Visit our new site at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Unforgettable Fire" Edition

Texts for Sunday can be found here .

I don't know about the rest of you, but even despite its renewed emphasis as a major festival in my tradition in recent years it's difficult to explain Pentecost to people in the pew...maybe because it's so hard to explain the Holy Spirit in general. What if our assemblies today don't sound or act like that gathering of believers in the second chapter of Acts? What did Jesus mean when he referred to the Spirit as Comforter and Advocate? Who is this Person whose ceaseless activity powers creation and powers the Church? How do we try to conceptualize the One who "moves where she wills?," whether that's in ecstatic worship or in the quiet gifts of the faithful?

What are your plans for celebrating Pentecost Sunday in your congregation? How will you engage the texts in your sermon? As always, share your ideas and insights here.


  1. We are baptizing two adults this Sunday, a relatively rare occurrence in the Episcopal Church. They are life-long Christians but it is only now that the Spirit has moved them to take this step. I may ask permission to tell part of their story

    I might go back and see what I have said before, too. I'm kind of sorry I didn't choose the Tower of Babel lesson instead of Acts and Romans, although I like the Romans reading. My secretary will probably kill me if I change my mind again, though; the bulletin is nicely formatted already. :-)

    But first, I have to get through an examining chaplains meeting and a few home communions. So I might start thinking hard about the sermon Thursday night.

  2. I'm preaching Acts, and I realized yesterday that I don't seem to have preached Pentecost before! But it's also confirmation day, and I have definitely preached that before.
    This year we're focusing on being the church and acting like the church God calls us to be, so I'm hoping to end up there...but I have no idea how I'm going to get there.
    I will say that there are some REALLY GOOD Holy Spirit/Pentecost hymns in CH4 (the hymnal of the church of scotland). The ones in the Presbyterian hymnal...not so much.

  3. Since my due date is the day after Pentecost I will not be preaching this Sunday. I have designed the service with the help of our worship team and helped pick out what we will do, but it just doesn't depend upons my presence in case I can't be present!

    That said, here are links to two pieces that we are using (with some tweaking for local context). One sort of plays on exactly what you were saying LutheranChik - folks seem to know we "do" Pentecost now, but don't always get why or what it means. They know the story, but they don't seem to go much further than that. This first drama, while a bit hokey, does a good explanation. I like the way it explains/retells the Acts story, but then also asks the question of what does the story and Pentecost mean today, or what does it "do" for the church. Again, it's kind of hokey, but we're going to play up the hokey-ness to see if that helps the message come across. Instead of ending it where the original authors ended it, though, we're going to have the reporter "interview" the congregation to ask where the congregation sees the Spirit working through our church and members.

    Instead of the hymn and straight Scripture reading during the first "scene break" we're going to use this Scripture reading with 12 readers. I think it will be really dynamic. We're not messing with the optional sound effects and stuff. Too high maintenance with other things going on.

  4. Teri - - I totally agree with you about the Presbyterian Pentecost/Holy Spirit hymns. In fact, we're making fun of that a tad in the service. The first drama starts as a "breaking news" announcement. We've got a really horribly blech-y Holy Spirit hymn picked and in the bulletin for right before the "proclaiming the word." We're going to have the actor playing the reporter literally interrupt that hymn at which point the organist is going to shout "Praise God!"

  5. Feasting on the Word...excellent stuff on Genesis. Babel as being those places in our lives where we label, divide, cast out, become more exclusive, think only of ourselves and our profit. Pentecost as being a moment in time...where the Spirit came to all regardless of gender, intellect, or social status. And how a few chapters later (in Acts) the church was back to its Babel roots. We are both children of Babel and Children of Pentecost.

  6. For me, the Spirit's Gift of Voice/Language has always been central: everyone on that first Pentecost heard the Good News in their own tongue, and our ongoing challenge is to recognize that the Good News refuses to be limited to only one way, only one language, only one form of communication. The Spirit moves most actively in communities of diversity.

    It is never comfortable, never safe. It defies our attempts to prune, put out, push out or package God's power up. Pentecost is a celebration of something we cannot control. It is a day of playing with Fire.

  7. I am going with language and SPirit language. It is an interesting choice in a tradition that has little place for speaking in tongues.

    My early thoughts are here

  8. I, too, have a baptism this week. My colleague is taking the sermon. But I'm curious if any of you have any resources to tie in a baptism liturgy with the themes of Pentecost. It shouldn't be hard to do (the Spirit hovering over the waters and all that) but figured I'd ask before I set about reinventing the wheel.

    Teri, our church is headed toward a similar theme for NEXT year. I'd love to pick your brain for resources, ideas that worked well, etc.

  9. I'm astounded to hear (not on this site, but a certain rector) that priests, pastors and preachers are claiming that the Acts Pentecost was the first Pentecost and that name and event are NT creations like the church. The legacy of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism in the church masquerading as ignorance is appalling. Thank you for allowing me to rant.

  10. She Rev: blessings on your Upcoming Event! Should your arrival coincide with Pentecost I would take that as a Holy sign. I'm also giggling with great glee at the "breaking news" concept with the organist's shout of praise. Lordy but I would love to be present for that.

    We have three baptisms, ranging in age from 4 months to 8 years. Two are siblings. We have an adult who wants to be baptized but he is also a musician and spring is a busy season for him. We'll catch him next time.

    Y'all are giving me some great food for thought as I consider the lessons. I think I'm especially eager to capture the imagination of our eight-year old candidate, so may lean toward the dramatic. We'll see.

  11. Prompted by hassoopheret's post I found this on "Judaism 101:"
    It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that makes this holiday significant.
    Though there is not a theological connection between the Judaic and Christian pentecosts, I think the idea of being given the Holy Spirit holds some value. Food for thought.

  12. Meg, we've been working on this theme throughout the whole program year in various ways. I'd be happy to chat sometime about ways that has manifested in worship and other parts of congregational life, and ways I wish we had done better...

    RE worship, I've decided to change up the text a little bit to include some pieces we usually miss. I'm cutting all the place names (I love them, and they may show up in the sermon, but the lay liturgist this week is notorious for tripping over easy readings, so he'll butcher it I think and I'm not willing to deal with that), and then adding in the end of the chapter (verses 37-47) about "life among the believers." :-)

    Still searching for a sermon title...and bulletin art (black and white). ideas?

  13. I'm really excited about Pentecost this year. LAst year we took all 300 or so congregants out into the sunshine to blow bubbles and talked of the excitement and colourfulness and playfulness of the Spirit.
    This year, I'm going to cut up the order of service and place each item in a balloon. The children will be asked to choose a balloon at random, burst it and see what comes out and we'll go along with whatever chaotic order the spirit produces. Got this idea from a retired minister. There's also a baptism - so that should add its own kind of chaos. Using the Acts passage - at some point in the service - who knows when?

  14. Responding to hassophret: I was taught in seminary that Pentecost was a Jewish festival first, and I do agree that we should remember that. Probably more important is to remember that the Holy Spirit moved throughout Hebrew scripture, and what we celebrate was Jesus' special 'sending' of it to the disciples and certainly our (Christian) understanding of the Spirit as part of the trinitarian God departs from Jewish beleif.

    I'm baptising two babies which is always wonderful. In TEC, Pentecost is one of the days especially appropriate for baptism with its clear link to the Spirit. We're having lots of red balloons and red velvet cake at coffee hour, and it should be a great day!

    Preaching John, who has certainly been preparing us for the coming of the Spirit the last few weeks!

  15. I'm planning to do some work around language, and the ways in which the Spirit leads us to overcome divisions, without denying our legitimate diversity.

    I'm guest preaching, in a congregation I don't know well, so may speak a bit from my own experience of doing pastoral care in a bi- and multi-lingual hospital. I also had a great experience last week leading worship in a language I don't speak AT ALL (thank goodness for the translations of the BCP!), and being profoundly moved by common hymnody--again, in a language I don't speak.

  16. We are celebrating the 300th anniversary of our congregation - on Pentecost. Among other things, we are dedicating a hand-carved, open-winged dove to hover over our communion table. It promises to be an exciting time!

    This is a "layered" song that we will be including. It is a paperless song that can be taught as you go along:

    If you'd like the music, leave a note and I'll send it along.

  17. Going with Acts. The plan is that this will tie off the stewardship program, of the last few months. looking at Pentecost from the viewpoint of what the Spirit empowers us to do, and looking at what the congregation does in service to each other, the local community and wider world. People have been reluctant to let me know what they do in these areas, so i will be making up some numbers from what I know.
    found a great story in Fire and Bread [another Iona resource] includes the idea that at Pentecost peter became the person God intended him to be.

    The service will be followed by congregation meeting, elections of church councillors and lunch.

    Now hopefully the Spirit gives me a voice to speak by then.

  18. Wow...what neat things going on!

    We are asking people to fill out a "Pledge Your Passion" card which we will be collecting at the offertory. It's not asking for commitments to specific ministries, but encouraging folks to consider which of 5 areas of ministry is their particular passion (although if they want to volunteer for something, they are welcome to do so!). I am going to work that into my sermon, so I'll be exploring the ideas of passion and the Spirit somehow.

    At the bishop consecrations last Saturday, there were two people who raised a loud and ugly protest from the congregation. One was a grown man, who was quietly escorted from the arena. The second, after the man had left, was his son, maybe 10 y.o. He was shouting such hateful words, and the collective sentiment, practically palpable, was of sadness that a child is learning this at home :-( I've been thinking about it all week, and will probably work around the idea of positive passion and mis-directed passion.

    We're also doing a reading of Acts that utilizes different voices plus congregational parts. Finally, our "Thanks be to God" response to the dismissal will be offered in about 17 languages, from European to Asian to African to Slavic to Pacific Islands. Very cool!

  19. I am sharing a friend's poem, which can be found here Jill

    Wind and Fire
    By Jonathan Bennett

    If I close my eyes when I feel the wind
    I can imagine your touch on my skin.
    It is not the same as having you here.
    The wind that comes to wrap itself 'round me
    Cannot comfort me as well as your arms.
    But if I inhale the wind like a breath
    It's as if I'm taking you inside me.
    And I'm not alone because you are here.
    We have become one, whole and complete.
    As I breathe I begin to understand
    That the bowels of the tomb remain vacant,
    That I have not been abandoned by


    If I close my eyes when I feel the fire
    I can remember warmth from touching you.
    It's not the same as lying 'gainst you.
    But I can feel your fire within me,
    Burning as I could feel it from your breast.
    And when we speak it's as if the fire spreads
    Igniting you in everyone list'ning.
    And it's as if you were here with me
    But not only one but hundreds of you
    With arms like yours, with hearts beating like yours.
    There is a new beginning in this fire,
    A fire I can kindle with just your

  20. Pentecost has traditionally been Confirmation Sunday for the congregation I'm serving, and for me it's the culmination of a great year teaching 12 8th graders who I will miss when it's over. I won't get to see them as Senior High students since my interim will end some time this summer.
    We're using the Acts text alone (well, I'm pretty sure; I have until 2 to make up my mind!), and my sermon, which will take the form of a charge to them, is titled "This I Believe." My intention is to talk about the way the Spirit works through and in the gathered body of the faithful, that our individual beliefs and practices matter, but there is unparalleled power in the movement of the Spirit in a group. (Good Congregational theology, I might add.) I'm hoping to convince them that Confirmation is a promotion, not a dismissal!
    They have written faith statements that will be, in part, incorporated into the service, and they are just wonderful. Maine UCC people are very much of the 1913 Kansas City Statement frame of mind, and I think I may incorporate a line or two in my sermon.
    I have loved these kids and feel very excited about confirming them.

  21. Well, I guess the actual joke is on me; I assumed that the gospel was John 20:19-23 because that is the Pentecost gospel. Not so much in the RCL...funny that I've preached every Pentecost since I was ordained (that would be four of them) and never varied from that gospel (probably b/c it is always an option in the BCP lectionary we formerly used). Maybe it is time for a change...or maybe not, but I must decide soon!

  22. This is one of my last three Sunday's as an interim here. Joy for the congregation. The congregational meeting will be announced on Sunday.

    Last year I got Red balloons and tied them to the end of the pews. When we had the sharing the peace time I took them off the pews and punched them up in the air among the people. I'm not sure what I'll do that way this year but they got the idea of the spirit floating down on them.

    I am going to lead them singing Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me... I will teach them the sign language for it and then we'll sing it twice and sign, hum and sign it once and then just sign no singing or words... Right before Communion.

    Blessings sisters.
    PS think good thoughts for the OK/TX area as big storms are predicted for today and tomorrow.

  23. I have been a longime member here, but haven't paid as much attention as I've been out of the pastorate and doing Hospice ministry, but am now transferring ordination into the UCC (from the Church of the Brethren) and preaching a "confirmation sermon" in the UCC for a delightful little church. So, a big day to preach and filled with delightful portents as the Spirit moves for them and me and us together. I'm looking forward to being a regular presence here if all goes well...and appreciate all the comments. I'm preaching on what the Holy Spirit calls us to corporately and individually as we live out the call of Christ.

    Love the children's story idea about the balloons...'twas going to preach on a "birthday party" for the church, but may incorporate/steal this if that's okay...

  24. Preaching on John 20:19-23 (for the first time). Rev Dr Mom would love to hear any thoughts you have on the Johannine Pentecost vs Acts 2. Or anything else you've done with that text!

  25. Ok, I'm a little late for the Tuesday leanings and a little too early for the Saturday party, but I'm going to get in while I can.

    So many of you talked about baptism. We have a baptism too on Sunday, and my title is "Baptism by Water and by Fire." I am planning to talk about water as the baptism of grace, that tells us we are loved, where we listen and hear God's promise to us. The baptism of fire comes later--when we are anointed to serve, where we tell and proclaim God's love to others, in our words and deeds. I want to invite them to reflect on where the fire is in their life, their passion for sharing God.

    Also, if you haven't seen it, there is a WONDERFUL Pentecost video from I posted it on my sermon blog


You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.