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Pentecost

Over the past few weeks, I – like many others – have become increasingly aware of the significance of constraints or boundaries or limitations in our lives. In the movement from death to life to life in its fullness, I am deeply challenged (again) by the identity of the Church as the pilgrim people of God and inspired by the imagery of God’s Spirit as breath or wind – invisible but tangible, uncontainable.

The gathering for Pentecost Sunday defies some of those constraints as technology enables some to meet beyond traditional sacred space and geographical boundaries for a time of conversation and contemplation through poetry, prayer, music, silence, and nature. 

This week, the service will not be recorded but I share some of the curated elements here for you to be drawn into this time in your own time and way through different voices, traditions, and experiences. If you would like to be part of the gathering, it takes place on Sunday from 9:30a.m. (with 30 minutes of opening music) to 11a.m. (G.M.T +10) and you are welcome to comment here so that I can send you an invitation to Zoom (requires computer with microphone and camera or smartphone). 

May the Spirit of God with and within you, move you.

***

Songs for worship

Poem: Pentecost is Every Day

I share and share and share again
sometimes with a new language
which, if you are so open
will take you behind the sky
and award you cartwheels across the sun
I give and give and give again
not restricted by the church calendar nor concocted ritual
I have no need of anniversaries
for I have always been
I speak and speak and speak again
with the sting of purity
that can only be Me
causing joyous earthquakes in the mourning soul of [hu]man
I am and am and am again.

Stewart Henderson, The Lion Book of Christian Poetry

Visual Prayer

Featuring names for the Holy Spirit from Richard Rohr’s book The Divine Dance. During this time, it is recommended that you move your body in some way in response to what you feel happening within you e.g. stretch, hold out your hands, follow the moving images on the screen with your finger, sway etc. Pay attention to which words or images really move you.

Prayer of presence (progressive)

We gather today
mindful of a creative,
energising magnificence
at work in all places:
– in the vastness of the universe,
– in the evolutionary development of life on earth,
– and in every breath we take.

In this Great Mystery
we are one with everything and everyone.

We open our hearts and minds
to this creative Presence,
this energising Power
in the depths of our own being, 
knowing that 
we need not ask it to “Come,”
but rather
knowing it has always 
been here with us in life,
in being,
in spirit,
in love.

We gather in memory of Jesus
who knew this Presence in his own life,
who recognised its presence in the lives of others
and who urged his listeners 
to call upon this Presence within them
to transform a world of sorrow,
a world of pain,
into a world of joy,
a world of promise and hope.

Today we give thanks for 
the Jewish men and women 
who took up the challenge
of transforming their world,
who kept the dream of Jesus alive. 

Michael Morwood, Prayers for Progressive Christians

Sacred Story

Adapted from http://www.barnabasinchurches.org.uk/pentecost-seven-signs-of-the-spirit-a-reflective-story/

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

John 20:19-23, New International Version

Questions to reflect on:

  • I wonder which of these signs of the Spirit you like best.
  • I wonder which of these signs you think is the most important sign.
  • I wonder if there are any other signs we could have to have all the signs of the Spirit that we need.
  • I wonder where we see these signs in the world around us.
  • I wonder how we can be a sign of the Spirit in the world.

Signs of the Spirit

As we pray for others, I invite you to pick up your pen/pencil and paper if you have one close at hand. As the words of the prayer are offered, without lifting your pen from the paper scribble an unfurling, unfolding, moving line in whatever way you are moved to. Alternatively, after the time of worship, tie pieces of string or ribbon outside in a spot where the wind will move them this week and you will be reminded of what you have prayed for. 

Praise to you Gentle breeze of the Spirit
For you blow where you will.
I hear the sound of you but
know not where you come from 
or where you go.
Let me be aware of your presence
as your breathe across my life this day,
though I can never grasp you.

Be still in the silence and aware of the Love with and within ……

By your breath of life which infuses all living things,
as I inhale the spirit of the people I meet,
may I exhale your love.
As I inhale the news of today, 
may I exhale prayer like incense rising.
As I inhale rumours of war,
may I exhale supplications for peace.
As I inhale the air which the leaves of the trees give to me,
may I exhale care for all that bears leaves.
As I inhale the same air of the creatures around me
may I exhale freedom from all that causes suffering.

Inspirer of the Universe,
by your grace, may we breathe your loving purpose this day.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel of the Year.

Blessing

May the God of creation warm your heart like the campfires of old
Bring wisdom and peace as shown to the first peoples of this land
Shake off the dust from the desert plains by the refreshing rains
Followed by the glow and warmth of the sun
Let the light of God show us the right path and stand tall like the big
River gums drawing life from the ever flowing waters.

Uncle Vince Ross, commongrace.org.au

Sunday: seeking together

A huge word of affirmation and thanks to the Pilgrim elders – Betty, Marilyn, Ruth, Rob, and George – for putting together our service of worship for Sunday in such a meaningful and extraordinary way.

The full wording of the service can be found by downloading the PDF order here:

A video compilation of all the songs, prayers, readings, and sermon can be downloaded by clicking on the following link: Sunday service.

Our Ascension Day service can also be found here.

Blessings to each and every one of you
as we continue to gather in a way that moves us beyond the physical boundaries of time and place
and seek to use our gifts – together – to build up our faith and community.

With much love,
Yvonne

Monday: testing

based on Psalm 66:8-20

God, even in this testing time
we celebrate Your goodness
and offer prayers of praise.

Locked down,
shut in, 
cut off, 
we’ve found that You hold our lives safely in Your hands. 

Here, in this testing time,
You’re proving us, 
perfecting us,
making us holy,
to bring us out better than we were before:
saturated with Your goodness 
and Your grace.

May we bring the best we have before You
as a fragrant sacrifice
for You never say “no!” when we ask for help;
You pay attention to our prayers
and pour out Your tender love.

Let praise arise.
Let praise arise!

Tuesday: poetry

For me, poetry goes beyond my daily bread; it is a sumptuous feast for my soul that invites me to sit a while and savour the deep mystery that is the Divine, to revel in the rich textures and scents and flavours of a world that cannot be contained in only language or logic, to feel full yet reach still – with longing – for one last delicious mouthful knowing too well that it is probably not my last …. 

So, today, I want to share three poems that I keep returning to at present – knowing full well that few people share this love and many, quite frankly, find poetry intimidating. 

Still, I invite you to skim through them and find the one that speaks to you in some way: that captures your attention with a word or image, that provokes questions, that plonks you in the deep end with an exasperated “I can’t make any sense of this” …. 

Read through it, slowly. 

Read through it again – out loud if possible – capturing the rhythm of each line; noting where there is a pause (comma), a break (full stop), or a breathless running on of one thought into another.

Highlight two or three words that seem important to you. What do they mean in the poem? What do they mean in your own life? 

Read it one last time – not seeking to make sense of it or find the lesson but allowing yourself to be full of what it is that you are feeling: gratitude, joy, confusion, wonder, frustration etc. Let that be the starting point of your prayer today ….

God, I feel ….

Resurrection flower

You place a resurrection
Flower on my desk, an explosion
Of yellow blossom from a green
Stem. All winter it was buried
In the dirt, covered with snow,
Soaked by rains, companion to 
Earthworms. Easter in a 
Daffodil: Christ leaps up
In your green laughter and light
embrace.

Eugene Peterson, Holy Luck

Prayer 

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver, Thirst

Elusive

There is this thing 
that sits just out of reach
so that whenever I stretch out for it
I am left with my fingers
dancing in the wind
and the feelings of being exposed.
So, instead, I curl myself up again
and shimmer inside, enough
to be satisfied. I stop grasping
and let something grasp me.

Joel McKerrow, Hollowed out lungs

Monday: shepherd

It’s been wonderful to have a week away from the “work” of ministry – to spend time in my studies with the likes of Mallory and Chaucer, to enjoy the sunshine after the rain, to indulge in long baths and pyjama days, to feel energy and creativity and vision unfolding again from the resting place ….

a special word of thanks to the elders from Pilgrim who have shared their own stories, thoughts, and reflections with us in this space to make that time possible. We truly are a community that is being led and fed and built as we deepen our connection with Christ and seek to offer the gifts that we receive to one another and the world.

An acrostic prayer/poem based on Psalm 23

Sing songs of blessing and devotion to the shepherd of our souls!
He is our constant companion, our protector, our friend.
Each of us is known by name; led by his footsteps into the open way.
Peace and plenty are the gifts we will find in his resting place;
His goodness and love, the assurance that our future is safe in his hands. 
Even when the day is dark and difficulties distress us,
Remember that you are not alone – he is near.
Delight in the table set before you and and drink deeply of his Spirit!

Monday: prayer of praise & promise

written by R. Kerr;
based on Psalm 116 : 1-4, 12-19

You heard my anxious plea
And so I love you Lord
You turned your ear to me
It’s you I call toward

Death threatened everywhere
I felt it pull me down
My soul cried out in prayer
‘O save me, lest I drown’…

What ways can I repay
the good you always give?
I’ll name you when I pray
and praise you as I live

What I’ve promised, I will do
Before your people and for you.

Your saints are dear to you
Whether here or gone above
We are your servants true
You freed us with your love

Thankfulness I bring you
with all my grateful heart
Praises I will sing you
From you I’ll not depart

What I’ve promised, I will do
Before your people and for you.

In your house my voice raise
All your greatness to tell
As we offer our praise
Lord, we know all is well.

Amen.

Today’s song has long spoken into the very depths of my heart of the presence of God in the high and low places of my life. 

When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be ….

You raise me up, today’s version performed by Josh Groban

It evokes, particularly, memories of many trips down from the inland plateau of the Highveld in which Johannesburg is located to the southern coast of Kwa-zulu Natal – for family holidays (both as a child and as a parent), formation for ministry, and silent retreat.

The long drive alone was often a wonderful time of contemplation and quiet as I watched the rolling plains give way to flat fields of wheat and sunflowers to the steep and winding pass through the mountains. 

Always, I would stop for a cup of coffee and to stretch my legs just off of Van Reenen’s Pass … and to get my playlist ready for the next part of the journey. Always this song would play (very, very loudly and on repeat) as my eyes took in the wondrous beauty of God’s good creation in its green and browns and the play of light and dark on the open hills and leafy valleys.

Always, the words of the Psalmist would come to mind:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, 
the Maker of heaven and earth. 

Psalm 121:1-2, New International Version

As you listen, may you feel the hands of God enfold you gently,
offering you sufficient help for this day, 
and leading you into life in the wide open spaces
of mercy and grace.

Tuesday: attentive

As I sat down to write this morning, I was quite convinced that I would offer in this space today something meaningful and important around the practice of silence in centering our lives around the wellspring of God’s Spirit.

Instead, Rory – my very adorable, very neurotic border collie-kelpie cross -rushed up the stairs to find me and ask what we were doing next. She was delighted to discover that I was about to settle down to work and promptly rushed off to find something of her own to occupy herself with …. 

… a much loved half-chewed green squeaky toy that has lost its head but not, miraculously unfortunately, its ability to squeak.

Rory and her Squeak

As she threw it into the air and pounced upon it as it landed, I noted the irritation rising within me at each “squeak, squeak. SQUEAK SQUEAK!” I was trying to start my day off right. I was trying to have a quiet moment. I was trying to draw near to God. 

As her toy flew in yet another wild arch across the bedroom, I heard deep within me the words “But I’m already here” and felt a sense of wonder and relief suffuse my spirit. 

In trying to orchestrate a meaningful encounter with God, I was missing out on a special moment of companionship and unconditional love, of spontaneity and simple laughter.

As she lies quietly at my feet right now, I take a moment to appreciate how the light streams in through the bay windows. To listen to the birds singing just outside in the branches of a jacaranda tree. To smile at the mother walking past with two little ones on bicycles. And to see the presence of God in them all. 

There is nothing that I need to do to make God draw near for God is here. This is what resurrection means. 

So … the invitation today, the discipline for us to cultivate as we seek to live the resurrection life: be attentive. God is with you. Open your senses to what is happening in the world around you in this very moment and let that be the basis of your prayer – with or without words.

With much love
Yvonne

Monday: presence

A longing prayer based on Psalm 16

God, engrave this song upon my heart –
My Maker,
My Mediator,
My Master:

Your path leads to pleasant places,
and every good thing that I encounter 
as I walk within Your way 
is a gift, a treasure from You.

You counsel and correct me.
You whisper words of wisdom to me.
Like star light on a dark night,
You show me what to do next.

You wrap Your presence around me every moment
so that I am assured of Your closeness and availability
and may rest confident in the knowledge
that You will not abandon me to the realm of death.

As this new week unfolds,
may I be open to the continual revelation 
of Your resurrection life
and come face-to-face with You –

my Prize,
my Pleasure,
my Portion. 

Amen.

Saturday’s spirit: Palms up

If you are reading this post, welcome to the first ever offering of “Saturday’s spirit” which focuses on tapping into the Spirit of God in our creativity, experience, and play. The language of these posts is deliberately family-friendly and draws on stories, prayers, and activities that I have accumulated over many, many, many years of wonderful engagement with youth and children but, speaking as someone well into her forties, no one is ever too old to get their hands dirty. 

As we get ready to enter into Holy Week, today is all about palms. Normally, these refer to the branches that people laid before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and which we often use to decorate our sanctuaries on Palm Sunday. Given, current circumstances, we will use the palms we have at hand – don’t excuse the pun!

A playful prayer:

Before this prayer is offered, you may want to talk about tomorrow being Palm Sunday and what that means. Acknowledge the ways in which we normally celebrate it as church and how we can celebrate it this year using the palms of our hands. As you pray (you can repeat the prayer two or three times to get into the mood of it), wave your hands about, clap, and cheer.

We sing and clap and wave and cheer
for Jesus, who come riding near.

We cheer and wave and clap and sing
to welcome Jesus as our King.

The Lion Book of a 1000 prayers for children.

Palm story

The story of Jesus entering in Jerusalem can be found in Matthew 21:1-11. You can read the story together or watch a short youtube clip:

Jesus and his followers were coming closer to Jerusalem. But first they stopped at Bethphage at the hill called the Mount of Olives. From there Jesus sent two of his followers into the town. He said to them, “Go to the town you can see there. When you enter it, you will find a donkey tied there with its colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, tell him, ‘The Master needs them. He will send them back soon.’” This was to make clear the full meaning of what the prophet said:

“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
    ‘Your king is coming to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey.
    He is on the colt of a donkey.’”

The followers went and did what Jesus told them to do. They brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus. They laid their coats on the donkeys, and Jesus sat on them. Many people spread their coats on the road before Jesus. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.Some of the people were walking ahead of Jesus. Others were walking behind him. All the people were shouting,

“Praise to the Son of David!
God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise to God in heaven!”

Then Jesus went into Jerusalem. The city was filled with excitement. The people asked, “Who is this man?”

The crowd answered, “This man is Jesus. He is the prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee.”

International Children’s Bible

An Easter bouquet

Today’s activity is as messy as you want to make it. It can be done using poster paints and a large piece of cardboard – all together – or individually with pencils and pens. 

From https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/384635624405993253/
Image from Kitchenfunwithmy3sons.com

If you are working collaboratively with paint, start by painting the vase/pot and as many stalks as there are members in your family. Once they have dried, have each person dip their hands into a shallow bowl of poster paint and then carefully press it on to form a “palm” flower. If you would like to use this as a more prayerful activity, have each person name someone that they are thinking of at the moment and miss having physical contact with. 

Alternatively, the pot and stalk can be drawn in pencil with hands traced to create the flowers. The picture can then be coloured in. Make sure that your Easter bouquet goes on display!

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