Materials for Worship at Home on the Feast of Pentecost

Nerys writes: Today as you light your candle and prepare for worship, you are invited to say the words, ‘Come Holy Spirit; Holy Spirit come!’
In our Gospel today, Jesus, at the Last Supper makes a promise to his disciples that when he leaves them, they will not be alone. He will continue to be with them spiritually through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Our reading from the Book of Acts, gives a dramatic account of how those disciples, on the day of the Jewish festival of Pentecost experience being filled with the power of the Spirit.
As you listen the passages, look out for the very distinct imagery used by the two authors to express their different understandings of the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Susi reads John 15.26-27, 16.4b-15.

Heather reads Acts 2.1-21.

The way Luke describes the coming of God’s Spirit with the imagery of fire and flame has fascinated me for a long time, as it has captivated artists down the ages. We may never know exactly what happened in Jerusalem during that first Pentecost festival after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like all the other key events which we mark during the Christian year, Pentecost is shrouded in mystery. Luke, who wrote the only account we have of it, wasn’t present, didn’t witness it first hand and uses similes to convey what it was like – a sound from heaven like the blowing of a violent wind and what seemed to be tongues of fire coming to rest on the apostles as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. A literal understanding led some medieval artists to represent the scene like an old advert for British Gas, with a neatly-formed single flame on each individual’s heads. Modern artists tend to show flames engulfing the whole company, making them one, as in this batik by Solomon Raj, a Lutheran pastor and artist from Andhra Pradesh in India.
The idea of God as fire was nothing new in Jewish scripture. You will remember how Elijah’s sacrifice on Mount Carmel was consumed by fire from heaven as were the sacrifices of David and Solomon, and how, at the giving of the law to Moses, Mount Sinai was covered in smoke as God descended on it in fire.
But when we think of God’s Spirit as fire, there are a range of images we might be drawn to.
We could think of the beauty and tranquility of a single candle flame which lightens the darkness and guides our steps. God’s Spirit is the spirit of truth who stills our restless minds, giving us clarity, helping us to find our way in life and to lead others to Christ.

We could think of a fire in a hearth which provides warmth and comfort. The advocate-spirit of God, the opposite of Satan, the accuser, is a reassuring presence who reveals Christ’s love for us and enables us to bring consolation to others.

Or we could think of a fire fanned by wind, like a forest fire that consumes everything in its path, cleansing the land and stimulating new growth. God’s spirit has the power to renew us, stripping away the old, preparing us for the next challenge as we respond to Christ’s call.

I wonder what kind of holy fire you need in your life today?
At the heart of the 1982 Eucharist is a simple prayer. You may wish to make it yours, changing the pronouns to the first singular:
Hear us, most merciful Father,
and send your Holy Spirit upon us …
[that] we may be kindled with the fire of your love
and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.

This renewing is not a one-off event but a process. We need to be filled with the fire of God’s Holy Spirit time and time again because the flame burns low. We lose clarity, the sense of God’s comforting presence with us becomes dim, our lives become cluttered, squeezing out and diminishing the power of God’s love.
Let us pray that God’s Spirit would also fill others:
We pray for world leaders and all those in situations of power and influence that they would be filled with the Spirit of Truth.
Come Holy Spirit.
We pray for all those who suffer that they would know the comforting presence of the Spirit of Love.
Come Holy Spirit.
We pray for God’s Church, here in Dunblane and across the world, that we would be renewed and blaze with the Spirit of Justice and Compassion.
Come Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit come. Amen.

Here to finish is Julia singing ‘Spirit of God’ by Margaret V. Old on the tune of the Skye Boat Song.

Spirit of God, unseen as the wind,
gentle as is the dove,
teach the truth and help us believe,
show us the Saviour’s love.

You spoke to us, long, long ago,
gave us the written word;
we read it still, needing its truth,
through it God’s voice is heard.
Spirit of God….

Without your help, we fail our Lord,
we cannot live his way,
we need your power, we need your strength,
following Christ each day.
Spirit of God….