Sunday Worship – 28th May 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) or Hymns & Psalms (H&P) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Northcliffe Church, Shipley, a local ecumenical partnership between the Methodist and United Reformed Churches and led by Rev Nick Blundell, one of our Circuit Ministers.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

Today is Pentecost, when we find the disciples of Jesus being filled dramatically with God’s Holy Spirit, and hearing good news in a language they can understand.

Call to worship

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Song – H& P 295 or StF 395  Spirit of the living God

Song – StF 385 Holy Spirit, we welcome you

Holy Spirit, we welcome you,
Holy Spirit, we welcome you!
Move amongst us with holy fire
As we lay aside all earthly desire,
Hands reach out and our hearts aspire
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, we welcome you!

Holy Spirit, we welcome you,
Holy Spirit, we welcome you!
Let the breeze of your presence blow
That your children here might truly know
How to move in the spirit’s flow.
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, we welcome you!

Holy Spirit, we welcome you,
Holy Spirit, we welcome you!
Please accomplish in us today
Some new work of loving grace, we pray-
Unreservedly have your way
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, we welcome you!

(Chris Bowater)

Gathering Prayer
Lord, be here with us today.
Let us hear you speaking with words we understand, deep in our being.
As we hear your voice, comfort, encourage, challenge and motivate us.
May your Holy Spirit inspire us, unite us and guide us.
Breathe on us afresh.
Renew our hope in your love and resurrection.
Speak new life to everyone, wherever they are in the world.        Amen.


Acts 2: 1-21

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.       Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.   Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’


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.

Song – HP 617 or StF 594 (omit v2) Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us  


Speaking your language

The city of Jerusalem, as we meet it in the Acts of the Apostles, has become relatively diverse, with a variety of cultural practices and a plethora of languages.  Since the time of Moses, and the making of the Covenant, Israel, or its people, had spread across the world. Many had returned, bringing new customs and tongues with them.  Pentecost, originally a harvest festival, had become a time to celebrate the covenant, and for the dispersed Jews to revisit the holy city, to remember who they were.    You would hear a lot of languages spoken in the buzz of the festival, family groups talking in their particular dialects, as well as the more common currency languages of Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.      

Into the buzz of this existing festival comes the dramatic event which we might call the Christian Pentecost. Fifty days (the pent in Pentecost) from Passover to harvest has become 50 days of Easter – resurrection, ascension, and now, as the city finds itself in festival mode, the coming of God’s Spirit.

Luke paints a dramatic picture.  Wind and fire had been part of God’s appearance to Moses on Mount Sinai, and the same elements are present here. A violent wind from heaven, tongues of fire as it were anointing the apostle – the writer is making clear that the events of this day have deep and lasting significance, with the same God acting here as acted all those years ago on Sinai.  And as the covenant made there had become central to the identity of old Israel, so the gift given here is key to, what in our day we might describe as the dna of the new Israel, that is, the new community of those who would live their lives as believers in Jesus Christ. The same Jesus who had been crucified, but raised from death, who had spoken of the gift promised by his Father, namely, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.     On this day, this gift is given.               

And with this gift, alongside the drama of wind and fire, comes language.   The apostles, filled with God’s Spirit, ‘speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.’   And all those people, from all those places, from Parthia to Arabia and everywhere between, each of them hears them speaking in their own language, and understands.                                                               

It’s difficult to gauge, at this distance, how miraculous this experience was.  We might downplay it, seeing a situation where everybody helped each other to understand, where actions spoke more loudly than words, where a quality of community in which all were welcome was already evident, where those who heard knew deeply that the message was for them.  Or we might take it at face value, listening as God enables this diverse gathering to simply understand, makes it possible for each to hear their heart language being spoken.                                                                                                                                                                            Whatever conclusion we come to as to the miraculous, it seems to me that two things are given to us here which we cannot ignore.  Firstly, that part of God’s purpose in giving the Holy Spirit is to enable the communication of God’s blessing, that God intends that the message of love and peace and promise be heard and understood by each person in the language of their heart.  Secondly, that part of our response to the presence of God’s Spirit in our hearts is to be open to God enabling us to speak of love in language that others can understand.

When we say that a person is ‘speaking my language’, we are usually talking about a sense of connection.  The idea that we hold something in common. This might be partly about vocabulary, the words and grammar we use, or don’t use, but it’s deeper than that.  There’s something about shared experience, something about hearing and being heard.

As people belonging to that new community of those who would live their lives as believers in Jesus Christ, now gifted with God’s Spirit, we ask that God might enable us to speak the language of those whom the Spirit calls us to serve.  This will mean acknowledging our common human experience, those things that unite us, while being careful with the language we use, being selective with churchy jargon, avoiding assumptions about religious knowledge, both its presence and its absence.    It will mean listening more than speaking, being ready to learn, taking seriously the insights and experience of the other.   We can only speak of love if we are prepared to evidence it.    People hear enough lies in the world, only the truth can set you free.

On this day of Pentecost, may we hear afresh in mind and heart the news of God’s love for us, and know its truth deep within.   And may we, knowing the presence of God’s Spirit in our hearts, find ourselves speaking of God’s love naturally to others, in language they can understand.


Offertory prayer
Holy God, you give all good gifts, even yourself, in Saviour and Spirit.            
On this Day of Pentecost we praise and thank you, rejoicing in your inexhaustible generosity.
As wind blows and fire burns, clear the cobwebs, warm our hearts, ignite our imaginations.                          Direct us to those who are seeking truth, and help us to speak the language of your love into their hearts.     Amen.

Song – HP 377 or StF 726 Come to us, Creative spirit 


Creator God, who breathes life into creation, as we praise you for all you have made,                
we acknowledge that we have failed to properly value and care for the earth and each other.         
Forgive us, reform us, reshape us.   May your Spirit touch our hearts with love.

Saviour God, who takes our pain into yourself, as we praise you for all that you carry for us,                  
we acknowledge that we are not good at carrying the pain of others, hesitant to help, unwilling to hear difficult truths.  
Forgive us, reform us, reshape us.   May your Spirit touch our hearts with love.

Translating Spirit, who fashions connection, community, co-operation, as we praise you for all that you make possible, we acknowledge our tendency to misunderstand and our willingness to build walls rather than bridges.  
Forgive us, reform us, reshape us.   May your Spirit touch our hearts with love.

God who is community, three-in-one, one-in-three, as we praise you for who you are, we are reminded that we, despite our faults and failings, are held in your love and part of your purpose.               
Fill us again with the life of your Spirit.                                                                                         
Forgive us, reform us, reshape us.   May your Spirit touch our hearts with love.

We pray for those on our hearts.  In a moment of quiet, we remember before God those who are hurting……………….. anxious…………… lonely…………….. waiting……………….. grieving…………………………               For those we have brought to mind, we ask blessing, and we open ourselves to the Spirit’s leading as to how we might be part of the answer to our prayer.

We pray for places in the news.  In a moment of quiet, we remember before God places where there is conflict……………….. hunger ……………………….. extreme weather………………………persecution………………………  For those situations we have brought to mind, and those we have forgotten as the news cycle turns, we ask blessing, and we open ourselves to the Spirit’s leading as to how we might be part of the answer to our prayer.

We pray for those waiting for us to reveal something of God’s love for them, in word or action.  As churches, and as individuals, we open ourselves to the Spirit’s prompting, and ask that confidence, wisdom, sensitivity, generosity be granted to us that we might speak and act in the language of love.                          

We pray for ourselves, offering to God thanks for the blessings we have received, and asking for the help we need each day.  Particularly we ask for strength to fulfil the responsibilities entrusted to us, and peace as we face life’s difficulties and disasters.    In all things may we hear the whisper of God’s love.

We bring our prayers with the Spirit’s help and in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We share together in praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Song – HP 704 or StF 563 O Jesus I have promised

Sending and blessing

Above the buzz of the world’s noise, may you hear the clear sound of the Spirit’s voice.

In the mass of media messages, may you discern that which matters.

In the words you hear and speak today, may the truth of God and the accent of love be heard.

And the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, remain with us, and all those we love, now and always.   Amen.                                                 

(CCLI 119945. Service prepared by Rev’d Nick Blundell 8 Cecil Ave, BD17 5LH.)

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