Pentecost Service at Home on 23rd May 2021
for Bolton Road Methodist Church, Christ Church Ramsbottom and Edenfield Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 23-05-2021
As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you may want to use these sheets if you prefer to read the words.
Welcome and introduction
Watch: Welcome and introduction
Happy Pentecost! People don’t often wish each other “happy Pentecost” do they? At Christmas everybody says happy Christmas and at Easter we say happy Easter, but at Pentecost - nothing. That’s a shame, because in its own way Pentecost is just as important as Christmas and Easter, because at Pentecost God poured out His Spirit so that the Christian Church was born.
This week we look especially at how the disciples weren’t able to obey Jesus’ commands until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This in turn leads us to consider how we too need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can be effective disciples and obey Jesus’ commands.
Watch: O Thou who Camest from above
Watch: Opening prayers
Dear Lord, I worship you for pouring out your Spirit at Pentecost so that the church could be born. I worship you because you love us so much that you want to come and make your home in each one of us, and have not left us like orphans but remain with us as our loving Father. I worship you because through Pentecost you created your church and that you continue to empower and equip it.
Lord, we know that through your Spirit, you give us every opportunity to obey your commands. Yet we also know that we sometimes fail to do what you wish and we let you down by being unloving, selfish and disobedient. Lord, in a moment of quiet, I confess to you the things I’ve done wrong and things we haven’t done that I should have………
Lord, forgive me. I thank you that through our faith in your son, Jesus Christ, I know that you have forgiven me.
Lord, as I remember how you sent your Spirit at Pentecost, I pray that you will send your Spirit upon me now to inspire my worship today. Send your Spirit to open my heart to your love and open my mind to what you want to teach me. I pray that every I will truly experience the powerful and holy presence of your Spirit today.
And now say the prayer that Jesus taught us:
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 that 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.
Watch: Flames (Let it rise)
Prayers of intercession
Watch: Prayers of intercession
Holy Spirit, I ask you to be with me now and to guide me as I pray.
Loving and generous God, I pray that you will pour out your Spirit on me and on all of your Church throughout the world.
Give us your compassion for those in need, your thirst for justice and your courage and strength to act as the body of Christ to grow your Kingdom.
Holy God, I offer my life as a living sacrifice to you. Reshape me by the power of your Spirit and use me to bring your love, hope and healing to our suffering world.
Strengthen and deepen my faith and help me to share my faith and trust in You with my family and friends. In a moment of quiet I pray for those people that you’ve placed on my heart to come to know you as their Saviour
I pray for my community. I ask your blessing on our newly elected councillors and I pray that you will guide and inspire them as they seek to serve our town.
I pray for all those in our community who are struggling financially, those who are anxious, afraid or lonely. Lord, show me how I can bring your love and hope to my neighbours.
I pray for the people of Israel and Palestine who are suffering in the present conflict. I pray that you will pour your love and reconciliation into this difficult situation and that peace and justice will be established across the region.
I pray for the people of India and Brazil and all those who are suffering because of the Covid pandemic. I pray for sufficient medical supplies and vaccines for all nations. Help those of us who live in rich countries to share more generously the resources that you have provided and that are meant for all your children. I pray that you will prevent this virus from continuing to cause such suffering. I pray for healing for those who are sick.
Loving God, I ask your comfort for those who are grieving. I pray especially for Clare’s family.
In a moment of quiet I bring to you those I know who are especially in need of your help today.
Finally, I bring to you anything that I’m worried about today.
Thank you that you listen to our prayers with love and understanding and that you will answer them in whatever way is best. I ask all my prayers in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Watch: Great is the darkness
Bible Readings and Narrative
Watch: Bible Readings and Narrative
John 14:15-26: Jesus promises the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:4-8 & 2:1-21: Jesus instructs the disciples to wait in Jerusalem and then the day of Pentecost arrives.
Narrative: “I Didn’t Know What He Was Talking About”
I didn’t know what he was talking about.
A few days before he was crucified, Jesus started telling us about what he called the Counsellor, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit. But he seemed to be talking in riddles. He told us that the world doesn’t know the Holy Spirit but we know him because he lives with us and will be in us and that he will be in His Father and we’ll be in him and he’ll be in us. It was all very confusing and my mind was spinning as I tried to understand what Jesus was talking about. But two things stuck in my mind.
One was that although he was leaving us, he wouldn’t leave us by ourselves when he went. It would be as if he would always be with us.
The other thing that stuck in my mind was that he said that if we loved him we would obey his commands. I was a bit hurt that he even felt he had to say that. I thought - of course we loved him and of course we would always do whatever he told us to do.
But I didn’t realise at the time how difficult it was going to be to obey his commands over the coming weeks. When Jesus was with us everything had seemed possible. But, when Jesus was taken away from us, we didn’t know what to do anymore. We just stayed inside and didn’t dare do anything that would attract attention.
Then a few days later Jesus was back! Back from the dead! Jesus spoke to us again about the Holy Spirit. He looked at us in the way that he did when he had something important to say and told us that we must stay in Jerusalem and wait to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. He told us we would receive power. We all nodded very seriously but we still didn’t know what he was talking about.
Then Jesus was taken up into heaven and we were on our own again. Scared, confused and useless. We remembered that Jesus had told us to do two things. The first was simple enough – stay in Jerusalem. Even we could do that! But Jesus had also told us to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. This seemed completely impossible. How could we possibly be his witnesses to the ends of the earth? We’d struggle to even be his witnesses to the ends of the street! Jesus had said that if we loved him we would obey his commands. We did love him, we really did, but we were finding it so difficult to obey him. We felt so useless. We really felt as if we’d let him down.
Even his command to stay in Jerusalem wasn’t as simple as it seemed. I mean, how would we know when we’d been baptised in the Holy Spirit? What if we missed it and just waited in Jerusalem for ever?
Well, we really needn’t have worried. When it happened, we certainly knew about it! On the morning of the festival of Pentecost, we were all together as usual when suddenly there was this almighty roaring sound, like a strong wind. The sound grew louder and louder until it filled the whole house. Then we saw what looked like flames, which came to rest on each one of us. We knew straightaway that this was it. This was what Jesus had told us to wait for. This was baptism with the Holy Spirit.
And what an incredible difference it made! We didn’t want to hide anymore – now we just wanted to go outside and shout out loud! We wanted to go outside and tell everybody about Jesus. So that’s what we did. We even started speaking in languages we didn’t know and we were understood by everybody in the crowd.
I’ve never been one for making speeches or saying clever stuff but what I said that morning was fantastic. But it wasn’t me speaking – the words may have been coming out of my mouth – but the words weren’t mine. Listening to those words, it reminded me of what Jesus used to say. It was as if Jesus was speaking from inside me. And then I remembered what Jesus had said. Jesus had told us that he would come to us and would live inside us when we received the Holy Spirit. It was so wonderful to think that Jesus was speaking through me.
It had seemed impossible for us to do what Jesus had commanded us to do. But once we’d received the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing was impossible anymore.
I didn’t know what he was talking about. But I do now.
Watch: Spirit Break Out
Sermon and prayer in response
As we heard just now, the disciples lost their courage when Jesus was crucified and they didn’t know what to do. Even after they met Jesus again, after he’d risen from the dead, they still hid behind closed doors. As founders of the Christian church they were in fact completely useless.
Jesus knew this would happen, of course. And Jesus also knew what would fix the problem. That’s why Jesus told the disciples: “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.” Jesus then went on to tell them that they’d receive power when the Holy Spirit came; and they’d then be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. As we imagined just now, the disciples probably didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. And I’m sure that they thought it was impossible to obey his command to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.
As we now know, a few days later the Holy Spirit turned up in a big way at Pentecost, and look what happened: the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, came out from behind the closed doors, no longer afraid. The disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, miraculously spoke to crowds of people in the people’s own languages. And the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, said exactly what needed to be said to the crowds to convince thousands of people to put their faith in Jesus for their salvation. As it tells us in Acts 2 verse 41, about three thousand people turned to Jesus as their saviour that day.
At Pentecost, the Christian church was born - to grow to the ends of the earth, as Jesus said it would. But this only happened because the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Because only then could they do what Jesus had commanded them to do.
Pentecost was amazing, but it’s very important to remember that when God sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost it wasn’t a one-off event. Throughout the book of Acts we hear about people being filled with the Holy Spirit. For example, in Acts chapter 19, verses 2 to 6, we hear that when Paul went to Ephesus he asked them:
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then “when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied”.
And to this day, throughout the world, people continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I’d like to tell you what happened to me about 25 years ago. At that time, I was a church steward and had just been elected to be a Circuit Steward, so I wasn’t exactly a newcomer to church. I’d truly accepted Jesus as my Saviour a few years before but I hadn’t been filled the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t my fault because, like the people in Ephesus, I didn’t know any better. Nobody had properly told me about the Holy Spirit. But that year, Kathy and I went to Easter People for the first time. When I was there, I was filled with the Holy Spirit, just like the people in Ephesus were, by someone placing his hands on me and saying a simple prayer. Looking back, I can see that it was a real turning point in my life and my relationship with God. I can see that from that moment, God was able to lead me down the path that He wanted me to take, whereas before I was wandering around aimlessly. And God started to give me spiritual gifts to help me to be a better disciple. And I’m sure lots of you could tell your own story about how being filled with the Holy Spirit has changed your lives.
So what does being filled with the Holy Spirit actually mean? In the reading from John’s gospel that we heard just now, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth that will live in us. Jesus also said:
“I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” and
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” and
“we will come to him and make our home with him”.
So the picture we get is of Jesus coming to live inside us when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that wonderful! Jesus living inside us. Not just near us, but inside us! This makes a huge difference to us in three ways:
First, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. This means that when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit we’re able to understand God’s word much better and understand what He tells us to do. Also, when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, we develop a passion for prayer and we’re able to hear God much more clearly when He speaks to us. But most importantly, being filled with the Holy Spirit enables us to really know the love and forgiveness of God, not just know it in our heads but to really feel it in our hearts! This is of course what John Wesley meant when he described his heart being strangely warmed.
Second, when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit our character is transformed to become more like Jesus. This is often referred to as the fruit of the Spirit. As Paul says in Galatians chapter 5 verse 22:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.
We’ll be looking at the fruit of the Spirit in three weeks’ time.
And third, when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, we can perform the miracles that Jesus did. That does sound a bit incredible doesn’t it? Us performing miracles like Jesus did! But listen to what Jesus says in John 14 verse 12:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”.
This is because, as Jesus said in Acts 1, we receive power when the Holy Spirit fills us. When we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, we’re filled with the power of God and we can do amazing things in the name of Jesus.
When we read the book of Acts, we see how much Peter and the other disciples had been transformed by the Holy Spirit. They were able to clearly hear God speak to them. They became amazing evangelists. And they healed people miraculously and even brought people back from the dead. This meant that they were able to do what Jesus had commanded them.
It’s the same for us, as Jesus’ disciple here today. When we’re filled with the Holy Spirit we can hear God clearly and understand and obey His commands. And when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, we can do whatever God calls us to do, even if it seems impossible. I would go as far as saying that it’s impossible to be a true disciple unless you’re filled with the Holy Spirit. So why wouldn’t you want to be filled?!
So let’s now look at how we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let’s start by getting one thing straight: it would be incredibly stupid and arrogant for us to think that we can control the Holy Spirit. God is not at our beck and call! How God fills us with His Spirit is, and always will be, an awesome mystery to us. But it’s very important to remember this: God really, really wants you to be filled with His Spirit. God really does want to come and live inside you and make His home with you. God really does want to teach you things. God really does want you to become more like His son, Jesus. God really does want to empower you to do amazing things in His name. So for what possible reason would God keep His Spirit from anyone?
There’s only one thing that can stop us being filled with the Holy Spirit, and that’s ourselves! God will never force Himself upon anyone, so it’s up to us to welcome His Spirit in. And then it’s up to us to welcome and accept the changes that His Spirit makes. Sadly, some people put up barriers to stop themselves being filled with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s because they’re worried about what might happen if they’re filled with the Holy Spirit. They worry that it will make changes to their lives that they don’t want. My response to this would be the reassurance that Jesus gives us in Luke chapter 11 verses 11 to 13:
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
And again look at the experiences of other people I have never, ever heard of anyone who regrets being filled with the Holy Spirit! I most certainly don’t. Yes, we can expect the Holy Spirit to make changes to our lives but they’re changes that make our lives so much better.
People sometimes put up a barrier because they’re worried that they’re somehow belittling their previous years of Christian faith by asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit now. I know how they feel because I felt like that before I was first filled with the Holy Spirit. But looking back I realise how wrong I’d been to think that way, as even faithful, committed Christians need to be baptised with the Holy Spirit.
Ironically, people also sometimes put up a barrier to receiving the Holy Spirit because they’ve already been filled with the Holy Spirit on a previous occasion, even though it may have been many years ago. When the famous 19th Century evangelist D.L. Moody was once asked why we need to keep being filled with the Holy Spirit, he replied that it’s “because we leak”! He was absolutely right because as we go through life, with this world’s hurt and setbacks, there’s a very real danger that we become jaded and exhausted as Christians. Doing things for church will seem to take a lot of effort and will seem a bit pointless. Reading the Bible and praying will become a chore. We won’t hear God speaking to us as clearly or as often as we once did. God will feel distant. We’ll lose that sense of peace that God’s love gives us. And we’ll feel spiritually dry and empty. Therefore, we need to be constantly refreshed and empowered as Christians by continually being filled with the Holy Spirit.
So how do we invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill us? There’s no special ceremony and there’s no special prayer to say. All we need to do is simply pray something like “Come Holy Spirit”. But there’s one very important thing that we do need to do - we need to really mean it. We must open ourselves up unreservedly to God so that he can fill us with His Spirit. We must remove any barriers that we’ve put up.
So the big question is: do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit this Pentecost morning? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time? Do you want to feel the truth of God’s love and forgiveness in your heart? Do you want to become more like Jesus? Do you want to receive the power of the Holy Spirit to do amazing things in the name of Jesus? Do you want to be able to understand and obey God’s commands?
Or if you’ve already been filled with the Holy Spirit before, do you want to be filled again? Is your Christian life a bit dry and needs to be refreshed and renewed? Do you want to recapture that feeling of God’s joy and peace in your heart? Do your spiritual batteries need to be recharged? Do you need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to face new challenges and opportunities for Jesus?
I’m now going to say a prayer asking for God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit then make this your prayer in your heart and really mean it. I also suggest that if you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, hold out your hands with your palms facing up, to symbolise to yourself that you’re receiving from God. And when I pray, “Come Holy Spirit”, please repeat “Come Holy Spirit” – but only if you really mean it.
A prayer in response
Dear Lord, I thank you for offering us your Spirit. I’m so grateful that you didn’t leave us alone like orphans in this world. Lord, help me to break down any barriers that I’ve put up and help me to welcome your Spirit now. Lord, fill me with your Spirit, whether it’s for my first time or whether it’s to refresh and renew me.
Come Holy Spirit.
Lord, I thank you that your Spirit helps us to hear what you’re saying to us to and helps us to understand and obey your commands. I thank you that your Spirit will lead me down the right path so that I don’t wander aimlessly. Lord, fill me with your Spirit now to help me to hear you.
Come Holy Spirit.
Lord, I thank you that your Spirit empowers us to do amazing things in your name. Pour out your Spirit now like you did on Peter and the other disciples at Pentecost. I want to receive your power and perform miracles in your name. Lord, fill me with your Spirit now so that I can do whatever you want me to do.
Come Holy Spirit.
Thank you Lord, for filling me with your Spirit and coming to live in me. Amen.
Watch: Breathe on me breath of God
Watch: Consuming Fire