Sunday 5th June 2022

Introduction:
Welcome to our joint service of worship for Pentecost. As we celebrate this festival we consider two well-known Bible stories that speak to us of language and our relationship with God.

Call to Worship (Psalm 104: 24, 31, 35)
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
     In wisdom you have made them all
May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
     may the Lord rejoice in his works
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

HYMN 436 Christ triumphant, ever reigning

(from Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo)

Prayer and Lord’s Prayer:

Let us pray:

Holy God,
you spoke the universe into being,
and saw that it was good.
Holy God,
you created humanity in your image,
and saw that we were very good.
Holy God,
as we come to you on this day of celebration
may we proclaim that you alone are truly good.

At Babel you frustrated the people,
punishing their wickedness
and confusing their language.
In Jerusalem you united you people.
calling them to your kingdom,
and making them one.
Today, turn us from our egos,
give us humble hearts,
and make us work for your kingdom.

Holy God,
we gather today in worship,
in fellowship, and in prayer.
Holy God,
we gather to sing your praise,
and to hear your Word.
Holy God,
speak to us and let us hear
that we may know that you are near.

These things we ask, in the power of your Spirit,
and in the name of Jesus.
in whose words we say together …

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Scriptures:

Genesis 11:1-9:
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. ’And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech. ’So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.


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. 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.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power. ’All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean? ’But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

HYMN 598 Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlG9GwOFu-A

(from Troon Old Parish Church Virtual Choir)

Reflection:

This Sunday the church celebrates Pentecost. Some regard it as the birthday of the church. Others view it as the empowerment of the disciples and other believers. Some believe it was a one-off event; for others it is something that can be experienced on any day. However we interpret Pentecost it is often seen as a time for bright colours, upbeat songs and hymns, and a cause for celebration. Maybe it is even a time to dance! These things are both good and welcome. The joyfulness of the celebration does, however, cause us to sometimes overlook the real power and import of the festival. Our festivities may distract us from more serious dimensions of the feast.

Both of today’s readings from scripture speak to us of tongues. These are not incomprehensible utterings that may only be interpreted by a few. Rather, they are the human languages of many groups and nations.

Out on the plain the people gathered. They are there not on the whim of a few but as the focus of the many. United by both one language and purpose they sought to make a name for themselves. They decide to build a tower. This was no minor project but one that would reach to the heavens and so proclaim their greatness. It would proclaim their wonder and majesty, declaring that they had come of age. They would proclaim their equality with the gods!

In their pride they had clearly forgotten the stories of Noah and his time. They had forgotten the potential of humanity for wickedness. They had forgotten the tendency to look in the mirror and see not a creature but a creator. In past times God had almost wiped-out humanity as punishment for its collected wickedness; he vowed, though, not to do so again. This time, instead of destruction, God chooses to frustrate their plans, confusing their one language into many. With no-one to interpret communication failed. Without good communication the building of the tower failed. And so the peoples were scattered.

The story of the Tower of Babel sounds as a warning even to us today. It is a warning to seek a life of humility rather than self-aggrandisement. Yet there are many in our communities that would not listen to this warning. In this Platinum Jubilee weekend how many seek the grandeur of the days of old empire? On a darker front we see the attempts of some in Russia to rebuild their empire of old. Even the Kirk is not alone in longing for days past when it had power, influence, and a position in society; I even know a few who would like to return to those times. Yet the world has moved beyond the days of empire, Soviet Union, and a national church even if some people have not. The Tower of Babel should serve as a warning to all.

But there is another story to tell. It is the one from the book of Acts. Here again we read of many languages but this time it is not a story of pride or frustration. Instead, it is a story of wonder and amazement. The gift of these tongues is a mystery, and it is glorious. Here, in Acts, God equips the people in each of their tongues to serve the purposes of the Gospel. But rather than being to frustrate the construction of a tower it is to serve the building of a Kingdom. The disciples are struck by both awe and wonder as they hear other followers turn and praise God each in their own language. At Babel languages caused division but here in Jerusalem they bring unity. Here is the wonder of Pentecost. In this single occurrence we hear loudly and clearly that the Gospel is not just for a small, select, ethnic group, but for all people. Race, colour, and gender no longer matter.

As we celebrate Pentecost let us remember the warning of Babel. As we celebrate, though, let us also rejoice and give thanks to God for his mercy and grace as shown at Jerusalem. His gifts will not build and empire, nor even will they build a church. The gifts of God at Pentecost will, rather, build a kingdom. It is a kingdom not of pride nor ego but humility. It is a kingdom not of power or influence but of justice. It is a kingdom that will not pass like the empire, the USSR, and others, but will be eternal. This is the joy and wonder of Pentecost, a kingdom where all are welcome, and all are one.
Amen.

HYMN 668 According to thy gracious word

(from First Baptist Church, Pacific Beach)

Prayers:

Let us pray:

On this day of Pentecost let us pray by the power of the Holy Spirit;
let us pray to God our Father in the name of Christ Jesus,
raising our concerns for the church, the world, and for all people.

A brief silence

Come Holy Spirit!
Set our hearts on fire with love for God;
set our hearts on fire with love for one another.
Create in us tongues to speak words of grace, truth, and hope.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Purify the Church by your Holy Spirit.
Let the Holy Fire cleanse us of our sins and schisms.
Teach us to remember your truth, and live by it.
Remind us daily that Jesus commanded us to love one another.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We recall our sisters and brothers who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake.
Give them faith, courage, and wisdom.
May their witness transform the enemies of the Gospel,
bringing them to lives of repentance and faith.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Guide, strengthen, and inspire all who risk their lives for the good.
Grant healing to the wounded, and patience and hope to their families.
When they return home, grant them ways to help,
and the means to build a better world for all.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Come, Creator Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Transform this broken world, and heal it.
Transform for peace the minds, hearts, and wills of all people
especially those with power and authority.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Breathe hope and wholeness into the hearts of all who suffer,
especially those of whom we are concerned.
Refresh their spirits, and restore them to fellowship.
Bless everyone who cares for them.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Blessed Lord,
in the power of your Holy Spirit, we entrust our prayers to you.
Merciful Father, for the sake of your beloved Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord, hear our prayers.
Amen.

HYMN 352 O for a thousand tongues, to sing

(from Songs of Praise)

Benediction:

Go from this time of rejoicing,
out into your homes and communities,
Carrying with you the joy of God
and the hope of His kingdom.

And as you go
may the blessing of God
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
go with you, evermore.
Amen.

Sung Amen

Acknowledgements:
Bible Quotations taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

English translations of The Lord’s Prayer, © 1998, English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), and used by permission.www.englishtexts.org

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