June 5, 2022

Prayer of the Day

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of earth. By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Acts 2:1-21

1When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But 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. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17‘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.
18Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
  in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
   and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portents in the heaven above
  and signs on the earth below,
   blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20The sun shall be turned to darkness
  and the moon to blood,
   before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

Pentecost  —  Keur Moussa Abbey, Keur Moussa, Senegal

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

24How manifold are your | works, O Lord!
  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full | of your creatures.
25Yonder is the sea, great and wide, with its swarms too man- | y to number,
  living things both | small and great.
26There go the ships | to and fro,
  and Leviathan, which you made for the | sport of it.
27All of them | look to you
  to give them their food | in due season. 
28You give it to them; they | gather it;
  you open your hand, and they are filled | with good things.
29When you hide your face, | they are terrified;
  when you take away their breath, they die and return | to their dust.
30You send forth your Spirit, and they | are created;
  and so you renew the face | of the earth.
31May the glory of the Lord en- | dure forever;
  O Lord, rejoice in | all your works. 
32You look at the earth | and it trembles;
  you touch the mountains | and they smoke.
33I will sing to the Lord as long | as I live;
  I will praise my God while I | have my being.
34May these words of | mine please God.
  I will rejoice | in the Lord.
35bBless the Lord, | O my soul.
  Hal- | lelujah!

Romans 8:14-17

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For 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! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

John 14:8-17 [25-27]

8Philip said to [Jesus,] “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very 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 going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. [
25“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”]

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I came across this letter from a pastor while cleaning files this week. It begins, “Dear members… For many months I have given much earnest prayer and thought to the matters that have sorely distressed our congregation. Since the Annual Meeting I have sought to gather the opinions of many members to determine if a solution was possible. As I gave serious study to these matters after Easter, I came to the conclusion that a solution could be found if a majority of our members sincerely desired one.”

The conflict must be some hot-button issue right. The letter sounds contemporary in many ways, but it was written in 1954 to the members of Soldier Lutheran, the church I served in Iowa before coming here. At issue? A beloved country church building and a protentional new church building in town.

It was a reminder that church conflict and questions about who we are not new. They existed even during what some people thought was the golden age of Protestantism in this country. That all may seem like small comfort if you have read headlines about our brothers and sisters in the Southern Baptist Convention the last several weeks. 

Lest we think our own denomination is not having struggles, please pray for our ELCA Lutheran sisters and brothers in the Sierra Pacific Synod of Northern California and Nevada. They have been through so much, too much to explain in this sermon, but trust me that they need our prayers. We are one body with many members and when one part of the body is in pain, we all hurt.

Trouble of course is not contained within the church community. There are many days when these times feel unprecedented. The world is a mess. I have been watching an old crime show which aired during my teenage years and I’m astonished by the relevancy of the themes—gun violence, children dying because parents depend only on faith healing, immigrants fleeing Central America’s Northern Triangle, fights about who controls a woman’s body, and systemic racism. 

What is a community of people trying to follow Jesus supposed to do exactly? Which issues do we address and how? Those are the big issues facing our society, what about our own families and workplaces and circles? What should take priority there? How are we to live? We say we are followers of Jesus; what precisely does that look like here and now?

We might think it would be so much easier if Jesus would come again and simply tell us how to live and what to do. We would listen, right? Fifty days after Easter it’s easy to forget that the way of life Jesus taught, the reign of God he began to usher in, the way of life he lived each day actually cost him his life.

It is his very absence that he speaks about and anticipates in today’s gospel reading from John. He is slowly and deliberately preparing his followers for his absence. In his farewell speech, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, sometimes translated as Counselor. Throughout the farewell speech the Paraclete is depicted as a teacher and witness. It is with these actions of teaching and witnessing that the Paraclete will form and shape Christian community. 

We heard today that the Paraclete will “remind you of all that I have said to you.” This is helpful because I don’t think we often consider the Holy Spirit’s role as a one who reminds, or who causes us to remember as a community. After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the disciples rememberedwhat Jesus had said and done, and they were brought to deeper understanding and faith. In other words, the Paraclete does not teach new things, but keeps Jesus’ own teachings alive in the post-resurrection community. 

Later in his farewell speech, Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Here Jesus points to the importance of fresh encounters with the words of Jesus. These encounters will be given at the time of need, not in advance of that time. Jesus identifies the Paraclete as the medium for those encounters.

2000 year later, these descriptions of the Paraclete should give us comfort and assurance. We also are not left orphaned, even though Jesus is not present as he was with his first disciples. The Paraclete enables past, present, and future to converge in the life of the church. The Paraclete enables the words of Jesus to resound afresh in ever-changing circumstances. 

On the one hand, the Paraclete’s role is essentially conserving. The Paraclete enables the Christian community, including in our time, to reach back to the teachings of Jesus and “remember,” to bring Jesus’ teachings to life afresh with new understanding. 

That’s the work I try to do every time I step into this space—to bring Jesus’ teachings to life with new understanding. But it’s also what was on display when our confirmands told their faith stories. It’s the work we do on Monday morning’s right now as we study Luke’s gospel. And it is the work our church council and teams do when they read the words of Jesus and ask how those words inform our mission today.

At the same time, the Paraclete’s role is also creative. The Paraclete enables the word of Jesus to move forward from its moment in history to the present life of the church. The Paraclete gives new meanings to the teachings of Jesus as the changing circumstances of faith communities and the world demand.

Several members have helped me remember the important role of our imaginations in this moment. What they are speaking of is this creative role of the Paraclete which we can call on. Not every situation we face today as individuals or as a community was imagined in the gospels. One teacher wrote, “Biblical stories often refuse to provide all the information we readers desire. But that void of information opens a space in which we can read our lives into the story.”

The Paraclete ensures that there is an ongoing communication between Jesus and the contemporary communities of faith. The Paraclete’s teaching, witness, and interpretation can take many forms in the life of the faith community. One scholar wrote, “story and interpretation, history and theology, are inseparably linked in the life of Jesus and the church.” It is incumbent upon the faith community, us, to engage in conversation between the story of Jesus and our own stories. 

The goal is not a purer understanding of church doctrine. It is in the end about how those early disciples and future followers of Jesus will live. The disciples can still love Jesus, but not by clinging to cherished memory of him nor by retreating into their private experience of him. Instead, they and we can continue to love Jesus by doing his works and by keeping his commandments. When we live what Jesus has taught us and demonstrated in his own life, then we will find ourselves once again in Jesus’ love. 

In a new book called On Living Well, Pastor Eugene Peterson writes, “Jesus was not what today is called a good communicator, the kind of person whom advertising firms hire to write copy. This is because, as it turns out, Jesus is primarily interested not in communication but rather in communion. His chief concern is not that we get a new piece of information but that we become new people. And to do that, he needs us to get involved—asking questions, wondering who we are and where we stand, curious and intrigued, on tiptoe, ready to take risks.”

The Paraclete we celebrate today is with us still, teaching and witnessing, reminding us how to be a communion. We live in turbulent times but that does not change the fact that the love of God is present and remains our ultimate guide as we ask questions, wonder who we are, remain curious and ready to take risks.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

Set free from captivity to sin and death, we pray to the God of resurrection for the church, people in need, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

Holy Living One, Holy Moving One, burst open our locked doors, and by your Spirit drive us out into the world proclaiming your mighty deeds. Direct our words and actions, trusting the Advocate abiding in and among us. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Feed and care for creatures that remain hidden to us yet contribute to the vibrancy of your creation. Train us to interact with creation from a place of wonder, awe, and reverence. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Send your Spirit to places where language is a barrier to justice and mercy for those who seek it. Bless the work of translators, interpreters, and teachers. Promote understanding for the sake of those longing for true freedom and peace. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Comfort all who live in constant fear and any who are suffering (especially). Remind them that your Spirit has made them your children and that they are never far from your glory. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Guide all bishops, pastors, missionaries, and other ministers of the gospel (as you did for Boniface, whom we commemorate today). Foster our relationships with partner synods and local ministry partners (especially), that our visions and actions are Spirit-led. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Gather your people across regions, nations, and lands. Root our common life in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and by your Spirit bind us together with all the saints who have gone before us. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

In your mercy, O God, respond to these prayers, and renew us by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

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