Posts Tagged ‘Pentecost’

A prayer for Pentecost Sunday

May 22, 2012

Our church celebrated Pentecost Sunday a week early. Here is a prayer I offered for the occasion, which tied in nicely with the scripture I preached, Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-21.

God of wind, word, and fire, we praise your holy name for life, love, eternal life, the promise of resurrection, and—on this day, especially—for sending the light and strength of your Holy Spirit. We often find that trusting in you is difficult—it’s much easier at times to trust in things that we can see and feel; it’s easier to trust in the false gods of money, popularity, possessions. But we know that nothing other than you can provide for us what we truly need. So we want to trust, even though we find it difficult.

Deliver us from the mistaken idea that we muster faith on our own, that we simply draw upon our own resources in order to be faithful to you. In reality, you’ve sent us a helper, an advocate, a teacher. You’ve sent us One who sustains us with life at every moment and equips us to accomplish the good work that you call us to do. You’ve sent us your Holy Spirit.

In all honestly, we need more of your Spirit. We confess it’s our own fault for being so needy. When you made us your beloved children by grace through faith, you also gave us your Spirit to live within us, and we seemingly do all we can to quench the Spirit’s power. Forgive us. Enable us to repent. Let everything we do this morning, and, indeed, in our lives outside of church, stack the dry wood and kindling of your holy Word in our hearts. Give us patience to wait for you to light the fire. And we will wait for you. And we will expect you to do that—by your grace. Set us on fire for you. Let our lives give light to a world of darkness. Through Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

About that weird stuff in “John’s Pentecost” from John 20

May 14, 2011

No spoiler alert necessary. None of the following will appear in my Vinebranch sermon tomorrow. It’s too technical, too lengthy, and maybe a little boring for a sermon (as opposed to a Bible study). Needless to say, I find it all terribly interesting. Maybe you will too. It’s about the same passage of scripture I’ll be preaching on: John 20:19-29.

The scripture includes an intriguing image in John 20:22: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” What does it mean to be “breathed on” by Jesus?

This scripture continues the New Creation imagery that I’ve discussed elsewhere (here and here). These words intentionally recall those words found back in Genesis Chapter 2, describing how God “breathed into the nostrils” of that first human being the “breath of life” (Gen 2:7). This breath that Jesus breathed into the disciples was the breath of new life. This was nothing less than the beginning of God’s new world, God’s new creation, and these disciples are being re-created. Jesus is sending his friends into the world to announce the good news of this new creation, which is beginning right now, in the here and now, and will be completed on the other side of our future resurrection.

This passage is sometimes called “John’s Pentecost,” because in John’s gospel, Jesus gives this group of disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit before his ascension—just as he does in Acts 2 after his ascension, while Jews are gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost.

The passage also includes the controversial verse 23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” What on earth does that mean? This has been a source of division in the Western church between Catholics and Protestants. Over the centuries, Catholics began interpreting this verse to mean that Jesus gave his apostles (and by extension their successors, ordained elders) a special role in forgiving sins—thus the Catholic sacrament of penance. Read the rest of this entry »