Sunday May 31, 2020 (Pentecost Sunday)
May 31, 2020 Liturgy
Both churches plan to resume in-person worship on June 7, 2020. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Glenshaw Valley will have their Spring Congregational Meeting immediately following worship today. Mt. Nebo folks, we ask you to log off after the benediction.
Glenshaw Valley, we will be having a quick Session meeting on Wednesday night to finalize our plans for in-person worship.
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
City of Pittsburgh after last night's violent rioting. For our police officers trying to keep us safe, for the protestors whose message was hijacked by rioters. For our country as we reckon with our national sin of racism.
High school seniors who are graduating into a global pandemic.
Everyone returning to work this week.
Allegheny County as we transition to the green phase of re-opening on Friday.
Call to Worship (Pastor lead, everyone participates)
Psalm 104: 31-34
May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works— 32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
Holy Spirit, Come to us!
Holy Spirit, come to us, kindle in us the fire of your love.
Holly Spirit, come to us, Holy Spirit come to us.
Prayer of Confession (Pastor and Everyone)
Merciful God, in your gracious presence we confess our sin and the sin of this world. Although Christ is among us as our peace, we are a people divided against ourselves as we cling to the values of a broken world. The profit and pleasures we pursue lay waste the land and pollute the seas. The fears and jealousies that we harbor set neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation. We abuse your good gifts of imagination and freedom, or intellect and reason, and have turned them into bonds of oppression.
Lord, have mercy upon us; heal and forgive us. Set us free to serve you in the world as agents of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ.
Words of Assurance: (Pastor)
Hear the good news: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia. Amen.
Apostle’s Creed (Everyone)
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer (Pastor)
Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you taught us to pray, and to offer our petitions to you in his name. Guide us by your Holy Spirit, that our prayers for others may serve your will and show your steadfast love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord:
Let us pray for the world.
Let us pray for the church.
Let us pray for those who govern us.
Let us pray for world leaders.
Let us pray for the sick.
God of compassion, bless us and those we love, our friends and families that, drawing close to you, though we are apart, we may be drawn closer to each other, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
What dreams do you have for this new season of life and ministry (aka the new normal)?
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontusand Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]
Let us pray,
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be pleasing and acceptable to you, our rock and our redeemer.
By now, most of you should have received the Session’s plan for resuming in person worship on June 7th. Hopefully, this will be our last Sunday of online only worship. I know that many of you have not had an opportunity to worship in almost three months. I also know that some of you will not feel comfortable gathering in public in early June. So we will continue to provide an online option for those who do not feel comfortable resuming in person worship.
One of the challenges of moving forward with in-person worship is that everyone has a different comfort level around congregating in public right now. Some of you felt comfortable resuming in person worship a month ago. You think there is no more risk in coming to church than going to Walmart. Others of you are nervous about coming back to church. You’re worried about transmitting the virus or bringing the virus home with you. A few of you have expressed that you won’t be returning to church until we go to the ‘green’ phase of reopening. I imagine that some of you probably won’t feel totally comfortable returning to church until there is a vaccine.
Our disagreements over when and how to resume in-person worship do not bother me. I think our disagreements are a sign of how deeply we love the church and how deeply we want to care for the health and welfare of our people. What bothers me is the lack of charity we’re extending to those who hold different views than we do. Particularly on this day- the day the church celebrates Pentecost. A day where we’re reminded that as we wait in the wreckage of what was, and we wait for the birth of what will be, we are called to see visions and to dream dreams.
Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the church. This is the day that Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples, and launched the church’s mission. The gift of the Holy Spirit upon the early church was to unify it. The Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to proclaim their gospel message in the tongues that the diverse people gathered in Jerusalem would be able to understand. Pentecost undid the Tower of Babel that divided people according to language. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, now everyone has access to the good news of Jesus Christ.
What struck me as I was reading through this passage is that the church cannot be the church without the Holy Spirit. The ancient church was never meant to be people who looked and spoke alike. From its inception it was to include Jews and Gentiles, males and females, slaves and freed. It was to include groups unused to talking to each other. That were going to need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to speak, and to interpret what was being said. To dream about future possibilities, and to speak the truth in love.
What makes the church community different than any other community is that the Holy Spirit is actively working in and through us to help us become the people God has called us to be. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never mess up, or that it will always be easy. But it does mean that Christian community is one that is called and commissioned by God for the sake of the gospel. The church exists to equip us for the work of ministry- to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ with all that we meet. And it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do the work of ministry.
As we prepare to resume in person worship, I do think there are ways we all can make this transition easier. Please do not give the ushers a hard time about wearing a mask, or if ‘your pew’ is roped off. Session and I have had many, many, many conversations about how to safely resume in-person worship. Please trust that they are doing their best to help keep everyone safe. If you feel that the guidelines Session adopted are too restrictive, please remember that most of our people would become really, really sick were they to contract COVID-19. Think of the restrictions as a way for you to love your fellow congregants right now.
I truly believe that the Holy Spirit shows up in a special way when brothers and sisters gather together in a church community. This is why we’re working so hard to resume in-person worship as soon as possible. But we cannot resume in-person worship right now without your cooperation. Please if you feel sick, stay home. Jesus will not be mad at you for missing church because you’re feeling sick during a global pandemic. Also, please extend charity to those staying home because they’re scared to be in public right now. Practicing charity to those you disagree with is one way the church can witness to the love of Jesus during a pandemic.
Friends I know that we are entering into a new season of ministry as a church community. Literally a new season, as we begin resuming in-person worship next week. But also figuratively a new season as we figure out how to do ministry with many people feeling uncomfortable with leaving their houses for the foreseeable future. But the good news of Pentecost is that we do not do ministry alone. We do ministry in the name of the triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A God who loves us so much that he sent his only Son, who promises to be with us always through the power of the Holy Spirit. That, friends, is the good news of Easter. The good news that equips us to go out into the world and carry out Jesus’s mission wherever we are.
Thanks be to God,
In Jesus’ name,
Closing Hymn- Ubi Caritas (Live in Charity)
Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.
Live in charity and steadfast love, God will dwell with you.
You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a plan and a purpose to you being there. Christ who dwells in you has something he wants to do, through you, wherever you are. Believe this and go in his grace and love and power, Amen.