Narrative Lectionary for the Day of Pentecost, Year Three
June 4, 2017
Lessons: Acts 2:1-4; Galatians 4:1-7 or Galatians 5:16-26, Luke 11:11-13
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people experience Pentecost as an opportunity to examine and renew faith, to affirm baptism, and to commit afresh by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit to stewarding God’s love, grace, and resources to a world in need.
Key Scripture: If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. For most of us the story is a familiar one: the early disciples gather in Jerusalem and receive God’s kindling of Spirit fire in their lives. And not only did they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, they were also suddenly able to share the good news in languages that all could hear and understand. How strange, how fantastic this event must have been—so very different from business as usual in the synagogue or marketplace. This was also probably not what the early Christians had in mind for their struggling, fledgling movement. But that’s how God rolls. The discipleship journey is full of surprises, unexpected twists and turns, and through it all the unrelenting presence of the Holy Spirit is keeping us moving in right directions.
With the Narrative Lectionary this year we are given choice to focus on a snippet from Acts and a relevant passage from Galatians, or we can choose to highlight the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5. Whatever the choice, even with the Gospel passage, the focus in on the Holy Spirit and how that mysterious, unsettling, and powerful divine presence and force works in the lives of the faithful, goading and cajoling us to speak and live the language of love.
The direction you find yourself led for preaching and teaching may depend somewhat on your context. Are you celebrating the Affirmation of Baptism with confirmands? If so, using the selection from Galatians 5 and the Fruits of the Spirit and how those work in our lives as we are blessed to be a blessing to others may be just the ticket. After all, it isn’t just confirmands who need to be reminded of the fruits God’s Spirit is working to cultivate in us—even when we ignore or fight against their flourishing. You may also want to weave that little Lukan gospel snippet in, too. It’s always helpful to reinforce God’s love for us and desire that we have good gifts in our lives, especially when the world is so keen on having us believe an alternative narrative of self-reliance, self-satisfaction, and self-gratification.
Paul’s message to the Galatian believers is that of freedom found in Christ. We are freed to love one another and to bear fruits of a distinctly different kind: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is certainly a countercultural AND costly notion of freedom. Pentecost reminds us that we don’t go this route alone. We are in the company of believers, the Body of Christ, and we have that precious gift of God’s Holy Spirit moving and breathing within us, guiding us, goading us, and equipping us for the journey of faith.
So what do Paul’s instructions have to do with stewardship? And why this lectionary on Pentecost Sunday? Maybe being good stewards of love is what we need in these tumultuous times. It has become so easy to bite and snipe and hate, to loudly clamor for our own voice to be heard above the din, to cut for ourselves a bigger slice of the world’s resource pie than is rightfully ours to have. Pentecost is a reminder of our larger communal life and purpose and why we would do well to cultivate those Spirit fruits in hopes of providing an alternative voice and way in the midst of the world’s rancor. By serving one another in love we serve God, and by speaking love as our primary language we speak so that all may hear and understand.
Dear colleagues and fellow believers, set your face toward the Jerusalem of your heart and determine to speak and live the language of love in the face of everything and anything this world dishes out. You will make a difference in doing so, for you will be the hands, feet, and heart of Christ in this world. How can we not succeed when the Spirit goes with us?
What does it really look like to live by the Spirit, as Paul admonishes the Galatian Christians? We’re told that if we live by the Spirit we are free, but we all know that freedom is costly indeed. What do we need to do as Christ’s body to cultivate our “interior garden” of spiritual gifts?
Invite worshipers to share with one another the spiritual gifts they see being lived out in community. Part of cultivating the life of faith is lifting one another up and encouraging each other. Pray for the Spirit to give congregants the language of love to speak and live so that all may know Christ’s love. In the sending, remind congregants that the Spirit goes with us so that we may speak that language of love that the world so deparately needs to hear and understand.
Usually on Pentecost, we focus on the events of the day itself, events that jump-started a group of believers to become what we know today as the Christian church in all its wonders and weirdness. We wear red, we remark on wind, fire, and the work of the Spirit.
But what if we really focused on the Gifts of the Spirit in Galatians 5 today? What if we looked at those gifts and examine how we are embracing and cultivating them? How do we look for and affirm these gifts in one another? What can each one of us do differently or better to encourage the growth of these gifts?
The Holy Spirit prays for us! The Holy Spirit is always with us! The Spirit grows gifts in us! How cool is that? God’s Spirit is always right there with us to help us connect with God at all times. Yes, that invisible gift we received in our baptism, does invisible but very important work all throughout our lives. Take children to the font, and encourage them to dip their fingers in the water and make the sign of the cross. Doing this helps to remind us that God is with us, that Jesus loves us, and the Spirit is always there working with us. Finish with a simple prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Pentecost is traditionally the day that we “celebrate” the birthday of the church. It’s a festival Sunday painted in shades of fiery reds. We remember those who were “on fire” for the gospel and filled with the Spirit. A birthday is also a good time to take stock of how the last year unfolded while looking forward to a year ahead. As stewards of the faith, how might we take stock and cast a vision for the future? What is the Holy Spirit cajoling, prodding, and leading us to do in Christ’s name?
Stewardship at Home
This week aim to keep the fire of Pentecost alive by cultivating the Fruits of the Spirit, by speaking and doing “small things with great love,” as Mother Teresa of Calcutta suggested. Look for small and caring ways to sow seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Give thanks to God each day for the opportunity to love and care for others. Give thanks to Jesus for loving you and giving you an example of love beyond measure. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to greater love and care and to present you with opportunities to serve others.
Photos: Waiting for the Word, Tyler Neyens, and Mark Parker, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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