McFarland

Pentecost May 30/31, 2020

Readings

First Reading: Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

Gospel: John 20:19-23

Prayer of the Day:
O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Hymns of the Day

If you don’t have hymnals at home,
look up the hymns on YouTube or other websites.

O Day Full of Grace” (ELW 627)

“O Living Breath of God” (ELW 407)

“God of Tempest, God of Whirlwind” (ELW 400)

“Gracious Spirit, Heed Our Pleading” (ELW 401)

“Breathe on Me, Breath of God” (Michael Van Patter)

Reflection on John 20:19-23

by Pastor Tim Dean

This is a familiar story from the Gospel of John. We actually heard it 6 weeks ago—on the second Sunday of Easter. That day, we heard the story of the risen Christ meeting a frightened, dislocated group of disciples, and offering them his peace.

Today is Pentecost, the day to give thanks for the gift and activity of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis of this story shifts to the risen Christ sending the Spirit on the disciples. Jesus breathes the Spirit on his followers, and sends them in mission to forgive, reconcile and heal.

This scene resonates with several images from the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament. In Genesis, chapter 2, God breathes into the nostrils of the first human being God has made, Adam, the dust creature. Because of God’s breath, Adam becomes a living being, a new creation (Genesis 2:7).

In Ezekiel, chapter 37, the Lord God breathes upon the valley of bones, the house of Israel, and they are brought to life. The Spirit of God, in that closed room in John, breathes new life on a community that is struggling with the death of Jesus and its future.

Pentecost is God’s promise to fill us with the breath of the new creation in Christ.

I cannot hear this story of Christ breathing on the disciples without thinking of the tragic events that have unfolded in Minneapolis this week. An unarmed African American man, George Floyd, died after being pinned to the ground by a police officer. A video recorded George crying out, “I can’t breathe. Please, I can’t breathe.”

My heart is broken and full of lament over the senseless loss of his life. Please join me in praying for the family of George Floyd, the city of Minneapolis, the police department and all government officials in Minnesota. Protests have sprung up throughout the country. We pray for calm hearts, wise decisions and non-violent responses from protesters and law enforcement during these demonstrations. We pray for justice and healing for those who are angry and bitter over yet another tragic death of an unarmed African American man.

We know that Minneapolis is not an isolated incident. It is almost 5 years since we were shocked by the deaths of 9 African American Christians, who were murdered by a white supremacist during a bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina.

“How long, O Lord, how long?” This lament from the psalms gives voice to my prayers. (Psalm 13:1)

The on-going pattern of racism and white supremacy has caused me to do a lot of soul-searching and self-examination. In what ways have I contributed to racist attitudes by my own actions, inactions or silence? In what ways do I need to speak a clear “no” to racism, prejudice and hatred of any kind? In what ways can I be part of a solution, part of building a bridge in this glaring racial divide?

These are not easy questions for me to wrestle with—by myself and in conversation with others. But they are necessary. As the saying goes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Each of us is called to prayer, self-examination, and repentance.

And, dear friends, hold on to the promise of Pentecost: The Spirit brings life, not death. Jesus sends us with his Spirit, so that we may work for the life of the world. Jesus breathes for us, so that we may be his body in our homes, communities and world.

We are church because of the Spirit of Jesus. This Spirit is with us wherever we are, making us one in Christ, making us part of his mission of healing and hope.

Martin Luther wrote in the Small Catechism that we can’t believe in Jesus Christ or come to him on our own, but it is only through the Spirit that we are called, enlightened, made holy and kept in faith.

We are not on our own. The Spirit breathes in us the new creation in which there are no more divisions between black, brown and white people. The Spirit gives us strength to offer hope where there is despair, and love where there is hate. The Spirit calls us to seek justice for those who are oppressed by racism and every form of bondage. The Spirit gives us faith to be Christ’s heart and hands wherever we go.

Jesus keeps breathing for us.

In the words of a Pentecost hymn:

“O living Breath of God, bearing us to life through baptismal waters;

O living Breath of God, sighing with creation for freedom’s birth:

Come now and fill our spirits; pour out your gifts abundant.

O living Breath of God, Holy Spirit, breathe in us as we pray.” (ELW #407)

Breathe in us, Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with love.

Breathe in us, Holy Spirit, and guide our hands to work for justice and compassion.

Breathe in us, Holy Spirit, and help us to seek healing and understanding where there is conflict and division.

Breathe in us, Holy Spirit, and make us one in Christ.

Please keep breathing in us, Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let Us Pray

Thank you, Spirit of Life, for the breath of new creation in your church. Remind us that we are the body of Christ wherever we are—across physical distance, across barriers of race, gender and income inequality. You make us one in Christ. With the breath of Jesus, send us in mission for the healing and life of the world. Help us to offer hope where there is despair, reconciliation where there is brokenness, and love where there is hate. In the loving presence of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.