May 23 Worship
Updated: May 24
Hello Union Church Presbyterians,
Worship this Sunday, May 23 will be in-person and streamed on YouTube to view at home. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.
HOW TO VIEW ON YOUTUBE: YouTube broadcast will begin at 10:25 am.
For ALL devices: https://www.youtube.com/user/NewburghPresby
NO VIRTUAL FELLOWSHIP today due to Deacons meeting after worship.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
Union Church, Newburgh NY
May 23, 2021 10:30 am
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.
BARN SALE: Sat. Oct 2. Accepting items June through August, the first and third Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-11 am. NO CLOTHING. NO large furniture. Volunteers needed.
Contact Jeff Bousche (845) 913-8434 for more information.
FOOD PANTRY: OPEN Mon. May 24 and Wed. May 26 from 9:30-11:30 am.
Union Food Pantry is happy to announce the start of the “Union Clothes Closet” upstairs in FH. This area will house our clothing donations and provide space for sorting and displaying clothing and other donations. Union will now have a food pantry and a clothes closet!
We have other plans to further help the folks we serve, and we will keep you posted. For now, you can help by donating summer clothing, as well as gently used bedding and towels.
Thanks for helping our church in its mission! Debby and Kathy
Deacons meeting TODAY at 11:30 in Fellowship Hall.
Fellowship Hall CLOSED SAT, May 29 for a private event reservation.
Office CLOSED MON, May 31 for Memorial Day.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
PRELUDE Andante in E Flat Beethoven, played by Dr. Margaret Small
CALL TO WORSHIP Adapted from Psalm 104 Leader: O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. PEOPLE: When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. Leader: May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works-- who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. PEOPLE: I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. Leader: May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. ALL: Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!
Heavenly Father, on this glorious Sunday of Pentecost, may we gather to receive the breath of your Holy Spirit and feel the joy of a new promise, with the spirit of peace from new to new moon, from sabbath to sabbath, as we of all flesh worship in your name, Amen.
CALL TO CONFESSION
Try as we might, we never seem to rise to the promise of the Love that our God sends us. Let us confess our sins together.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O God, like bones in the desert our faith becomes dried up and lifeless. The winds of false doctrines sear our spirits; the heat of conflict saps our strength. We wander in search of direction. Have mercy upon us and fill us anew with your Spirit. Give us guidance and counsel and forgive our waywardness.
(A moment for silent personal confession)
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
My brothers and sisters in this journey of faith, believe the Good News and know that by the love of God and the grace of our savior we are forgiven. Amen.
GLORIA PATRI Traditional, Second Century
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, in the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
PASSING OF THE PEACE
HYMN OF PRAISE How Can I Keep from Singing? NYC Virtual Choir & Orchestra
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the mighty wind and tongues of flame touched those worshippers long ago, may the Scriptures be read and your Word proclaimed, that we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT Ezekiel 37:1-14 Dan Olson
NEW TESTAMENT Acts 2:1-21 Dan Olson
GOSPEL John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 John Redman
SERMON The Winds of the Spirit John Redman, CRE
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Almighty God, you speak and the heavens tremble; you move and leaves of the trees shiver with delight. The babble of waters on their course to the sea attest to your wisdom and plan for creation. We are in awe of the wisdom you continually give us, how you fill us with the Holy Spirit who offers counsel and healing. Guide now our movements and the course of our actions. May we care for others as you care for us, and may our days be full of witness to your overwhelming goodness in Christ, even as we ask for special prayer consideration for those we name here:
And Lord we pray for those in our own hearts whose names you already know, for their own healing and comfort, in your name and that of our redeemer Jesus Christ, who taught to pray, saying:
Our Father, who 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 us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
OFFERTORY ANTHEM How Great Thou Art Acapeldridge
OFFERING OF TITHES AND GIFTS
Let us all consider what we have been blessed with and how we can best share it with those in greater need, even as we gift our church for its greater work to the Glory of God and the undying love of Jesus.
PRAYER OF THANKS
DOXOLOGY played by Dr. Kris Rizzotto
POSTLUDE Postlude for Pentecost played by Dr. Jonathan Hall & Bill Powers
SERMON TEXT The Winds of the Spirit
Oh, that section from Ezekiel, where the valley of bones assume sinew and flesh and rise up to worship God, as he breathes life into them, and they become the nation of Israel. And of course, the arrival of the Holy Spirit on that amazing day with the winds and the tongues of fire and everybody speaking in their native tongues.
And when someone asks what all this means, the reply is that they are all drunk with new wine. New wine was generally not aged and was more potent and a lot rougher than aged wine. And Peter says, we can’t possibly be drunk, it’s only nine in the morning. Well, Peter didn’t attend my college, I can tell you that.
Through the past two centuries, Pentecost has taken on a note of seriousness to mainline denominations and an almost wild and frenzied connotation for those who follow a literal translation of Scripture.
But what is Pentecost, really? It’s a Jewish Festival, also known as the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of first Fruits. The word derives from pente, the Greek word for 50, since Pentecost occurs 50 days after Passover. The Hebrew word is Shavuot. The Feast of Weeks title implies the 7 weeks plus one day that occur before the festival. It was originally a happy and joyous occasion, celebrating the first fruits or the summer season, but in Luke’s account of this Pentecost, wind and fire, those great and powerful images of the Old Testament are all around them. From the Pillar of Fire that guided the Exodus to the flames of the fiery furnace faced in Daniel, fire has been an image of awe and inspiration, especially when driven by the breath of God, as when he breathed life into the clay of Adam, or when Jesus, in John Chapter 20, breathes on them and asks them to receive the Holy Spirit. More on that in a few minutes.
Some scholars think it’s a shame that Luke and Acts, his follow up Gospel, are divided by John’s Gospel and there are contemporary Bibles that now re-arrange the books to accommodate this. This brings us a nearly perfect triune set of events—That God resurrects Jesus, then He ascends to His Father and then the Holy Spirit is revealed to all the believers.
Other scholars have said that Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth in the beginning of his gospel and the birth of the church in the Book of Acts.
But yet another contemporary scholar posits the idea all three of these triune events are also included in a more spiritual manner in John, Chapter 20. When Jesus appears to the disciples in the locked room, he has shown the resurrection. He injects the Holy Spirit into them with his breath. And he withdraws from them as the chapter ends, as in a version of Ascension, though he later appears to them again in Galilee.
But what are we to make of this experience of those assembled there with wind and flames and tongues of fire? Please don’t mistake those tongues of fire as actual tongues aflame, coming down to land on people to incite them to speak in languages other than their own –that’s not what this passage actually means. It means that the holy flame of the Spirit came among them, like the tongues of flame in a fire, in a way not unlike the flames of the burning bush, as God speaks to Moses, or even as he speaks to Ezekiel in our first reading this morning.
Let’s look at Ezekiel’s passage for today. See how he too, is overcome by the Holy Spirit, whether in a vision or a dream. “The hand of the Lord came upon me,” he says, “and the Spirit set me down in the middle of a valley. It was full of bones.”
Boy, that’s some vision, isn’t it? But then Ezekiel describes how those bones begin to move as the wind blows in, and then in a nearly cinematic description, they are covered with sinew and flesh, then skin covers them, but they are still lifeless until God breathes on them, just as he did for Adam, and then they stand and come to life, a great multitude. A dream? A vision? A hallucination? Whatever it is, it’s just one example of tons of dreams and visions of the prophets in the Old Testament, not prophesying what literally might happen, but how we come to understand the work of God. This happens at a time when Ezekiel and the other Israelites are captive in Babylon and he’s talking about how the nation of Israel will be brought back to life through the will and the work of God.
And the point of including it here in today’s Lectionary reading is that it shows yet again how the power of the Holy Spirit has been with us, at the hand of God, since before time began.
And as Peter speaks, he refers back to the prophecies of Joel: “Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.” There are those dreams and visions again, right? But the whole passage is something of a vision, isn’t it? The wind roars through, and it seems like flames are surrounding them, engulfing them in its spiritual power. And these strange languages? Some people interpret this that the worshippers can speak in these languages, that they’ve never heard before. But look closely. The word gets out that something amazing is happening and people of all nations come rushing in, and supposedly hearing these Galilean peasants in their own native languages. Is that what really happens, or do all these worshipping Jews hear their native languages in all this or do they merely imagine that’s what they hear? With all this craziness, and sounds overlapping sounds, it’s no wonder that some are saying that those guys are just drunk.
Peter, in his response, quotes or more accurately, paraphrases the message in Joel, about the Day of the Lord to come. Jewish history and theology both had the deep-seated belief that there is the present day, and the Days to come, and in between is the Day of the Lord. And that is what Peter means here – that the Day of the Lord has come. Through Jesus, that day has arrived as Jesus said it would, and we are here as witnesses to that moment.
And when the Scripture says “Prophesy!” it doesn’t mean predicting the future, it means pronounce the present. The Day of the Lord is with us, the Messiah has been among us in the flesh, is the prophecy and the message of Pentecost. And what a message of joy that is!
And that message of the Holy Spirit descends upon us, not by tongues of flame, but more like a big comfy quilt to envelope and comfort us.
And then we have the words of Jesus from the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of John, about how he must leave the disciples, but he will send the Spirit, translated variously as The Helper, the Advocate, the Truth Bringer. The disciples, as usual in the beginning, are bereft, they are devastated, but they are truly transformed when the Holy Spirit comes upon them at Pentecost. Some evangelical Bible Thumpers will pound their fists and raise their arms in the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost!
But it’s not as though this Holy Spirit is newly born and emerging among the first believers, not at all.
This Holy Spirit has been with and a part of God, just as Jesus has been, since before time began. And who else could have delivered those Holy Tablets to Moses? Who else would have shown Ezekiel that valley of bones? Who else would have sustained Jesus through his forty days in the wilderness? Who else sustains us as we struggle with our own lives and our own challenges?
It’s that unspoken part of our faith journeys, in each of us that still speaks to us in our own individual ways and brings us full circle to the Love of the Father, the Grace of the Son, and that incredible wind and warm breath of the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
John Redman, CRE
Mobile: (914) 474-0722
44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550
Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955