Sunday, 23rd May 2021
Morning Worship – 10.30 am
Prayer for use before worship:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mould me, fill me, use me!
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
© 1963 Birdwing Music CCL Licence No. 212660
Welcome and Notices
Lighting of Peace Candle followed by short silence
Call to Worship (stand)
Come, Holy Spirit; fill us with your peace. Come, Holy Spirit; unite us in our worship. Come, Holy Spirit; raise us by your power. Come, Holy Spirit, come now.
God, ground of all being, we gather in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit to worship you. We bring gifts of speaking, of listening, of music, of prayerfulness, of knowledge, and of wisdom. May our gifts be united to honour you and may each of us receive from you that which we need. Amen.
Hymn 34 – Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
Congregational Reading (Based on Ezekiel 36)
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries.
I WILL PUT A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN YOU.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you. A new heart I will give you.
I WILL PUT A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN YOU.
I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
I WILL PUT A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN YOU.
You shall be my people, and I will be your God.
I WILL PUT A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN YOU.
Prayer of Approach
Pour out your Spirit, loving God, that your people may hear your prophetic word. Pour out your Spirit, loving God, that your people may know how to live according to your ways. Pour out your Spirit, loving God, that your people may worship you in Spirit and in Truth. Amen.
1st Reading – Acts 2 vv.1-4
Talk: “Breathe on me, breath of YHWH’
We are back in our church building for worship for the first time in 2021. And it’s the 23rd of May! It has been quite a journey to get here: weeks of online worship, stressing about screen sharing, ‘you’re on mute’, breakout rooms and trusting technology. And what a day to return: the feast of Pentecost, when the spirit came upon the first followers of Jesus after he had left them. It must have been a stressful time for the disciples and his friends. When I get stressed my body tells me I am stressed. My breathing goes awry. I start taking short, sharp breaths instead of deep, long breaths. Singers amongst us will know the importance of breathing properly; it is one of the continuing frustrations about our worship that we can’t sing. So our breathing may not be good. We are meant to breathe deeply from the bottom of our lungs and the diaphragm. Young children know naturally how to breathe properly, then we start to forget, the more time we spend sitting down at desks and slouching over computers!
So let’s breathe properly today. And in doing so we will be praising God. There are lots of experts who think they know why God got the name God was given. Do you know God’s name? No, it’s not God. It’s Yahweh – or we think it is. In Exodus God tells Moses his name is something like Yahweh, but actually the name is unpronounceable for us, because the Hebrews didn’t use vowels and God’s name was too holy ever to actually say out loud. And experts think they didn’t need to say it out loud because they said it every time they breathed. YH was like an intake of breathe; and WH was like the out breath. So the first thing we say after we are born is God’s name and the last thing we will say before we die is God’s name. It’s quite a thought. God is literally in our every breath. What a gift. God gives us life and enables us to breathe….
Sit very still and become aware of your breathing. As you breathe in, think of God. As you breathe out, think of the world.
As you breathe in, give thanks for the peace the Spirit brings. As you breathe out, pray for peace in the world. As you breathe in, receive from God what God has for you. As you breathe out, ask what you should do.
The Lord’s Prayer (modern version)
OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN; HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME. YOUR KINGDOM COME; YOUR WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IN HEAVEN. GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD. FORGIVE US OUR SINS AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US. SAVE US FROM THE TIME OF TRIAL AND DELIVER US FROM EVIL. FOR THE KINGDOM, THE POWER, AND THE GLORY ARE YOURS NOW AND FOR EVER. AMEN.
Hymn 308 – Spirit of the living God
Sharing the Grace together
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ;
the love of God;
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all ever more. Amen.
Sermon – ‘… and breath’
Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like the sound of a strong, blowing wind.. (Acts 2:2-3).
Luke, in the tradition of Hebrew writers, is using an image to explain what happened: to explain the transformation, the power of the change, brought about by the gift of the Spirit; to describe how the disciples suddenly discovered the courage and the strength to go out into the world and start preaching the gospel of love, with cosmic and global consequences.
In Acts 2 it is a strong, blowing wind. How often we hear about the destructive power of hurricanes and forest fires. But in this case, this is a wind which has the power to create and transform. But perhaps, more of a breeze than a hurricane. More, perhaps, a breath than a squall; more a whisper than a tempest. For in John’s Gospel we are told: Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20 v.2).
In Genesis we hear: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God – or, better, the breathe of God – swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
We hear it in the hymns we sing – Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew.
So I invite you, now, to relax, and think about your breathing: and, as you do, to take in a deep breath, slowly, right down into your lungs: and breathe out, slowly: and as you do, imagine that you are breathing in the Spirit of God, letting it fill you, and inspire you, and giving you life. Breathe in. Breathe out. And once more: inspire – exhale.
Of course, our language connects the two, very directly. The word inspire comes from the Latin root Inspirare which means to breathe in. Aspiration, respiration, inspiration all come from the word ‘spirare’ – to breathe. In Greek, the word Pneuma – spirit – also means breath. And the Hebrew word for spirit – ruah – also means wind. The Ruah of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The darker side of breath has also been much in our minds recently since March last year. Our very breath has risked passing on the deadly virus. We have got used to wearing masks not so much to protect ourselves as to protect others from our breath. Equally, we have been haunted by 3 words which shocked and inspired a movement: George Floyd’s plea: ‘I can’t breathe’ powerfully reminded us of the fragility of our humanity and how the actions of some prevent others breathing and living life to the full simply because of the colour of their skin. It’s because the powerful don’t allow others to breathe that they cry out in agony and anger and fear.
Jesus might well have said, I came that you might have life in all its fulness; I came that you might all be able to breathe.
Our vulnerability, our trouble breathing, has never been clearer than it is now. And yet, we have also tried to rise above those constraints: the Spirit has moved within us. We have tried to allow the inspiration to move within us – to breathe it all in, and love it all out. We are acknowledging our vulnerability even as we seek to be strong and supportive for one another and for the people around us.
We are on the threshold, now, of a different kind of life, as things begin to open up again and we emerge, blinking, into the sun. We are asking questions about what we have learned and what we can take forward into this changed and unchanged world. We have found ourselves asking: what do we really, really want? For some, it’s a foreign holiday. For others, it’s a hug – but, remember, not everyone is a hugger! For others simply to visit family or have a big party. Or, finally, to get together to celebrate the life of someone who has died. Maybe today reminds us that what we need is to be able to breathe properly. The world certainly needs the generous love of God to be blown into every corner of the globe,
bringing the life of the spirit. That includes a generous vaccine rollout across the globe which enables so many others to breathe more deeply. Our world needs people to be transformed by the gifts of the Spirit, as those first disciples were transformed: by love, joy, peace, by patience, kindness, goodness, by faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Our world needs people to be inspired by the overflowing and ceaseless breath of God: inspired, and encouraged, and breathing deeply and calling it love! Our world needs people grounded in the breath of God and grounded in prayer. So we let Martin Luther have the final word: He said: ‘To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing’.
Prayers of Intercession
Holy Spirit, hear us. Holy Spirit, come.
Holy Spirit of peace, we pray for homes and nations where there is discord and conflict. Pour out your breath of peace that people may listen to each other; may respect one another; may honour each other. Holy Spirit, hear us. Holy Spirit, come. Holy Spirit of hope, we pray for those who live in despair; for those who can see no purpose in their lives; for those who cannot see a way ahead; for those who feel completely alone. Holy Spirit, hear us. Holy Spirit, come. Holy Spirit of unity, we pray for your Church, for its ministry to the faithful; for its mission to the world. May the Spirit of Pentecost breathe upon us, that we may witness to the world the comfort, meaning and love that you offer. Heal our differences and make us one in you. Holy Spirit, hear us. Holy Spirit, come. In the name of our Saviour we pray. Amen.
Offering and Dedication of Gifts
Holy Spirit, ever making life new, the living power of Christ within us, come, claim us and the gifts we offer. Yours we are, and all that we have and are is yours. Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Hymn 294 – Come down, O Love Divine.
Words of Dismissal and Blessing
May the power of the Spirit challenge you. May the peace of the Spirit comfort you. May the presence of the Spirit enable you to live in love and service in the name of Christ.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us now and for ever more. Amen.