This short, simple script begins with the Jesus’ promises concerning the Holy Spirit at the Last Supper, journeys through Jesus’ promise before his ascension, and on to the fulfillment of those promises on the day of Pentecost.
Reader’s Theater: The Promises of Pentecost
Scriptures: John 14: 16, 17, 26; 16:13; Acts 1:5-8; Acts 2:1-21
adapted from the New Revised Standard Version
Parts: 2 Readers, Jesus, Peter
On the night in which he gave himself up for us, Jesus promised,
JESUS: John 14:16, 17, 26; 16:13, NRSV
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth… the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
On the day in which he ascended to heaven, Jesus promised,
JESUS: Acts 1:5-8 NRSV, selected verses
John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…. you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Ten days later, Jesus fulfilled his promises.
READER TWO: Acts 2:1-21, NRSV
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound, the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked,
Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,
Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Adapted from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
– Isaiah 11:2
Holy Spirit, rest on me and bring me rest
A peace that passes understanding
A peace beyond circumstance and season
A peace deep within
Stillness in the storm
Holy Spirit, rest on me and ready me
A strong foundation, solid and steadfast
Seeing as you see
Your mind and heart within me
Hearing and heading your counsel
Wisdom of the ages
Divine and life-giving and intimate
Speak, I’m listening
Holy Spirit, rest on me and release me
Empowered by your might, steadfast and vulnerable
Strength of soul and character
Strength of virtue and honor
Strength to build up and make way
Your truth pouring forth, generous and creative
Awakening and instructing and sustaining
Holy Spirit, I ask this humbly
For your honor and glory alone. Amen.
Colorblindness affects 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world. Most people see 10 million shades of color. A colorblind person only sees around 100,000 shades.
A company named EnChroma invented glasses to help colorblind people see color. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube recording the emotions of people seeing color for the first time. Here’s one of them.
Like these glasses, stories have the power to help us see, open our eyes, wake us up.
Sermon recording starts here
This morning, we’ll read a story from the prophet Nathan, praying God will use it to open our eyes and souls. As I read it, close your eyes and imagine the story.
After I read it, I’ll give you some questions to think about. This is not a quiz. Just jot down some impressions.
If you know the story or the reason the prophet Nathan told this story and who he told it to, set that aside for a moment. Look at it with fresh eyes. No spoilers for the rest of us
The Story of the Poor Man’s Lamb. 2 Samuel 12:1-4, The Voice Translation 1…Two men lived in the same city. One was quite rich and the other quite poor; 2 the rich man’s wealth included livestock with many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man owned only one little ewe lamb. He bought it and raised it in his family, with his children, like a pet. It used to eat what little food he had, drink from his meager cup, and snuggle against him. It was like a daughter to him.
4 Now a traveler came to the city to visit the rich man. To offer a proper welcome, the rich man knew he needed to fix a meal, but he did not want to take one of the animals from his flocks and herds. So instead he stole the poor man’s ewe lamb and had it killed and cooked for his guest.
What do you love as deeply as the poor man loved his lamb?
When you think about the rich man’s actions, what feelings are stirred up inside you?
Read the story again
How is the story speaking to situations in our country?
How is the story speaking to you?
Stories are powerful. They have the ability to help us see, to open our eyes, to wake us up. A story can help us better understand a situation, see something from another person’s perspective, or see our own prejudice and sin.
Stories like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood warns us about the abuse of power, the abuse of the Scriptures. How horrible injustices like slavery, oppression, and rape can become institutionalized with a society.
Stories by Dr. Seuss. I am The Lorax, I speak for the trees
What stories have opened you up, opened your eyes, awakened you to something going on in the world or going on within yourself?
The Scriptures are very powerful for doing this. The Bible is unlike any other book you will ever read. God’s Word is living, active. God communicates with us through the Scriptures.
If you go to the Bible looking for history or science, you will be disappointed. But if you go to the Scriptures looking for God, you will find God. By reading the Scriptures we learn what God’s voice sounds like. We learn the character of God.
God speaks to our souls and our character. It’s why we need to be reading the Scriptures regularly and reading the Scriptures with others. We read so it becomes more than head knowledge, it goes deep to become heart knowledge and soul knowledge. It brings a change in our life.
2 Samuel 12:1-15
The prophet Nathan tells this story to King David. David has an emotional reaction to this story, just as you did. He is awakened inside.
5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
David is read to ask, “Who is this?” David’s going to hold him accountable.
7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
It’s a hit in the chest at this point. Truth bomb.
Nathan reminds David who he really is. What David has done is out of character. David’s become something twisted, having done great evil and sin.
Nathan is a close, good, faithful friend to speak the truth to David so he can be awakened to his true self, so he can see what he has done.
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. ….
Nathan lays it all out. I know exactly what you have done.
David, the one who is called the man after God’s own heart.
The faithful shepherd boy who defeats the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone
Who then becomes the leader of the armies of Israel, a brave warrior who leads them to great victories in the Name of God.
Who is chased by a jealous and violent King Saul. Does David fight him or take revenge on him? No, David forgives him and proclaims again he is Saul’s servant. David is a humble, disciplined man.
When Saul is dead, God raises up David to be King. David unites all the tribes of God’s people, bringing them into one nation. David sets up the capitol in Jerusalem and in the center of the capital, David places the ark of the covenant where the presence and worship of God will take place.
David, the one who writes many of the Psalms we still read today.
David, who dances with abandon in the worship of Almighty God.
David who has many wives and could snap his fingers and have even more.
David, who is now king, abuses his power. He looks down from his palace and sees Bathsheba bathing. (How crazy is it that Nathan doesn’t use her name!)
David sees her and wants her and summons her. What can she do? Nothing because he is the king. He rapes her. He commits adultery. Then she gets pregnant.
From there it gets worse and worse. There’s deceit. There are lies. Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, is brought home. David tries to cover it up by manipulating Uriah, but it doesn’t happen. He’s a man of integrity.
So David basically puts out a mob hit on him, sending him back to battle in the very front of the line, knowing he’ll be killed, so he can marry Bathsheba.
It is awful. He has stolen the poor man’s lamb. A man who was faithful to fight for his country.
Nathan is calling him out on it. Because that’s what friends do and that’s what prophets do and that’s what a story does. A story opens us up to where we have blindspots. David is totally blind to how twisted he has become.
Nathan reminds David who is truly is. This is who you are and this is what God has done for you. What you have done is evil.
What does David do? David repents.13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Our sin does not just affect ourselves, it ripples. Look at all the lives- Bathsheba’s life, Uriah’s life, the lives of all the insiders who knew what was really going on in a breach of trust. It ripples all the way up to God. It breaks relationship.
God through Nathan calls David back to himself.
This is not a fairy tale. David repents and everything’s all right. It isn’t all right. The consequences of his actions ripple and tear his family apart. It’s a mess. God redeems it.
This is the power of a story. This is why we stay in God’s Word. This is why we have close friends who are going to speak the truth in love to us and call us back to ourselves. And this is why we worship the One, True, Living God who speaks us and forgives us and gives us eyes to see.
Do you want eyes to see? We live in a time where we need to be awake and alive and true and trustworthy. We need to be the people of hope. We need to be the people of integrity. We need to stay awake to all that’s going on because we have the Word of Life.
How did the story speak to you? Did it speak to you personally? A family, business, community, or national level? What is God calling you to do?
Prayer: God we thank you for speaking to us. It is amazing that you would want to have anything to do with us. Your love is that great and your patience is that great and your mercy is that great. We thank you that we can come to you just as we are. That we don’t have to hide. We don’t have to pretend. We pray for eyes to see. Awaken us and keep us woke. Give us a story to share, a story of mercy and grace and forgiveness. A story of new life and hope and truth and justice. A story of belonging. Thank you, Lord. Make us new. Give us eyes to see. Amen.
Sermon Series: Parables Message 2 of 4: The Valley of Dry Bones
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/4/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. There is no recording of this message.
Ezekiel is a wild book of the Bible, full of powerful visions and dramatic choices. It’s also a book of hope. Today, we need a word of hope for so many reasons, including the mass shootings which took place in El Paso and Dayton.
Imagine yourself around age 25, living in the big city, the capital of your country. All your life you’ve known what you’re going to do- go into the family business. This blessing would bring you purpose and position, financial security and a bright future.
One day all of it crashes. A mighty foreign power invades, but they don’t destroy the city. Instead, they gut the hope out of the people by kidnaping the best and brightest of the young people. You are taken far from home, those you love, and your future.
This is what’s happened to Ezekiel. He thought he would become a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. Instead, he’s taken into exile in Babylon.
The Book of Ezekiel starts 5 years later. Ezekiel is at a refugee camp by a river in Babylon. It’s his 30th birthday, the time when he was supposed to start serving as a priest. The time his life was supposed to begin.
Ezekiel has a vision – 4 powerful creatures, each with 4 faces, traveling in formation. Underneath them are wheels. They form a divine chariot for God’s royal throne. The very presence of God rests there.
In this overwhelming moment, God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet instead of a priest. God tells Ezekiel to speak truth, to speak out against violence, injustice, and the worship of false gods, to call people back to remembrance and repentance and relationship with God.
Ezekiel begins to speak the truth to everyone- no one listens, their hearts are hard. This goes on for years. Ezekiel stays true.
Ezekiel is also called by God to proclaim another attack is coming to Jerusalem and this time everything will be destroyed. Ezekiel’s prophesy comes true- Babylon attacks again. People of God are murdered and scattered. Jerusalem is destroyed, including the temple-
the center of government,
the needed place for forgiveness and cleansing and thanksgiving and praise
the home of the presence of the One True Living God
Ezekiel wonders – Is God done with us? Have we blown it for good? Too much sin, apathy, worshipping false gods…
The question is fresh for us.
Is God done with my nation?
Growing secularization and apathy towards God.
The polarization based on economics, race, age, political party
Wars and rumors of wars
44 mass shootings in the last month
Is God done with the church?
Is God done with me?
Often heard people say, “If I walked into a church, the roof would cave in.”
I don’t think I want a conversation with God because I don’t want to hear what God would say to me.
Is God done? The resounding answer of God is NO! I’m going to do something new.
It’s not because we are deserving or worthy. It’s not because we’ve said the magic words or earned it with a magic sacrifice.
It’s because this is God’s character. God’s being. God says this is who I am. I am the One who makes all things new. I am the One who creates. I am the One who saves and I do not change.
The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) Notice how often the spirit appears in this passage!
1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
Very Many Bones- it takes time to tour the valley. Reinforces the loss.
Very Dry Bones- the people have been dead a long time, the bones are picked clean, bleached white
Rebellion against God brings death
Death of Ezekiel’s dream to be a priest
Death of home, of life the Promised Land
Death of Jerusalem and Death of the Temple
Death of many people
Death of the covenant? God says, “No!” and God creates.
3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them:
This is how God creates, God speaks. Consider the creation story in Genesis and Jesus the Word made flesh.
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
God speaks and there is breath and life and holiness and goodness. God does this for us. In our dryness, our desert, our death, God speaks.
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
They lived and they stood. They stand, withstand, and stand firm. They were not just flesh and bone, not the walking dead. Now they were bone and breath and life.
11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’
Have you ever had that voice running through your head? I’m just dried up, no good, all is hopeless, a lost cause, no one to help me, no one who loves me, this bad choice will haunt me forever. That isn’t the voice of God.
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber Quote: God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions, and God keeps loving us back to life over and over again.
12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
We will know that we know that we know.
It’s not enough for us to try harder and do better. We surrender into life by the breath of God.
Our God is a God of creation, a God of life – just like Genesis 2, just like the raising of Lazarus, just like Pentecost, just like the resurrection of Jesus, God brings life to our bones. Not just bones but breath.
God cleansing. God breathing. God creating. God resurrecting.
Let us breathe and be full of hope. God is not done with us. We’ve got work to do. To help other folks find what’s found us. We are the people of hope.
Sermon Series: Parables Message 1 of 4: The Plumb Line
Scripture: Amos 7:8
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/28/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
Rev. Jose Nieves
Pastor First UMC, Kissimmee
Leads school/church partnerships with several local schools
A faithful man of God, a powerful man of prayer
Two weeks ago, preacher for the High School students, while I was the preacher for the middle school students at camp
One morning at camp, I see him, he looks awful. I thought he was sick.
He was brokenhearted- Up late following the developments in Puerto Rico
He was born there and much of his family still lives there
I suspect you’re brokenhearted over Puerto Rico as well
The recent confirmation of extensive corruption among the ruling elite
Extortion, Fraud, Favoritism, Mishandling public funds
The injustice, abuse, and neglect are hard to take. It rends your heart. But at the root of what makes this possible, is how the ruling elite viewed those they were elected to serve.
The revelation of deep-seated disrespect, mocking, contempt of the people, people still trying to recover from hurricanes
People rose up, they joined together and used their voice to speak out against the evil, the injustice, the oppression, and the devaluing of human beings. The people rose up and became prophets. They spoke. truth to power and called for change.
A prophet is empowered by God and called by God to speak truth to power. This is hard, uncomfortable work. It takes tremendous faith and courage and discipline to speak what people don’t want to hear, but need to hear.
How many of us like to read the Old Testament prophets? Not many. It’s hard to read them, the level of truth-telling and pain.
We’ll be spending time with the Old Testament prophets for the next few weeks. The prophets feel very fresh in our day and time. We need to read the prophets regularly.
I need their example of truth-telling and courage. I need the reminder as a child of the One, True, Living God, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I too have a calling to be prophetic. To use my resources, and my influence, and my resources, and my voice to speak out against evil, injustice, and oppression. It’s a part of our calling as the people of God.
I need to hear their message. This is what happens to the people of God when things get twisted and crooked and we lose our way. I need the reminder so I don’t do it. And so that I don’t condone it by my silence and my apathy.
Some of you are asking, but I thought we were going to be studying parables? We are: Old Testament Parables
Parables are stories and metaphors with deep spiritual meaning
Parables are used by prophets to help people listen; to call people to justice, righteousness, and action.
Where do you think Jesus got the idea to use parables? From the prophets!
Amos helps us to have a heart after God’s heart, not a crooked twisted heart.
Amos was a very ordinary person. A shepherd and sycamore-fig farmer.
Called by God to be a prophet (not his family business, not a professional corrupted prophet)
Lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, traveled to Bethel in the northern Kingdom of Israel to speak truth to power
That power was King Jeroboam II
Powerful King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
Successful military leader
enlarged their territory
generated great wealth for some, a ruling elite
Misused his power as king of God’s people
Promoted the worship of false gods. As the worship became false, twisted and corrupted, so did their hearts.
Promoted corrupt, predatory business practices, an injustice especially harmful to the poor
Amos 8:4-6, The Voice. Like a bowl of ripe fruit, the time was ripe. God would overlook their injustice no longer
4 Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor to ruin, 5 Who asks, “When will the new moon festival be done so we can sell our grain? And when will the Sabbath end so we can sell our wheat? Then we can tamper with our scales and make the bushel measure smaller and the counterweight heavier to cheat our customers. 6 We can buy the needy for silver and the poor and their property for the price of a pair of sandals. We can even sell the chaff we sweep up as grain.”
False weights and measures, selling food that was inedible, human trafficking, taking over people’s property and lives
People with voice and influence were either and active part of the corruption or fat, happy and apathetic to it.
I read that and ask, “Lord is that me?”
Amos begins speaking out against the injustice. Speaks truth to power so things can change.
How could this injustice come from people who were once denied justice and enslaved in Egypt?
How could this be if you are children of Abraham, chosen and privileged and covenanted to be a blessing to the nations, to care for the stranger and the poor, to proclaim the salvation of God in word and deed?
How could you do this to fellow human beings beloved of God, made in the very image of God?
How could this happen if you still worship the One True Living God who rescued you from oppression and established you in the Promised Land?
That was the problem- Their worship was full of hypocrisy, all show. We show something but it’s not the truth of our hearts and souls. It was crooked and their hearts grew crooked
People faithfully attended worship- making offerings and ritual sacrifices
Yet became apathetic to injustice or downright embraced injustice
Their worship did not change their actions, affect their choices, give them eyes to see every single person as a beloved child of God worthy respect, dignity, and access to resources we all need.
Their worship was disconnected from how they treated people
Lord is that me?
Amos 5:21-24, NRSV 21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Righteousness = right relationship. Equal, compassionate treatment no matter the social differences
Justice = concrete actions to create righteousness. Right relationship in action. Love in action. God’s beauty, power, and grace in action flowing through us.
Our of our worship flows right relationship with others, ourselves, and the earth.
When we see something that isn’t right we act, we speak, we do something to make it right. The flow of worship in right relationship and justice.
Isaiah 28:17, NIV. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.
This is probably the most famous image from the prophet Amos. Someone reminded me you could use a plumb bob as a weapon. It’s heavy and pointed.
Its proper use for thousands of years is to make sure what’s being built stays true. If the ground is uneven, what you’re building can stay true if you use a plumb line. If we just eyeball it, it will be crooked.
No matter how you twist or swing a plumb line it will quickly return to true.
Amos 7:8, The Voice. Eternal One: What do you see, Amos? Amos: A plumb line. Eternal One: Watch what I’m about to do! I am going to put a plumb line up against My people Israel to see what is straight and true, And I will not look the other way any longer.
What would it be like for God to hold a plumb line up next to our lives, up next to our hearts? Would they be shown to be true? Would they be shown living and flowing with grace, hope, justice, and mercy out of the very worship of God?
Or would they be shown to be twisted and crooked?
We do not have to shy away from allowing God to hold up a plumb line to us. With God, there is always the chance for change, for mercy, redemption, forgiveness. The chance to repent and turn. The chance for the healing of our hearts.
May we accept our calling to live true. To be a prophet of God. To walk alongside another. To give voice to one who has no voice.
What keeps you up at night saying, “God something should be done about this?” God is calling you to action.
Lord, help us to hear the call. To lead a life worthy of the call and the grace and hope we’ve found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The closing prayer is based on this devotion by Steve Garnaas Holmes.
A plumb line held straight
by the gravity of love,
without curve or spin of human twist,
plumb line of blessing
unbowed by curse,
unbent by fear or greed,
plumb line seeking, unerring, the center,
all creatures’ belovedness and belonging,
the wellbeing of all Creation.
Measure your acts, O human,
judge your policies, O Nation,
by this and no other.
Does it bless without cursing?
Does it serve without stealing?
Does it join and not divide?
God’s plumb line
will not slide sideways
to favor some over others,
but loves all dearly;
it will not sway to sacrifice one’s thriving
for another’s desires.
The ground is uneven but the line is set.
The corrupt tilt their heads;
the wise discern
and build accordingly.