Pentecost Sunday message: ‘More on Living Water’

Interim Pastor David Mueller

Editor’s note: A link to our pre-recorded worship service video is below, including a message from Interim Pastor David Mueller, Scripture, prayers and music. Also participating in today’s service are John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and Judy Stadler, worship assistant. Musicians include this week’s Virtual Choir — Dave Herrmann, John Lasher, David McClure, John Nichols and Cheryl Powell — along with vocalists Fred and Jan Meckley and Teresa Stebner.

Just below the video of the worship service is an additional brief video message from Pastor Mueller, addressing the issue of racism and the protests and demands for justice that continue nationwide.

The text of Pastor’s sermon is included below the videos.

“More on Living Water” (John 7:37-39, alternative Gospel)

David E. Mueller, Interim Pastor

Back in the Lenten Season, we read in John 4 about the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, a long and powerful story about many things. In this encounter, Jesus offered the woman “living water.” “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14b)

Next Sunday is the Feast of the Holy Trinity. The appointed first reading, from the Hebrew Scriptures, is the whole creation account from Genesis 1 and a portion of 2. We will not be reading that lesson next Sunday; it is just far too long. Near its beginning, however, we read this: “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) Here at the very beginning wind and water go together.

In the encounter of Jesus with Nicodemus (John 3), Jesus shared with him: “… no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (3:5) Here again, water and Spirit go together. As I tend to prefer, water and wind, for the Greek word “pneuma” can mean spirit, breath, wind. The Church has historically associated water and Spirit or wind with Baptism.

Today as we celebrate the “Birthday of the Church” with the advent of the Holy Spirit, let’s begin with prayer:

Gracious, merciful, loving and empowering God, in the name of Jesus Christ your Son and our Savior, allow the Holy Wind to blow among, over and onto us — each of us — today in a powerful yet peaceful way. We are not gathered in one place, but appropriately separated as a precaution due to what we may rightly call an “evil wind,” a microscopic beast which is wreaking havoc and death all over the planet. Keep us safe these days, O Lord, but not just safe. Keep us believing and empowered for Your worship and service. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

It has been my honor to have traveled well over a dozen times to Palestine/Israel, mostly to lead pilgrimages but also to study at St. George’s College, attend weddings of friends and celebrate the dedication of Dar Alkelima, a facility in Bethlehem designed by Lutheran Christians there to promote health and peace.

Each and every time there, I have been struck by the spiritual as well as physical significance of water. The litany of stories about wet places and circumstances is long. Some stories are sad. Saddest to me is the dramatic receding of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the planet at 1,300 feet below sea level. Some stories are fascinating — as in the incredible lengths to which ancient peoples went to assure a supply of water in a siege. Water in that part of the world has been relatively scarce, making the stewardship of water absolutely essential.

For at least 25 years, every baptism I officiated at Concordia Church was with water from the Jordan River. That did not make it any more of a baptism but it usually held special feelings for the parents and congregation.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus cried out: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink…. Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37, 38)

The Festival of Booths noted here is one of several festivals the Hebrews were to keep in the course of a year or after a number of years. Interestingly, this festival had an association with the number 50. We remember that Pentecost, which is yet another festival, fell 50 days after Easter. Within the Festival of Booths offerings were presented by fire. We associate Pentecost with the fire of the Spirit. I bring up all of this, to show how so many of our Christian practices find their roots in the history of the Hebrew people.

In Isaiah 12:3 we read: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name….’”

Please notice that embedded in this festival and the others is thankfulness and joy. The people of God were to stop at various times during the year to consider anew their relationship with God as one in which to know and celebrate joy and thanksgiving. Here in John 7, we note that Jesus was speaking about the Spirit not yet received by believers for that could not happen until Jesus was glorified in his death and resurrection.

OK, folks, we are two millennia on the other side of the first Advent of the Christ and all that it has meant. The Holy Spirit (Wind, Breath) has been granted to the Church of Jesus Christ, that power source we need to accomplish the ministry and mission assigned to us.

Within the lifetimes of most of us, we have not experienced a desert the likes of which we are now in. I am not speaking of the virus and its devastation, but of this time when membership in the churches is rapidly declining with young people especially leaving the flock in droves, leaving we graying folk behind. It is sadder than the receding of the Dead Sea. What we need to reverse the trend is not just ingenuity, creativity and renewed commitment, but power.

The images of wind, water and fire are all of Spirit power. Early Christians were powerless until Pentecost. “Spiritual” renewal needs now to take place for we, too, are powerless. Many or most of us may be afraid of a personal and corporate Pentecost. We don’t wish to end up behaving in odd even if productive ways.

Please let me share a couple things. First of all, the image of the Holy Spirit taken from the Baptism of Jesus himself is that of a dove. Power can be calm, quiet, and gentle rather than boisterous and brutal. I always need to go on to suggest that a dove is not a buzzard. Empowerment is to enliven the heart and not eat it.

We spoke early on today about the Wind moving over the waters and of how important and essential water is to life, especially in the Middle East where it can get scarce. The Scriptures are in a real sense soaking wet with water images, which, with the exception of the Flood, tend to be positive.

Many people fear the images of the Book of Revelation, which is one of the reasons some of us are studying an early portion of it in our Zoom class on Sunday mornings. Listen to how the Revelation ends (22:17): “The Spirit and the bride (Church) say ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let everyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”

My prayer as your Interim Pastor is that we drink of the Spirit together and regardless of age or other circumstances, become empowered together for renewal, revival and rejoicing.

Pentecost Prayer Vigil

Vatican window with dove

A Prayer Guide for St. Mark’s Pentecost Prayer Vigil

Prepared by Clifford Smith


“Unless I go the Advocate [the Spirit] will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you. He will lead you to the complete truth.” – John 16:7, 13

With these words Jesus points forward to the new life in the Spirit that will be revealed at Pentecost. It will be a life lived in “complete truth.” Closely related to the word “betrothal,” the “complete truth” means full intimacy with God, a betrothal in which the complete divine life is given to us.

“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. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves….

“Now all who heard and saw these things were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” . . . So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” — Acts 2:1-4, 37-40, 41-42.


We are waiting for the Spirit to come. Are we really? This morning during the Eucharist I spoke a little about preparing ourselves for Pentecost just as we prepare ourselves for Christmas and Easter. Still, for most of us, Pentecost is a nonevent. While on secular calendars Christmas and Easter are still marked, Pentecost is spectacularly absent.

But Pentecost is the coming of the Spirit of Jesus into the world. It is the celebration of God breaking through the boundaries of time and space and opening the whole world for the re-creating power of love. Pentecost is freedom, the power of the Spirit to blow where it wants.

Without Pentecost the Christ-event—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—remains imprisoned in history as something to remember, think about, and reflect on. The Spirit of Jesus comes to dwell within us, so that we can become living Christs here and now.

Pentecost lifts the whole mystery of salvation out of its particularities and makes it into something universal, embracing all peoples, all countries, all seasons, and all eras. Pentecost is also the moment of empowering. Each individual human being can claim the Spirit of Jesus as the guiding spirit of his or her life. In that Spirit we can speak and act freely and confidently with the knowledge that the same Spirit that inspired Jesus is inspiring us.

We certainly have to prepare ourselves carefully for this day of Pentecost so that we can not only receive fully the gifts of the Spirit but also let the Spirit bear fruit within us.

Henri Nouwen, adapted from: Jesus: A Gospel


It is the eve of Pentecost, the celebration of the coming of the promised Spirit. It is the vigil of the day that commemorates the beginning of the Church as bearer of the divine breath…. Pentecost is a moment of great prophetic significance. It marks the beginning of the Church and, therefore, is now the celebration of the Church’s birthday. Pentecost affirms that the Church is an enspirited continuance of the prophetic mission and power of Jesus the Christ.

The Church today continues to witness to the movement of the Spirit in the world, the Spirit which groans in us as it responds to the misery, the hatred, the hunger, and despair that burdens humankind. Centuries ago Paul wrote to the church in Rome about the groaning and indwelling of this Spirit. His words still ring true for us today:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as children, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what they see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but God’s own Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And God who searches the hearts of all knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” — Romans 8: 22-27.

Pentecost celebrates the indwelling of God’s hope in us, incarnate in our world through our lives.

Wendy M. Wright, adapted from The Rising


Who could turn a band of frightened fisherman into powerful preachers?

The Holy Spirit!

Who could begin the day with 120 believers, including the twelve disciples

and Jesus’ Mother, and end the day with more than 3,000?

The Holy Spirit!

And who empowers believers today, adding to their number and

challenging them to be a part of the Church He is building?

The Holy Spirit!



1. How have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your life as Advocate or Helper? as Comforter? as Consoler? as Guide? as empowering?

2. Does it make any difference in your life —

    • To consciously regard yourself as the Body of Christ, that is, a member of the “body of believers,” the community of faith, the Church?
    • To know that the Spirit of Christ seeks to indwell in your heart, so that God’s hope and love can incarnate in today’s world through your presence and actions, through your life?
    • To know that you carry the “indwelling Spirit,” to know that you are a manifestation of the continuing incarnation?

3. What specific miseries and burdens of humankind cause you to “groan in travail with the whole of creation?” Pray that the Spirit assist you in prayer regarding these heartfelt “miseries and burdens.” Remember: “God’s own Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

4. Offer your personalized and specific prayers for the well-being and fruitful action of today’s Church.

  1. 5. Where and how have you experienced the enlivening and empowering action of the Holy Spirit in the history and ministry of St. Mark’s?

Does it make any difference to know that the same Spirit that inspired and empowered the apostles on the day of Pentecost is today inspiring us at St. Mark’s and all of the Church?

A Prayer for Pentecost

Spirit of God

who bursts into rooms

of fear, laughing life …

your birth-cry

still echoes in

this womb of earth

as we anticipate

the dance of fire.


Sigh in our souls

today, O God.

Throw open the doors.

Slip into our hearts

and sweep grace

into those secret places

known only to you.


We stand on tip-toe

straining, longing to see,

to feel the flame …

praying it will consume

and transform us

into gifts for one another.


Greet us with wisdom

that we may be channels

of peace.

Encourage us with


that we may affirm

one another.

Support us with counsel

that we may choose

the good.

Sustain us with fortitude

That we may pursue

What is just.

Open our minds with


That we may realize

you are God.

Bless us with devotion

that we may always

cling to you.


Anoint us with reverence

that we may bow

before the holy within

and around us.



Prayer to the Holy Spirit


Come, Holy Spirit —


your healing.

Drive us

from our narrow ways

Touch us

in our faint of heart.

Gift us

with divine inspiration.

Love us

to life and


within us …

until our dying embers

are held

in the heart of God.


you will breathe

new life, once again.