The readings for this Sunday are:
…you still have to use Acts as the first or second reading.
The reading from Ezekiel is one of my favourites: the valley of dry bones, put back together when Ezekiel prophesies to them as instructed by God, and brought back to life when Ezekiel prophesies to the breath, the wind, to go into them. The bones are, of course, a metaphor for the people of Israel — and some would say for the church today, waiting for God’s spirit to bring us back to life too.
Acts is a description of the coming of Holy Spirit at Pentecost, when the followers of Jesus began speaking in many different languages. Some of the onlookers are amazed, others scoff that they’re obviously drunk. Peter sets them right, explaining that this is part of the prophecy from Joel about the last days.
The portion from Psalm 104 is about how great God is, and particularly the way in which living things depend on God’s spirit or breath for life.
Romans 8:22-27 is about waiting for the redemption of our physical bodies, about not knowing how to pray but the Spirit praying within us in “sighs too deep for words”.
The reading from John is Jesus promising to send the Advocate (that is, the Spirit of truth), who will speak truth and tell the disciples the rest of what he has to tell them.
A good hymn for Pentecost would be “O Breath of Life” by Bessie Porter Head, to the tune SPIRITUS VITAE by Mary Jane Hammond:
1 O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,
revive your church with life and power.
O Breath of life, come, cleanse, renew us;
and fit your church to meet this hour.
2 O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,
till humbly we confess our need.
Then in your tenderness remake us;
revive, restore, for this we plead.
3 O Breath of love, come breathe within us,
renewing thought and will and heart.
Come, love of Christ, afresh to win us;
Revive your church in every part.
There are a bunch of anthems that would be suitable, too. Carol Barnett’s SATB (with divisi) setting of Veni, Sancte Spiritus is fairly long at seven and a half minutes, but would work in a setting where you expect a large number of people coming up for Communion, or perhaps if you’re allowing extra time for healing prayer.
Andrea Ramsey also has a setting of Veni Sancte Spiritus, for SSAA + djembe or TTBB + djembe, which might suit better if you’re looking for something shorter (four minutes) and more energetic. Here it is on YouTube.
If you want something in English, and quieter, my own SATB setting of verses from Herrick’s Litany to the Holy Spirit, Sweet Spirit, Comfort Me is available to download from CPDL, and there’s a demo recording on YouTube. I tend to think of it as suitable for Evensong rather than a main service.
And finally, Libby Larsen has an organ prelude on Veni Creator Spiritus which looks from the sample page as if it would be worth playing.