Meditations for Pentecost 2021 (Year B)
By Rev. Greg Karlsgodt
Day of Pentecost, May 23: Acts 2:1-21
The season of Pentecost is the longest of the church year. The liturgical color is green, which symbolizes growth (of the Church). It begins with the story of the apostles (“sent-out-ones”) being touched by the Holy Spirit’s power enabling them to speak the languages represented by all the Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the annual celebration of Pentecost (a Thanksgiving festival for the spring harvest and Thanksgiving for the Torah). Thousands of the Jews came to believe in Christ as the long-awaited Messiah as a result; and Pentecost then became the birthday party for the Christian Church. The gift of faith continues to be a mystery: some believe; others do not. We know, however, from our own experience that it is not always so black and white. Some days our faith is strong; other days it seems puny. The Gospel readings during the season of Pentecost are stories of people who respond to Jesus in various ways: some are intrigued with him; some believe in him; others are offended by him; and some want him snuffed out. Throughout the Book of Acts (of God) the Holy Spirit empowers followers of Christ to carry on his ministry – even against huge obstacles!
Prayer: Thank you, Holy Spirit, for using ordinary people to do extraordinary acts. Help us to trust in you to direct and to empower us as well.
Holy Trinity, May 30: John 3:1-17
Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish governing body), comes to Jesus by night and tells him that the signs (miracles) Jesus has done demonstrate that he is a teacher from God. Jesus uses the opportunity to tell Nicodemus that one must be “born of water and the spirit” to enter the kingdom of God.” The apostle John then proclaims what Luther called the “Gospel in miniature”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we marvel at the simplicity of the Gospel and how it has power to transform us and others.
2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 6: Mark 3:20-35
How ironic: the scribes (and other Jewish leaders) regard Jesus as being anti-God because he has broken Sabbath laws and cleanliness rituals; but they are really the ones who are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit! Jesus was sent to heal the sick, cast out demons, feed the hungry, befriend the outcasts, and proclaim God’s love and forgiveness. He welcomes into God’s family all who yearn to be included and who desire to live as loving, caring servants. God’s Kingdom, after all is governed more by love than by the law.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, move us to pattern ourselves after the loving, sacrificing Lord Jesus Christ so that we are constantly seeking to serve others in his name.
3rd Sunday after Pentecost, June 13: Mark 4:26-34
Jesus tells two parables (heavenly truths told in an earthly way) to illustrate the Kingdom of God (i.e. God’s gracious way of ruling or dealing with us). The Growing Seed parable is a good reminder for us that the power to make God’s Kingdom grow is in divine hands instead of in our hands. The Mustard Seed parable tells us that God’s Kingdom may appear to be small and insignificant; but it will grow into something magnificently beyond our dreams!
Prayer: We are encouraged, Lord, by your assurance that God’s Kingdom will grow. Please include us in on the growth.
4th Sunday after Pentecost, June 20: Mark 4:35-41
Jesus calms a storm on Lake Galilee showing his power over the wind and waves. Just as the disciples had a chance to learn that every storm that comes is an opportunity to trust in God rather than to succumb to fear; so we can learn and relearn the same lesson.
Prayer: Transform our fear into faith, O Lord.
5th Sunday after Pentecost, June 27: Mark 5:21-43
The 12 year old daughter of Jairus is at the point of death. Jairus begs Jesus to heal her. While on his way, Jesus is interrupted by a woman with a 12 year non-stop menstrual flow. She is bankrupt from medical expenses and, therefore, desperate. She touches his cloak and is immediately healed. She then falls down before him with fear and trembling. Jesus declares, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace…” Then he overhears that the 12 year old girl has died. He says to her father: “Do not fear, only believe.” Next Jesus goes to her home and raises her back to life. From fear to faith is a repeated theme in the Gospel of Mark!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, exchange our spiritual timidity with boldness, knowing that you will respond to our requests.
6th Sunday after Pentecost, July 4: Mark 6:1-13
Jesus is in his home territory. The people take offence because they cannot see beyond his being a local. In spite of their unbelief, however, Jesus does heal a few of the sick; and he sends out his 12 disciples to preach repentance, cast out demons, and heal the sick as he has. We see how Jesus hands over his ministry to his followers. Consider how we are used by the Great Physician to carry on his healing ministry today – even in ways we may not be aware.
Prayer: Lord, we need to be reminded that you have handed your ministry over to us. Empower and inspire us, we pray, to be healing hands, ears, and mouths.
7th Sunday after Pentecost, July 11: Mark 6:14-29
King Herod is ruled by fear because he has a guilty conscience for having John the Baptizer executed. He fears that Jesus is John reincarnated! Consider how faith frees; while guilt and fear enslave!
Prayer: Gracious God, move us to bring our wrongs to the cross so they may be exchanged for your love, forgiveness, and freedom.
8th Sunday after Pentecost, July 18: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
People were flocking to see Jesus, to be healed by him and to have their family and friends healed by him as well. Wherever Jesus went with his disciples – even into the wilderness for some R & R – the crowds found them. “…he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
Prayer: We desperately need you, Lord, as our Shepherd. Please lead us; and help us to trust in you in all that we say and do.
9th Sunday after Pentecost, July 25: John 6:1-21
The number 5,000 only included the men. When you add the women and children who also were there, the size of that crowd increases tremendously. With one lunch (5 barley leaves and 2 fish) everyone is fed; and there are leftovers!! This is another “sign” that Jesus was truly sent by God. Then, in the midst of a storm while the disciples are crossing Lake Galilee in a boat, Jesus calms their fear by walking out to them and getting in. Do we dare to trust Jesus to use us and our meager means to feed the hungry and to offer the assurance of Christ’s peace during the storms?
Prayer: You are calling us, Lord, to feed the hungry. Help us to gladly do so, knowing that you will multiply whatever we share and will draw the spiritually hungry to yourself.
10th Sunday after Pentecost, August 1: John 6:24-35
Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’. He is far more that a food dispenser; he is the very source of life – an abundant life – now and forever!
Prayer: Empower us, Holy Spirit, to offer the Bread of Life to those around us.
11th Sunday after Pentecost: August 8: John 6:35, 41-51
Holy Communion takes on deeper meaning and significance as we take in the words of Christ: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven…whoever eats of this bread will live forever…”
Prayer: May we taste your love, forgiveness, and sacrifice, Lord. May we savor and digest your gift of abundant life as we partake of your body and blood.
12th Sunday after Pentecost: August 15: John 6:51-59
God wanted to get up close and personal, so our heavenly Father sent his beloved Son, Jesus. God continues to offer that personal touch through the Lord’s Supper!
Prayer: Fill us, Lord, with your love and grace. Flow through our veins and hearts and take over our minds and bodies.
13th Sunday after Pentecost: August 22: John 6:56-69
Who else has the words of eternal life! We have been chosen to share these words with those who are dying to hear them.
Prayer: Inspire us, Incarnate Word, to be bold in our witness, knowing that you will use us as channels of your love.
14th Sunday after Pentecost: August 29: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Jesus emphasizes that IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS rather than merely observing religious rituals and traditions. He confronts those who are so intent on doing the right thing, they lose sight of the spirit of the law i.e. to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Prayer: Inspire us to reach out and serve others, O Lord, rather than dwell on ourselves.
15th Sunday after Pentecost: September 5: Mark 7: 24-37
The mother who asks Jesus to heal her daughter is a Gentile. Her faith and persistence are in sharp contrast to the doubts and hostility of many of the Jews.
Prayer: Give us boldness and patience as we come to you in prayer, O Lord.
16th Sunday after Pentecost, September 12: Mark 8:27-38
On their way to a famous Greek and Roman pagan shrine Jesus pops the big question: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responds: “You are the Messiah (Christ).” But as soon as Jesus explains that he will suffer, be rejected by Jewish leaders and die, Peter rebukes him for saying such a horrible thing. Then Jesus rebukes Peter and calls him “Satan” for limiting his thinking to human ways and closing his mind to God’s plan. He calls all of us to lose ourselves for his sake and for the sake of the Gospel.
Prayer: May we not stand in your way, Lord, but rather follow you into loving service.
17th Sunday after Pentecost: September 19: Mark 9:30-37
Greatness comes, Jesus explains, in being a servant and putting one’s own needs aside for the sake of others. This is the way of the cross.
Prayer: Help us learn the joy of serving and sacrificing in your name, O Lord.
18th Sunday after Pentecost: September 26: Mark 9:38-50
We are called by our Lord to opt for compassion and cooperation rather than competition. His way of life leads to a loving, caring, peaceful community!
Prayer: Exchange our yearning to win with a passion to help others, Loving Lord.
19th Sunday after Pentecost: October 3: Mark 10:2-16
Two contrasts are offered. In the first the Pharisees are stuck on the limits of the law concerning divorce while Jesus is intent on the spirit of the law i.e. loving and cherishing one’s spouse. The second shows the exclusiveness of the disciples who don’t think children are worthy of their master’s precious time. Jesus welcomes and blesses the little children and declares: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” God’s ways are surely not our ways!
Prayer: So often, Lord, we miss the point of your Kingdom. By your Holy Spirit help us to see beyond our limitations and get a glimpse of your heavenly, gracious ways.
20th Sunday after Pentecost: October 10: Mark 10:17-31
This is a continuation of the way of the Lord in contrast to the way of the world. Jesus challenges a rich man to “Sell what you have and give it to the poor.” He therefore challenges us to use our wealth to help those who live in poverty. But no matter how much we sacrifice we can’t buy our way into God’s Kingdom. Only God can give the Kingdom to us. We are called to trust in God and not in our wealth or accomplishments. Besides, God is the true Owner; and God entrusts us to serve as God’s managers.
Prayer: Help us, Master, to relinquish our hold on all that you have entrusted to us and to experience the freedom of being your stewards.
21st Sunday after Pentecost: October 17: Mark 10:35-45
James and John typify our human tendency to seek honor and status. Whenever there is striving to be superior to others, jealousy and squabbling are the result. Jesus calls us to a life of servanthood. Servanthood builds a caring, mutual community!
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to discover true greatness in serving others as you did.
22nd Sunday after Pentecost: October 24: Mark 10:46-52
Jesus gives the blind man, Bartimaeus his sight just before Palm Sunday and our Lord’s passion. Bartimaeus will witness Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, then his arrest, mock trial, torture, death on the cross, and resurrection! We can only imagine what impact Holy Week and Easter had on Bartimaeus with his brand-new eyesight!
Prayer: May the spirit of our crucified and resurrected Lord enable us to recognize his healing, forgiving, and redeeming power.
Reformation Sunday: October 31: John 8:31-38
Those who are in denial concerning their sinfulness and need for a Savior can’t stand to face the truth. Those who recognize their imperfections and need of forgiveness welcome Christ with open arms.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, set us free from our pretenses and need to prove ourselves worthy. Help us to rely solely on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
All Saints Sunday: November 7: John 11:32-44
The story illustrates the joy we can anticipate in the resurrection. Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead; so we shall be raised too. On this “memorial day” for the Church we commemorate all those saints (forgiven sinners) who have gone before us and give God thanks for their witness and loving service.
Prayer: As we give you thanks for the many saints through whom you have touched us with your love and grace, use us to do the same in our daily service.
24th Sunday of Pentecost: November 7: Mark 12:38-44
This is a vivid contrast between the scribes who use religion for their own gain and glory on the one hand, with the poor widow who sacrifices her whole living to give credit and praise to God, on the other hand. She is an example of stewardship at its best!
Prayer: Keep reminding us, O Lord, that all we have is yours and to use these gifts to share your Good News and to help others in your name.
25th Sunday of Pentecost: November 14: Mark 13:1-8
Jesus foretells the destruction of the beloved Temple and Jerusalem as well as the appearance of phony messiahs, the devastation of wars and other calamities. But all these will be the start of birth-pangs; which means the best is yet to come…God’s new creation!
Prayer: Help us not to fear the last day when you return; help us to welcome it and continue serving you gracious Lord – even to our last day!
Christ the King: November 21: John 18:33-37
This marks the culmination of the season of Pentecost and the church year. It is obvious that Pilate does not understand the kind of King Jesus is. Our Lord’s Kingdom is not limited to this world or subject to those who appear to be in power. Jesus came to proclaim and live the truth. Those who know the truth know Jesus as God’s gracious, generous, and sacrificial King.
Prayer: Thanks, Lord, for being our benevolent, gracious, and eternal ruler.
Thanksgiving: November 25: Mathew 6:25-33
The bottom line of being grateful is recognizing that we are completely dependent upon God for life itself, for daily provisions, and for the gift of eternal life. By tracing all good gifts back to God we approach each day with the proper attitude of gratitude.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, empower us to exchange our daily anxieties for a deep sense of gratitude.