Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church 955 Main St. (P.O. Box 222) Barboursville, West Virginia 25504 May 23, 2021. Pentecost Sunday.
Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship Joel 1, 2
The Word of the Lord to the prophet:
I will pour out my Holy Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old shall dream dreams, and your young shall see visions.
Prayer of the Day Christina Rosetti, 1830-1894
As the wind is your symbol, so forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenward.
As water, so purify our hearts.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, purge out our dross. Amen.
Hymn Breathe On Me, Breath of God Text: Edwin Hatch, 1878
Music: Robert Jackson, 1888
Breathe on me, breath of God; fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure,
until with thee, I will one will, to do and to endure.
Breathe on me, breath of God, so I shall never die,
but live with thee the perfect life of thine eternity.
Prayer of Confession
Almighty God, you poured out your Spirit upon the gathered disciples,
creating bold tongues, open ears, and a new community of faith.
We confess that we hold back the force of your Spirit among us.
We do not listen for your word of grace,
speak the good news of your love,
or live as a people made one in Christ.
Have mercy on us, O God.
Transform our timid lives by the power of your Spirit,
and fill us with a flaming desire to be your faithful people,
doing your will for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Take, O take me as I am. Summon out what I shall be.
Set your seal upon my heart and live with me. Repeat.
Assurance of Forgiveness
The Lord separates us from our sins as far as the east is from the west.
Know you are forgiven and freed to live in peace, to testify to the saving love of God through Jesus Christ, and are empowered by the indwelling Spirit. Amen.
Recognition of Our Graduates
Chau-tle’ Haught Master of Social Work, Marshall University
Brennan Moore Cabell Midland High School
Time With Our Young Disciples
Reading from Scripture Acts 2:1-8, 11b-21
It was a beautiful July day at Cooper’s Rock State Forest near Morgantown. The loud, fierce storm that had blown thru the night before had left the world a bright, fresh green.
Wedding guests had assembled…as many as could be seated under the roof of the picnic shelter. The music had begun…there’s nothing more lovely to a West Virginian than the sound of stringed instruments against a backdrop of majestic mountains and sweet summer air.
Nothing lovelier except the bride, my daughter. In antique white lace, an exquisite veil falling from the crown of her head, over her shoulders, gently blowing in the breeze.
Prayers, promises, rings, and the moment for which all the little cousins waited…the kiss…and the wedding party made their way of out of the shelter to pose for a few quick pictures before joining the guests. Perfect. This was the second time I was officiating clergy and mother of the bride and I was feeling a great sense of relief. I was looking forward to the cake and champagne.
And then we heard the groom’s father shout, “Dad!” And then the groom shout, “Papaw!”
We all turned to see a woman in a green taffeta dress streak across the shelter, hurdling benches. She started slapping the head of an elderly man with the crowd rising to their feet, some running toward the commotion and others making room for help to move in, the gentle strains of guitar and violin drowned out by gasps of guests and cries of family members.
And then we saw it…the plume of smoke…and it seemed to be coming from Papaw. On his way out of the picnic shelter, he had tripped on the stone floor and stumbled into the unity candle, catching his hair on fire! My sister, Amy, was the one smacking him on the head in an effort to put out the flame. She was successful and no permanent damage was done, though it gave us all a fright.
Later, trying to elicit a smile from me, my husband observed that we had re-enacted the Pentecost event as described in the book of Acts. A crowd gathered from the four corners of the country, a service of worship, lots of conversation in all kinds of dialects, and flames dancing over the head of at least one person. I wasn’t amused and only stopped shaking sometime in the middle of the next week.
Pentecost, Shavout, in Hebrew, is a Jewish festival held on the fiftieth day after Passover, to celebrate the spring fruits. Later, it was expanded to include the arrival of the Hebrew people from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, and the gift of Torah. At the time of the event described in the text, devout Jews were obligated to assemble each year in Jerusalem in celebration of both Passover and Shavout.
In our text, we find Jesus’ disciples and other followers gathered in the upper room on that day. In addition to the obligation to assemble in Jerusalem for this festival, the disciples were following the explicit instructions given by Jesus to remain there until that time when they are baptized by the Holy Spirit and empowered to take the Good News of salvation to the ends of the earth.
So on that day they were waiting. And suddenly from heaven came the noise and the wind and the fire, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.
Pilgrims from every nation were gathered in Jerusalem that day and they were drawn to the site of all this commotion, amazed, because they were hearing about God’s mighty acts of power each in their own language, in a way they could understand.
What was this language? Was it the kind we speak, with subjects and predicates, verbs that can be conjugated, and participles threatening to dangle? Or was it the phenomenon of ecstatic language, glossalalia, described as a gift of the Holy Spirit?
I can’t answer that. But one of my go-to scholarly sources, Dr. Bob Newman, offers this helpful information: “God’s Holy Spirit does not eliminate cultural differences from his modus operandi, but on the contrary, moves in and inhabits cultural differences, co-ops them, in this case different languages, so that these cultural differences become working instruments, tools valuable and necessary in order to make witness real and true. It is worth remembering that the Hebrew Torah insists one time that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” while there are many, perhaps innumerable, examples throughout the Hebrew canon which insist upon love for the alien, or the stranger whom you may encounter.”
It is about the importance of language, a valuable and necessary tool, that can make witness real and true, that I want to lift up today.
Here’s why: I recently sat with a session engaged in a pastoral search. We talked about what initially attracted them to the church and what might be said to a newcomer about what they find meaningful there. I saw a look of pain cross the face of one of the members. His grief and concern were evident as he shared his observation that there is a palpable sense of depression in the community, and in the wider world, but people aren’t turning to the church for help, for fellowship, guidance or support. This church member asked the question we should all ask: “Where do people find help, where do they find meaning for their lives? We find it in a relationship with Jesus Christ, but have we lost our ability to bear witness to Christ’s message in such a way as the family of faith expands?”
As I drove away, I recalled a sermon I once heard given by Rev. Dr. James Forbes. Before he retired, Forbes was the Senior Minister of the famed Riverside Church in New York City. I have been blessed to hear him preach from that pulpit. His reputation is that of a strong progressive voice for the mainline Church and social justice issues in particular.
Briefly, the sermon I remembered was titled “Are All the Children In?” Forbes grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, one of eight children in a Christian home. When the family would gather around the table each night for supper, before anyone prayed over the meal or took even a bite of food, his mother would look around the table and ask, “Are all the children in?” And if someone was missing, they set about fixing a plate so that the one absent would have something to eat when he or she did arrive.
He says this simple question has served as a guide to his life and ministry over the years, especially when working through areas of conflict. Many conflicts erupt in the church about who’s in and who’s out, who’s worthy to be a member, or an ordained officer. In particular, Forbes says, this little question was helpful in working through the issues of sexual orientation related to the church membership and ordained service.
When he asked himself if inclusion would advance the kingdom, the answer was always yes. God made us for God’s self and calls all of us to the table.
That was not an easy sell. Ever. But when he applied himself to listening, really listening to the various concerns, he heard the language of fear. Once the language was identified, he could work on that, and in time, through love and grace and lots of reassurance, folks would come around. He says, quite honestly, he could relate to their fears, because he had once had them, too. But, as scripture tells us, love casts out fear.
Friends, I don’t have to tell you the church has changed. We simply can’t do church the way we did it fifty years ago, or even two years ago. But, our call is still them same: to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. We Presbyterians do that thru works of justice, kindness and mercy.
Here are a few ways we are being called into service today:
In the Greensboro-Winston-Salem- area of North Carolina, Christian and Jewish congregations have joined efforts at sponsoring and supporting a number of Syrian families who have been cleared for residency in the US. This involves a lot of work. It is costly in time, resources and reputation. The American faith communities are heavily invested in helping the refugee community assimilate into American culture and to find a home of peace and security. Those who are involved in this effort report this as the most meaningful, even if socially risky, work they have ever undertaken.
Through our gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing, Central Americans recently arriving at the US border by caravan are being provided emergency assistance of food, first aid, temporary shelter and legal assistance.
Closer to home, Second Presbyterian Church of Huntington has intentionally partnered with the recovery community and have offered a warm welcome to those living in a nearby residential facility.
Living in the village of Barboursville is a blessed reality for most residents. But, for some, having an adequate food supply is a challenge. Some have little opportunity to socialize and enjoy the benefit of conversation over a meal. To help meet those needs, the churches in Barboursville, including Kuhn Memorial, invite the whole community to fellowship meals on a regular basis. It will be our turn soon to be the hosts. Stay tuned for more on that.
The Spring Valley church welcomes residents of their neighborhood into the church every Wednesday for food distribution.
Highlawn Presbyterian has a heart for the children and families surrounding the church. Two years ago, they sent about thirty kids to Bluestone summer camp where each one of them was included and celebrated as a precious child of God. I’m sure they will repeat that practice when Bluestone is fully operational again.
These are just a few examples of how some congregations are engaged in their communities. Each of them has experienced change in their circumstances. The reality is that as churches decline in membership and resources, human need rises. Interpret that as more opportunity to speak the language of love and belonging to our hurting world, more opportunities to ask if we are doing everything we can to widen the family circle and draw more children of all ages and circumstances in.
That language can start at home. Or at a wedding. I share this because so many are dealing with the challenges of dementia and Alzheimer’s. You see, some would say that the accident with the unity candle wouldn’t have happened if Papaw had not attended the wedding in the first place. His health was declining. He had cognitive issues. There was anxiety over whether or not he should attend. Some of you have been there and understand the challenges. But, love conquers fear. The bride and groom and other family members expressed their deep desire to include this man that had been central to their lives, guiding and shaping their character and their faith. But there would have been no judgment should Grandmother have decided the best course would be to stay at home in Kentucky. But, the family’s support gave her courage and strength to bring her husband and be there on that special day.
As we are welcomed to the Lord’s Table this day, we look forward to the day when we are gathered at the marriage feast of the Lamb. I can envision that glorious moment when Christ Jesus, our Savior, our brother, and our friend, will look around the vast table and declare with joy that “All the children are in.”
Affirmation of Faith The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day, he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Sacrament of Communion
Invitation, Words of Institution, Great Prayer of Thansksgiving, Distribution of the Elements
Prayer After Communion
Gracious God, may we, who have received this sacrament, live in the unity of your Holy Spirit, that we may show forth your gifts to all the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Women: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Men: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Leader: Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us.
All: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the Christian Church.
We will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion today. The elements are contained in sanitary sealed packages. At the appointed time, please come forward, take the elements from the tray, and return to your pew. We will serve those who prefer to remain seated. When all have been served, we will take the bread and juice together.
Tithes and offerings may be left in the offering plates at the front of the sanctuary. Your contributions are appreciated.
Thank you to the congregation for observing the health and safety protocol related to Covid 19 for over a year. The session and Covid Task Force are in agreement that vaccinated people may now attend worship without wearing masks. This decision follows the guidance of public health professionals and institutions.
Please be aware: 1) masks may still be required in some settings
2) individuals may choose or be advised to wear masks due to
vulnerable health conditions
For more information, contact your health care provider or go to cdc.gov.