Pentecost often falls right around the end of the school year, presenting an opportunity to celebrate those in your congregation who are graduating and remind them that, as believers of Christ, they have the Holy Spirit in them wherever they go—the same Spirit who gives them particular gifts and abilities.
But even as we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates, we know that change brings with it fear of the unknown, anxiety, and questions. Graduates aren’t alone in their anxiety. The list of troublesome situations in life is endless, and so is the list of questions people ask, even when they’ve just experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. While most Pentecost services focus on the appearance of the Holy Spirit, this service focuses on Peter’s response to the ensuing confusion.
In Acts 2, the people in Jerusalem for Pentecost were confused by the wind, the flames, and the cacophony of languages. Peter responds by confidently telling them the truth about themselves and about Jesus. The crowd wasn’t sure how their experiences and current realities fit with what they thought was true. They were lost, but Peter helped them to rediscover their roots and to relocate themselves in the salvation story.
How do we talk to hurting or confused people? How do we deal with our own anxieties and insecurities? Our “amen” to Peter’s sermon can mean taking the time to listen to people’s questions, to articulate our own struggles, and then with the Holy Spirit’s guidance to make a connection between them and the gospel of Jesus Christ. But there’s more. The people in Jerusalem needed to be reminded that it was their own sin that put Jesus on the cross. It was our sin, yours and mine, that nailed him to the tree. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). Are we?
Peter continues: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38–39).
It’s only when we locate ourselves in the gospel message by acknowledging both our sin and our salvation that we are truly open to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is then that the Holy Spirit can work within us to make all we do a living “amen” to the gospel message.
we come today
because you have called us.
We come today
because your Holy Spirit is at work within us.
We come today
because we believe you are here among your people.
We come today
because we need you to work in us and through us
so that all we do may be a lived response
to the gospel message
that we love because you first loved us.
On this day when we remember the first Pentecost,
we pray that your Spirit may move among us,
filling us with love.
—Rev. Joyce Borger
Call to Worship
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because he has given us the Holy Spirit
to fill our hearts with his love.
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
—based on Romans 5:5 and Psalm 105:1, 3
Songs of Praise and Prayer
“Mighty to Save” Morgan/Fielding, LUYH 611
“Your Name” Baloche/Packiam, LUYH 375
“Be Still for the Presence” Evans, LUYH 532
“Come, Holy Spirit, Our Souls Inspire” Maurus, LUYH 231, GtG 278
“Come, Holy Ghost” Mills/Benedict, LUYH 232
“Spirit, Working in Creation” Richards, LUYH 235, PsH 415
Greeting from the Lord
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
—2 Corinthians 13:14
This is an important opportunity for us to create community, to acknowledge that we don’t come to worship as individuals, but as God’s covenant people. To that end we encourage people to take time to really engage with those they are worshiping with. To help encourage conversation, we sometimes provide a question to ask each other. These questions help the congregation get to know one another better and prepare them for that day’s message.
On this day of Pentecost, we wanted those gathered to think about gifts. During this time of greeting they were encouraged to ask each other about a favorite toy they wanted to get when they were younger (or, if they are a child, something they would like to get now). As the service continued, the reflection moved toward something much more lasting: the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Call to Confession
I’m guessing that many of us older folk no longer have that toy or, if we managed to hold on to it, don’t often play with it. Our interests change, and things break or get lost. The only gifts that last, that are really worth cultivating, are those given by the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21). With that truth in mind, let us go to God in prayer.
Prayer of Confession
we confess before you and to each other
that sometimes we store up gifts
and treasure them more than the true Gift-Giver.
We spend our time thinking about ordinary,
that we treasure only for the here and now
instead of developing the gifts
that the Holy Spirit has given us.
Cleanse us, O God.
Clean us up.
Get rid of our tendency
not to think about heavenly things,
to absent-mindedly forget about you
and your purposes for us in all of life.
Open our hearts to welcome you
and the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
In this time of silence, Lord,
fill us with a desire to treasure you.
Grow our hearts to seek you.
Holy God, we come to you
not as those who have obtained
righteousness on our own,
but as your dearly loved children,
clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
How we marvel at your love for us.
How grateful we are
for the beauty of your holiness.
How astonished we are
that you call us to be saints,
your holy people.
By the power of your Spirit,
help us receive these gifts with joy
and embrace our calling in Christ. Amen.
—Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013 © Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Assurance of Pardon
All the promises of God find their “yes” in Christ.
That is why we utter the “amen” through him,
to the glory of God.
It is God who has put his seal upon us
and given us God’s Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
In Christ, by the power of the Spirit, we are redeemed.
He is our living hope.
Song of Invitation
“Holy Spirit, You Are Welcome Here” Torwalt/Torwalt
“Sopla, sopla fuerte/Blow Wild and Blow Freely” Simeone, LUYH 244, SSS 255
“Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God” Getty/Townend, LUYH 746
Song and Prayer of Preparation
“Speak, O Lord” Getty/Townend, LUYH 755
“Spirit of the Living God” Iverson/Baughen LUYH 749, GtG 288, PsH 424
“You Are My King” Foote, LUYH 360
Prayers of the People and Graduates
Before the prayer began, graduates from high school and college plus other adult graduates were invited to come up front, where they were surrounded by family and church leaders who laid hands on them.
Our Father in heaven,
it’s an honor to join you in affirming and celebrating
the creative, athletic, and academic accomplishments
of those who are graduating and moving on
to the next chapter of their lives.
Thank you for the season
for which you entrusted them to our care.
And now, Father, as they move out into the world,
now more than ever, we entrust them into your care.
You have created these men and women in your image.
You have created them to live inside a big story,
not a small one—
your story, the story in which your glory and honor
and truth and beauty and grace and love
are at the center,
the story in which your mission
to love people, places, and things to life
is our mission as well, it is our “amen.”
For all of today’s graduates and their families,
more than anything may their measure of success
be bound up not in making money
or in making a name for themselves,
but in trusting in your mercies,
which are new every morning,
and in bringing fame and honor to your name
by doing justly, loving mercy,
and walking humbly with you.
Wherever their next chapters take them,
give them character that exceeds their gifts
and humility that exceeds their influence.
Give them Jesus, so their lives can be lived as an “amen.”
For all of us here,
remind us of your faithfulness in our own lives,
in our education, in our relationships, in our careers,
in our work and home lives.
May we draw courage and strength from you.
Grant us wisdom to apply the knowledge
you’ve given us to every facet of our lives.
Give us Jesus, so our life can be lived as an “amen” to you.
In Christ’s precious name we pray, amen.
—Scott Sauls, “A Prayer for Graduates” (bit.ly/35b7PsX). Used by permission and adapted, with final paragraph by Rachel Bouwkamp.
One way we can join in the work God is doing in this world is through the giving of our financial gifts. Let them be an expression of our lived “amen.”
[During the offering, pictures of the graduates were projected.]
As you leave today, go with this blessing from God:
May God himself,
the God who makes everything holy and whole,
make you holy and whole,
put you together—spirit, soul, and body—
and keep you fit for the coming of our Master,
The One who called you is completely dependable.
If he said it, he’ll do it!
—1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.
Amen, Father, on your planning.
Amen, for you’ll see us through.
Amen, when the cross lies heavy.
Amen everything you do.
—Stanley Wiersma, “Amen, Father,” used with permission. LUYH 916