Pentecost – 23 May 2021

Our service for Pentecost Sunday, led by our Minister, Rev Clare Davison, includes a celebration of Holy Communion. Before joining, you may wish to prepare bread and wine, or a suitable alternative. Music for the service has been recorded at Headingley St Columba URC. Where the words and music are in copyright, they are used under the terms of Headingley St Columba’s CCLI Licences 214974, 110169 and PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0020656.

Order of Service

Organ prelude: Voluntary in C – Allegro – John Stanley (1713-86)


Call to worship – Colossians 1: 17-19:
‘He [Jesus] himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell’. (NRSVA)

Tune: Spiritus Vitae – Mary J. Hammond (1878-1964)

O Breath of life come sweeping through us
revive your church with life and power;
O Breath of life, come, cleanse, renew us,
and fit your Church to meet this hour.

O Wind of God, come, bend us, break us,
till humbly we confess our need;
then in your tenderness remake us,
revive, restore; for this we plead.

O Breath of love, come, breathe within us,
renewing thought and will and heart:
come, love of Christ, afresh to win us,
revive your Church in every part.

Elizabeth Porter Head (1850-1936)

Prayer of thanksgiving and confession
Gracious Lord God, as we come before you this morning, we come with thanks and praise that we can open the building again to worship you together. Some of us are unable to be here, and we ask that this time in your presence may be just as precious as if we were there. We rejoice that we can know you wherever we are, that you love us and that you have poured your Spirit out on us.

So often we know that we let you down, and that we push the Holy Spirit out. Forgive us we pray when we are proud and stubborn, following our own way instead of yours. Forgive us when we don’t show the fruit of your Spirit within us, and when we hide your light under a bushel. We give thanks that through Jesus, the head of the Church, we are forgiven. We ask that as we strive to follow him, we would put him first in our own lives and first in all we do as a church. Renew us as a church, here in your presence.

We come with expectancy this Pentecost Sunday when we remember how the Holy Spirit first came to the disciples, filling then with power and courage to witness to you. We praise you for the strength and purpose given to them that day. Fill us too, Lord, as we worship this morning, and may we too be given the strength and courage to tell others about you in our world. We offer you this time as a child is welcomed into your Kingdom this morning and dedicated to you, and as we take part in the act of remembering you in Holy Communion. Strengthen us all for your glory, through your Holy Spirit we pray, Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Introduction to the first reading
Our readings today are taken from Acts 2, the story of the Holy Spirit coming on the disciples at Pentecost, when they were gathered together, about 120 persons we hear in Acts 1: 15. That’s a lot of people. It wasn’t just the apostles who were filled and spoke in different languages, but all those who were there, women and maybe some children too. And Peter is given the courage to stand up and address all those who heard the different languages to explain what was happening.

Reading – Acts 2: 1-8, 12-18 and 21

Organ interlude: Prelude on Spirit of God, unseen as the wind (The Skye Boat Song) – Richard Lloyd (1933-2021)

Introduction to the second reading
Peter’s speech to the crowds continues in the second part of the reading, and goes on to tell us about the response of some in the crowd. We aren’t reading past v39 today, but in the verses after, we’re told that many received the word and were baptised, and about 3,000 were added to the number of the early church.

Reading – Acts 2: 22-24, 32-33, and 36-39

At this point in the live service in the building, we come to baptise a child into the Kingdom of God. As we couldn’t pre-record this, take a few moments to pray for the family and the child, to think about your own commitment to Christ, and to offer yourself afresh to follow him . . .

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
may the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you His peace.

This is such a special day in the life of our church, when we can be together again to worship in person. It is poignant that today is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit came on the disciples and they all began their witness to Jesus as the Messiah, and to his resurrection. It is special too as we celebrate that, to welcome a new child into the Kingdom of God, a new birth, reminding us of the new birth the Spirit brings.

I deliberately chose chunks of the passage in Acts 2 because it not only tells of the power of the Holy Spirit as the disciples spoke the good news of Jesus in many different languages, but also to hear those snippets of what is known as Peter’s first sermon.

Peter begins addressing the Jewish crowd with the holy Scriptures—that’s our Old Testament—what God said through the prophets of old, that he would pour his Spirit out on all. It gives a picture of equality before God, that the Holy Spirit isn’t restricted to men or women, to old or young, to those at the bottom of the economic ladder, or those at the top. It’s a picture of the Kingdom of God, where all are equal before God, and therefore the Spirit is given to all.

I had to write the Synod’s Christian Comment column for the Synod website for the week after Prince Philip’s funeral, and I wrote partly about how some words struck me which I think the commentator, Hugh Edwards said. It was after all the titles of the Duke of Edinburgh were read out, as his body was lowered into the vault, that his soul was equal to any other before God. And that is so true. We are all equal before God and therefore all receive the Holy Spirit, as we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Peter then goes on to remind the people listening that they had seen the miracles Jesus had performed and the signs God did through him, and yet, they didn’t believe. In essence, Peter goes on to give the gospel message, that Jesus was crucified by God’s plan and foreknowledge, and then raised again, because the power of death couldn’t hold him. And that now, Jesus is exalted to God’s right hand. It’s because of this that the promise of the Holy Spirit is now poured out on the believers.

I chose the reading to continue on, as after Peter’s sermon, some were moved by it, and wanted to know what they could do. Peter says, words which touch us today, “Repent, and be baptised, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away,”—maybe meaning those not yet knowing God’s good news of Jesus—“everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Repent, and be baptised . . . The promise is for you and your children . . . While a young child can’t repent, and parents do that on the child’s behalf, the New Testament speaks of whole households being baptised. What we have done today is the first step, the welcoming of a child into the Kingdom of God. It is the water baptism, as Peter says, the baptism for the forgiveness of sins. In infant baptism this comes before the gift of the Holy Spirit which Peter speaks of.

In John’s gospel, chapter 3, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who became a believer, who came to Jesus at night. Jesus says Nicodemus needs to be born of water and the Spirit, born again from above. Being born of water, of course, is of the womb, but also points to baptism with water. Those baptised in the river Jordan only received the Holy Spirit after she came at Pentecost.

Being born again, a phrase which was coined by Jesus himself, however it has been used in past decades, is a step down the line for someone who wants to make their own commitment. It simply means that as we come to believe in the good news of Jesus, and give our lives to God in Christ, we are born again of the Holy Spirit, we are given, in other words, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In baptism today, a child has been welcomed into the Kingdom of God, and has been dedicated to God. As we think about the Holy Spirit today, this Pentecost Sunday, we may wonder what the Spirit’s role is in this. For a child not yet able to repent, we hope and pray they will make their own decision later on, and make a public commitment in a service of confirmation, sometimes called affirmation of faith. Yet it is neither at baptism nor confirmation that God’s promise of the Holy Spirit comes; rather, it is when the person declares their belief in God, when they first realise their faith in Jesus.

But that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit isn’t in their life before that. Especially for a child born into a Christian family, the Holy Spirit is at work in that family, surrounding that child with God’s presence, working through the parents to witness to the love of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ. I know this family today are rooted in Christ, and I know they will bring their child up to know and love the Lord Jesus, by God’s grace. I know they will read the Bible with their son, they will pray with him, and teach him the way of Christ. And that has already begun, months ago.

Just one more thought on this today. Having not been brought up in a Christian family, yet baptised as an infant, when I came to faith myself, and especially when Brian and I were getting serious, I was praying whether to be baptised as a believer, when I came across the cards my parents were given at my baptism. As I read the prayers on them, I realised that God had been answering those prayers through his Holy Spirit. God was indeed working in my life. In live worship in the building, we had sung, ‘Spirit of God, unseen as the wind’. The Spirit works where God wills, works in the world, and works in ways we will never know, or understand.

As we have baptised a child today, it is not what we do or don’t do that makes a difference, it is God’s Spirit working in his life. Peter says in that sermon, “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” It is for that reason we are here today, dedicating a child to God, baptising a child into the Kingdom, the family of God, believing that God will work in his life, a work we are privileged and responsible to share in.

So on this Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church, today really is a new beginning, not just for this child, this family, but also for us all. Today isn’t just a day we worship together again after so long, but a day we go into the future. What will that future be like? We’ve thought about this child’s future, what about us as a church? How will we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us? What will we put in place to be our part of bringing in the Kingdom in Headingley? What will we leave behind that isn’t needed anymore? How will we make the best use of the resources we have, both our time, energy, and money, for the Kingdom to grow among us?

As we pray this young child grows, so I pray we grow as a church in the way of Christ, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, who is given to us all.

Great is thy faithfulness
Text: Thomas O. Chisholm (1866–1960)
Tune: Faithfulness – William M. Runyan (1870-1957)


The peace of Christ be with you, and in your homes

And also with you

Come then to this table, not because you must, but because you may;
Come, not because of who you are, but because of who God is.
Come, not because you are righteous, but because of God’s love through Christ, who was obedient to death on a cross.

Words of Institution
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’

Prayer of thanksgiving
Holy Lord,
We praise and thank you so much that you came to earth for us and gave yourself on the cross for our forgiveness. Help us never to forget what it cost you, bearing the world’s sin in yourself, separated from the Father.

We praise and thank you for new resurrection life that gives us hope in our lives and for the future. We thank you for that assurance of new life in you, a new life we can share in many different ways at this time with others.

We give thanks now for this bread, symbolising for us your body, and ourselves as your body here, to be broken for others, to be witnesses to your resurrection.

We thank you for this wine, symbolising for us your blood, poured out in love for the world, as we are poured out to bring life to those around us.

We ask that as we share this bread and wine, we may be filled anew with your Holy Spirit, and refreshed in your resurrection life, to live for you, for your glory. Amen.

Sharing the Bread and Wine
As we break the bread and share the wine, we will eat and drink together.
We break the bread to remember Christ’s broken body for us on the cross . . .

[pause to break the bread]

Christ’s body broken for us

[pause to eat]

Christ’s blood was poured out that the world might have new life . . .

[pause to lift the cup]

And we remember as we drink together that we have new life in his blood

[pause to drink]

Prayers of Intercession
Most gracious God, we praise you for what you have given and for what you have promised us here. Through water, bread and wine, you have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. You have fed us with the bread of life, and renewed us for your service.

In our world we ask for all those places who are still struggling with the pandemic, that there may be a just sharing of all that is needed to fight the virus. We especially once more lift India to you, with all the difficulties they are having in supplies of oxygen and vaccines. We pray for countries who have no vaccines available for their people, who cannot afford to buy them. We pray too for the persecuted Church, who are bottom of the list for food aid, medical care and vaccines in the communities in which they live. We pray the international community will see it as a global duty to help all humankind, whatever their economic status, race or religion.

We pray for our own nation, for the royal family and for all in government. We give thanks that as restrictions have lifted further this week, people can have more contact with family members. We pray for safety for all, and that people will make good judgements.

We pray for all the Churches going back to worship you in their buildings today in our country, and pray the celebrations of the birthday of the Church with the coming of your Holy Spirit will be truly joyous and honouring to you. We pray especially for Churches Together in Headingley and for those in the Mission & Care Group. Today we pray for those gathering this afternoon in an act of open-air worship on the Cottingley estate, that it may be draw others to worship too, when there is no longer a church in that area.

We pray too for other churches which some of us are from, here or abroad. We pray for Grace and Nduka’s church in Nigeria, and for their families not being able to be with us today. Pour out your grace and peace on them all we pray.

We pray now for all known to us who are unwell at this time, and name them before you in a moment’s quiet… All their needs are known to you, and we ask your Holy Spirit will touch them in their need. We pray for all those we know who have been bereaved… We pray the comfort of the Holy Spirit with them. We lift to you those who are unable to be in church today, for those listening on the podcast, or reading the printed service, asking that they will all know your presence with them.

Finally, we pray for ourselves as we give ourselves to you. We lift all that we are, all our burdens and worries… As you have renewed us by your Holy Spirit here today, we ask that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and that our love may be your love, reaching out into the life of the world. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Spirit lives to set us free
Tune: Walk in the light
Words and music: Damian Lundy (1944-97)

May the Holy Spirit of God breathe hope into your hearts, transform your fears, and bless you with the gifts of courage, compassion and understanding.
And may the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore,

Organ Voluntary: Toccata in G – Théodore Dubois (1837-1924)