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The Feast of Pentecost A – May 31, 2020

Prayer of the Day
O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Acts 2:1-21 – 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.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 – Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

John 20:19-23 – When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

The Spirit Gives us Gifts for the Common Good

How to preach Pentecost in a pandemic? This is what I’ve been wrestling with. The commentary at (understandably submitted before the pandemic began) makes no mention of our current realities whatsoever. Not much help. Maybe WP’s Sermon Brainwave will offer some food for thought. Sermon Brainwave is a 30-minute podcast by Professors Rolf Jacobson, Karoline Lewis, Joy J. Moore, and Matt Skinner on the Revised Common Lectionary texts in light of current events. But the Easter 7 podcast didn’t engage any current events or even the pandemic until the last 60 seconds, so maybe not.

So where are we right now? Where are our people? A global virus has taken 90,000 lives in the US and 320,000 across the world. That alone is anxiety-producing. Because of that we have had to stay at home, physical distance, wear masks and avoid crowds. This is not only unsettling, but has impacted the income of many. Schools and church buildings have been closed. Graduations and proms have been cancelled. There is a lot of grieving going on. There is tense, politically-charged disagreement on how to address this crisis. Quarantine fatigue is settling in. There are mental health concerns. Domestic violence is up. People need hope.

The Easter texts served us well. The disciples are locked inside the upper room. Jesus walks through their locked doors of fear and offers a needed word, “Peace be with you.” Jesus walks alongside the forlorn disciples on the road to Emmaus in the form of an unrecognized (at first) stranger. Good Shepherd Sunday reminded us that the Good Shepherd leads us to green pastures, by quiet waters. The Good Shepherd restores our souls. Even though we walk in Death Valley, we fear not evil. Our cups are running over. The Good Shepherd offers abundant life. We needed these Easter words.

In fact, our first lesson from Acts 2 begins with the believers “all gathered together in one place…” This will remind people of our inability to gather.

People need comfort and strength right now. We need encouragement. We need to be reminded that perfect love casts out all fear. We need to call to mind The Great Commandment to love God, and to love our neighbors.

Maybe this is a good day to dwell on the Holy Spirit as comforter/advocate. Holy Comforter:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  John 14:16-17

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. John 14:26

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.  John 15:26

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2

The word here is παράκλητος (paraclete), who is a helper, a legal advocate who pleads for you before a judge, intercessor, helper, assistant. In the absence of Jesus’ physical presence, the Spirit is our helper. Think 24/7 tech support, or maybe better, life support.

There are two choices for the gospel text. One is John 7: Let those who are thirsty come. Out of the believer’s heart will flow living water. The other is John 20, a recap of the Easter 2 text where a Jesus breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We can return to the Jesus who walks through our locked doors of fear, offering a word of peace.

But I found myself drawn to the epistle text on gifts of the Spirit from 1 Corinthians 12:

3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Everyone is gifted by the Spirit, just in different ways. Is the Spirit present? Here’s how you know: The work and presence of the Spirit are seen in the gifts believers use “for the common good.” How are the members of your congregational body using their gifts for the common good? Where that happens, the Spirit is present.

The passage concludes by saying each of us are parts of one body. We need each other. That’s an important message. We need each other, as much as ever. This is a time to be kind to one another, listen to one another, appreciating our differences as assets rather than deficits.

For commentary on Acts 2 and John 20 see Feast of Pentecost A.

For a Pentecost video and hymn suggestions see Pentecost B.

 Hebrew Lessons-at-a-Glance

A sprint through the second half of Genesis.

  • June 14 – Genesis 18:1-15
  • June 21 – Genesis 21:8-21
  • June 28 – Genesis 22:1-14 Abraham tested by God.
  • July 5 – Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 Isaac and Rebekah. “So he put a ring in her nose, and bracelets on her arm… Then Isaac took her into his mother’s tent… and she became his wife… And he loved her.”
  • July 12 – Genesis 25:19-34 Jacob swindles Esau’s birthright, with red stew.
  • July 19 – Genesis 28:10-19a Jacob’s dream of a ladder to heaven, at Bethel
  • July 26 – Genesis 29:15-28 Jacob, Laban, Leah and Rachel.
  • August 2 – Genesis 32:22-31 Jacob wrestles with God/the angel
  • August 9 – Genesis 37 Joseph’s dreams and his brothers’ plot. “Here comes this dreamer. Let us kill him and throw him into a pit… and see what will become of his dreams.”
  • August 16 – Genesis 45:1-15 Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.

Summer-Epistles-at-a-Glance, Romans 6-14

14 Sundays, June 14 to September 13, 2020

  • June 14 – Rom. 5:1-8 Justified. Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.
  • June 21 – Rom. 6:1b-11 Baptized. Baptized into Christ’s death, we rise with him.
  • June 28 – Rom. 6:12-23 Freedom. Shall we sin now that we are not under the law?
  • July 5 – Rom. 7:15-25a Sin. Paul’s dilemma: The good I want to do, I don’t do.
  • July 12 – Rom. 8:1-11 Spirit. To set the mind on the Spirit is life.
  • July 19 – Rom. 8:12-25 Glory. cannot be compared to suffering now.
  • July 26 – Rom. 8:26-39 Confidence: Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
  • August 2 – Rom. 9:1-5 The Jews: Paul grieves his people have rejected Christ. But theirs are adoption, glory, covenants, law, worship, promises, patriarchs and Messiah.
  • August 9 – Rom. 10:5-15 The Jews: Justified by Faith just like the Greeks. But who can believe without hearing? So blessed is the proclaimer.
  • August 16 – Rom. 11:1-2a, 29-32 The Jews: God has not rejected his people. God has imprisoned all in disobedience, in order that all might have mercy.
  • August 23 – Rom. 12:1-8 Gifts: One body; many members. Conform not. Be transformed.
  • August 30 – Rom.12:9-21 Life in the Body. Love one another. Live in harmony. Never seek vengeance.
  • Sept 6 – Rom. 13:8-14 Love in the Body. The whole law is summed up in a single word: Love one another.
  • Sept 13 – Rom. 14:1-12 Conflict in the Body. Don’t quarrel. Welcome one another. Don’t pass judgment on one another. Tolerate differences in piety.

2020 Summer-Gospels-at-a-Glance, Matthew 10-18

13 Sundays, June 14 to September 6, 2020

  • June 14 – Matthew 9:35-10:8. Mission. Jesus sends the 12. Harvest plentiful. Laborers few.
  • June 21 – Matthew 10:24-39. Commitment. Not peace. Sword. Find life by losing it.
  • June 30 – Mt. 10:40-42 Hospitality. Whoever gives a cup of water in my name…
  • July 5 – Mt. 11:16-19, 25-30 Repentance and Comfort. Come to me all weary…
  • July 12 – Mt. 13:1-9, 18-23 Parable of the Sower. Birds, rocks, thorns, good soil.
  • July 19 – Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43 Parable of Wheat and Tares. Let them grow together.
  • July 26 – Mt. 13:31-33, 44-52 Parables: Mustard Seed, Yeast, Treasure, Pearls, Net.
  • August 2 – Mt. 14:13-21 Jesus Feeds the 5,000. Send the crowds away…
  • August 9 – Mt. 14:22-33 Jesus Walks on the Sea. Command me to come to you…
  • August 16 – Mt. 15:[10-20] 21-28 (Blind Guides.) Jesus heals the Canaanite Woman.
  • August 23 – Mt. 16:13-20 Peter Confesses Jesus. On this rock I will build my church.
  • August 30 – Mt. 16:21-28 Jesus rebukes Peter. If you follow me, take up your cross.
  • Sept 6 – Mt. 18:15-20 Jesus teaches on Conflict. If a member sins against you…