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  • Rev. Sandra Larson

May 31 At-Home Worship & Activities

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Pick what works for you!


Union Church, Newburgh NY


May 31, 2020

Candle: Please light a candle (if you have one) to represent Pentecost.


“Pentecost is the beginning of the reunification of humanity—the creation of a new kind of community in the church. A once timid, frightened, and discouraged group of Jesus's followers—his disciples—become forceful, confident, and unified advocates for sharing their experience of the risen Christ, and a new faith movement. Thus a community of Christ followers—is born.” —The Rev. Dr. Scott Kenefake, adapted

Before Pentecost, the disciples found it hard to do easy things; after Pentecost, they found it easy to do hard things. —Adoniram Gordon


We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship.


VIRTUAL Fellowship Time TODAY, Sun. May 31 from 11:30-Noon

Use mobile phone or computer with video if possible, since seeing each other will be beneficial to us all. Phone with audio only is EASY so, please attend. We can encourage each other and laugh a bit.

Pass this on to those you think might appreciate it.

Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. and Wed. June 8 and 10 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

Congregation Care Opportunity: Do you enjoy writing notes of encouragement to people? Do you have cards or stationary waiting to be used? Let Pastor Sandy know if you’d be willing to send cards/notes via snail mail to people in our congregation on a regular basis.

In Memoriam—Barbara Demeo, a longtime former member of Union you may remember from her leadership for MANY barn sales. Barbara passed away recently from Covid contracted in a rehab center after she tripped over one of her beloved dogs. Burial will probably be in North Carolina. With thanks to God for memories of her and her part in this congregation.



The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, with open minds, beholding the glory of the Lord are being changed into the likeness of God from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. That likeness includes strength and love. Praise be to God!


Flame of the Spirit: light our path so that we may walk in wisdom. Flame of the Spirit: kindle in us a passion for freedom in Christ—for ourselves and others. Flame of the Spirit: gather us all into your warming, comforting presence to celebrate God’s incredible grace. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

HYMN Breathe on Me, Breath of God Robert Jackson

CLICK HERE for lyrics and music

MESSAGE FOR ALL AGES God’s Spirit IS with Us

A young girl’s parents told her that their family had to leave Georgia and move to Alabama. She loved her friends, home and church. Even so, her parents were shocked at her prayer before they were to move. She blessed Mom and Dad and then said, “Goodbye, God, we’re moving to Alabama.” Are there times when we feel God is not going with us? We know that God is with us in ALL places. Even when we’ve lost a family member or friend, or face any kind of trauma, we can share hope like the hope of the grieving, lost disciples of Jesus. They believed the promise, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him.” Jesus goes ahead of us to Galilee—and to anywhere we are, too!

A CONTEMPORARY AFFIRMATION OF FAITH I believe that the Spirit of God is present with us now and always, and can be experienced especially consciously in prayer, forgiveness, reading Scripture, the sacraments, and the mission and fellowship of the church.

I believe that the Holy Spirit is present in my life and I seek to better discern the Spirit’s leadings in all that I do.

HYMN Gloria Patri (Glory to the Father)

Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end. Amen, amen…

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE and LORD’S PRAYER God, in this time of profound change, we pray for discernment, and the tools to prepare us for what’s to come. As St. Augustine prayed, we pray: “O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected world and scatter your encouraging beams.” In this time of uncertainty, we pray for those who are grieving or suffering in any way; and for all who do not have the assurances and comfort of your amazing grace

(silent prayer…)

ANTHEM Sweet, Sweet Spirit Union Chancel Choir


When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples 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.

SERMON Incendiary Grace Rev. Sandy Larson CLICK HERE for video


HYMN We Are Walking in the Light of God

Sing along in English (repeat title—sung slowly, then fast) Dance and walk if you’d like. CLICK HERE for African version

Offering Reminder Please CLICK HERE for online donation or send check to Union Church, 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

HYMN Spirit of the Living God CLICK HERE for audio

BENEDICTION Unscramble these Words Numbers 6.24

E h t d o L r I s s e b

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

y u o a d n e e k p o y u __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

CHORAL RESPONSE The Lord Bless You and Keep You Union Chancel Choir

ACTIVITIES – Pick those that interest you!


Prayer: O God, breathe your Spirit of grace, truth, and love into my life. Reveal and remove all shadows of empty distractions, anger and hatred; thereby, enabling me to hunger and thirst for righteousness and compassion. May my words and actions better reflect the way and will of the risen Christ. Amen. — Norwood V. Brown III, adapted

ALSO: The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III; CLICK HERE to listen to whole video

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners comments: When your young adult boys tell you a sermon clarified and excited their faith more than anything else they have seen and heard — well, it’s a conversation that parents love to have with their children who want to keep the faith but apply it to the times they are in. This video may be the best one I have ever heard about how we might repent of racism and be healed from it. Listen, watch, weep, hope, and be renewed.

HUMOR Light of the World…or at least this room Do you know many Presbyterians it takes to change a light bulb?

A committee of ten. Eventually, one calls an electrician, and then 9 say how much they liked the old one better.

How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb? Ten: One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the dark. How many liberal Christians does it take to change a light bulb? No matter how many progressives, they choose not to make a statement in favor or against changing the bulb. They agree that, if you find a bulb that works for you, that is fine. Everyone is invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your relationship to THE [divine] light bulb or present a paper that explores light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent and 3-way bulbs, turnip and tulip bulbs; all of which point to the luminescence of God.

How many strict Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?

None. God has predestined when the lights will be on.

May all your days know God’s surprising grape, Christ’s incredible peach,

and the Spirit’s unquenchable juice. Go and have some fun. No one else can do it for you.


SERMON Incendiary Grace Acts 2.1-13 Sandy Larson

The meaning of incendiary grace takes on more immediate urgency as racial tensions are fomented by racial injustice in Minneapolis on top of short tempers due to social isolation. Spotlights on continuing racial inequality trigger violent anger. Christian believers need to embody God’s wisdom and grace in the midst of pandemic, poverty, inequality, and racism. Lord—may this pandemic inspire people to work for the good of all people. May the artificial social barriers be disassembled so a true spirit of unity and harmony might prevail throughout the world. Holy Spirit inspire our prayers with a willingness to work toward YOUR vision for the world. AMEN.

The TV children’s cartoon series, Dragon Riders features teenagers of an ancient Nordic village. The Vikings of Berk had fought dragon attacks from as far back as memory recalled. Then Hiccup, the chief’s son, discovered that a kaleidoscope-like viewfinder could decipher long lost information about most kinds of dragons. Hiccup realized that this new information could help communicate with dragons. Rather than mutual destruction, potential cooperation with dragons thrilled Hiccup with a hope for symbiotic relationships. Every episode of Dragon Riders, opens with the retrospective scene of Hiccup discovering the code breaker and exclaiming, “This changes EVERYTHING!” The Nordic village transforms from a community at war with dragons to a mutual partnership with dragons. Whoda thunk? I see Pentecost as a similar transformational discovery. The Holy Spirit changes EVERYTHING. Although the Holy Spirit has been present from the beginning of time, people did not know how to relate to the Holy Spirit. Over the coarse of many centuries, only a few spiritual prophets found a connection with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit had seemed as elusive as fictional dragons—and maybe as scary. When a message from God got through to people, they quaked with fear. Pentecost “changes EVERYTHING!” The disciples were able to connect deeply with the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of John tells of Jesus’ promising an Advocate for his followers. According to John’s account, after their last supper together, Jesus promised they will receive an Advocate. They will have a defender, a supporter, a promoter, a backer, a sponsor, an advisor like an attorney, and activist that looks out for their interests—all rolled into one. Rather than a limited, brief relationship—this Advocate will teach them all things… forever! According to John 14-16, Jesus told his followers:

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” [John 14.16]

Because Jesus was aware that his followers did not understand the machinations of the Holy Spirit, Jesus further explained, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” [John 14.26]

Knowing that this promise was still impossible for them to grasp, Jesus further explained: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” [Jn15.26] The Holy Spirit will help them understand Jesus’ mission and his intentions for his followers.

Jesus sensed that he would soon be arrested and executed, so Jesus reassured his followers in light of their impending grief: “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. [John 14.16,.14.26, 15.26,16.7]

Interpreting the meaning of Jesus “sending” the Holy Spirit is tricky. The Holy Spirit has been present since the beginning of time. However, few people discerned the presence of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, with Jesus as their mentor, none of his disciples felt a need to find an Advocate or mentor elsewhere. Jesus was their teacher and champion. They would be devastated when he died; so Jesus wanted them to seek the Holy Spirit. Jesus offered them insight and inspiration to open themselves up to RECEIVE the Holy Spirit.

I remember a couple in Eugene. The husband, Dick had terminal cancer and wanted to reassure his wife that it would be OK for him to die. Dick assured her that after he died, he would send her a sign that all was well. She waited for a message for weeks, but she could discern no sign. Discouraged, she nearly gave up. They had both loved bird watching, especially awesome raptors, so she renewed her interest in bird watching. Then, one mid-afternoon, a brown tailed hawk landed on her wood patio railing and cocked his head at her as she gazed, transfixed, through the sliding door window. Despite the normal hawk habit of avoiding close encounters with people, the hawk stayed on the rail and watched her for a long time. Then the hawk serenely flew up and away. She received the assurance that Dick had promised. For her, that hawk’s visit “changed EVERYTHING.”

The Holy Spirit is a mystery. If we are receptive, we will sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. If we are open, the Spirit will comfort and guide and challenge us.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians explained:

“We speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things. [I Cor 2.7-15]

You just read the story of Pentecost from the Acts of the Apostles.

Jesus’ followers received the Holy Spirit, even if it took wind and flames to make them take notice. Pentecost is misleadingly called the birthday of the church. That awesome multi-cultural street party does NOT make Pentecost a turning point for history. The significance of this celebration is that 1000’s of people were ignited, fired up. They were metaphorically or literally “on fire.” God’s incendiary grace put fire in their bellies.

Read the stories in the Acts of the Apostles and notice how these Jesus followers who had been touched by incendiary grace set the community on fire wherever they went.

Saint John of the Cross, was a Spanish mystic in the late 1500's in the wake of the Black Death and other plagues. St. John recognized when receptivity to the Holy Spirit was turned off. St. John labeled inability to discern the Holy Spirit as “the dark night of the soul.” Saint John used another analogy to describe the mysterious relationship of God and a person: Faith is like being a log and God is fire. When the log is so caught up in the fire, it is almost impossible to tell what is log and what is fire. Perhaps you’ve heard the evangelical expression, “On fire for the Lord.” That’s incendiary grace in action.

The disciples’ experience on the original Pentecost must have been frightening, awe-inspiring and exhilarating. Of course, sometimes the spirit works softly and secretly—quietly transforming people and situations -- without noise or fuss. The Spirit works in many mysterious ways, just as God uses bombastic evangelists and sensitive messengers to share the Gospel.

God will give the Holy Spirit to those who are receptive. Rather than feeling guilty or jealous of different experiences or expressions of God’s incendiary grace, we can be grateful for the relationship God offers to us; and we can delight in the gifts God gives to others. Every spirit-led person brings glory to God in his or her own, unique way.

Where will the Spirit lead us? What will the Spirit nudge us and HELP us do? NOTHIN! Unless we open ourselves to God’s incendiary grace working in and through us.

Like a fire once started, when the Holy Spirit ignites people, they tend to live with exceptional enthusiasm and courage. Christians led by the Holy Spirit burst with desire to nurture others in faith. What incendiary fire of God’s grace will you ignite?

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