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Sermon and Liturgy for Pentecost - Year C
Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21
"The Force Be With You"



READING:  Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21
SERMON :  "The Force Be With You"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-pentsesu 431936

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   
   The sermon itself dates from several years ago and has proven
   to be quite popular over the years with the generations raised 
   with the Star Wars movies.  It has been recently updated: the 
   liturgy was revised and the file agumented with a children's 
   story and an eucharistic order (based on that of Nathan Nettleton, 
   www.laughingbird.net, "Eucharistic Prayer for Pentecost C, 
   2001).  The major comment of a negative nature about the
   primary image in this sermon is that Spirit is more than a 
   'force' - it is a person.  A point to be well taken.  We hope 
   that the following inspires you for your preparations this year.

 
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME and CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Psalm 139:7-10)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Where can I go to escape the Spirit of God? 
P  Where can I run to flee from God's presence?
L  If I ascend to heaven, God is there.
P  If I make my bed in Hades, God is there.
L  If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of
   the sea, even there God's hand will guide me, his right hand will hold
   me fast.
P  Blessed be the name of God, now and forever.  Amen


THIS WEEK AT ST. ANDREW'S
- Welcome and Announcements  
- Birthdays and Anniversaries 
- Special Matters  
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


MUSIC AND SILENT PREPARATION


PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Almighty and Everlasting God look with favour upon your people.  As on this
day you sent upon the first disciples the gift of your Holy Spirit, so pour
that Spirit out upon us this day.  Open our hearts to your living power. 
Cleanse us from every impurity and forgive our sin as you have promised. 
Lead us and teach us and grace us with your presence.  Grant us the dreams
and visions you have promised and make us messengers of the good news of
Christ Jesus our Lord.  Indeed, unite us through the power of your Spirit
so that all people may be moved by the witness we make and so that songs of
praise may rise to you here and everywhere, both now and for ever more.  
AMEN


* HYMN:    "Holy Spirit, Hear Us"                                  - VU 377


CHILDREN'S TIME  "Power At Pentecost"
Object:   Flashlight and batteries
Theme:    Getting the Juice at Pentecost
Source:   Self

Good morning...  Today is the Day of Pentecost -- a great and glorious day
in the history of the church -- a day for celebration and for rejoicing --
a day for beauty and decoration -- and today that is what we are going to
do.  We are going to celebrate.  We are going to celebrate the achievements
of you here today - and the gifts that God has given us - especially the
gift that God gave us at Pentecost.

Who knows what God gave us at Pentecost???   Yes - God gave the Holy Spirit
-- he gave it like a might wind -- and came upon all the disciples - and it
looked like fire upon them -- and it made them powerful - it made them able
to go to others and to share the good news of Jesus Christ - as your
teachers have shared the good news of Jesus with you.

What are some of the things that the Spirit of God does in us -- let me ask
the adults:
   -- reminds of Christ's words
   -- comforts us
   -- gives us assurance about our salvation
   -- convicts us of sin
   -- gives us power to be the witnesses of Jesus

I brought this flashlight today to remind us of one the things that the
Holy Spirit does -- it is supposed to give us light and make us the light
of the world - to be able to bring Jesus into the all the dark places in
the world - and all the dark places that are found in the human heart.  

This flashlight is useless without the batteries -- (SHOW THEM) -- But with
the batteries - it can shine.  So it is with us and the Spirit of God. 
Without the Spirit - we are nothing - with the Spirit - we are able to
shine.


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER (sung)
   Dear Lord God -- we thank you for the power you give us - we thank
   you for the Holy Spirit - and for the light the Spirit brings - 
   into our world and into our lives.  - By your Spirit help us - help
   us to follow Jesus - and to show his love and share his word - to
   all whom we meet.   We ask it in his name.  Amen

   Singing -- 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 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


A READING FROM GENESIS 11:1-9
   Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. {2} As men
   moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. {3}
   They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them
   thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. {4}
   Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that
   reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and
   not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." {5} But the LORD
   came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. {6}
   The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have
   begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for
   them. {7} Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will
   not understand each other." {8} So the LORD scattered them from there
   over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. {9} That is why
   it was called Babel --because there the LORD confused the language of
   the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of
   the whole earth.

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 104:24-35 (Voices United p. 827, and Refrain #2)


A READING FROM ACTS 2:1-21
   When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
   {2} Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from
   heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} They
   saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to
   rest on each of them. {4} All of them were filled with the Holy
   Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled
   them. 

   Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every
   nation under heaven. {6} When they heard this sound, a crowd came
   together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in
   his own language. {7} Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these
   men who are speaking Galileans? {8} Then how is it that each of us
   hears them in his own native language? {9} Parthians, Medes and
   Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and
   Asia, {10} Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near
   Cyrene; visitors from Rome {11} (both Jews and converts to Judaism);
   Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our
   own tongues!" {12} Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another,
   "What does this mean?" {13} Some, however, made fun of them and
   said, "They have had too much wine." 

   Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed
   the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me
   explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. {15} These men
   are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! {16}
   No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: {17} "'In the last
   days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons
   and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your
   old men will dream dreams. {18} Even on my servants, both men and
   women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will
   prophesy. {19} I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on
   the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. {20} The sun
   will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming
   of the great and glorious day of the Lord. {21} And everyone who
   calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


* HYMN:   "Spirit of The Living God"                               - VU 376


SERMON:  "The Force Be With You"

   Loving God, by the power of your Holy Spirit help me to speak and us
   to hear your living word.  On your people pour your power and grant
   that each one of us may be moved in the way you want us to be moved. 
   We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

The story of the Tower of Babel puts me in mind of another story I recently
read, a story about a bee that is told by the great French Novelist, Victor
Hugo,
   
It seems that one day a bee became trapped inside Victor Hugo's study and
it was, in its attempt to escape from the room, furiously beating itself
and bumping itself against one of the windows.

Hugo saw on the floor other bees that had already killed themselves doing
the very same thing, so he decided to rescue the small creature that was
dashing out its little brains on the window.

First, he opened the window and using a napkin he tried to shoo the bee
out, instead, the bee flew in the opposite direction - back into the depths
of the study.
       
Hugo realized that he would have to catch the bee in order to save it and
so with his napkin he began to track the bee down.

When the bee saw Hugo coming it flew away towards another window - which
was closed and again began to beat itself against it, this time with even
greater frenzy than before.  As the bee flew at the window repeatedly, it
buzzed loudly.  Hugo was sure the bee was buzzing a message to him - saying
to him: "despot, you would deprive me of liberty!  Cruel executioner, why
do you not leave me alone, why do you persecute me?"

Hugo paid no attention to the message he thought the bee was trying to send
however.  Instead he gently pinned the bee between the window and the
napkin and began to fold the bee inside the cloth.  
          
Even then the bee struggled against his fingers and the cloth, trying to
sting him - but at last the job was done and Hugo managed to get it to the
open window, and put it outside.  For a moment the bee seemed stunned,
perhaps amazed, then it flew off to its chosen destination.

There are, I think, a couple of important similarities between this story
of the bee, and the story of the Tower of Babel.

In both tales we see the subjects of the story attempting to do something,
and in both tales they chose a method of doing that thing in way that is
harmful to them.

The bee, like a bird that once flew into my living room and then could not
get out, tries to fly through a closed window in its attempt to be free,
and the people of Shinar on the great plain of Babylonia, attempt to keep
their common language and their unity intact, by building a great city for
themselves, and in that city, they begin to build a great tower, a tower so
high that it would reach into heaven.

Both the bee and the people of Shinar seek freedom of one kind or another,
they seek not only to get away from danger -
but also to get to something that is good -
to build something or experience something that is glorious

The scripture says that God looked upon the people of Shinar,
   and saw that they were seeking a name for themselves,
       and that their tower was beginning to ascend into heaven,
          and knew that if they continued in that course, that they would
          succeed in everything that they proposed,
   and so God scattered them abroad upon the face of the earth and
confused their language so that they would not be able to understand each
other and so succeed in their purpose.

I suggest to you that this was an act of mercy.

I also suggest to you that the story of the bee, and the story of the tower
of Babel, are our stories.

Each of us wishes to escape the chaos and the constant threat of
annihilation that is to be found out there in the great wilderness of our
world.   We want to avoid the dangers of daily life, be it physical hunger
or spiritual emptiness, and create for ourselves and our children a
glorious future 
- a future in which there is no need to worry about losing our lives and
all that makes them seem so good to us 
- a future in which we do not have to worry about what we shall have to
eat, or what we shall have to wear, or what it is that we might have to do,
for all we need will be guaranteed to be there for us, and in all things we
will be able to do what we want to do.

These are not evil goals in and of themselves-
   but like the bee, and like the people of Shinar,
       we often get into trouble in working towards these goals,
because the methods we use are wrongheaded.

We so often push against the river of life - rather than going with its
flow, calmly and easily, in the knowledge that the water of life will hold
us up, and end up bringing us to our goal - or perhaps, to an even better
one.
 
Our drive for security, for safety, and for glorious ease,
leads us to build our own towers - towers of protection,
towers that attempt to reach into heaven 
and gain for us the power of God himself.

A year or so ago, world leaders and environmentalists and economists from
all the major powers met in Japan, to try to deal with the consequences of
our tower building.

As our towers have reached ever and ever higher,
   millions of species of plants, animals, and insects have perished.
As we have tried to protect ourselves and our future,
   millions of people have suffered drought and starvation,
As we try to enjoy a standard of living that is beyond all reason,
   a standard of living based on limitless consumption of the world's 
   non-renewable resources - the ozone has thinned,
   cancer has increased, wars have multiplied, and our own precious
   children have become bitter, unhappy, troubled, and violent.

"Come - let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the
heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, otherwise we shall be
scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."

Like the bee, we keep hitting the window.
And like the bee, my friends, we have an author trying to save us,
trying to get us to the very goal that we seek, trying to help us.

In the Movie STAR WARS that was made - well its getting to be quite a long
time ago now, there is a lot of technology floating around,
   there is the Death Star commanded by the Evil Lord - Darth Vader,
   and there are the small fighter ships piloted by the Rebels.

The movie is a classic adventure story - a battle between Good and Evil 
- but what is most fascinating about the movie is not the machinery and the
technology that the film portrays with such stunning success,
- but rather it is something that George Lucas calls the Force.

The hero of the movie is Luke Skywalker,
a very young man - impulsive and eager to make a difference,
and in the end he does make a difference - because he tunes into the force.

The force in the movie is rather like God -
it consists of the life energy, the life soul, of all living creatures,
and that force, once you tune into it, can be used to do good, or do evil,
- though the force is by nature, good.

The force is stronger than machinery, stronger than any technology,
   stronger in fact than anything that was, is, or ever will be,
and it is all around, to be touched and felt and responded too,
   whenever one is ready for it.

Luke saves the rebels from destruction in the first movie 
   by remembering the force,
       and concentrating on the force,
          and allowing the force to guide his actions.

Luke is not perfect in this 
- he does not easily open himself up to the force, 
but, in the end, he does manage to tune in, 
and the Force does work through him 
and so there is a happy ending to the movie.

I mention the Force to you today because something very much like the Force
is at the heart of the Christian Faith - that which we call the Holy
Spirit.
   
That Spirit is the power of God and the Essence of God;
That Spirit is the power which upholds the universe itself;
That Spirit is that which was poured out upon the first believers in Christ 
   on the day of Pentecost, and which has ever since come to dwell within
each one of us who believes.

In all our prayers for new believers 
   we pray for the Holy Spirit's indwelling, 
and in all our thought about God 
   we understand the Spirit of God to be that which is effective -
the Spirit leads
   it teaches,
   it convicts us of sin and communicates the forgiveness of God,
   it gives us dreams and visions and helps us to understand them,
the Spirit comforts, sustains, inspires, strengthens, and renews us;
   and in the end it draws us closer to each other,
   and to Jesus Christ our brother 
   and to God our Father.
   who are one.

It is the Spirit that makes our faith come alive
And it is the Spirit that does the work of salvation in our daily lives,

My friends -- the Spirit is all around us, and within us 
That is what the day of Pentecost means.

There is my friends, an author to our personal stories,
an author like Victor Hugo,
chasing us around his study - trying to let us go free,
so we can fly in the larger world without fear or worry.

Our author, our God, works by his Spirit.
God is Spirit.
We need to let that Spirit catch us,
to rise up from its home inside us,
and to blow upon us when we walk outside.

Think about your dreams,
listen to what people around you are really saying,
stop and read the word that the wise have always held up before us,
the Word that the Spirit uses in such wonderful ways at times to comfort us
or to challenge us.

Hear the visions that other people speak of,
visions of change towards wholeness,
of justice and of plenty for all,
a justice and a plenty based on acts of love and mercy and devotion.

Expect to be surprised by God,
Expect good things to occur.
Believe in the Spirit and the Power of God,
trust in it, and marvellous things will happen.

No that while the tower of Babel has fallen - and will ever fall 
- the unity and the understanding that we need so much,
has come to us and will remain with us
- as it did to the first disciples on the day of Pentecost. 

Praise be to God, the Father, the Son, and The Spirit, One. AMEN


PROFESSING OUR FAITH: The Apostles Creed                         - VU 918
L  With the whole church - with the company of all the redeemed
   let us confess and proclaim the faith of the Apostles:
P  I believe in God...


PASTORAL PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Gracious God, Spirit of Life, surging freely, loving generously, seeking
endlessly, move upon the face of our world and embrace all its creatures
with grace.  Startle the powerful and the humble with your power and
tenderness, your purpose and determination, your patience and mercy.  Hear
our prayers of thankfulness and our requests for your intercession... 
Lord, hear our prayer....

Father and Mother of us all, we thank you for your nurture and your care -
for how you pour your gifts out upon the earth   blessing your people not
only with bread and wine, but with talents and abilities, with dreams and
visions, and with all that goes to make us one body - a body of light - of 
love and of care - of healing and of witness...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Heavenly Joy, Rock of Ages, Wind upon the Sea, we thank you for how you
have made us to drink of  the one Spirit and for how you work through us to
bring wholeness and peace to the world.  We pray O God that each of us in
this part of your church - that each of us in St. Andrew's - both those  of
the past, those of today, and those who will travel with us tomorrow may
find the perfect freedom that you promise in Christ Jesus   and in dying to
self and coming alive to him - walk his path of service and devotion, of
sacrifice and of love.  Make us a servant people with him, that like him,
we may also share in your glory...  Lord hear our prayer....

Father, as we end this time of worship today, this time of celebration of
the birth of your church, and for what you have done through your faithful
ones in this place and beyond, we pray too for those particular people that
are upon our hearts, those named by our brothers and sisters here today and
during this past week.  We hold up before you in our hearts and with the
words of our lips...   (BIDDING PRAYER)...  Lord Hear Our Prayer.... 

We praise you and we pray to you about all these things, most gracious God,
in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord and our Saviour.   Amen


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication
         
   Loving God, you are our creator and our redeemer, the ground of our
   being, the source of  our hope, the one who sustains us and grants
   us peace and joy, hope and love!  We live to praise You; we trust
   Your judgement; in all that we do we seek to obey You.  In the name
   of Christ Jesus, and by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit,
   receive our offering this day and use it - and use us - to give you
   glory and to spread your healing and saving word throughout the
   world.  Amen


* SHARING THE PEACE:  


* COMMUNION HYMN:   "We Gather Here"                               - VU 469


COMMUNION LITANY:
L  The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.

L  Indeed thanks and praise erupt from our lips, O Lord, for you pour out
   your Spirit upon us, arousing us with visions and dreams and
   intoxicating us with an uncontainable fervour to proclaim your truth in
   the language of praise.  All things were created when you sent forth
   your Spirit and filled the earth with your wonders.  You breathed into
   us and we rose from the dust, the face of the earth came alive.

   In these last days your son, Jesus Christ, came among us.  Speaking
   your words and doing your works, he revealed the truth of who you are. 
   Crucified by those who would usurp your name, he was raised to glory by
   your life-giving power.  Having secured our adoption as your children.
   and commissioned us to continue his works, he poured out your Holy
   Spirit on us, setting our hearts ablaze with a passion for peace, and
   firing our tongues with everlasting songs of joy.

   Therefore with all the saints and every creature in heaven and earth we
   praise you saying:

P  Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are
   full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is the one who
   comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.


THE WORDS OF INSTITUTION
Holy indeed are you O God, and holy is your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who
on the night he was betrayed to his death, took bread, and after thanking
you (as even now we thank you, O God, for this bread), he broke it, and
gave it to his disciples saying - "take, eat.  This is my body, given for
you."   After the meal was done, Jesus took the cup, the cup of blessing
and after giving you thanks and praise, passed it to his disciples, saying,
"Take and drink, all of you, this is my blood, the blood of a new covenant
for the forgiveness of sin, poured out for many.  As oft as you do this -
do it in remembrance of me."


THE MYSTERY OF FAITH
L  Loving God, we rejoice in the gift of your grace, remembering Christ's
   life and death, proclaiming his resurrection, waiting in hope for his
   coming again.  Grant that, in prayer and thanksgiving, we may so offer
   ourselves to you that our lives may proclaim the mystery of faith.
P  Christ has died.  Christ has risen.  Christ will come again.


THE CONSECRATION AND ACCLAMATION
L  Send O God, your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts, that they
   may be the body and blood of Christ Jesus for us, and that we may be
   his people - salt and light to the world.
P  Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy
   Spirit, all glory is yours, God most holy,  now and forever.   Amen


THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS (Please come forward up the centre aisle
   to one of the stations, receive first the body of Christ - and then dip
   it into the cup to receive the blood of Christ.  An appropriate
   response to the words of the server are "and also for you" or "Amen")


DEPARTING PRAYER (responsively)
L  Let us pray....Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal
   life to every race and nation 
   by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: 
P  Spread abroad this gift throughout the world 
   by the preaching of the Gospel, 
   that it may reach to the ends of the earth.
L  Loving God, you have given us the Bread of Heaven and the Wine of
   eternal joy:
P  May all whom you have chosen eat and drink as we have this day 
   till at last we feast in your everlasting kingdom.
  We ask it through Christ Jesus our Lord,
P  who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
   one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Spirt of Gentleness"                           - VU 375


* COMMISSIONING:  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth into the
   world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of Christ.
      

* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace and love and care for one another in the name of Jesus
- and may Christ's holy, healing, and enabling Spirit be with you every
step of your way, 
- may it be your guide as your road changes and turns 
- your strength and your hope when you are assailed from every side 
- and your comfort and your peace wherever you go;
This both now - and forevermore.


* CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace"                               - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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