Monday, May 25, 2020

Pentecost liturgy in a time of pandemic (May 31, 2020)

Texts:  Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Acts 2:1-21; John 20:19-23

Call to Worship
No great flowing fabrics of red
hanging from sanctuary ceilings,
yet this is still the day we celebrate
Grace’s breath shattering the shutters of our hearts.
On this day, clad in our pajamas, sitting at home
may we continue to let the Spirit
of new life breathe upon us!
From near empty sanctuaries, through video worship,
we gather with our sisters and brothers,
proclaiming that we are God’s Pentecost.
On this day, we would touch (virtually) all
who remain sheltered in place, safe in God’s grace.
There will be no birthday cakes, no balloons released,
no butterflies emerging from cocoons,
yet in the days to come, we will continue to speak
of God’s love and the Spirit’s peace for all.
So that even apart, people know they are not alone,
so that when that day comes, and we know it will,
people will find a community awaiting them,
even for hiding in fear behind closed doors.  

Prayer of the Day
A spark.
that is all we need
on this day, Imaginative God,
to light our quarantined aloneness
so that we can burst into bonfires
which signal to all those around us
you are bringing to life and grace
to us, and to the whole world.

A word.
just one, little word
on this day, Poet of Pentecost,
so that we can be the voice
of all those forgotten by the world,
so that we can be the warmth
to melt all the hearts frozen by greed,
so that we might speak in that still, small voice,
and be the ones that live out,
your good news to everyone we meet.

A breeze.
a soft, gentle breeze
that stirs the curtains
on this day, Shattering Spirit.
a breeze that will stay quiet,
and peaceful, and still
until the day comes (and it will)
for us to become that storm
of hopes to clear the despair
from all our neighborhoods and lands.

Give us yourself this day,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we are taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
Yes, we remain isolated.  Yes, our hopes are shuttered. Yes, our souls are filled with fear.  Yet, on this day, we remember that God comes to such people.  On this day, we celebrate that the Spirit breathes new life.  On this day, we affirm that Jesus restores us to hew hope.  Behind closed doors, hiding from our fears let us speak of our lives as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   O Pentecost’s Spirit – if only we could tell of your wonders in our lives, yet social media and other ways we communicate is filled with anger, bitterness, and political arguments.  If only we could share how you have transformed our lives, but we are stuck in our living spaces, hiding from what is seeking to do us harm.  If only we could pour you out on all those who are lonely, and afraid, and worried about tomorrow, but we are fearful of stepping outside our doors.  
   Even in the closed rooms of our hearts, even with our shuttered souls, you continue to move, to live, to breathe upon us with your mercy and your grace, God of this day.  Now, in this moment, breathe your peace, upon us and a fearful world, so that we might be the balm for all the anger around us.  Now, on this day, breathe your hope upon us, and a desperate world, so that we might drop it off on the porches of all huddling in their homes.  Now, in the moments and days to come, continue to breathe your love upon us, and an uncaring world, so that we might transform grudges into generosity, foolishness into common sense, and rejection into being as welcoming as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.     

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Listen!  It is not an old story, but ours.  It may not happen with a might wind, but with a soft whisper.  But this is our Pentecost.  This is our reminder that God forgives us and fills us with all things new.
Thanks be to God!  God gives us new hope in endless days of despair, new joy in never-ending moments of grief, and new life when we seem to have lost even the simple ability to breathe – this day and in all the days to come.  Amen.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Blow the dust off our fears, Generous Spirit, so we might be more giving people.  Blow the dust off our material gifts we think are so paltry, so we might realize how they can bring hope and life to others.  Blow the dust off our mistaken views of others, so we might see them as our sisters and brothers, ready to grace us, even as we may bless them with these offerings.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the Spirit of Pentecost touch you this day.
And touch you, as well.
May the soft, gentle breeze of love fill your hearts.
We open them to the Spirit who would overflow from our hearts.
May the words of Pentecost offer you new songs.
We will sing praise and thanksgiving to our God.

Wow!  What you do,
God of imagination and wonder!
You breathe your Spirit into chaos
even the confusion in which we are living,
to shatter the emptiness of our hearts
to reshape them into beauty.
you whispered your Word into the silence,
and rivers raced to the oceans
and bugs creepy-crawled across meadows;
   whisper your Word now
   into the silence of our isolation,
      so we might see the butterflies drifting in the air,
      and see the dolphins leaping from the waves.
Like any loving parent, you fed creation with hope,
as you long for us to care for others,
   but we run off with tellers of lies,
   we lock ourselves in death’s quarantine.
Yet these moments of fear and worry are not new,
and so you keep sending those we call prophets.
to tell of what you are doing and will do,
   yet we continue to huddle in with sellers of fear
   to shutter our hears from such words.
So you sent Jesus to us,
to breathe your peace upon us
and to bring us back to you.

With those who continue to live in isolation
yet long to share the Spirit with others,
we will sing your praise forever and ever:

Holy, holy, holy are you, Shattering Spirit.
All creation will sing until it has no more breath.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who stands in our midst speaking peace.
Hosanna in the highest!

Like your glory, may your holiness be eternal,
God of wind and flames,
and may your Child, Jesus, bless us
with words of wonder and joy.
Though we would sit in our loneliness,
   he comes to be with us in love
though we would keep our souls shuttered,
   he comes to throw them wide open
   with grace and hope.
though we would remain hidden away
in death’s cold upper room,
   he enters to take its power
   over us away, so the bright flames
   of the resurrection might dance
   over our lives bringing us hope.

As we would open our hearts to the Spirit,
as we would welcome the peace and power,
we tell of that faith grounded in Pentecost’s mystery:

Drawing his last breath, Christ died for us;
with the sudden breath of the resurrection,
   Christ was raised;
Christ will return, to breathe the Spirit into us forever.

Here in this moment, with people gathered
wherever they are, alone or with others
may you pour the Spirit of Pentecost
upon the simple gifts of the bread and the cup.
with the brokenness of the bread,
we pray hope might dance upon our souls
   so we will might become a mighty wind
   to bring healing to our shattered world.
Drinking from the cup of grace,
we pray it flow through us
   so we might become a fountain
   of unending generosity
      to parched people
      thirsting for life.

And when that day comes
when we no longer need
to shelter in place or isolate from others,
you will gather us around the Table
with our sisters and brothers
of every time, of every place,
breathing the Spirit upon us,
telling us the Word of grace and hope,
as we sing our thanks forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

The shutters of our hearts have been flung open
by the fresh breath of God!
We will go to offer God’s love to everyone around us
even if only from our living room or porch.
Our souls have been set on fire
by the justice of the Brother of the poor.
We will go to share visions of hope,
to listen to the dreams of the oppressed,
even if only through social media,
a text, or a phone conversation.
Our loneliness and fears will be set aside
by the Spirit of inclusion creating community.
We will speak words of peace to all we meet
even while maintaining a safe distance,
we will open ourselves to the gifts of others
even as we cocoon in place because we love them.

© 2020 Thom M. Shuman