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 …
Pentecost us, God,
let us learn
to conjugate the Spirit,
shed the comfortable accents
of churchy insider talk,
fit our mouths to something strange —
present tense, active voice
not many possessive pronouns. Amen
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.
with how many languages
the Spirit speaks,
so we may listen to our neighbors.
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.
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
who may be wrong,
and the fractured wisdom
of elders with memories
leaking everything but love.
God, give us a Pentecost,
that communicates less
like old liturgy
and more like Snapchat —
with images of Spirit,
in our hearts and hopes. Amen
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,
and spaghetti sauce,
also the child’s sand pail,
the umbrella, the fire engine,
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,
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
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.
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.