Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Day of Pentecost, Year C
June 9, 2019
Lessons: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17 (25-27)
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people look boldly to the future of Christ’s church, trusting the work of the Holy Spirit among them.
Key Scripture: For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” – Romans 8:15-16
I’ve read a lot of articles, blog posts, and prognostications about the future of the church in North America. If you take what you read at face value, it can leave you with a pretty grim and gritty taste in your mouth. Gloom, doom, death, and fear set the tone. Yet, I wonder; is this all there is to be said about the Body of Christ, the beloved community?
Thanks be to God for Pentecost and Paul! This annual celebration and the Year C lessons are filled with hope for world-weary and discouraged disciples. Friends, this is the Sunday to preach and teach that hope and to proclaim to God’s people that yes indeed, we can lift our heads high in the light of God’s promises and stop wallowing in doubt and self-pity.
Yes, this is a tough season. I don’t dispute that. In many congregations attendance has dropped, budgets are shrinking, and buildings are (sometimes quite literally) crumbling around us. Reports claim that more people are suspicious of or done with religion. And let’s face it: Change is hard, and we are not easily motivated to tinker with what we name and claim as sacred or tradition.
But then there’s Pentecost and Paul! The early church faced challenges. They were afraid. Yet Jesus had promised them the Advocate, the Spirit, to “teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26b). Better yet, Jesus gave them his peace, and that same peace applies to us today.
We need Pentecost, my friends. We need to be shaken from our complacency and released from our fears and anxieties. We must take seriously Paul’s exhortation in Romans 8: “For you did not receive a spirit of slaver to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (15-16).
Yes, it would be foolish and trite to promise those with whom we serve and minister that discipleship is a summer stroll in the park. There will be trials, pain, suffering, and (perish the thought) change. But Jesus tells us “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27), and Paul reminds us whose we are and who we are.
How about spending some time this Sunday pondering exactly what the church is, why we’re here, and where we’re going. Remember the words of the prophet Joel in the story from Acts: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…” (2:17).
See God is doing a new thing all the time. Creation continues to unfold in our expanding universe, and the Church is changing and finding new expressions yet retains its ancient and timeless message of love, hope, mercy, and saving grace. Good news abounds, so look forward church and don’t be fearful. You—and all of creation—belong to God.
Pentecost is one of the Sundays when youth traditionally affirm their baptism (also known as confirmation). If you have no youth being confirmed and no baptisms, consider having everyone affirm their faith. Break out the Christmas Eve candles and start a conflagration of hope, reminding everyone that it only takes one spark to start a movement. Call for a year of Spirit-led and Spirit-fed discipleship, and commission God’s people to go out into the world with a fresh vision and renewed commitment. Let disciples of all ages reignite a spark of wonder, joy, and promise as people of God.
In this week’s reading from Acts, Peter quotes the prophet Joel, saying “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…” (2:17). Invite youth to think about what it means to be a prophet (to prophesy) and to see visions today. What young people are casting a new vision and speaking prophetically? You might lift up climate activist Greta Thunberg or any of the 20 young activists listed in this article.
Remind youth that their voices and vision count. There’s biblical precedent for them to be bold and faithful in following where the Spirit leads them. We need them and their leadership—now.
This week’s focus verse is Psalm 104:33 – “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.”
Ask the children to tell you what they notice about the worship space today. What is different? If you have decorated for Pentecost, they’ll likely notice the red paraments, flowers, and other festive touches. Next invite them to tell you what is the same about worship today—prayers, scripture, cross, communion. Affirm all their answers. If no one mentions singing hymns, tell them that one of the things we always do in Sunday worship is sing.
Singing is so much a part of the church’s tradition that St. Augustine supposedly said “He who sings prays twice.” (Although that statement is not found in any of his writings we have today.) Singing is really important. Even the psalm writer says that in today’s focus verse.
Invite the children to sing a simple favorite hymn. Encourage them to sing every day as a way to give thanks and praise to God. Finish with a simple prayer giving thanks for the children and for the gift of music.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
On this Pentecost Sunday we are reminded that we can be forward-focused in our steward discipleship because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to “fall back into fear” because we God’s beloved.
Stewardship at Home
Spend some time this week thinking about your vision for your faith community, for the community in which you live, and for this world. How can your faith, made bold by the Holy Spirit and prayer, help you to make a difference in bringing this vision to reality?
Choose one small action every day to begin moving your vision toward reality. Don’t let fear get you sidetracked!
2016 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2016/05/abiding-with-the-advocate/
2013 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2013/05/kindle/
Photos: Marianite Pentecost Icon, Brayden McLean and Schipulites, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!