our bodies with his body and blood when we receive him with one another around his Table. But what do we do with him them? Do we let his blood actually become our own lifeblood? Or do we keep it to ourselves as a private experience with God?
The way of Jesus is personal, but it is not private! Experiencing his word speaking to us in worship, in the world, and in our hearts profoundly affects our own lives and perceptions, but that's not the point, any more than the spiritual gifts described in I Corinthians 12 are for us only. That transformation in our minds and hearts and feelings is intended to overflow into the whole world around us. Wherever we go, we are to become streams of the life-giving flow of Christ.
So who in your worshiping community or in the social networks of your worship planning team lives like that, right now? Who are those people or groups from whom life flows to bless others? Get in touch with these folks. Incorporate them into the planning of worship for today -- not just to do something in worship itself (like a testimony), but actually to advise your team how to plan worship that helps their story become contagious -- that "strikes the rock" until living streams in more and more people begin to flow.
Back to top.
Embodying the Word: An Act of Commissioning to New Ministries for Pentecost
After a call to discipleship and a confession of faith (The Apostles Creed, UMH 880, would be most appropriate today), invite those being commissioned to the font. Ensure that the font is located in place in clear sightlines of the whole congregation, preferably in the center of the center aisle. Invite those being commissioned to form a circle around the font, and invite the congregation to gather more closely and encircle the font and those being commissioned.
The pastor begins, addressing the congregation:
My brothers and sisters in Christ:
Today we give thankful witness
to the work of the Holy Spirit
in the lives of these who are gathered around this baptismal font.
By water and the Spirit, they have been made new creatures in Christ.
In the Spirit and with this body of Christ,
they have discovered their gifts for ministry,
connected with the passion for service that God has placed in each of their hearts,
and heard God's specific call
to offer their gifts and passion
in the work of God's kingdom in this community (or other places).
The Lord is with us!
Yes, God is with us!
Lift up your hearts and hands and voices!
We lift them to you, Lord!
Let us give thanks to our Triune God!
It is right to give you thanks and praise!
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
you have poured out your mercy upon us.
You have opened eyes that were blind to the harvest around us.
You have opened ears that were deaf to the cry of the sick, the poor, and the imprisoned.
You have opened minds that perceived only need to realize the deep giftedness of all people.
You have opened hearts that were hardened to your compassion for all your creatures.
You have opened hands that are now ready to serve you
and sent laborers into your fields white to harvest.
Blessing and honor and glory are yours, now and forever!
Those being commissioned may be invited to state their name and offer a very brief (one sentence) description of the ministry they will offer. A fuller written description of the ministry may be provided in a bulletin or onscreen. After each person has shared, the congregation may respond:
Thank you, God, for (Name) and for the ministry (she/he) will offer.
The pastor then turns the person to face the door leading out of the sanctuary, lays hands on the shoulders of the person being commissioned from behind, and invites the congregation to stretch their hands in prayer toward the person being commissioned. When all are ready, the pastor continues:
Come, Holy Spirit!
Come, Holy Spirit!
Fill your servant, Name, with grace and truth,
with wisdom and strength,
with every spiritual gift
to engage this ministry in your power.
Come, Holy Spirit!
Come, Holy Spirit!
Fill us with your love for (Name),
that we may support (her/him) in this ministry
with prayer, counsel, encouragement,
and all things needed
that your will may be done in (him/her) and through us. Amen.
Back to top.
Where are we? Is Pentecost a day, a season, or what? The Day of Pentecost is the last day of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. As such, it is the culmination of the weeks of Easter; and it is a day in continuity with the Resurrection experience of the church. Christ has been raised from the dead and has ascended to the right hand of God. The Day of Pentecost is a feast of Resurrection and of the gift of the Spirit to the church.
Planners and pastors should consider ways that the service can attend to those who are "thirsty for the Spirit" and those who are ready for articulating and signaling their readiness for some concrete form of ministry. Consider incorporating one of the "Occasional Services" in The United Methodist Book of Worship, such as "A Celebration of New Beginnings in Faith" (588) or "An Order for Commitment to Christian Service" (591). If you celebrate holy baptism on this day, invite all to renew and reaffirm the baptismal covenant. Consider using the new version of the reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant that draws heavily on the imagery of flowing water.
Intercessions: Consider using "Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying" (The Faith We Sing, 2193) as a prayer response/refrain to a set of bidding prayers. Consider inviting people to go to a table or rack of votive candles to light a candle and to pray for a particular need in the world or church or for a person needing healing or faith. Another approach on this day might be to invite all to pray for the needs of others using the Korean Tongsung Kido (Pray Aloud) approach described in The United Methodist Book of Worship, 446.
Back to top.
Prayer at the Birth of a Child: The United Methodist Hymnal, 146
Acts of response to the Word:
Concerns and Prayers: BOW 511, 501, 503, 506
"The Great Thanksgiving for the Day of Pentecost": BOW 68-69
Prayer of Thanksgiving if there is no Communion: BOW 552
Dismissal: BOW 559
For additional Pentecost resources, see pages 94-100 in Season of Ash and Fire.
- BOW 407 or 408.
- Also see 329, 335, and 542 in The United Methodist Hymnal.
Prayer welcoming God's gracious gifts:
O Holy God,
open unto me
light for my darkness,
courage for my fear,
hope for my despair.
O loving God,
open unto me
wisdom for my confusion,
forgiveness for my sins,
love for my hate.
O God of peace,
open unto me
peace for my turmoil,
joy for my sorrow,
strength for my weakness.
O generous God,
open my heart
to receive all your gifts.
(Howard Thurman) from Mental Health Ministries website. Used with permission. There are additional worship and meditation resources there.
Back to top.
Worship & Song is a new collection of musical and worship resources from The United Methodist Publishing House with the assistance of staff from Discipleship Ministries. It is available in multiple kinds of editions, both print and electronic, and online at the hwww.worshipandsong.com. As we did for The Faith We Sing when it was first released, we will provide suggestions for music and worship resources from this collection as relevant for the season or Scriptures.
3017, "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity." Sing this like the light dance the tune is, and not the dirge it sometimes is made to be! If text and tune are both unfamiliar to the congregation, consider using this as an opening song for both this week and next, or use as the closing song this week and the opening song next week.
3018, "Creation Sings." Set to the lovely LONDONDERRY AIR, this would make a fine response to the reading of I Corinthians 12 today.
3092, "Come, Holy Spirit." This could be part of either an opening song set or, as a chorus, used during the Act of Commissioning described above.
3109, "Living Spirit, Holy Fire." This new text by Ruth Duck connects well with the reading from I Corinthians. It may be especially appropriate for a time of prayer on this day. Consider using it as a structure for prayer, singing a verse, inviting the congregation to offer their petitions while the tune continues in the background, singing the next, and so on.
3146, "O Breath of Life." This would make an especially appropriate choice as a hymn during Communion today. Its lilting tune and simple, meditative phrasing can easily be sung as people move to and from the Table, or it could be sung quietly in the pews after persons receive.
3150, "Father, We Have Heard You Calling." This hymn could be sung as a final act of blessing after the commissioning above, as a closing hymn today (especially if preaching focuses on the gospel), and as an opening hymn next week (Trinity Sunday). Gareth Hill's new text is paired with a strong tune many congregations know by heart, even in parts (HYFRYDOL).
3161, "Gracious Creator of Sea and of Land." This may be sung to the tune provided, or to the more familiar SLANE (Be Thou My Vision) as a hymn of sending. If your congregation is more adventurous, try the tune provided
Back to top.