Sunday Worship 28 May 2023

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 28 May 2023

Today’s service is led by the Revd
Dr Elaine Colechin


Words of Scripture
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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Acts 2.1-4

Prayer of Invocation
On this day of Pentecost, let us beginning by praying for the Holy Spirit to come among us, enabling us and guiding us as we worship, as we listen for God’s word and offer ourselves again to God. Let us pray.
Rushing wind, tongues of fire, come sweeping through this day.
Engulf us with your transforming power 
so that our hearts, minds and hands
are open again for what you send your Church
to be and do: witnesses of Jesus Christ
and proclaimers of your glory as the one God, now and forever. Amen
Hymn    Holy Spirit, We Welcome You
Chris Bowater (b1951) © 1986 Sovereign Lifestyle Music Ltd
Performed by Cornerstone Methodist Church, Wigton, Cumbria, and used with their kind permission.
Holy Spirit, we welcome you,
Holy spirit, we welcome you.

Move amongst us with holy fire
as we lay aside all earthly desire,
hands reach out & our hearts aspire.
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, 
we welcome you!

Let the breeze of your presence blow
that your children here might truly know
how to move in the Spirit’s flow.
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, 
we welcome you!


Please accomplish in us today 
some new work of loving grace we pray
unreservedly have your way. 
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, we welcome you!
Reading       Acts 2.5-12
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.  And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’  All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’
Pentecost just would not be Pentecost without this story from the Acts of the Apostles. It is dramatic, awesome, and leaves, one might hope, wanting our church, our community of believers to experience such an awakening again. The language barriers that now need to be bridged might not be just those related to dialects, we live within communities that are young and old, can be multi-cultural and/or multi-national, and are multi-skilled and full of difference and diversity. So, for the outside world hearing the people of God speaking in ways they all understand, how amazing that would be!
But what would that mean?
In our scripture that question comes from those who overhear the raised voices of the disciples, and is that searching we love to hear when our church communities make breakthroughs in the communities they seek to serve. However, it is also a fundamental question we should find ourselves having to explore as we either dream of Spiritual reawakening or toy with the thing that many of us love to hate, mission. What God does through the Holy Spirit may not be quite what we anticipated or hoped for, therefore, what does that mean?
We are going to explore that further as reflect more on that day of Pentecost when wind and fire dramatically impacted the lives of the first disciples and also on a more quiet account of the Holy Spirit being given and received. First, let us continue our worship with a time of prayer.
On this joyous day, when we are reminded of your powerful gift to the Church, the Spirit that you have breathed into us at birth, we praise and thank you, creator God.
Without you as Spirit, resting upon us and within us, 
we would be just dust, drifting and without presence or purpose.
As your Spirit stirs and forms us to be your Church,
we remember the trust you place in us 
and our imperfections.
We remember our quickness to condemn 
and our sluggishness to forgive.
Spirit of God, as you flow through the world
filling creation and giving life,
you come to know our thoughts, our words and our deeds.
You know when they are lacking,
when they are bound to the brokenness of the world,
or attempt to limit all that you make possible.
In your mercy,
come and cleanse our hearts,
renew our willingness
and guide our ways
in Jesus Christ. Amen

Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
into the grace in which we now stand.
We can boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Hope does not put us to shame
as God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit, given to us all.

Romans 5.1-2, 5

Thanks be to God.
Hymn    Wind of God, Dynamic Spirit
Michael Saward (born 1932) © Michael Saward/Jubilate Hymns Ltd
Wind of God, dynamic Spirit,
breathe upon our hearts today;
that we may your power inherit
hear us, Spirit, as we pray:
fill the vacuum that enslaves us
emptiness of heart and soul;
and, through Jesus Christ who saves us,
give us life and make us whole.

Voice of God, 
prophetic Spirit,
speak to every heart today
to encourage or prohibit
urging action or delay:
clear the vagueness 
which impedes us
come, enlighten mind and soul;
and through Jesus Christ 
who leads us,
teach the truth 
that makes us whole.
Fire of God, volcanic Spirit, 
burn within our hearts today;
cleanse our sin may we exhibit 
holiness in every way:
purge the squalidness that shames us,
soils the body, taints the soul;
and through Jesus Christ who claims us,
purify us, make us whole.

Reading       St John 20.19-23
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 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.’
After all the guilt, uncertainty, pondering and wondering that our lectionary scriptures lead us through following Easter, Pentecost completely changes the mood and the emphasis for the church. With that whack of energy from the Holy Spirit bursting into the disciples’ world, we ourselves get uplifted and invigorated for ordinary time. The church is reborn; we are inspired; time to get on with the mission of God! But how many of us have walked out of church on Pentecost Sunday motivated to do what we as Christians are called to do, and then done nothing? How many of us have made a start, hit a few too many hurdles and so given up? How many of us have seen within a matter of weeks that energy wane and our church slip back behind its closed doors where everything is just how those within like it?
I know those questions sound rather harsh and maybe even a tad judgmental. They make assumptions that for some of us are just not true in our experience. Yet in a time when as a denomination we are really having to wrestle with who we are and how we live out our calling as a church with limited resources, what the Pentecostal Spirit might do could leave some of us feeling a little uneasy, and maybe even fearful. Yes, we want to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, but in a way that is a little gentler than by the force of raging wind and fire. We do not want to be with crowd asking “what does this mean?” We want to be with the disciples saying, “this is what it means and we are excited!” But we would rather this coming to know was through a light touch than being pulled there without much of a say. Therefore, in how our lectionary has paired the story of Pentecost from the Acts of the Apostles with that encountering between Jesus and the disciples just after his resurrection, as recorded by the gospel writer of John, we have a helpful contrast. The gentle breath of the Spirit doing the same as the rushing wind and tongues of flame.
Now, this is a moment where we could get a little tied up in knots with where the gift of the Holy Spirit comes from. The progression the gospel writer Luke, author of the Acts of the Apostles, takes us is that the Holy Spirit had to come after Jesus was gone. And, although that appears not to be in the case in the gospel of John from our reading, there is a sense of this sequence too. In chapter 14, we find Jesus telling the disciples that another would be sent from God, Parent/Creator, who would be their helper and advocate. However, we do, in the verses we have heard from the gospel of John, have Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the disciples. We end up with the Holy Spirit and Jesus together, and the Holy Spirit being gifted by Jesus. Not quite what we expect, but not unprecedented, especially if we take a step back and remember who Jesus is.
That image of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles is dramatic and truly has that feel of a gift from the Creator. This is not, however, the only manifestation of the Holy Spirit through Scripture. The Holy Spirit can be found as wisdom, a dove, the breath of life. It is gentle and transformative. It can hit hard and has the power to go deep. And, Jesus, Incarnate God, breathing the Spirit on to the disciples was God at work. It was just as how Creator God breathed life into creation at the beginning and into the bodies that came together before Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones. God giving them what they needed for what God was calling them to be and do.
As Jesus sat with the disciples, he knew their fears. His blessing of peace and exhaling of breath was him journeying with them to a place of calm and ‘can do’ while owning their anxiety. In the account from the gospel of John of those few days that surround our season of Easter, we hear the confusion, the despair and doubt within the disciples. We find our own experience as the church, failing quite to believe God has this and trusting that there is a plan. Jesus needed to get the disciples to take a deep breath and let God back in. To remember and feel empowered to be who he had prepared them to be for God.
Compared to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles, this story in the gospel of John makes everything feel a little inward looking. Compared to Peter’s sermon to the crowd in the street telling them what it meant to have the Holy Spirit, this sermon that you are hearing from me is far from evangelical. Instead, it is a call to the church to reflection and ask itself what it would mean to inhale God deeply and accept the commission of Jesus to the disciples: “As Abba God sent me, I send you!”
Although at Pentecost we should, as the church, be re-enlivened in our mission; it is also the opportunity to think more reflectively about our mission. We want our passion for the Gospel to be pour out of our buildings and to be shared with our communities and the wider world. But what does that really mean for who we are as a church?
In first reading Jesus’s commission for the disciples in chapter 20 of the gospel of John, we see that vocation of following in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus was not sending the disciples off on an unknown road. Jesus himself had gone that way and was sending the disciples with his authority to do likewise. In that need to be built up and encouraged, it is comforting to know that is not exactly new territory that we are being asked to venture into. However, the final verse we heard from the gospel of John suggests that in hearing that commission with the Spirit of God within, is not just about carrying on with what has been. There is a distinct transformation and letting go within oneself that goes beyond that ability of speaking in a way that everyone might understanding.
Jesus’s journey took him to the cross where he bore the sins of the world so that all might know forgiveness—the limitless mercy of God bound in the love and grace of God. That is the light and hope we carry as those who have received that knowledge. It is the light and hope that we are sent by Jesus to share and pass on. However, that means we have to walk that selfless road that Jesus walked. We have to forgive. Just as Jesus was sent to be the Good News as well as teach the Good News, we are sent to live the Good News as well as preach the Good News! That means letting our comfort zones be stretched, having our perspectives widened, and being prepared to change! For if we are to forgive, then we have to accept forgiveness and let that transform us. We have to take a moment, breathe deeply, and let in the Spirit of God.
“As Abba God sent me, I send you!”
With the Holy Spirit burning within, let us hear that commission and accept what that means. Let us be transformed and step out in faith to do God’s will and be God’s people. Amen
Hymn    Sent by the Lord I am
Tr. © 1991, Jorge Maldonado Performed by St Michael’s Chiswick Virtual Choir and used with their kind permission.

Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.
Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.
The angels cannot change
world of hurt and pain
into a world of love,
of justice and of peace.
The task is mine to do,
to set it really free.
Oh, help me to obey;
help me to do Your will.


Affirmation of Faith
As those sent by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to be the Church, let us re-affirm our faith in God and declare the work of the Holy Spirit within our lives:
We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.

The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbour,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the Church.

The same Spirit
who inspired the prophets and apostles
rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture,
engages us through the Word proclaimed,
claims us in the waters of baptism,
feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation,
and calls us to ministries of the Church.

In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Saviour,
to unmask the voices of peoples long silences,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

With believers in every time and place,
we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Glory be to the Creator, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen
And let us pray together the prayer of Jesus
that reminds us of how to pray and how to forgive: Our Father…
Hymn    O Breath of Life, Come Sweeping Through Us
Bessie Porter Head (1920) Public Domain Sung at the Evangelical Movement of Wales Conference 2018 and used with their kind permission.

O Breath of life, 
come sweeping through us,
revive your Church 
with life and pow’r;
O Breath of Life, 
come, cleanse, renew us,
and fit your Church 
to meet this hour.
O Wind of God, 
come bend us, break us,
till humbly 
we confess our need;
then in your tenderness
remake us,
revive, restore, 
for this we plead.

O Breath of love, 
come breathe within us,
renewing thought 
and will and heart;
come, Love of Christ, 
afresh to win us,
revive your Church 
in ev’ry part.
O Heart of Christ, 
once broken for us,
’tis there we find 
our strength and rest;
our broken, contrite hearts 
now solace,
and let your waiting Church 
be blest


Revive us, Lord! Is zeal abating
while harvest fields are vast and white?
Revive us, Lord, the world is waiting,
equip your church to spread the light.
In response to all that we receive,
let us give in thankfulness, in prayerfulness
and with hopefulness of God’s continuing work in our lives.
Gracious God, everything we have comes from you.
Through the pouring out of Holy Spirit
and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ,
our hearts and lives overflow with abundance.
Therefore, we offer to you again
our time, our talents and our tithes.
Use them to your glory as you send us to do your will
in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
Prayers of Intercession
Creator Spirit, as we look at your creation and see our mistreatment,
our squandering of resources, and the scars we have left on the land,
we pray that you create is us an eagerness to care for the world.
Whether it is as small as sorting the recycling
or as big as investing in green technology,
may we be as enthusiastic as you are for all of creation.
Spirit of Christ, as we see the brokenness of the world,
the pain humanity inflicts on each other, and the wars that rage,
we pray that you fill us with an urgency to share your gift of forgiveness,
made possible by Jesus’s self-giving.
May we be instruments of peace, and encouragers of grace
within the communities we serve.
Spirit of truth, as we see the tangle of lies in the world,
governments weaving false narratives to fulfil personal wants of power,
and the use of dishonesties to gain status,
we pray that you compel us to see the truth 
and to be advocates of justice.
Stir us into action to make the world a fairer place,
where no one feels left on the marginalised.
Spirit of wisdom, it so easy to rush in, to make quick decisions,
to do what we believe is best without considering the consequences.
In our eagerness to care, our urgency to share, 
and our advocacy for justice, shower us with your wisdom
so that we discern what is best and serve you rightly in the world.
And as we pray for the things where we can bring about change,
we offer those places, people, and situations
which weigh heavy on our hearts and minds,
where the breath of your Spirit needs to be inhaled
lessening anxieties, calming fears, bringing healing and hope.
Spirit of God, come fill our lives
and the life of world, now and always. Amen

Hymn    There’s A Spirit In The Air
              The Revd Brian Wren  © 1979 Hope Publishing Company
Played and sung by Gareth Moore of the Isle of Man Methodist Church and used with his kind permission

There’s a spirit in the air,
telling Christians everywhere:
“Praise the love 
that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world!”
Lose your shyness, 
find your tongue,
tell the world what God has done:
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow’s life today!
When believers break the bread,
when a hungry child is fed,
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world.
Still the Spirit gives us light,
seeing wrong and setting right:
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow’s life today!
When a stranger’s not alone,
where the homeless find a home,
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world.
May the Spirit fill our praise,
guide our thoughts 
and change our ways.
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow’s life today!

There’s a Spirit in the air,
calling people everywhere:
Praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world.

Dismissal and Blessing
Jesus says to us:
“Peace be with you, As Abba God sent me, I am sending you.”
With the Holy Spirit as your sure companion
go and do God’s will, following Jesus’s way.
And as you go, may the blessing of God,
Eternal One, Incarnate One and Abiding One,
be with you always. Amen.


This material is only for use in local churches not for posting to websites or any other use.  Local churches must have copyright licences to allow the printing and projection of words for hymns.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *