Reconciliation and Pentecost

A Worship Series

"It is the Spirit that creates the new humanity where God’s dwelling will be forever.” —Herman Bavinck (in Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, Baker Academic, 2011)

The church was founded on the bedrock of reconciliation—the reconciliation of God to humanity and the reconciliation of humanity to one another. This is evident in three significant ways:

  • Pentecost marks the shift from a law-driven life to a Spirit-driven life. It is significant that the coming of the Holy Spirit happened during the Jewish Festival of Weeks, a time when God’s people would celebrate the giving of the law. The foundation of the church is built on the Spirit who empowers us.
  • Pentecost is about receiving power from God to do things we could never do on our own. Pentecost happens when people are together. At Pentecost, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s people find unity in their diversity.
  • Pentecost is about our continued consecration to God. It is about the ways that our consecration happens in relationship with one another. 1 John 4 makes this clear: we testify to the truth of the gospel, from Christ’s incarnation to ascension, when we live in unity with one another.

Unity is not uniformity. At Pentecost everyone did not start speaking the same language, but everyone could understand each other, even when speaking in diverse languages. This was the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of God is evident through God’s ability to unite people who have been divided by culture and to reconcile historical adversaries.

Pentecost is about reconciliation, the way that God is at work reconciling humanity to one another, through the power of the Holy Spirit. John and Isaiah both speak about this reconciliation. This sermon series uses passages from John and Isaiah to show God’s purpose for calling a diverse group of people to show God’s goodness and power to the world.

We are God’s dwelling place when we live together in unity. We cannot do this on our own, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit in and among us. Thanks be to God.

Week 1

The Call

Scripture

John 7:37-39

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Sermon Notes

In the church calendar, Pentecost comes after Ascension Day. Christ’s lordship has been firmly established. But in this text, that has not yet happened. Here we read that there is a clear connection between Christ being glorified and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ words we hear an echo of the words of the prophets Isaiah (58:11) and Amos (5:24). God has a desire for people to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24), which means that the way that Christians live and the faith that they profess cannot be separated. As Christ’s followers we are not left to our own devices; we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In her book Re-Imaging Election, Suzanne McDonald writes, “Israel uniquely demonstrates in and to the world the being of God in his holiness and the loving justice of God in his actions towards the world” (Eerdmans, 2010, p. 93). Our calling and the mission of God are inextricably linked by the Holy Spirit, who equips us for this task.

Litany

LEADER: God in Heaven, we raise our voices to answer your call,

PEOPLE: to loose the chains of injustice,
to untie the cords that bind,
to set the prisoner free,
and to break every burden.

ALL: Move our feet to follow you in this, O Lord,
that your light would shine through us!

LEADER: God of Jacob, we respond to your call,

PEOPLE: to share our food with the hungry,
to provide the poor with shelter,
to clothe the naked,
and to embrace each other as our own flesh and blood.

ALL: Move our feet to follow you in this, O Lord,
that your light would shine through us!

LEADER: God, who calls us to belief, we commit

PEOPLE: to do away with the yoke of oppression,
to stop malicious talk and pointing fingers,
to spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry,
and to satisfy the needs of the oppressed.

ALL: Move our feet to follow you in this, O Lord.
that your light would shine through us!

LEADER: God, who moves in and through us by your Spirit,

PEOPLE: renew our strength,
heal our brokenness,
satisfy us with your purposes,
and raise us up.

ALL: Move our feet to follow you in this, O Lord,
that your light would shine through us!
Amen.
(based on Isaiah 58:6-12)

Song Suggestions

“We Are Called” LUYH 296, GTG 749
“Open Our Eyes” LUYH 297, SNC 263, WR 491
“Sopla, sopla fuerte/Blow Wild and Blow Freely” LUYH 244
“For Everyone Born” GTG 769
“Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love” LUYH 299, PsH 601, SWM 249, WR 273, GTG 203

From the Belhar Confession

We believe
that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes
to bring about justice and true peace among people;
that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity,
is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged;
that God calls the church to follow him in this,
for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;
that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;
that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows
and blocks the path of the ungodly;
that for God pure and undefiled religion
is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering;
that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right.

(Deut. 32:4; Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Eph. 2:14; Isa. 1:16-17; James 1:27; James 5:1-6; Luke 1:46-55; Luke 6:20-26; Luke 7:22; Luke 16:19-31; Ps. 146; Luke 4:16-19; Rom. 6:13-18; Amos 5);

We believe
that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need,
which implies, among other things,
that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice,
so that justice may roll down like waters, and right-eousness like an ever-flowing stream;
that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands,
namely against injustice and with the wronged;
that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged
who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.

—Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, 1986, trans. Office of Theology and Worship, PCUSA.

Week 2

The Promise

Scripture

Isaiah 59:15b-21

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

Sermon Notes

God’s commitment remains steadfast. God’s covenant is necessary, now more than ever. But the children of Israel are learning that relationship with God comes with blessing and judgment. The people of God had failed to obey God by neglecting to advocate for the poor and oppressed. In their plenty, and perhaps even their apathy, they did not “stand where the Lord stands” (Belhar Confession, point 4).

God’s people today have the same sinful impulses to neglect God’s purposes. We turn the very Word of God into a weapon for our own selfish ambition and vain conceit. The Doctrine of Discovery is one example of this. God’s people manipulated God’s Word for their purposes rather than God’s. But God’s faithfulness is unwavering. God longs for people who are willing to live in relationship with him, relationships of repentance and obedience, and be part of God’s covenant.

God always intended to work in the world through a chosen people. Isaiah’s words confirm God’s desire for people to surrender in obedience to God’s purposes and to seek God’s will for justice before our will for ourselves. As this text reveals, God’s people can be confident that God will establish the work of our hands.

In a Word: Doctrine of Discovery

“The Doctrine of Discovery is a theory of international laws justifying colonial expansion into North and South America, arising from a series of papal bulls (declarations) issued by the Catholic Church granting European powers the right to take over land in North America. ‘The roots of the doctrine may date back 500 years but its implications remain fresh in indigenous communities,’ says Mike Hogeterp, director of the Christian Reformed Church’s Centre for Public Dialogue in Canada” (tinyurl.com/crcnadiscovery).

Prayer of Confession

Reconciling God,
You have promised your faithfulness. Make us faithful to you in return.
You call us to follow you into places of grief and pain,
places that sometimes scare us.
Grant us the courage, so that we might move our feet to follow you.
Give us strength, that we might be persistent in serving your mission.

Lord, we grieve the pain and hurt that surround us,
hurt that results from human sinfulness,
pain that demeans and destroys human life,
grief that is, at times, caused by our very own hands.
Forgive us for trying to justify behavior that does not bring you glory.
Help us to find our joy in you.

Lord, forgive us for failing to recognize your face when it is before us.
Help us to see you in each human life we encounter.
Forgive us for misusing or neglecting to use the gifts you have given us.
Help us to ask only for those things that fulfill your purposes.

Lord, help us to remember that just as you are not alone, neither are we.
Make us ever-mindful of the unity we have in you.
Lord, help us in our unbelief!

Lord, you have told us that in this world we will have trouble
but to take heart, because you have overcome this world!
In the name of our only Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray.
Amen. (based on John 16:16-33)

Song Suggestions

“Pelas dores deste mundo/For the Troubles” LUYH 663, GTG 764
“This Holy Covenant Was Made” LUYH 847, SNC 173
“Hear Us, O Lord, As We Voice Our Laments” LUYH 290, PFAS 391
“O Great God and Lord of the Earth” LUYH 293, PFAS 582
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” LUYH 348, PH 276, PsH 556, SWM 194, TH 32, WR 72, GTG 39
“God, We Sing Your Glorious Praises” LUYH 519

Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 6

We rejoice in the goodness of God,
renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves to holy living.
As covenant partners,
set free for joyful obedience,
we offer our hearts and lives
to do God’s work in the world.
With tempered impatience,
eager to see injustice ended,
we expect the Day of the Lord.
We are confident
that the light which shines in the present darkness
will fill the earth when Christ appears.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Our world belongs to you.

Our World Belongs to God © 2008, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Grand Rapids MI.www.crcna.org. Reprinted with permission.

Our calling and the mission of God are inextricably linked by the Holy Spirit, who equips us for this task.

Week 3

The Advocate

Scripture

John 15:18-16:15

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

Sermon Notes

We belong to a God who knows what it means to be despised. From the circumstances surrounding his birth to those that led to his death, Jesus Christ knew the way of suffering intimately. He preached salvation and was peppered with trick questions. He performed miracles and was met with disbelief. He offered grace and was crucified.

We belong to a God who is with us in times when our faith is the source of our strength and the reason for our suffering. Nicholas Wolterstorff once wrote, “It must be said forthrightly, with pained regret, that, as Christ’s disciples, to the end of the age there will be alienation and even hostility between the church thus understood and the surrounding society. For that surrounding society lives by other values; it has other goals, and it worships other gods” (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education, ed. Clarence W. Joldersma and Gloria Goris Stronks. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004, p.7).

We belong to a God who advocates on our behalf, even and especially in difficult times. We are not alone, but God is committed to strengthening us as we prove God’s faithfulness. We are given an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who guides us in the way that we should go.

Litany of Response

Sovereign Lord, we answer the call to proclaim the same good news that Christ proclaimed.

Lord, here we are. Send us!

We answer your call to mend the wounds of the brokenhearted, to set the prisoners free, and to proclaim your justice.

Lord, here we are. Send us!

We answer your call to comfort those who mourn, to care for those in need, and to bring joy to those who grieve.

Lord, here we are. Send us!

We answer your call to rebuild, restore, and reestablish those places that our sinfulness has desecrated.

Lord, may your deliverance grow, that the world may know that you are God. Lord, here we are. Send us! (based on Isaiah 6:8, 61:1-4,11)

Song Suggestions

“For the Healing of the Nations” LUYH 289, WR 621, GTG 346
“The City Is Alive, O God” LUYH 278, PsH 597
“No hay dios tan grande/There’s No God as Great” LUYH 275, PsH 517, SWM 244
“Salaam/Peace” LUYH 298
“Here I Am, Lord” LUYH 869, PH 525, SNC 268, WR 559
“We Are Your People” LUYH 248, WR 594

Our World Belongs to God, paragraphs 28-30

At Pentecost, promises old and new are fulfilled.
The ascended Jesus becomes the baptizer,
drenching his followers with his Spirit,
creating a new community
where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make their home.
Revived and filled with the breath of God,
women and men,
young and old,
dream dreams
and see visions.

The Spirit renews our hearts
and moves us to faith,
leads us into truth,
and helps us to pray,
stands by us in our need,
and makes our obedience fresh and vibrant.

God the Spirit lavishes gifts on the church
in astonishing variety—
prophecy, encouragement, healing,
teaching, service, tongues, discernment—
equipping each member
to build up the body of Christ
and to serve our neighbors.

The Spirit gathers people
from every tongue, tribe, and nation
into the unity of the body of Christ.

Anointed and sent by the Spirit,
the church is thrust into the world,
ambassadors of God’s peace,
announcing forgiveness and reconciliation,
proclaiming the good news of grace.
Going before them and with them,
the Spirit convinces the world of sin
and pleads the cause of Christ.
Men and women, impelled by the Spirit,
go next door and far away
into science and art,
media and marketplace—
every area of life,
pointing to the reign of God
with what they do and say.

Week 4

The Mission

Scripture

Isaiah 56:1-8

The Sovereign Lord declares—he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”

Sermon Notes

Isaiah assures us that God will gather others. God’s intention was never for God’s people to be limited to a certain ethnicity or culture; rather, God intended that the children of Israel would be a light to the nations, reflecting God’s love so clearly that people from every nation would be compelled to recognize the faithfulness of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ.

We are invited to join God in gathering others. Just as the exiles returned to Zion, God’s people are called to invite those who surround us to return to God. We do so through our practice of sabbath, our acts of service, our advocacy and our offerings, and our unity in diversity. In all of these practices, God wants to be glorified.

In his book Light to the Nations, Michael Goheen wrote, “Both 1 Kings 8 and Isaiah 56 highlight another important feature of the temple: it is a place of worship and sacrifice. Both are essential for Israel’s missional identity and calling” (Baker Academic, 2011, p. 57). These practices of worship and sacrifice are to saturate our everyday—our relationships and our votes, our giving and our praise, that which we love and that which we reject. We are God’s light to the nations.

Prayer of Response

Lord, empower us as agents of your mercy and grace, both in truth and in love. May your righteousness be ever before us. May your grace go behind us. Clothe us in the knowledge of you.

Lord, make us one. Unite us in seeking your purposes. Help us feel your love and, in turn, to show your love to those around us.

Lord, we pray for those who do not yet know your salvation. Lord, encourage us as we seek to reveal your glory through the unity we have in you.

In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the power of your Spirit, we pray all these things. Amen. (based on John 17:20-26)

Song Suggestions

“Let Justice Flow” LUYH 295
“We Are Your People” LUYH 248, WR 594
“Koinonia” LUYH 258
“They’ll Know We Are Christians” LUYH 256, WR 595
“Somos uno en Cristo/We Are One in Christ Jesus” LUYH 255
“God of This City” LUYH 277
“All Are Welcome” LUYH 269, GTG 301

From the Belhar Confession

We believe
that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation
in and through Jesus Christ,
that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world,
that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker,
that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven
and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.

(2 Cor. 5:17-21; Matt. 5:13-16; Matt. 5:9; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21-22)

We believe
that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death,
and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity,
that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new
obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world.

(Eph. 4:17–6:23, Rom. 6; Col. 1:9-14; Col. 2:13-19; Col. 3:1–4:6)

From Our World Belongs to God, paragraphs 34 and 41

In our world,
where many journey alone,
nameless in the bustling crowd,
Satan and his evil forces
seek whom they may scatter and isolate;
but God, by his gracious choosing in Christ,
gathers a new community—
those who by God’s gift
put their trust in Christ.
In the new community
all are welcome:
the homeless come home,
the broken find healing,
the sinner makes a new start;
the despised are esteemed,
the least are honored,
and the last are first.

Here the Spirit guides
and grace abounds.

Joining the mission of God,
the church is sent
with the gospel of the kingdom
to call everyone to know and follow Christ
and to proclaim to all
the assurance that in the name of Jesus
there is forgiveness of sin
and new life for all who repent and believe.
The Spirit calls all members
to embrace God’s mission
in their neighborhoods
and in the world:
to feed the hungry,
bring water to the thirsty,
welcome the stranger,
clothe the naked,
care for the sick,
and free the prisoner.

We repent of leaving this work to a few,
for this mission is central to our being.

Shannon Jammal-Hollemans is a collaborative program developer for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. She was ordained by Oakdale Park CRC for her work with the denomination, where she and her family are members.