Pentecost worship resources — without fire or wind

As a wind-driven wildfire rages across Alberta, Canada, I have committed myself to writing Pentecost worship resources which do not use wind or fire imagery. This is not to say that those metaphors are not rich and vibrant, but that there is a kindness in searching for some images which do not hurt.

I once had the experience of being at a large worship experience (the kind that is printed months in advance and needs copyright permissions for the music). It was the day of a terrible loss by wildfire. The child of my congregation who professionally fights fire was spared – he had been sent to a fire in Utah – but he knew all of the firefighters who died. I promised myself then that, in my far more easily adaptable local settings I would seek to hunt for new metaphors on such occasions in the future. And so this occasion came …

And I realized that I first meet the Holy Spirit brooding over the waters …

1)
Pentecost us, God,
let us learn
to conjugate the Spirit,
shed the comfortable accents
of churchy insider talk,
fit our mouths to something strange —

mostly verbs,
present tense, active voice
not many possessive pronouns. Amen

2)
God, on this Pentecost –
remind us of the fruit of the Spirit,
for we are trying to put forth
the buds of the church.
Lift us with the wings of the Spirit,
for we must rise above sorrow
on bent feathers and hope.
Confuse us
with how many languages
the Spirit speaks,
so we may listen to our neighbors.
Amen.

3)
Let the Spirit come and sing and pray and laugh in us, O God. Let the Spirit come and be in the silences between our words. As our lungs and lips breathe in and out, may true needs, deep longings, unglimpsed hopes, and paralyzing fears, be exhaled into your heart through the Spirit’s sighing. Let the Spirit come and lead us to one another so that we receive not just personal blessings, but the wonderful gathered vision and vocabulary of your Pentecost people. Amen.

4)
Pentecost us out —
from the safe upper room
to a crowd of strangers,

from a church birthday cake faith
with slices for us,
to a red balloon gospel
that will escape our tight fists
and float into the world,

from the received wisdom
of those in the responsible years
between thirty-two and sixty
to the excited ideas
of teenagers,
who may be wrong,
and the fractured wisdom
of elders with memories
leaking everything but love.
Amen

5)
God, give us a Pentecost,
that communicates less
like old liturgy
and more like Snapchat —
with images of Spirit,
brief, surprising,
remembered
in our hearts and hopes. Amen

6)
God, I understand part about fifty days,
but it’s the “cost”
hidden in the holiday
that worries me on Pentecost.

It costs my anonymity as a Christian,
all my pet preconceptions
of who belongs,
the loan of my mouth,
my reputation for sobriety,
towels for the baptisms of strangers.

And for all of these,
I come away with something
oddly sweet –
bright feathers and shook foil.

7) – The Spirit in Red Things

And the Holy Spirit hovers
over the water and whispers –
this year let us speak of good news
with all the red things
that are not fire.

For the fruit of the Spirit
is in the patience of pomegranates,
the joy of watermelon,
the self-control of apples,
the goodness of tomatoes –
and so on to cherries and berries.

But there is Spirit also in beets,
radishes, peppers,
and spaghetti sauce,
also the child’s sand pail,
the umbrella, the fire engine,
painted toenails,
maple leaves in autumn,
the santa suit worn thin in the lap
from so many children.

And there is Spirit in checkers
played in the park,
one balloon,
a stop sign and a valentine,
a red cross on a tent
where others fear to go,
a bag of blood given,
a grandma’s apron, an Irish setter,

and fingers of sunset —
also hovering over the water.

 
A Confession of Balloons
 (You may wish to print each of these three sentences in the balloon-shapes of cartoons)
O God, forgive us when we let the Spirit of love or hope, of liveliness or adventure, of tenderness or courage, deflate within us. Forgive us when we do not breathe inspiration into all your people or puncture the joy of the youngest ones. Forgive us when we let go of the church and let it float away into meaninglessness. Amen

Inflation of Grace 
God is merciful and gracious – a patch to our leaking faith, helium to lift us into joy..

Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, we confess that we are more pleased by the clear holidays of Christmas and Easter than the responsible urgency of Pentecost. We confess that our worst nightmare is feeling foolish or being appearing too-religious. We confess that we do not listen enough to speakers of others languages, and almost never try to learn their words ourselves. We repent, O God, and seek your cleansing Spirit. Amen.
Assurance of Grace
This is the good news – the Spirit in you and in me – prays more deeply than any words. We are forgiven

Benediction
May your tongue tingle with the good news.
May your heart open
to all the people of the street.
And, when you are bent over by sorrow,
may you find the Spirit’s feather on the ground
waiting there to give you hope.
Amen

Passing the peace

Paqja e Krishtit qoftë me ju. Albanian
Freden i Kristus være med dig. Danish
Ang kapayapaan ni Cristo ay sa iyo. Filipino
Lapè Kris la ap avèk ou. Haitian Creole
Der Friede Christi sei mit euch. German
Η ειρήνη του Χριστού να είναι μαζί σας. Greek
La paz de Cristo esté con vosotros. Spanish
Kristus miers lai ir ar jums. Latvian
Amani ya Kristo na iwe pamoja nanyi. Swahili

Shalom, Salaam, Peace. Please greet one another.

Call to Worship
One: We come to a place of the Holy Spirit.
Many: In this sanctuary there are healing and hope,
wings and wild words.
One: We come to a community of the Holy Spirit.
Many: Our adolescents are prophets
and we listen to them.
Those long-seasoned in faith
share their visions
and we begin to understand.
One: We come to a time of the Holy Spirit.
Many: We expect the unexpected today
and plan to surprise ourselves tomorrow!

Rock, Paper, Spirit Children’s activity for Pentecost or Trinity Sunday … re-defining a game that has a little nasty edge.

Rock is the firm foundation of the Creator of all things, of whom we read in the Hebrew Bible. Paper is the Gospel story. Spirit (looks like the scissors with two fingers but wiggles like wings and needs both hands) is the ongoing presence of God and cuts sorrow, doubt, pain and fear.

Paper covers Rock; Spirit floats above Paper; Rock lets Spirit rest. Nobody is hit – everybody claps.

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9 Responses to Pentecost worship resources — without fire or wind

  1. These are so good they make me wish I was leading a Pentecost service this year.

  2. Rev. R. Matthew Stevens says:

    I am constantly staggered by your ability Maren, to write such profound and beautiful liturgy, from such diverse perspectives. What you’ve offered here are true gifts of the Spirit, and I am ever so appreciative of your generous sharing. Thank you, on behalf of all those who benefit from your talents.

  3. dee says:

    AMEN. AMEN. AMEN. Oh Maren, these ROCK! THANK YOU. AMAZING and needed.

  4. fosteringyourfaith says:

    Thank you, Maren. These are lovely and will be much appreciated by our congregation this Sunday. Pentecost blessings to you!

  5. Sharon Hollis says:

    So beautiful. It’s so interesting that when focus is narrowed an amazing opening out happens. Thank you for setting yourself this challenge and sharing the results with us.

  6. marciglass says:

    Thank you for sharing these resources. We will be using a few of them in worship at Southminster Presbyterian in Boise, Idaho. We aren’t on fire now, but fires are common in the summer.

  7. Jason Adams says:

    Thank you! Using in Las Vegas, NV at Reformation Lutheran Church!

  8. Come, Holy Spirit
    (This prayer would lend itself to call and response)

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The breathing of God within us.
    May you ever be so.

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The prayer of God uplifting us.
    May you ever be so

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The creativity of God around us.
    May you ever be so.

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The truth of God unto us.
    May you ever be so

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The gifting of God to us.
    May you ever be so

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The wisdom of God for us.
    May you ever be so.

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The comfort of God embracing us.
    May you ever be so.

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The helper of God assisting us.
    May you ever be so

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The empowerer of God enabling us.
    May you ever be so

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The guiding of God before us.
    May you ever be so.

    Come,
    Holy Spirit,
    The breath of Christ upon us.
    May you ever be so
    Amen

    – Jon Humphries

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