Meditations for Pentecost (Series A)
By Rev. Greg Karlsgodt
The Day of Pentecost: John 20: 19-23
This certainly was not the first time we are made aware of the Holy Spirit in scripture. Right at the beginning we read in Genesis: “and the Spirit (wind, breath) of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2b). God’s Spirit took part in the creation (and continues to do so). Isaiah the prophet declares, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted…” (Isaiah 61:1a). Surely all the prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s timely messages to the chosen people. Jesus himself quotes Isaiah as he preaches his first sermon to the unreceptive congregation in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). It was, after all, the Holy Spirit who descended upon Jesus when he was baptized and who accompanied him during his time of testing in the wilderness before the beginning of his ministry (Luke 3:21-22 and 4:1-13).
In light of all these activities of the Holy Spirit it follows that the disciples would be included as well. As the crucified and resurrected Lord says to them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you,” he breathes on them and adds, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).
Just as the disciples became apostles (“sent out ones”), so are we modern day followers sent out by the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim and practice repentance and forgiveness. All our inadequacies are really God’s opportunities to equip, inspire, and to empower us to carry out our Lord’s ministry!
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit! Revive your Church! Begin with me!
Holy Trinity: Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus passes on his ministry to the disciples before he ascends and returns to heaven.
As we continue his ministry today, may we be encouraged that we are not left to go it alone; for Jesus promises: “…lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:20b). In addition to the crucified and resurrected Lord himself, we are also accompanied by our heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit. God, the Father, provides and protects us. The Spirit convicts, comforts, inspires, empowers, and guides us. Jesus links us together with fellow followers and sends us out to welcome the sin-sick, the outcastes, and the lost. We are well fortified for our mission!
Prayer: Keep reminding us, Holy Trinity, that you are in front of us to lead us, behind us to propel us, and beside us to encourage us.
2 Pentecost: Matthew 9:35-10:23
Moved by his compassion for the many who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” Jesus commissions his disciples “to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (vs. 8a). It won’t be an easy ministry. There will be resistance and hostility; families will be divided; and followers of Christ will be persecuted. As challenging as this ministry will be, the Holy Spirit will provide the message and the power to proclaim it. Persevere, our Lord urges us; and keep reaching out to more people who may be receptive.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, give us the courage, the perseverance, and the assurance we need to continue our Lord’s ministry to seek and rescue the lost.
3 Pentecost: Matthew 10:24-39
Serious and sincere followers of Jesus Christ can expect the same reception he encountered: hatred, hostility, and violence. It’s the way of the cross! However, consider how God cares for sparrows, as insignificant as they may seem; and know that God cares for God’s followers even more! A sacrificial life of service for the sake of Christ leads to an abundant life here on earth and beyond the grave!
Prayer: Help us, O Lord, to give ourselves away for the sake of others and for your glory.
4 Pentecost: Matthew 10:40-42
An older man said to a young pastor at a Kogudus retreat years ago: “I experienced Christ through you this weekend!” This surprised the young pastor, because he did not feel especially Christ-like! The Spirit of Christ is at work in and through us whether we know it or not.
Prayer: Thank you, Spirit, for the marvelous ways you blow where you will and link us all together in Christ!
5 Pentecost: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Many thought John the Baptizer was possessed by a demon because he lived like a wild man in the wilderness. Many regarded Jesus as a libertine because he partied with those whose sins were public knowledge. Why some believe in him while other so not, remains a mystery. When we take him at his word and receive his generous love and hospitality, we find rest and relief from our burdens!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the R and R you have given and continue to give.
6 Pentecost: Mathew 13:1-9, 18-23
I don’t know about you, but I can identify with every condition Jesus describes: rocky ground (an unreceptive heart), thorny (caught up in earthly desires and concerns), and fertile soil (gratefully receptive to the Good News of Christ). My moods and situations in life are constantly changing. I need a Savior!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, cultivate us so we may receive God’s seeds of abundant life.
7 Pentecost: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Just as Jesus calls us to be patient for Judgment Day (“the close of the age”) when the weeds will be separated from the wheat, are we not also called to be patient with ourselves? Our dark-side won’t be totally eliminated until the end of time.
Prayer: Help us to be patient, Lord, with the imperfections in and around us and see how you use your Church to bless the world.
8 Pentecost: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
God’s rule and influence among people are more times than not underestimated and overlooked. For those who discover the value of God’s rule over them, however, earthly possessions pale in comparison! Judgment will separate the good from the bad. In the meantime we are called to be God’s caretakers.
Prayer: As your stewards, O Lord, help us to take good care of your Word, sacraments, and Church; and inspire us to invite outsiders in.
9 Pentecost: Matthew 14:13-21
Jesus withdraws in need of finding some solitude to grieve the death of his relative and friend, John the Baptist; but the crowds follow him; and out of compassion he heals their sick. The surprise in the story comes after the disciples want Jesus to send the people back to the villages for food and to enable Jesus and the disciples to enjoy time alone. Jesus responds, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (vs. 16). The disciples react to this suggestion (just as we would) when they take a quick inventory of their food on hand. How can so little feed so many! But God loves to do a lot with a little! God loves to make use of us and our meager offerings to feed thousands. Isn’t that enough to inspire us to be even more generous!
Prayer: So often, Lord, we hold back because we think, “What’s the use!” Inspire us, we pray, to give generously knowing that you can do great things with our offerings.
10 Pentecost: Matthew 14:22-33
As soon as Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and focuses his attention on the storm, his fear overcomes his faith; and he begins to sink. Oh we of little faith…how often our fears push aside our belief that God will provide and come to our aid!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to keep our eyes and our trust firmly fixed on you!
11 Pentecost: Matthew 15: 10-28
At first it appears that Jesus is being disrespectful of this Gentile woman who comes to him for the sake of her demon possessed daughter. He gives her the silent treatment. Then he says his mission is only to Jews. Then he compares her to a dog! But she is persistent; and he not only heals her daughter but commends her for her great faith! May we be inspired by this mother’s persistence, humility, and trust in God!
Prayer: Empower us, Holy Spirit, to be persistent in our prayers and expectant in your answers.
12 Pentecost: Matthew 16:13-20
It is significant that Jesus and his disciples are at Caesarea Phillipi when he asks them to identify him. This was an ancient place of worship for the Romans and Greeks. It was a pagan shrine for the Greek god, Pan. (It is presently a beautiful national park in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights where springs of water from Mt. Hermon form pools in which trout swim). Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God” was surely a revelation from above. Christ’s Church is solidly founded on this divine revelation. We get to enjoy discovering the unlimited treasure in knowing Christ as Lord and as Savior!
Prayer: Open us, Holy Spirit, to the depth of Christ’s love and the majesty of his name.
13 Pentecost: Matthew 16:21-28
What an about-face: the one who proclaimed Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah now is called, “Satan”, for rejecting the way of the cross his master must follow! Should we be surprised at Peter’s response? It goes against our natural inclination to seek comfort and ease when we consider the rejection and suffering crucifixion entails. Then when Jesus describes the cost of discipleship i.e. taking up our cross, we wonder if we have what it takes! Thank God Christ’s death was for the very ones like Peter and us who have betrayed and denied him!
Prayer: You know how weak and puny we are in our discipleship, Lord. Thank you for loving us and forgiving us. Inspire and empower us to be sacrificial servants.
14 Pentecost: Matthew 18:15-20
A discipline policy is essential for the health of the congregation and its members. If there is no repentance by a member who has sinned against another member after ample opportunities have been given for a change of heart, he/she is excluded from the fellowship (in hopes that the exclusion will bring about repentance and reconciliation).
Prayer: Help us to be quick to repent, O Lord, when we are confronted with our wrongdoing.
15 Pentecost: Matthew 18:21-35
This lesson of Jesus immediately follows last Sunday’s reading concerning the treatment of someone who is unrepentant. Repentance and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. Here Jesus tells a parable about a slave who was forgiven a huge debt and given freedom, but then callously imprisons someone indebted to him for a lesser amount! Consider how gracious and forgiving God is! We are called to be just as gracious and forgiving of those who have hurt us.
Prayer: Loving, gracious Father, we can never match your willingness and ability to forgive. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to be more loving and forgiving than we have been.
16 Pentecost: Matthew 20:1-16
Thank God for being merciful and gracious as well as just! There are times when God is more merciful than just. If we are on the receiving end of God’s mercy (instead of getting what we deserve), we may well be bowled over with embarrassment and gratitude!
Prayer: Your gracious generosity overwhelms us, Lord!
17 Pentecost: Matthew 21:23-32
Jesus’ authority is validated because he carries out God’s plan to rescue the lost, heal the sick, and free the oppressed. Those who at first resist obeying – but then recant and end up obeying – show that they do love and respect their Father after all. Those, on the other hand, who say they will obey but then do not, demonstrate their insincerity. Don’t we see ourselves in both?
Prayer: You know how fickle our obedience can be, heavenly Father. Please forgive us and help us to appreciate the joy there is to be found in obeying.
18 Pentecost: Matthew 21:33-46
Possessiveness is the opposite of stewardship. God is always the Owner; we are always God’s caretakers. Nothing we do can change our status. Fulfillment and contentment come to God’s stewards when we accept our role and God’s ownership. God is an extraordinary generous Owner and treats us with amazing grace!
Prayer: Help us, generous God, to discover the joy there is in being your loving, giving servants.
19 Pentecost: Matthew 22:1-14
Marriage is a metaphor used throughout the Old and New Testaments to describe God’s relationship with his chosen people (Israel and the Church). It’s tragic when those who are invited to the celebration spurn the invitation and thereby reject the Inviter. Thank God for continuing to invite despite past rejections; and thank God we have the joy and privilege to be inviters on God’s behalf.
Prayer: Thank you, loving Father, for clothing us with the righteousness of Christ so we are able to be included at the wedding feast.
20 Pentecost: Matthew 22:15-22
The Pharisees and their disciples are no match for Jesus. They will later resort to invent accusations in order to bring him to trial. Everything belongs to God, but taxes are necessary for governments to provide services and keep peace.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to live faithfully as Christ’s servants under God’s rule within this world governed by humans.
Reformation Sunday: John 8:31-36
Jesus offers forgiveness and freedom to all who recognize their slavery to sin and need for a savior!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for winning our freedom from the servitude of sin. Keep us steadfast in your Word for your Word is truth.
21 Pentecost: Matthew 22:34-46
Jesus endures an all-out blitz in chapter 22 by the Pharisses, Herodians, and Sadducees. They all try to discredit him and entrap him; but they all fail. Here an expert in Jewish Law from the Pharisees tries to trap him into making one commandment more important than all the others. But Jesus simply summarizes them: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (vs. 37-39). Then he turns the tables on the Pharisees by asking them describe David’s relationship to the Messiah. Once more Jesus proves that his opponents are no match for his divine wisdom.
Prayer: We are grateful, O Lord, to know how you stood up to your enemies and upheld the truth.
All Saints: Matthew 5:1-12
What a great comfort to know that those who feel a deep sense of spiritual poverty will be blessed; and those who are grief-stricken will be comforted; and those who are humble will lead the earth; and those who yearn for justice shall be fulfilled; and those who have been merciful will receive mercy themselves; and those who have sincerely been trying to obey God will see God; and those who have worked earnestly for peace will be called children of God; and those who have been persecuted for standing up for what is right will live in God’s kingdom.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for these great promises. Inspire us and equip us as we follow you as forgiven sinners.
23 Pentecost: Matthew 25:1-13
Perhaps the Boy Scout motto: “be prepared” was inspired by this parable. This could be our last day on earth. Jesus could return at any time. Are we ready? Are we living as responsible stewards? Are we being loving servants?
Prayer: Inspire us, Holy Spirit, to take our responsibilities seriously so that we are ready to serve at all times.
24 Pentecost: Matthew 25:14-30
One talent was worth 15 years’ wages! How dare this servant accuse his master of being stingy and severe! He has no excuse for burying the talent. We will be held accountable for the ways we handled God’s goods and loved ones (including strangers) God has entrusted to us. What will God say to us?
Prayer: Help us experience the adventure, joy, and privilege of being your managers, O Lord. Remind us to put your gifts to good use and not to hoard or hide them.
Day of Thanksgiving: Luke 17:11-19
If or when we lose a sense of being grateful, we lose sight of the central truth: our life here on earth is a gift to be enjoyed – but not possessed. Good health and all blessings are gifts as well. The more we recognize the countless gifts we have been given by God, the more thankful we will be and filled with joy as well!
Prayer: Awaken us, Holy Spirit, to innumerable gifts we have been given and empower us to live each day in thanksgiving.
Christ the King: Matthew 25:31-46
We encounter Christ the King in those who suffer from poverty and hunger, in strangers who need to be welcomed and included, in those who have been stripped of their dignity, in the sick who yearn for encouragement, and in the prisoners who ache to be visited. What will Christ the King say to us on Judgment Day?
Prayer: Make us aware, O King, of the needs around us so that we may serve in your name.