Worship Service for Pentecost Sunday

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this Pentecost Sunday, landing on May 19, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. You can use it to follow along with the service with the order and words and sermon, or you can just watch the video as the words that you need to know will appear on your screen as well. The full sermon manuscript is also included on this page, below the video.

To enhance your online worship experience, you can have a candle in your space, lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished near the end after the sending hymn. You are also welcome to participate in communion as well, by having something small to eat and drink nearby ready to be consumed at the appropriate time. Further instruction will be given during the service.

May God’s steadfast and unchanging love bring you joy and peace, this day and always!

Holy God, send again your Spirit upon us, upon this place, and upon our hearts, that we might see and accept your wisdom, your love, and your hope revealed to us all, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So our younger two kids had their Sports Day this last Friday, and before the day I was a little worried about a rumour that I heard about around the changes that were going to make.  What I heard was they were going to take away the points that the teams would receive for the different events, so instead of Sports Day being a friendly competition to win, it was going to just be fun and games.  No first-place winners, no recognition for athletic prowess, no accolades for the victors of the day.

Now, that might not sound like a big deal to the general populace, and it technically doesn’t affect me whatsoever, but I just didn’t like this change.  I felt like something would be missing from the day with this change.  Well, maybe not for that three quarters of the student body weren’t going to win, this change would be great for them.  But for that one quarter that would win, well this change kind of sucks.

And maybe that’s why I don’t like this change, because for most of my elementary school life, I was in that one quarter that usually came in first.  Not to brag or anything, and I know that team effort and all, but it didn’t hurt that I was extremely good at sports.  I was fast, agile, and freakishly strong.  Puberty and an untimely growth spurt eventually took all that away from me, but in elementary school I was a force to be reckoned with.

So I loved Sports Day back then, because to me, I was on top, the cream of the crop so to speak, the bee’s knees.  At the time, it was just my area of expertise, my niche, where I had the most power and respect.  But I get it, the school wants to make sure that the kids feel the joy in just playing with each other in general, not just feel the extremes in the thrill of victory or the sting of defeat.  They want to take away that competitive spirt that seems to turn people into these nasty annoying braggarts, and teach them that kids aren’t defined by their athletic ability or lack thereof.  They want to do away with that systemic hierarchy of power that comes from competition, and lift up the equality and equity of the whole student body.

Still, the change stings a little.  Because now in one of the few areas that I excelled in, I’m made to look mediocre.  With this new way, we who were good at these pseudo sports games are now basically told that we aren’t really that good.  We who had power and might, now have it taken away by this change.

Then I showed up for Sports Day and it turned out that they didn’t make that change at all.  Crisis averted, I guess.

But that visceral reaction I had to a rumour that didn’t even come to pass made me think about change and why it is so hard for us.  And don’t you tell me that change isn’t hard.  This is a Lutheran church after all, I know how resistant we are to change with the exception of that initial change that happened just over 500 years ago… Change has always been difficult for us, not just Lutherans but people in general.  Especially when that change means that we won’t have what we had before.  Be it possessions, privilege, or power.  Change is just hard.

When things change in unfavourable ways, when things result in a loss for us, when we feel less than we were, we just want to change it back.  We want to hold onto what was.  We want to preserve what we know, what we like, and what works well for us.  We hear about mid-life crises and people trying to recapture their youth.  We see people jumping into rebound relationships soon after a break up.  We read about the disciples even, working to replace Judas to keep their magic number of 12.

I know, that story happened last week, but it still applies to today, Pentecost Sunday.  See all the readings that we get for today, which are very similar to the readings we get every Pentecost Sunday, are about change and loss.  And while it might seem like everyone is trying to get things back to the way they were, with Ezekiel bringing life back to those dry bones, to the disciples trying to recapture Jesus in their lives, and Jesus reassuring them that things will be ok when he’s gone, it sounds like change is inevitable, unavoidable, and uncomfortable.  Granted, these are pretty big changes, from the death of a mentor, the death of a movement, the death of a nation and institution.  Death is the big change that affects us all, takes away from us all, and will happen to us all.

That’s what Jesus was preparing his disciples for with this other portion of the “Farewell Discourse,” similar to what we had last week.  Jesus knows that he is about to leave, he knows that things will change for his disciples, he knows that it’ll be uncomfortable.  So he promises them that while things will be different, they will be better because good things will still come to them, they will still grow and learn and become stronger, they will still have Jesus with them, present in the Spirit. 

And that is the promise we get in these readings, this is the hope that we have in Christ, this is the result of the Spirit entering our lives on Pentecost and beyond.  In everyone’s hopes of recapturing what was, in the attempts of reliving the past, in the want of resurrecting the life that we had before death, we are given the Spirit that joins us all, past, present, and future, into the same community and kingdom of God that lasts forever.

I know, this doesn’t really help in the discomfort of change.  But it does remind us that just because there is change, that doesn’t mean it’s bad.  Just because there is loss, that doesn’t mean we are less.  Just because things are different, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are.  Not in who we are, not in whose we are, not in our identity and belonging as God’s people.

See the thing that we might not really get in the Acts reading at first glance is how timeless this message and promise of the Spirit is.  As the text tells us of the groups represented in that upper room, all those difficult to pronounce places that had people visiting from, what we might not have known is that even at this time, those places were difficult to pronounce… because many of them would have been largely unknown and actually already long gone.  They listed some dead cultures, some ancient-to-them-even-in-these-ancient-times places, regions that they themselves may have never heard of. 

What does this mean then?

It means that the Spirit isn’t limited to certain times.  It means that who we are in God’s promises of community and inclusion spans throughout and past any boundary that we might have set up for ourselves.  It means that even in the midst of change and death, who we are as God’s people, our regard in God’s love, the good news of God’s grace and salvation remains the same.

So as I think about the change that that we face, when I see the difficulties and discomforts that life continually brings, when I look at the death that will inevitably come, whether it be something as frivolous as Sports Day or something more life altering like the actual death of a loved one, I am graciously and divinely reminded that who I am as a child of God is unchanging, unfaltering, and will last as long as God’s love for me will, which is forever.

As it is with all of us.  We all will face change both welcome and not.  We all will feel discomfort around losing power and privilege and things being different.  We all will eventually come to the point of death, either of a loved one or ourselves.  But in all of that we can be reassured in the promise of the Spirit, the Spirit that joins us together in all times and places, calling us joint-heirs of the gospel and the body of Christ in the world.  Our story doesn’t end when we do.  Our identities don’t change when the world does.  The message of the gospel and salvation remains steadfast for all time, reassuring us, securing us, and bringing us all peace in the midst of discomfort and death.

So as we move into this season after Pentecost, the time of church growth and church change, may we be strengthened by the unchanging promises of God in the Spirit, that we might always know of the presence of Christ in and around our lives.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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