St. Giles’ Cathedral
Sunday May 31st 2020
The Day of Pentecost
Through Christ we have access to the Father in the one Spirit.
Ephesians 2: 18
Let us worship God.
The lesson is written in the Book of Acts in the 2nd chapter.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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?
The Word of the Lord; thanks be to God.
Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes, in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till he become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.
Text: Bianco da Siena d.1434
Tr. Richard Littledale 1833-1890
Music: Down Ampney
R.Vaughan Williams 1872-1958
Are you stuck at home wondering when this lockdown is going to end? Distressed at the number of victims of this illness which is afflicting our world? Searching desperately for signs of hope amidst the bleakness of these times? The story of the first Pentecost just might be the word you are needing to hear today.
The British writer and theologian, Janet Morely, describes Pentecost in this way, “Pentecost is the outpouring of the sudden power of God to transform a wounded and disillusioned band of strugglers into a community that changed the world.” Wherever the Holy Spirit, the wind of the spirit moves we find transformation happening.
American writer on matters spiritual, Barbara Brown Taylor claims that we can see that Jesus was the Messiah when we think about his followers in a kind of before-and-after set of pictures.
Before Pentecost they didn’t fully recognize who Jesus was, even though he ministered and lived with them for years.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t stick with him when he got into deep trouble with the authorities, instead abandoning him as quickly as they could. Then, when he, just as he had promised, rose from the dead, they struggled to fully believe that he was alive again.
On Pentecost, however, those very same slow, timid, bumbling disciples become utterly fearless leaders. Jesus’ disciples proclaim the gospel in front of both large crowds and menacing authorities. After Pentecost, they heal sick people and exorcise demons. Jesus’ disciples even go to jail gladly where they sing hymns that shake their prison’s foundations.
That miraculous transformation begins with what Acts 2 describes.
Transformation is what the presence of the Spirit brings. Sometimes quietly, sometimes like the rush of a violent wind, or with tongues of fire. So when we read Genesis we see that the wind and breath of God are the very agents of creation. It is that which transforms void and chaos into form and meaning, which changes lifeless clay into an animated being. And so with the Spirit’s new creation, the church born at Pentecost, the Spirit bringing meaning out of the hopelessness of the disciples. Bringing the promise of dreams and visions out of those who were mourning. And so too in our life today the wind of the Spirit, which promises healing and wholeness and forgiveness and grace.
In one of the last poems she wrote before she died, Denise Levertov remembered being in Switzerland 50 years ago with her mother and standing by a lake and seeing a column of rain coming across the lake, propelled by the wind and lit by the sun.
“I knew this,” she says in her poem “That Day”:
“I knew this… ‘The Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters!’/ The column steadily came on/ across the lake towards us; on each side of it/ there was no rain. We rose to our feet breathless -/ and then it reached us took us/ into its veil of silver wrapped us/ in finest weave of wet,/ and we laughed for joy, astonished.”
And so let our prayer this day be that we may all, this Pentecost, know the joy and astonishment of the loving Holy Spirit. Amen
The spirit of the Lord
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor:
He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted,
to preach deliverance to the captives,
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord;
To give unto them that mourn a garland for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud,
and as the garden causeth the things
that are sown in it to spring forth;
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring forth before all the nations.
Text: Isaiah 61
Music: Edward Elgar 1857-1934
Our prayer today is the one offered by the coalition of Scottish Churches to be said in our home at 7 p.m. this evening.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, by your Spirit, you brought order from chaos.
By your brooding Spirit, hovering over the void, you spoke and there was … something rather than nothing.
Create and recreate in and through us, we pray.
Almighty God, by your Spirit, you equipped and gifted and led our ancestors to know you and to serve you and to glorify you.
Continue to equip and enable us, we pray.
And then, Almighty God, as promised by the prophets and as never before, you poured out your Spirit on these first believers – on men and women, on the old and the young; and they were transformed and made alive, as dry bones brought to life.
Pour out your Spirit on us, we pray.
Almighty God, in these turbulent and uncertain times, send us the Comforter, that we might know you to be near. Grant us your healing touch and help us to know the rest that comes from resting in you.
For the loving touch of your Spirit, we pray.
Almighty God, by what seemed as a rushing wind and as tongues of fire you brought your Church to life.
Come to your Church now, we pray, that by the same Spirit we might be renewed and refreshed and remade and revived.
Yes, Lord, grant us a fresh outpouring of your Spirit, we pray.
O Lord hear our prayers for ourselves and others as we join together in the Lord’s Prayer:
which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil;
for thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory
for ever and ever, Amen.
Be of good courage, render no-one evil for evil,
but hold fast to the good; honour all of God’s people,
and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the Communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you
and all whom you love
this day and for ever.
Nicolas de Grigny Veni creator en taille à 5 (Plein Jeu)
CCL Licence No 980930
Streaming Licence 57837
The service was conducted by Rev Calum I MacLeod
The lesson was read by Helen Heatlie
The hymn was recorded in 2001 by The Choir of St Giles’ Cathedral Peter Backhouse, Assistant Organist, Michael Harris, Organist and Master of the Music
The anthem was recorded in 2004 by the Choir of St Giles’ Cathedral, Peter Backhouse, Assistant Organist, Michael Harris, Organist and Master of the Music