by Rodney Marsh
Today we celebrate the Day of Pentecost - the last of the three great feasts of the Christian year - Love came to dwell among us (Christmas); We killed Love, but Love remains (Easter); Love is birthed in us (Pentecost). Today we find ourselves with Jesus’ friends hiding in fear, locked away in a secluded room. Jesus appears and offers peace, gives a task (“I send you, as I was sent”) and ‘breathes on them/us and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit”’ (John 20:22). Jesus here offers three pentecostal gifts: freedom from fear, a mission and his presence. I say ‘offers’ because these gifts came, and still come, with a command: “Receive”. God is a Giver who loves to give. That’s obvious - just look at the natural world around us. But to become the GiverGod she is, God needs Receivers. Are you a Receiver or just a Taker? A Taker grabs and holds a ‘gift’, ignores the Giver, and turns the gift into a possession. The Giver now has no relationship to the gift or the taker. God goes on giving but has not become the GiverGod he is. So, when Jesus offers his pentecostal gifts they come with a request addressed to each one of us: ‘Receive’. To receive we must be open. That is all it takes - simple openness. Our senses (hearing, seeing, tasting, touching) need openness to receive to be effective - and we need an openness of heart to live. We don’t do anything except be open to receive when we see a wren hopping, or hear a magpie warbling, or bite into a fresh apple or feel the joy of a loving hug, but we do need to be open to see, hear, taste and feel these things. So open your heart today and “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Only you yourself, can open your own heart to ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.
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Ascension On top of the world - A disciple reflects I don’t really remember our journey. It didn’t seem to take very long, yet in a way, it went on forever. We climbed higher and higher in a mist then suddenly we reached the summit, the sun broke through the clouds, and Jesus was there with us again: our world was aglow with glory. We wanted to ask him all sorts of questions and get some answers to help us make sense of it all. All he said – as he had before – ‘I’m sending you out to spread the good news of God’s love, to everyone, everywhere.’ It didn’t seem strange at the time, it was afterwards we began to ask ourselves, ‘How can a few ordinary people change the world?’ Later he talked again of loving us, of going back to his Father – who was our Father too. I ask you, can we call the Holy Lord of all the universe, whose name was too sacred even to speak, ‘Abba’ – Dad? But because he said it, we knew it was alright. At that moment we were bathed in the beauty of God, the beauty that radiated from Jesus himself. He was so aglow with God’s love he almost shimmered. ‘Don’t forget’, he said, ‘I am always with you, to the end of time’; we could barely take it in. Then the cloud came down on the mountaintop And when it lifted, he was gone, though something of his presence remained. We see him all the time – in our mind’s eye, in our hearts, in the depths of our being, and, best of all - when we talk about him, we see Jesus in others too: in each one of us, in you. © Carol Dixon 2016 [Published by Iona wild Goose publications who are happy for it to be used with a mention of them]
Pentecost A day to remember We crept into the Upper room in twos and threes as usual not drawing attention to ourselves. We had continued to meet on the first day of the week to remember Jesus rising from the dead and how he had met with us all in the Upper Room after his resurrection, showing us his hands and his feet, sharing our simple supper of fish and bread. Peter was there - a new man since Jesus walked with him along the shore of Lake Galilee - we hadn't heard what he and Jesus talked about, not then, but he was different, lighter, as though a great weight had been lifted from him and he was freed from his shame of denying he ever knew Jesus, so we guessed it was something to do with that. He had a faraway look in his eyes too as though he bore a great responsibility and wasn't sure what to do about it; and he kept looking at John surreptitiously. As if on cue John came in, along with Mary, Jesus' mother who is with him most of the time now, her 'extra' son they call him, and finally we begin. We should have been full of joy - yesterday was Shavuot, the festival the Greek Jews know as Pentecost, the Sabbath when we celebrate Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai, along with the blessing of the first fruits which was one reason we were back in Jerusalem. Yet we were subdued since this was the first time we had met for worship all together since Jesus left us to return to heaven, yet we obeyed his final instruction to stay in the city to await what was next. What was next? James, John’s elder brother started the prayer as usual – 'Our Father'…. and we all joined in the wonderful words Jesus had taught us when we asked him how we should pray – 'Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven...' and then it happened! I'm still not sure how to describe it, only that there was A strange, rushing sound, similar to wind rustling in leaves, growing louder and louder, and I noticed light dancing just above the heads of those across the room from me. The top of my own head felt hot, like the warmth of a candle flame and we all started talking at once, praising God in ways we never had before. Peter rushed to the door and threw it open, running down the outside steps into the crowds who were here for the Festival, dancing among them, laughing and crying and embracing people with joy, and we all followed - little wonder some thought that we were drunk. The rest as they say, is history. Then Peter stood on the steps and began to speak about Jesus, of his life and death and resurrection - how God sent him to save us and teach us a new way of living in God's kingdom, here and now. A learned Rabbi couldn't have explained it better. People of all nationalities heard and understood and asked to join us that day - the day the Church was born at Pentecost, the day the news of God's love for all humanity exploded across the world when Jesus' promised gift, the Holy Spirit, moved across the face of the earth, and we became the new Creation, born to share God's grace and peace with all - It felt like a birthday party. It still does. Come on in and join us! © Carol Dixon 2023
Song for Pentecost (Tune Ode to joy) Join in songs of jubilation on this happy, holy day! Join the glad commemoration for the church was born today! Friends are waiting, fearful, anxious, gathered in an upper room, watching, praying, listening, hoping for the Lord to lift their gloom. Hear the sound - surprising, sudden mighty rushing wind so strong. See the tongues of flame appearing, flickering, dancing on each one. ‘God lives in us, live and active’, let the joyful message ring: 'Welcome Spirit, here among us', through the world your people sing. © Carol Dixon 2011 (altd. 2023)
New resource! At Godspace, environmental issues and creation care are two things we are passionate about. This document is designed to help you celebrate Earth Day by making a positive impact on the environment. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of environmental issues facing our planet, but by taking small, simple steps, we can all make a difference! Click here to download today.
Pentecost Resources These are our Pentecost and Ordinary Time resources - a selection of writings, prayers, ideas, practices and liturgies for celebrating Pentecost and beyond.
The Eco-Spiritual Practice of Picking Up Trash
Megan Bollen is a writer and social science instructor in Milwaukee, WI. She holds an M.A. from the University of Colorado Boulder and enjoys playing outside in all kinds of weather. Some of her favorite things to do are biking with her husband and two young children, drinking tea in the woods, and exploring new places.
Celtic Prayer Cards include 10 prayers inspired by ancient Celtic saints like Patrick or contemporary Celtic writers like John O’Donohue. A short reflection on the back of each card will introduce you to the Celtic Christian tradition, along with prayers by Christine Sine and beautiful imagery crafted by Hilary Horn. Celtic Prayer Cards can be used year-round or incorporated into various holidays. Available in a single set of 10 cards, three sets, or to download.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. (Psalm 23:5)In this verse David is most likely not talking about God preparing a banquet for us to eat while our enemies sit around with empty stomaches drooling over the lavish food we are enjoying. This is a verse that speaks of the ancient practice of hospitality, an invitation to sit down and enjoy a meal with strangers and those we perceive as a threat, an encouragement to seek for understanding and reconciliation rather than division and hatred. What an important message for today. We live in a world of great division where there is much necessity for all of us to sit down over a meal with those we disagree with and see as a threat. As you think about this what comes to mind? What situations are you currently facing that might be defused by sitting around the table during the summer and sharing a meal? Where have you seen God prepare a feast that has brought enemies together and overcome fears and disagreements? How could you prepare a meal "in the presence of your enemies" and offer open hospitality to those you disagree with? In Jesus' day this kind of hospitality was considered more than a commandment. It was a sacred obligation, filled with the joy of serving both others and God. Those that did not extend hospitality to orphans,widows and the homeless could be rejected. Like early monastics and Celtic Christians, Jews believed that sometimes in welcoming strangers they welcomed angels into their midst. Jesus repeatedly demonstrated his joy in offering hospitality as he fed the crowds, sat down with tax collectors and shared a passover meal with his disciples. Even after his death he came back to share meals as a way to communicate his message of salvation and hope. As I thought about this today, the picture that came to me was of Jesus sitting and eating that last meal with Judas. Then I saw him get down and wash Judas's feet. He must have realized that Judas was about to betray him, but he still reached out in embrace not division. I wonder if he hoped that through this gracious act of hospitality towards him Judas would change his mind. At communion each week our priest says "All are welcome at the table" yet the welcome of God begins long before the institution of communion at the last supper. Radical hospitality is at the heart of God's creation. Every time I go out into the garden and harvest the abundance of God's provision, or walk through the neighborhood enjoying the beauty of God's world I am aware of the radical hospitality of a God who comes to welcome us all home to the kingdom banquet. Many feel surrounded by enemies in the current political climate. How do we respond in these hard times? This is not a time for complacency but for commitment, not for hate but for love, not to close doors but to open them, not for violence but for peace, not to wound but to heal, not to bring division but to inspire reconciliation. There is no better place to learn to listen, not to the answers in our own heads but to the unsettling questions others are asking, than when sitting around the table sharing a meal. And there is no better time of year to take Jesus' radical call to hospitality seriously and reach out with love not hate, seeking to build bridges not walls, to embrace compassion not conflict. Summer, with its more relaxed pace, provides time and space to listen to the voice of God more intently. It is in the place of listening that change can begin for all of us. As we move towards summer and your desire to be hospitable to friends and family, think about the people you disagree with, want to exclude or think are about to betray you. How could you reach out with radical hospitality to them in this season? Sit with your eyes closed and listen to this version of Psalm 23. What names come to mind? Perhaps it is someone like Mary, an unwed mother who could have been thrown out by her family. Or someone like the lepers Jesus healed, despised by the society around them yet welcomed by the son of God. Or the Roman soldier whose servant Jesus healed, foreigners like immigrants, refugees and those of other religions. What are the first steps you need to make to reach out in a spirit of hospitality and reconciliation? How could you embrace the radical journey of hospitality
Closing PrayerLord help us to listen deeply not to the answers in our own heads but to the questions others ask. Lord help us to provide environments where others can relax, express themselves and learn to listen too. We know that listening is where change begins and we all need to change. May we learn to listen deeply and see our world transformed. (NOTE: Today's post is adapted from a previous 2016 post)
Looking for hospitality inspiration? We have an entire resource page dedicated to hospitality. Find recipes and reflections on numerous hospitality topics, including Celtic hospitality, prayers, and liturgies. Click on Hospitality for more!
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