featuring: Catherine and Stephen Wickett
Call to Worship
The Spirit is here among us, within us, around us, between us.
The Spirit is here to strengthen us, bringing courage, bringing conviction.
The Spirit is here to move us, to sing and praise.
The Spirit is here.
May we be fed by her fiery strength and emboldened by her powerful wind.
For the living of these days.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Holy One, we come into your presence with awe and wonder,
praying that we will be touched with your power.
In this time remind us of your constant presence, your gentle guidance,
your hope for the world.
As we remember the story of Peter and the others
who were moved by the Sprit, may we too be moved, to be your people in your world today. In Jesus name, amen.
Gracious God, we come in humility confessing who and what we are.
We are often unresponsive for we are afraid. When your Spirit speaks, we turn deaf ears. We fear what you might call us to do. When your Spirit calls us to speak we close our mouths.
Moment of Private Sharing
Assurance of Pardon
People of God rejoice and hear the Good News
God’s Spirit let loose that first Pentecost is within us
empowering us to mercy and grace, forgiveness and service.
In the Spirit and through Christ we are forgiven.
Acts 2:1-21 Reading for Pentecost
New International Reader’s Version
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers gathered in one place.
Suddenly a sound came from heaven. It was like a strong wind blowing.
It filled the whole house where they were sitting.
They saw something that looked like fire in the shape of tongues.
The flames separated and came to rest on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
They began to speak in languages they had not known before.
The Spirit gave them the ability to do this.
Godly Jews from every country in the world were staying in Jerusalem.
A crowd came together when they heard the sound.
They were bewildered because each of them heard their own language spoken.
The crowd was really amazed.
They asked, “Aren’t all these people who are speaking Galileans?” Then why do we each hear them speaking in our own native language? We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites.
We live in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia.
We are from Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia.
Others of us are from Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene.
Still others are visitors from Rome. Some of the visitors are Jews.
Others have accepted the Jewish faith.
Also, Cretans and Arabs are here.
We hear all these people speaking about God’s wonders in our own languages.”
They were amazed and bewildered.
They asked one another, “What does this mean?”
But some people in the crowd made fun of the believers.
“They’ve had too much wine!” they said.
Then Peter stood up with the 11 apostles.
In a loud voice he spoke to the crowd.
“My fellow Jews,” he said, “let me explain this to you.
All of you who live in Jerusalem, listen carefully to what I say.
You think these people are drunk. But they aren’t,
It’s only nine o’clock in the morning!
No, here is what the prophet Joel meant. He said,
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Holy Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions. Your old men will have dreams.
In those days, I will pour out my Spirit on my servants.
I will pour out my Spirit on both men and women.
When I do, they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above. I will show signs on the earth below.
There will be blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
The sun will become dark. The moon will turn red like blood.
This will happen before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Pentecost is one of the major festivals of the church year, as Christmas, as Easter.
Pentecost far from being an invention of Christianity is an important Jewish festival with a 3,300 year history.
Named Shavuot or Festival of Weeks this commemorates the revelation of the Torah, the first 5 books of Moses, on Mount Sinai to the Jewish people.
Shavuot is one of the 3 biblically based pilgrimage holidays associated with the grain harvest in the Torah.
It was the hope of every adult Jew living outside Israel to pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime back to Jerusalem, their holy city.
This Sunday, for all intents and purposes feels just like any ordinary Sunday.
But don’t be fooled.
Today is the day the Spirit, Jesus promised, was let loose on the world.
According to the writer Luke, it happened in this way.
Ten days after Jesus returned to heaven,
the disciples were in Jerusalem and waiting.
As they were anticipating who knew what, they were busy.
The 11 disciples had grown to 120. Among them some very familiar names.
Mary, Jesus mother.
Mary Magdalene, who may or may not have been Jesus own wife was present.
As were Salome, and Joanna, Cleopas, Stephen, Barnabus, and Lydia.
Sisters Mary and Martha with their brother Lazarus were in attendance.
These were the leaders in the expanding Jesus’ movement,
and members of the council who decided policy, direction, membership,
among other important matters.
Jesus choice of 12 disciples, known as apostles in Paul’s many letters
to the various churches in the New Testament, was intentional.
At the time of Jesus, Israel tired of being enslaved and trampled
under the Roman sandal, was waiting for the promised messiah.
One that would restore the kingdom of Israel, to its rightful place;
a second Golden Age, reminiscent of David their greatest king.
Jesus’ mission, far from military aggression, might, and action,
was to establish a new covenant of love to fulfill the old covenant.
The number 12 represented each of the 12 tribes of Israel,
with each of the apostles as its leaders.
The council had come together to choose Judas’ replacement.
Judas who committed suicide unable to live with the consequences
of having betrayed Jesus. Eventually Matthias was chosen.
Despite the efforts of the early church “fathers,” to keep women out
of Jesus growing ministry, they had an important role right from the beginning.
It wasn’t safe to be a follower of Jesus, they knew only to well the consequences.
The crucifixion was a cruel and constant reminder of what happens
when one goes against the state-the state of Rome.
Jerusalem was an occupied territory.
Jesus’ execution, horribly, wasn’t an uncommon occurrence;
crosses lined the highways.
Whenever Rome deemed unrest or rebellion was likely.
The lucky ones were dead, but too many were not as fortunate.
Their agonizing cries, the wailing of their loved ones could be heard.
No short hop to cottage country in those times.
Terrible, dreadful, times, they gathered, they waited, because Jesus told them to.
Desperate for some sign, perhaps they shared stories and remember whens,
about their times with Jesus, as they waited for the spirit to act.
And then something happened. Without announcement. Without warning,
With wonderful visual and sound effects
worthy of a Stephen Spielberg production or perhaps a zoom meeting in 3D.
A terrifying, holy hurricane was coming straight at them.
All they could do was hold on as they sat spellbound by the enormity of it all.
The room grew stifling, above their heads flames of orange, yellow, scarlet appeared to be dancing, the whole house shuddered.
The room was filled with a force and power which invaded
every fiber of their being.
This power, this force, was nothing short of the breath of God!
Before they knew what hit them, they began to speak.
Imagine those 120 women and men, in that one room talking
all at once with passion and energy.
As Barbara Brown Taylor notes: Like a room full of bagpipes all going at once, they set up such a racket
they drew a crowd. People from all over the world who were in Jerusalem
for the festival of Pentecost came leaning in the windows
and pushing through the doors,
surprised to hear someone speaking their own language so far from home.
Parthians stuck their heads through the door expecting to see other Parthians, and Libyans looked around for other Libyans, but what they saw instead
were a bunch of Galileans all of them going on and on about God’s mighty acts.”
Then as now, when God gets a hold of you, God equips you
for God’s work in this world.
In every crowd, there are those on the outside looking in.
Witnessing the strange goings on, they snicker and point with their buddies
to the drunks carrying on so loudly, so early in the morning.
Others not sure of what they are witnessing, are unable to turn away
as the drama continues to unfold.
Imagine as you watch and hear this captivating scene of a rainbow of people,
all shapes and sizes, and ages and classes, shoulder to shoulder in one place,
with as many languages spoken as people represented.
Yet, despite the differences they all understand that one message: That God is doing mighty acts in the world
Peter steps up addressing the crowd saying that what they had just witnessed
was the living out of what they prophet Joel prophesied
almost one thousand years earlier.
The day had arrived when all people even uncouth and uneducated Galileans
would see visions and dream dreams.
Right smack dab in the middle of it all,
the craziness, the passion, the terrifying sights,
God breathed the Christian church into being.
The church of Jesus Christ, named after Jesus who lived and died a Jew.
Jesus who lives today in the likes of you and me by what we do.
You and I are part of this 2,000 year old tradition.
While you and I don’t see the Spirit, you and I see its results.
Then as now, transformation happens.
Those 120 who had received the gift of the Spirit were changed.
Depression and sadness, gone. Fears vanished. Confusion evaporated.
They were renewed with a sense of purpose, direction, and hope.
Literally exploding with enthusiasm they could not be contained and rushed out into the streets of Jerusalem telling everyone what they had just experienced.
To those who were witnessing the action of the Spirit within the disciples,
they saw amazing sights.
When they spoke, they sounded like Jesus.
When they laid their hands on the sick,
it was as if, Jesus was performing healing miracles. And Jesus was.
The onlookers were so impressed, Luke tells us that before the day was out
the 120 had become 3,000!
Impressive even by standards of today’s crusades.
Pentecost, a fantastic story. That was then, thank goodness. Old stories.
We’re United Church. Let’s leave the Pentecostal stuff to the Pentecostals
And yet, I believe we have all been visited by the Holy Spirit. Frequently.
You finally summon the courage and the energy to make some positive changes
in your life. The nagging of the Holy Spirit doesn’t let up.
You have become alienated from someone important to you.
Family member, friend, mentor.
Someone said something; who can remember what after all this time.
Missing the person, and tired of carrying around all the anger and hurt,
you pick up the phone and say: “Hi.” This is the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
How many times have you gone to bed worried?
Upon waking, the problem has resolved itself, or you have an answer.
The wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
We know that God can do anything through anyone.
We have seen changes in people, and in situations.
God can do and God does do anything through anyone.
Even now, God is working through us: you and me.
So, what in the world is God up to now???
If we can listen with more than our ears, and see with more than our eyes,
if we can open ourselves to God’s spirit,
and to allow the spirit the freedom to move us where it wants us to go,
then amazing miracles happen.
So, what do you think?
In time this coronavirus will run its course and leave.
In time life will go back to “normal”, maybe, or we will adjust to a new normal,
as our kind has done for thousands of years.
In time, the church buildings will reopen, and you’ll be able to take your places
in the familiar pews, or maybe try a new one?
Pentecost brings both a gift and responsibility.
You and I are the inheritors of this awesome duty and joy.
We are called upon to model Jesus’ first followers that first Pentecost.
To share what God has done for us, and through us.
To talk about how being part of the Jesus movement today changes our lives,
and why this matters.
And why the Westway Faith and Community Center as we call ourselves matters,
and will continue to have meaning beyond our own members,
our own community, our own neighbours.
If in our daily routine, we see injustice, to speak out.
To champion causes and people not always prominent, but necessary.
To be bold and courageous in our living out our lives in Jesus Christ,
and in speaking up for others.
There are so many people just outside the church’s doors of all shapes and sizes, and colours from all walks of life.
Some of them are tired, and hurting, lonely and hopeless.
Ageing, afraid, illiterate, impoverished, marginalized and hungry.
Hungry to hear good news for a change.
To know they are loved beyond reason, that they have value and worth.
May the promise of the prophet Joel, 30 centuries ago ring true in us today:
“I’ll pour out my Spirit on every kind of people
Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters.
Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.”
Courageous and amazing.
There is a place for everyone. Men and women young and old.
All of us are needed that we may give life to God’s dreams for us today.
Prayers of the People
Pentecostal God whose very breath gives us life, may your Spirit blow freely through us
to clear away our disbelief and reluctance our ambivalence, and our anxiety,
leaving only the knowledge that we are yours.
We rejoice that we are part of your amazing creation.
May the winds and flames of Pentecost remind us of all that you created us to be.
Surprising God put your Spirit on us and within us.
Replace our fears with courage to speak out against injustice as we see it.
Replace our preoccupation with self with concern for others.
Replace our longing for the good old days
with excitement for what is about to be born in our midst.
Compassionate God, may we hear the cries of those too often silenced.
May we companion the lonely and forgotten.
Move us to care for the refugees and immigrants in our midst,
the hungry and the homeless without hope,
those who struggle with addiction, or illness, pain or suffering.
Gracious God how this pandemic rages on with no signs of slowing,
without a vaccine in sight.
We pray for all affected by the coronavirus through illness, isolation, or anxiety.
For the front line workers and medical researchers, that through their skills
people will continue to be cared for and restored to health.
For seniors in the homes and institutions whose living conditions are unacceptable
and thanks to the army light was shone on the shameful way they were treated,
help all involved to life better for residents and staff alike.
We pray for all in leadership responsible for shaping policies and governing,
may your Spirit help them to make wise decisions.
Finally God of our todays, yesterdays and tomorrows, for ourselves and those we love. help us to give our worries cares and concerns to you as we pray together
Our Father who art in heaven hallowed by 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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.
Blessing – a traditional Jewish blessing
May God’s breath stream within you
May God’s breath renew you
May God’s breath invigorate you.
May we walk with confidence this day and all of our days, amen.
“Come Now, Almighty King”
(Congregation….imagine us being together, like communion, as you sing and/or listen)
Welcome to this time. I’m Carolyn Miller, current minister of Westway United Church. My home number is 647.727.7822. Despite these present times, you are not alone.
Call to Worship
A new day has begun. Hope wins! A fresh start is given. Faith wins!
Today we have the chance to do something new.
May we be open and receptive to all that God wishes to give us this day.
Prayer of Approach
Surprising God, stretch our imaginations to sense the majesty of Jesus’ ascension. May it give us confidence in our praying and hope for the future knowing that Jesus is yet with us and with you, amen.
Prayer of Confession
God of our days and nights, so often we feel lost, especially now in these uncertain, scary times. During times such as these, we forget Jesus’ teachings on how we are to treat one another. We are much better at telling someone off than answering with words of forgiveness and reconciliation. So certain are we that we know you, that we forger to make room for the presence of your Spirit within us, that can lead to bold and new ways of living.
Moment of Private Sharing
Assurance of Pardon
People of God rejoice and hear the good news.
God is unreasonably forgiving, irrationally accepting, indiscriminating loving.
The Good News today and every day, in Jesus Christ we are forgiven, loved and set free.
Reading from Scripture.
Scripture: Luke 24:50-53 The Ascension of Jesus Christ
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands,
he blessed them.
While we was blessing them, he withdrew from them
and was carried up into heaven.
And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;
and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
I was later than hoped arriving at Seniors hour at COSTCO.
Taking advantage of their great gas prices, filled the tank before making my way to the end of a very long line, well before the 8 am opening.
Not to be judgmental, but to my eye, many of the customers did not look anywhere near retirement age.
With a book in hand, I took my place, and prepared for a long wait.
There were two lines; one for us pensioners, and the other for those under 65. Behind me in my line, a couple of guys started talking.
And while I hadn’t meant to overhear their conversation, their loud voices carried. Said one: It’s easy to get in early.
Why, said his pal, what do you mean?
You just walk in like you know you belong.
They never check for id, or ask your age. I’m too busy to wait in the other line. Biting my tongue, saying to myself, “Buddy, ever heard of KARMA?”
A couple of women in the other line, the one for non-retirees, were also chatting. They were asking one another what they were most looking forward to once businesses were fully reopened.
For sure the one said, first stop my hair dressers. I’m so tired of looking shaggy. Do you see all these dark roots? Yuck.
Unconsciously patting my own, I smiled in silent agreement.
One thing this coronavirus has taught most of us is the virtue of waiting.
We wait for any number of things,
unless you happen to be a high ranking politician, very wealthy or well known.
We wait for our favourite restaurant to reopen, the malls; sitting for a coffee at Tims, or Starbucks, chatting with a friend. The latest Helen Mirren movie or JD Robb book. Sports enthusiasts can hardly wait to see their favourite team play.
For concert and theatre lovers, it’s the Shaw, Stratford and in town
Mirvish headliners. We look forward to entertaining more than 3 people at dinner. We wait for the driver ahead who doesn’t seem to know
what an advanced flashing green light means.
We wait for the results of medical tests, and necessary surgery, and treatments. The birth of a baby, news of friends and family far away.
Refugees wait for a home, the world’s hungry wait for enough food
to fill their stomachs.
The unemployed wait for a job.
Those suffering from domestic abuse wait for the hurting to stop.
For folk who have loved ones in nursing homes, and retirement residences
they anxiously wait for the day when they can see and touch and hug
their loved ones.
As they hope against hope it won’t be too late.
We’re all waiting for something, aren’t we?
Was it our mothers who told us that life’s good things were worth waiting for?
We wait as we figure out what to do with our one wild and precious life.
We wait for our choices to be made clear.
We wait for the right time to offer and receive forgiveness and reconciliation.
We also wait for God.
Our human kind has been waiting for God all of our history.
This waiting for God, and what God has promised,
is at the heart of the ascension of Jesus Christ.
Speaking of which, what did you do last Thursday?
How many recognized that important date in some way?
The Ascension of Jesus Christ.
Did you circle it in your planner?
Did you count the days until the day? Did you even know its importance?
Unlike Advent when we count the days, decorate our homes, all in anticipation of December 25th, with gifts and wonderful kitchen smells.
Unlike Lent when for 40 days we prepare ourselves
by foregoing a small pleasure, attending extra church and religious services,
or pondering the meaning of life in anticipation of Easter.
But the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God
is something largely unnoticed.
There are no greeting cards, no special family traditions, no gifts exchanged. There isn’t even a legal holiday.
Just like Jesus’ coming into this world, Jesus’ leaving is noticed only by a few.
While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them
and was taken up into heaven.
Many wonder what difference it makes that Jesus ascended into heaven
or that we even remember this event.
Something extraordinary happened 2,000 years ago.
Something we are unable to completely understand or even make sense of.
Whatever happened on the mountainside and was witnessed by those mentioned in Luke’s account, so changed and transformed them that the Christian community was created.
From out of this came the church named after Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus who lived and died a Jew. Jesus who we call: Lord, Saviour, the Christ.
And so, here we are today.
Those first witnesses were very human, very ordinary,everyday people.
People a lot like us: brave and fearful; faithful and fickle.
They were all capable of treachery, jealousy, resentfulness.
Fear would make them abandon Jesus in his hour of greatest need.
All but one ran away. Two would ask for personal favours.
Others would show that they still did not have the faintest clue
about who Jesus was or what Jesus’ mission was.
Even as the Christian community was forming it was flawed.
We remember there were 11 remaining disciples, not 12.
Yet, in spite of it all, Jesus gave our spiritual ancestors the Great Commission,
so great was Jesus’ trust in them.
They were to go out into all the world and share.
Share the good news of God’s love in Jesus. Jesus, who lived and died.
Who lives again in you and in me. In Jesus ‘people everywhere.
When they asked Jesus, that long ago day on the mountainside.
if now, was the time he would restore the kingdom of Israel
It’s not for you to know…but you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.
Their big task was to wait for the spirit. Wait in hope and receive.
Besides, who can explain what happened that long ago day? That long ago day as Jesus was lifted up high, high and away! Without fuss. Without fanfare!
At least Elijah the prophet was taken up into heaven by fiery chariots.
How differently, how silently, Jesus, God’s beloved returned, to the One
from whom he came.
The same God from whom we all come and to whom we shall all return.
Today we stand beside our spiritual ancestors from whom we have inherited these treasured stories of our faith.
From whom we discover anew that there is far more than can be seen
by the human eye but can only be known by the human heart.
We are a waiting people.
We live in-between when we suffer through
broken relationships, divorce, separation, death,
or estrangement from a loved one.
We live in between when we wait for our job offer, medical test results.
In this we share an even greater connection with those spiritual ancestors of ours:
Mary Magdalen, Joanna, Salome, Martha, Peter, James, John, Luke, Mark,
The writer Luke, who wrote about the Ascension of Jesus,
offers some helpful suggestions for the wait. They gathered in prayer.
A shattered community who had lost their leader.
They had witnessed his execution, or heard first hand.
Their own lives were in danger. What to do?
Through their shock and grief and fear they remembered some of his words. They went to a place of familiar comfort. The upper room.
They went to that place to try and sort through
the recent events, the words, or simply to just be together.
They also hoped that Jesus’ words were not just some fancy talk
or wishful thinking. They hoped that something would happen.
Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit had not yet come.
Luke tells us that today, as we live in our own in-between times,
we too are to pray.
Even when we don’t believe we can.
Even when our childhood faith no longer works.
Perhaps they prayed for then what we pray for now:
That God’s will would be made clear to them.
For strength to get through this present time.
For courage to accept whatever comes.
For God to be with us.
What will you pray for? What is most important to you?
We return to Luke’s gospel and the Ascension of Jesus.
While he was blessing them he withdrew from them
and was taken up to heaven
What difference does it make? Look within to find the answer
You and I today-are the difference it makes.
Prayers of the People
Gracious and loving God, on this Ascension Sunday we read how Jesus withdrew his resurrected body from the disciples and ascended into your full presence. But before doing so, Jesus blessed them then as he blesses us now. Yet, there are times when we feel your absence from our lives. We wonder where you are, even feel abandoned at times. We have confronted challenges and problems that have left us overwhelmed. Especially now in the grip of this deadly pandemic. How can we give you thanks when life as we know it has been upended? Help us to dig down deep within to find our gratitude. We give thanks that we cannot control you; that your love and grace is stronger than our anger, frustration and stupidity. That even in our disappointments and doubts you are with us. We thank you for beauty we can see. This glorious time of Spring when bud and leaf begin to flower, as the small fragile plants begin to take root. For all sings of beauty, thank you. Thank you also for loved ones, for family and friends. Thank you for the friends, and members, and acquaintances of Westway United church, seekers and searchers everyone of us. Today dear God, we pray for those who have lost jobs, incomes and way of life in the wake of this Coronavirus. Those who have lost loved ones. For those who have made wrong choices damaging relationships, health and any hope for the future. For those struggling with addictions, so hard to admit to let alone heal from. We continue to pray for all involved in fighting this deadly pandemic. For all who are caring for the sick, and the broken. For all politicians, that they may put the good of others first ahead of any self-gain or self-glory. We pray for those we know and love, and for others we dislike, or have hurt us. As we pray for ourselves. We continue to pray together the words Jesus taught: 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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.
May God’s extravagant love, spend us.
Christ’s life and passion inspire us.
And the Spirit push us to live ordinary life with extraordinary love.
May God Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us now and always, amen.
A message from some of our Westway Families