Readings for the week of May 20, 2018

Happy Birthday! A greeting we like to hear. This greeting is appropriate because Pentecost Sunday is considered to be the birthday of the church! Pentecost occurs 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus, and is the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 followers of Jesus. To say that the Holy Spirit changed the world through the followers of Jesus would be an understatement. Now through the message of Christians the Good News of Jesus is reaching throughout the world, and people are turning to the Lord in repentance and faith. Let us be part of this great mission to bring Jesus to the people of the world.
Pentecost Sunday is also considered to be the birthday of New Beginnings Lutheran Church, as the first worship service of this new gathering occurred on Pentecost Sunday in 2012. Happy Birthday New Beginnings!

The First Reading is recorded in Ezekiel 37:1-14. This is a strange, but very powerful passage. The context is that many of the people of God have been exiled to Babylon following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. While in Babylon the people began to lose hope of ever returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple and their lives. In the midst of their despair, the Lord gave Ezekiel this wonderful experience. At first it is frightening. Ezekiel is set down in the midst of a valley filled with human bones – dried, disarticulated, grotesque; for Ezekiel to be there would make him ritually unclean. Ezekiel is in a place where there is no life and no hope. Ezekiel is asked if the bones can live – he evades the question, putting it back on the Lord. He is then told to prophesy to the bones. When he does, and the breath/wind/Spirit of God comes, the bones, now covered with flesh and skin, live. The people of Israel who were in exile in Babylon felt as if they were dead, completely cut off from God, but with God nothing is impossible. When Babylon was defeated, Cyrus of Persia allowed the people of God to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. When we feel as if we are dead inside, even very dry, remember that the Holy Spirit of God is alive and active, and gives us new life each day through Jesus.
Holy Spirit, breathe on us each day and renew our life in Christ. Be our hope, life, and inspiration as we follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior. When we feel dried up inside, refresh us with the Good News of Your love for us in Jesus. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Today’s Psalm, 139:1-12 (13-16), is one of the most beautiful psalms in the Bible. Psychologists tell us that each person has four dimensions of their personality: what the person and everyone else knows about that person, what the person knows about themselves that no one else knows, what others know about the person that they do not know about themselves, and what neither the person nor others know about the person. This psalm tells us that God knows ALL about us, nothing is hidden from Him. Notice the comfort and joy the psalmist has in knowing that God knows him like no other, that the psalmist is always in the presence of the Lord. Let us be comforted with the truth that God knows us better than anyone, that He loves us in Jesus, and that He is with us every moment of every day.
Lord God, You know us better than we know ourselves. That realization gives us both comfort and concern. You know our needs and failings, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and shattered dreams, and our sinfulness. As the One Who knows us better than we ourselves, turn our eyes to You, open our eyes, ears, hearts, and lives to You so that we see Your steadfast love and mercy in Jesus. Draw us to You Who loves us more than we can imagine and comprehend. Amen.

The Second Reading, Acts 2:1-21, is the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Notice that when the Holy Spirit came, things happened! There was the sound of a mighty wind (wind, breath, spirit are translations of the same word in both Hebrew (ruah), and Greek (pneuma)). There was visual evidence – tongues as of fire over each one. And they began to speak; later we are told they proclaimed the mighty deeds of God. When the Holy Spirit comes there is sound – proclamation of God’s mighty deeds, and visual evidence – the people of God doing His actions in the world. In Baptism we have been filled with God’s Holy Spirit, let the Spirit be shown forth in our words and actions. Holy Spirit, refresh us again today, fill us with Your presence each day. Let our words and actions proclaim the mighty deeds of God. Work in the lives of those who see and hear and draw them to Jesus, the only Lord and Savior. Amen.

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prepared His disciples for the events of the next few days, and for the rest of their lives. In today’s Gospel, John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. Notice the work of the Holy Spirit, and the work of the followers of Jesus, to bear witness to Jesus. Are you doing Holy Spirit work? Do you bear witness to Jesus by words and actions?
Notice that the work of the Holy Spirit is to point to Jesus and all people’s need of Him as Lord and Savior. Let us be used by the Holy Spirit in pointing to Jesus.
Lord Jesus, all thanks and praise to You for sending the Holy Spirit to us Your people. Let Your Spirit always work in us to keep us in faith, hope, and love. Through the work of the Holy Spirit draw people to Yourself as they see their need of a Savior and Lord. Amen.

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