Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2013. Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
Call to Worship
One: Come! Let us be the wind that blows the announcement of the Good News.
All: Let us move to gather the people together in praise!
One: Come! Let us be the flame that signals the Spirit’s presence in this place.
All: Let us ignite rejoicing among the old and the young,
our sons and our daughters!
One: Look! Even as we remain distinct, we are made one in Christ!
All: Come! Let us worship God!
Move among us, Spirit, and gather us together with you.
Take our many selves – our lives, our loves, our ideas, our questions, our speech, our silence – and unite us as your people.
Give us the gifts of perception and understanding, so that even as we dream your dreams and see your visions, we may be able to witness to your presence in our common life.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Mother! Father!” It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Odes of Solomon, Ode 6
As the wind moves through the harp and the strings speak, so the spirit of the Lord speaks through [me] and I speak though divine Love. Our spirits praise the holy Spirit; for there went forth a stream, and it became a river great and broad. Indeed…it spread over the surface of the earth, and it filled everything. Then all the thirsty upon the earth drank, and thirst was relieved and quenched. From the Most High the drink was given…Alleluia!
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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
John 14.11-12, 14-17
Believe me that I am in Eternity and Eternity is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I Am dwelling in Eternity. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask for you to be given another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the spirit of Truth…You know the spirit of Truth, because it abides with you, and it will remain in you.
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher
"Revive Us Again"
Click on the audio bar below to hear the recording. Text follows.
Welcome to the birthday of the church. This is Pentecost Sunday, the day that the church celebrates it’s beginning from the reading in Acts that we heard today when the spirit came through the assembled people with a sound like a rushing wind and the Good News began to be told and understood in multiple languages and tongues of fire were seen on each of them there.
So what in the world can this possibly mean? Well I’m not sure I believe that tongues of flame danced on each person’s head. I’m not sure I can get with the idea that folk just suddenly started speaking languages they didn’t previously know how to speak. But surely something magnificent did happen, something so important that today is still celebrated as the beginning of the Christian church.
In our first reading this morning from Romans I can’t help but think of my favorite television program Downton Abbey. At Downton everyone is treated with respect and even the servants are loved and highly valued. But the family is the family and there’s a clear demarcation between who is family and who is servant. Our reading from Romans today is set in a similar context, a time when servants were very much a part of the culture. Clearly the reference to adoption into a family is drawing a clear distinction between viewing ourselves as an outsider or viewing ourselves as a full member of the family.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that this passage refers to both Jew and Greek making it a very broad inclusive text indeed. Whereas Jews were set apart as God’s own by circumcision, the distinction being made here is that everyone is a part of the family of God. Paul’s letter to the Romans was intended to open up the family to everyone. But instead, some who call themselves Christian have made believing certain man made so-called Christian doctrines the litmus test for membership in the family. These include requiring baptism, demanding a person profess Jesus as one’s savior, adhering to beliefs that say LGBT people are outside the family, believing in the virgin birth, and on and on…
The evidence that is given here that we are part of the family is that the Spirit cries out within us saying, “Abba!” This reference to a familiar term for parent places us as children of God. What fascinates me most about this passage is the reference to falling “back into fear.” There is a difference being made here between slaves who must fear the master or children who no longer need to fear the parent because they know they are loved no matter what.
Our second reading from the Odes of Solomon is so beautiful. I imagined a harp sitting in field, hearing the wind blow through the strings making the music of God herself. The image has stayed with me since I read this passage. It reminds me of the gentle tones of wind chimes as the summer breezes move them.
I began to think of Prayer of St. Francis. Surely these words were inspired by the Spirit working within him… “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” This passage is so beautiful it made me want to be the instrument that plays the music of God’s love in the world.
The image of a river that is great and broad enough to give everyone drink to quench their thirst connects us with the time and place where this was written… a place where water was scarce and so necessary for life itself. It’s easy, I think, for us to overlook passages like this when all we need to do to quench our thirst is go to the tap and turn on the water. This passage made me grateful for water and grateful that God’s source of thirst quenching water is more constant than the tap at my sink.
As we said before, it’s Pentecost so we have the reading from Acts that describes a violent wind and the tongues of fire that rested upon them. And then of course everyone began to speak and hear in their own languages putting back together what had been torn apart at the Tower of Babel. When I read this passage this time I thought of the rushing wind of change that happened during the Arab Spring that now seems so long ago. A crowd sounds a lot like a rushing wind sometimes. The winds of change are always driven by people who gather together to celebrate their commonality and work for justice.
I began to think of the fire that is stirred up when we are able to speak truth to power in our work for justice. I had never considered that what we say can become like fire either destroying if used in ways that are not loving, or cleansing and clearing when we speak the truth in love. Maybe the tongues of fire were describing the fire of the spirit that spread through the crowd giving them the courage to speak justice, the power to speak the truth of God’s love for everyone.
And then of course we have our gospel reading from John that reminds us that we are not relegated to the sidelines to watch Jesus perform miracles. If we believe in ourselves, believe that we are part of God’s family, and use our gifts to work for justice and speak out when we are prompted by the Spirit, we too can participate in miracles.
I recall that Jesus could not perform miracles without the faith of those who asked for the sign. Maybe its our job to help others find their own assurance that they are children of God, beloved and cherished. Then they will know that the Advocate, the spirit of Truth, abides with them as well and is not the property of those who would exclude them.
This realization could change everything. If Eternity was in Jesus, Eternity is in us also. And when we believe this simple fact, we can do even greater works than are attributed to Jesus. This is what it means to fully come to know who we are and how much we are loved.
What we need in the church today is a good old-fashioned revival. We need to get excited about the Good News of God’s love for us, excited enough to tell somebody, excited enough to tell the powers of the world that they’re wrong about money, and fame and status being the measure of success. It’s time we opened ourselves to the Holy Spirit moving in us. It’s time to stop worrying about being cool and just let ourselves be caught up in the spirit of God.
Come Holy Spirit. Refresh us, renew us, revive us again.