Watching for the Morning of May 31, 2020
The Day of Pentecost
I will pour water on the thirsty land,
….and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
….and my blessing on your offspring.
Sunday will be the Feast of Pentecost and we will hear the promise and gift of God’s Spirit. It will not be our normal festival day. Because of the pandemic, there can be no barbecue. And maybe, with Minneapolis burning, this is not the right time for fire.
So this year we will not fill the sanctuary and playfully celebrate the outpouring the Spirit. There will be no whirligigs or bubbles. This is a year for prayer and reflection. Isolated from one another, aware of the death toll, living in the confusion of falsehoods, anger, and partisanship, watching cities burn and victims die saying “I can’t breathe”, this is not the joyful celebration of a divine wonder. It is, instead, a wonder at the brokenness of our common life and the yearning for the fulfillment of God’s promise for the Spirit to be poured out upon every heart.
We know something of the thirsty ground longing for rain. We know something of the dry season that yearns for the first winter skies to wash the earth. We know something of the labor of the season when the water in the cisterns is stale, and getting water is a double labor.
We are waiting with longing for all this to end – the cursing and lying and fearing of the unknown. Stale waters. Old arguments. Reckless folly. Real hungers. Fearful violence. We long for a new spirit to come to us and to our world. We long for a holy spirit. God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit that gives life. The Spirit that brings the joy of the eternal wedding feast. The Spirit that renews the earth and the human heart. The Spirit that is a soft, soaking rain on dry and hardened ground.
So this year, instead of the appointed texts, we will hear the prophet’s promise of a day when the Spirit shall come. And we will hear Jesus in the Nazareth synagogue saying the Spirit is upon him and the day is fulfilled. We will hear that new wine requires new wineskins and seek to make ourselves ready. We will remember the wedding feast filled joy and the finest of wines. Jesus will remind us that God is eager to give the Holy Spirit in answer to our prayers. We will hear his promise to send the advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with us forever. We will hear Jesus rise up at the festival of Booths to declare: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” And finally, we will come to Easter Evening and Jesus breathing out this new and holy spirit upon us all.
We come as supplicants in a world torn by divisive spirits. We come in prayer that hearts can be turned and communities reshaped by a spirit of truth, justice and compassion. We come trusting in the promise that the Spirit of the risen Christ is available to us. We come to ask, seek and knock at the door that is promised to be opened to us – for ourselves, for our world.
The Prayer for May 31, 2020
God of the blazing fire
and the silent whisper,
who called to Moses from the burning bush
and to Elijah when his face was hidden in the cleft of the rock,
call to us.
Summon us by your Word,
empower us with your Spirit,
and send us to your service,
that every nation and all peoples
may be gathered into a shared song of joy and life.
The Texts for May 31, 2020
First Reading: Isaiah 44:1-5
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.” – Preaching to the exiles at the time of the return from Babylon, the prophet promises God’s Spirit will be poured out on the people like water on drought-stricken land.
Second Reading: Luke 4:16-21
“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” – Reading from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus announces that the passage is fulfilled and the Spirit of the Lord is upon him to proclaim good news to the poor.
Third Reading: Luke 5:36-38
“New wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” – Challenged for feasting with the “sinner” Levi, the tax gatherer, Jesus says new wine requires new wineskins.
Fourth Reading: John 2:1-10
“Everyone serves the good wine first… But you have kept the good wine until now.” – At the Wedding at Cana, Jesus creates an abundance of the finest wine, a sign pointing to the outpouring of God’s Spirit.
Fifth Reading: Luke 11:5-13
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” – Jesus teaches on prayer that God is eager to answer by granting us the Holy Spirit.
Sixth Reading: John 14:15-17
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.” – Jesus promises to send the Spirit of truth as our counselor and guide
Seventh Reading: John 7:37-39
“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” – At the Feast of Booths, when prayers are offered for the winter rains, Jesus speaks of the Spirit, declaring that he is the source of the river of life.
Eighth Reading: John 20:19-23
“When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” – The risen Christ breathes the Spirit upon his followers
+ + +
The Appointed Texts for Pentecost in Year A
Our parish is doing a special service this year: Praying for Renewal in Church and Society. These are the appointed texts:
Pentecost Reading: Acts 2:1-21
“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.” – With the sound of wind and the image of fire, evoking God’s appearance at Sinai and fulfilling the promise of Joel, God pours out the Holy Spirit upon the first believers.
First Reading: Numbers 11:24-30
“The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to [Moses], and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders.” – When the burden of hearing every complaint of the people in the wilderness becomes too great for Moses, God has him appoint seventy elders to receive a share of the spirit. The text contains the prophetic remark of Moses “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”
Psalmody: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” – In a psalm celebrating the wonders of creation, the poet marvels at the manifold creatures of the world, and the breath/spirit of God that gives them life.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” – Paul teaches the troubled Corinthian congregation about the gifts of the Spirit, emphasizing that they are given for God’s purpose to the benefit of others.
Gospel: John 20:19-23
“‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this he breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” – On the evening of that first day of the week, the risen Christ commissions his followers and anoints them with the Spirit.
“‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive – During the celebration that prays for the autumn rains and remembers Ezekiel’s promise of a life-giving river flowing from the temple, Jesus calls those who are thirsty to come to him.
+ + +
Images: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spring_in_the_Desert_..JPG Sherbaz jamaldini / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)