Archive for the ‘John’ Category

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Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

What shall I return to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

The Gospel Reading

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Reflection

Listen to Jeffrey and/or read below.

Today marks “Maundy Thursday.” I was unfamiliar with that term for a long time but have since come to associate it with the word “mandate.” “Maundy” and “mandate” not only sound alike, they are related like word cousins. Since “mandate” means command, today is the day we revisit the command that Jesus gave his disciples when he washed their feet. And as John renders the story in his gospel, this happened just before the death of Jesus on that providential Friday.

Jesus gave his disciples a mandate just before his arrest and crucifixion. In John’s gospel it reads like this: “14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Almost exactly 25 years ago this week, Tonya and I joined a couple of dozen students and a handful of faculty in the Mullins Lounge at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY for a Maundy Thursday footwashing service. I had never been to a footwashing before and wasn’t sure what to expect. In that setting, with this same gospel reading from John we are using today, the atmosphere in the room turned quickly toward humility and servitude. As a wash basin of water made its way down the row of chairs, and one person after another scrambled to the floor to bathe the feet of their neighbor, a quick glance at the seating arrangements revealed that Molly was going to be washing Michael’s feet. Michael had been working on the facilities crew all day and still had on his muddy work boots. Molly was our beloved, respected, inspiring yet embattled professor of theology. With intention and care, and without a flinch at the grime on his feet, she took the fresh towel handed to her and cleaned his feet. Then Molly looked at him and said, “now you go and do the same to another.” Everyone in the room repeated this simple act. The person sitting beside us got down and washed our feet. They then looked up at us and said “go and do the same.” We immediately did what was asked of us as we turned to wash the feet of the next person. Then we had the chance to tell them to “go and do the same.”  In a literal sense, every person in that Maundy Thursday service both did what Jesus commanded and also asked another to follow Jesus in the same way.

Here is the heart of Maundy Thursday. Serve humbly and ask other Christians to do the same. It is a command that does not require a clear outcome or a calculated procedure. It is a requirement of discipleship that asks us to treat every person we encounter as worthy of our attention and our care. We cannot wash feet with pomp and ceremony. We cannot serve any person in this humble way without recognizing their innate human value to God and their worth in our eyes. Even as Jesus takes up his cross, we are still in need of taking up our towels.

Sometimes we are willing to wash the feet (speaking figuratively now) of the people we care about, or family members, or those who show promise of success or (even worse) who can help us in return. Yet if Jesus, their “Lord and Teacher,” could wash the feet of Judas who would betray him as well as Peter who was going to deny him along with the other ten disciples who would leave him to die alone, then we cannot be like Jesus if we fail to serve others.

The focus of this Jesus-commanded servanthood is always the person in front of us. While that sounds so obviously true, it requires constant self-awareness. We must reflect often on our motivation for care of others. We must check our ego and selfish drive for success, or reputation, or kickback. When care for another becomes what I can get out of it, then we have moved from servanthood to personal embellishment—one of these is a Christian virtue and the other is a millstone that weighs us down. When I help someone so as to check a mark on my account in heaven, then my motivation is clouded by self-promotion rather than genuine compassion for another human created in God’s image. Guess which one Jesus is giving us a mandate to replicate.

Jesus has taught these same truths in other places in the Gospel. And yet now, mere hours before the injustice of his execution, one of his final object lessons is not lost on the disciples. Perhaps we might should linger on the theological implications of the death of God in the crucifixion of Jesus. Or maybe, just maybe, Jesus wanted us to focus on living life after his death with a clear definition of genuine servanthood. Yes, Jesus will die tomorrow. Because of that, we live this day and every day as servants of one another. It is in being a servant that we are being like God. It is our most basic divine task.

On this “Commandment Thursday” we have our orders from Jesus. Apparently he thinks we are up to the task! Wash one another’s feet. Do what Jesus did. Love someone else in the way Jesus loved them. Perhaps we can even edit the “Golden Rule” here and call it the “Holy Thursday Rule” – “Do unto others as Jesus would do for them.” That’s a mandate for all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

Lord, whose love in humble service
bore the weight of human need,
who upon the cross, forsaken,
offered mercy’s perfect deed:
we, your servants, bring the worship
not of voice alone, but heart,
consecrating to your purpose
ev’ry gift that you impart.

Still the children wander homeless,
still the hungry cry for bread.
Still the captives long for freedom,
still in grief we mourn our dead.
As you, Lord, in deep compassion,
healed the sick and freed the soul,
use the love your Spirit kindles
still to save and make us whole.

As we worship, grant us vision,
till your love’s revealing light
in its height and depth and greatness
dawns upon our human sight,
making known the needs and burdens
your compassion bids us bear,
stirring us to faithful service,
your abundant life to share.

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.

 


Artist: JESUS MAFA, a Christian Community in Cameron. Title: Jesus washes his disciples feet, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48299 [retrieved April 6, 2020]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

The gospel was read by Meagan. The music was played by Wyatt.  The hymn was written by Albert F. Bayley.


 

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The Lord's Supper - Matthew 26:17-30

Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Adoration

Psalm 145:3-7

 The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness cannot be grasped.
 One generation will praise your works to the next one,
    proclaiming your mighty acts.
 They will talk all about the glorious splendor of your majesty;
    I will contemplate your wondrous works.
 They will speak of the power of your awesome deeds;
    I will declare your great accomplishments.
 They will rave in celebration of your abundant goodness;
    they will shout joyfully about your righteousness:

 

The Gospel Reading

John 13:21-32

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival;” or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”

 

A Reflection from Tonya

Listen to Tonya and/or read below.

Well, it’s the Wednesday before Easter. Tonight we would have gathered in the Fellowship Hall for dinner and a Seder Remembrance. I would be sending Jeffrey back to the grocery store to get the right kind of horseradish–not the one with the mayonnaise. We definitely would have the leeks again this year so we could hit one another. We would laugh imagining how crazy things must get at a Seder Meal with all those cups of wine to drink. We all enjoy the faces of the children experiencing horseradish for the first time. As we learn how our Jewish sisters and brothers celebrate Passover, the common thread of God’s provisions through time is highlighted for us. We are going to need that reminder because the crucifixion is just a couple of days ahead.

Did you notice the painting at the top of the blog? I love the artist’s vision of the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Did you notice how BIG the cup is? We use tiny little glass cups for communion which hold less than 2 ounces of juice. The bowl in the painting looks like my “That’s a Bowl.” It looks like it could hold a gallon or more!  The size of the cup brings to mind the words of Matthew 20.  One of the mothers of two disciples comes to Jesus with her boys. Jesus asks her what she wants. She simply asks that her sons might sit at his side when he comes into his kingdom–one on his right and one on his left. These would be places of great honor. Jesus looks at her sons and tells them they have no idea what they are asking for. Are they able to drink the cup that he is about to drink? Take another look at how big that cup is. Can you drink all that?

The cup Jesus was about to drink was full to the brim with suffering. Jesus and the disciples had come to Jerusalem for Passover and the raw reality of what lay ahead troubled Jesus. They reclined around a low table that night for dinner. As they reclined on carpets and cushions, they could see that Jesus was upset. The suffering was starting to begin. He shares with all of them that one of them will betray him. Which one of them will it be? Simon Peter with a nod of the head tells John to ask Jesus who it will be. John asks. Jesus doesn’t verbally name the disciple. Instead Jesus says it will be the one to whom Jesus gives a piece of bread that has been dipped in his dish. He takes a piece of bread, dips it, and hands the piece of bread to Judas. Judas eats the bread and the deal is done. Betrayal is poured into the cup that Jesus drinks.

After Judas leaves the dinner, Jesus tells his disciples that he will only be with them a little longer. Isolation is poured into the cup. “Where I’m going, you cannot come,” says Jesus. And loneliness is poured into the cup. They don’t get it. Simon Peter says, “Lord, I will lay down my life for you!” Jesus knows better. Disappointment is poured into the cup. Isolation, loneliness, and disappointment. How well we know those three experiences at this moment. Isolated from one another’s fellowship trying to slow the spread of the virus. Some of us alone as we strictly follow “stay at home” orders through at least April 30.  Disappointed that so many much anticipated events have been postponed or cancelled–weddings, graduations, birthday parties, recitals, and Sunday worship. And perhaps there are moments when we feel betrayed. We sing with the psalmist, “God, why have you forsaken us? Why are you so far away?” (Psalm 22)  We are afraid that the things God doesn’t do will outweigh the things God does.

Borrowing words from Howard Jacobsen (found in The Passover Haggadah: An Ancient Story for Modern Times published February 2020), ours is a religion of suspense. Jacobsen writes of the Jewish faith, but the same is true of Christianity. Ours is a religion of suspense. We walk by faith and not by sight. Suspense. We don’t know how things will turn out. All our questions are not answered. Jesus’ response after the meal is fitting for us now as it was then, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

The cup the world is drinking right now is big. There’s a lot to swallow–betrayal, isolation, loneliness, disappointment, and death. But don’t you dare forget all of God’s bounty and provisions that have already come. And today remember the cup of salvation which was poured for us which Christ drank for us.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

Accompaniment

What Wondrous Love is This?

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

Ye winged seraphs fly, bear the news, bear the news!
Ye winged seraphs fly bear the news!–
Ye winged seraphs fly, like comets through the sky.
Fill vast eternity with the news, with the news!
Fill vast eternity with the news!

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing–
To God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing!
while millions join the theme, I will sing!

And while from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And while from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
and while from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.

 


Artwork by a Christian organization in Cameron called JESUS MAFA. Title: The Lord’s Supper, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48272 [retrieved April 6, 2020]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

The Psalm reading is from the Common English Bible. The gospel was read by Robin. The hymn is played by Tessa.


 

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Ibaraki_Kasugaoka_Church_light_cross

Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Petition

Psalm 71:1-5

In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress,
to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Amen

The Gospel Reading

John 12:20-36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

27Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—’Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Reflection by Jeffrey

Listen to Jeffrey share his reflection and/or read below. [Yes, Jeffrey calls it “Holy Monday” in his reflection, but he was recording on Monday for “Holy Tuesday.”]

If time travel were possible, I would love to visit the city of Jerusalem during the pilgrimage weeks that stretched from the Jewish Passover to the spring festival of Shavuot (what we call Pentecost). During Jesus’ day, the city doubled in population for more than a month as people from around the entire Mediterranean came to Jerusalem. In today’s Holy Tuesday story , a group of Greek pilgrims, possibly converts to Judaism, are in the city seeking an audience with Jesus. So they enlist Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples who has a Greek name, to make the connection with Jesus. What then is on Jesus’ mind when these Greeks seek him? Death.

Yes, the stress of Holy Week is getting real for Jesus. Think about it. Jesus must have known that his time on earth was winding up, that he could only teach and comfort and heal a few more days because his death was a close-at-hand reality. That’s some serious stress! Living with the reality that a global pandemic can quickly become a household horror, it is not difficult to imagine what Jesus means when he confesses that his soul is troubled (v. 27). How would I feel right now if I tested positive for COVID-19? Or my family? Or someone I know? My soul would be troubled, too. Even though we are healthy, I still grieve for those who are infected and suffering. In John’s story, this confession is an intensely human moment for Jesus.

But let’s be clear. Jesus’ death had both a genesis and an outcome different than death by illness. His divine nature, absolute innocence, and unfailing forgiveness through the most unjust verdict imaginable became the redemptive “grain of wheat” that rendered death a new harvest instead of devastation. Despite his troubled spirit, Jesus knows that he could request an exemption from the crucifixion to come—“Father, save me from this hour.” He could call down angels to protect him.  Isn’t that what Satan tempted him to do in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting? Jesus answers the temptation, both in the wilderness and in Jerusalem with the same steadfast righteousness that comes from the unfailing will to live God’s Way in this world and glorify God for eternity.

Like so many of Jesus’ teachings, this story has a “so what” factor. How do we take his words and actions and learn about God’s Way through him? When Jesus says that “those who love their life lose it,” (v. 25) he’s not asking us either to hasten death or seek it out. At the very least, here is confirmation that both living and dying are gifts to humanity. Gifts? Yes, both living and dying are gifts from God. Each day here is an opportunity to create more life, more love, more beauty. Likewise death is a new beginning with joy of its own that none of us can yet describe or imagine. Living many lifetimes would be a burden rather than a blessing. Living in this world forever would seem as a curse from which there is no escape. Jesus is, therefore, calling us to embrace life in this moment as part of God’s joy and grace so that life may also continue to be our future in God’s new resurrected Way.

It is important to realize that the purpose of both life and death is the same according to Jesus–to glorify God. Verse 28 recounts one of those rare occasions when God speaks from heaven and people hear it, even though it sounded like thunder. That divine affirmation serves to underscore the main point of this story. Jesus’ purpose in life and death was to glorify God. If we are to follow the example of Jesus, then our life and death will be to glorify God. In life, we glorify God. In death, we glorify God. Thus life and death both have the same purpose. Admittedly, that’s a hard concept to follow, but remember, many things that are hard to do are worth doing anyway.

The Latin term Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone,” became something of a motto for many Christians after the Protestant Reformation. In fact, Johann Sabastian Bach, included that phrase (or simply SDG) in every one of his compositions. It was his way of noting that the music he wrote intended to reveal something of God rather than displaying Bach’s immense talent. We don’t write music like Bach, but each one of us is a virtuoso in living our own lives, and we can choose to do that to God’s glory. I’m convinced that when Jesus says the people heard God’s voice for their own sake and not his, it was Jesus’ encouragement to us that, in his opinion, we have the innate capacity as the children of God to glorify God. That means today, even now. Yes. Even now. May it be so. Amen.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

In the Cross of Christ I glory

Listen to piano only accompaniment

or piano accompaniment with vocalist.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time,
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me:
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.

When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds new luster to the day.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that thro’ all time abide.

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.


Picture: Interior of the Church of the Light, designed by Tadao Ando, in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture. I, Attila Bujdosó took this picture on 18/03/2005 in Osaka, Japan.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Credits: The gospel was read by Jeff. The piano was played by Tracy. The vocalist is Tracy’s neighbor Emily.


 

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Anointed

Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Psalm 36:5-9

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

The Gospel Reading

John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet,  and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5″Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Reflection by Tonya

Listen to Tonya and/or read below.

My Aunt Almedia was an excellent party hostess. (She was the aunt who made sure when I married that I had a silver tea pitcher and platter so I could host my own dinner parties with style.) It wasn’t just the setting Almedia could pull off joyfully and elegantly, but it was also the atmosphere. Her dining room table was always filled with laughter, fun, and joy.

I imagine the dinner party in Bethany was just as exuberant! Lazarus was there–the man who had died and three days later came back to life! That brief empty place at the table filled again through the miraculous power of Jesus. Oh, what a joyful time it would be if we could sit around the table with our loved ones who are no longer with or around us. Sometimes it is death that separates us. But there are other reasons too: incarceration, family squabbles, distance, and now this global pandemic. Just imagine how wonderful it is going to be to sit down at the table with one another again when all this is over.

Who is the honored guest at the party? Yes, Jesus, the miracle worker. Words and actions of gratitude fill the evening. And then the party mood completely changes. Mary walks in and anoints Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfumed ointment. The smell of the perfume and the sight of Mary’s devotion catches everyone’s attention. What is Mary doing? Jesus’ feet have already been washed. And you don’t “anoint” the feet of the living, that’s what you do for the dead to prepare them for burial.

Judas breaks the silence and the mystery of the moment. He judges Mary’s devotion to Jesus as wasteful. That was some expensive perfume, Mary. You should have thought better than to put that stuff on Jesus’ feet! Why, imagine how much money you would have gotten from selling it. The poor sure could use that money. Wasteful woman! The gospel tells us what we cannot know about Judas’ character. He was the treasurer for the group, and he liked to sweeten his own personal wants with the group’s money. Jesus shushes Judas.

Mary of Bethany gets it. This one whom they celebrate tonight, Jesus, will not be with them much longer. Before Jesus puts words to what will become of him, Mary recognizes that the road Jesus must travel will lead directly to death. It is not until after this anointing Jesus will say things like, “The light is with you for a little longer….” (John 12:35) “Little children, I am with you only a little longer….” (John 13:33) “I am going to the Father….” (John 14:12) “A little while, and you will no longer see me….” (John 16:16)

Mary could have sold this ointment and given the money to the poor. She could have saved the ointment for Jesus’ burial. But she did neither of these things. Recognizing that Jesus was soon to leave them, she gave Jesus the best of what she had. Surely such devotion and adoration must have encouraged Jesus in walking the road set before him. He was not alone in his understanding that his Way of life would lead to death. Such an untimely act as what Mary did (anointing the living) would set the disciples’ minds to wondering. Mary’s gift blessed them too. They would not easily forget the fragrance of her service, sacrifice, and devotion.

Oh, that our devotion to Jesus would be so intense and sincere; that our service to the Lord would fill life with a pleasing fragrance; that our sacrifices would bring glory to the name of Jesus.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

 

Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.

 


Artwork by Lauren Wright Pittman. Title: Anointed, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57085 [retrieved April 4, 2020]. Original source: http://www.lewpstudio.com – copyright by Lauren Wright Pittman. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Pittman writes of her artwork of Mary of Bethany: “This is the posture that Jesus calls all of us into; a profoundly uncomfortable, shockingly reverent position; coming face to face, intimately engaging with the residue of Christ’s footsteps to smell and almost taste the journey of Christ.”

The gospel was read by Michelle. The music was played by Tonya.


 

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Since we are suspending our gathered worship in the sanctuary to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, you are invited to continue the worship of God in your home. For each Sunday we are not able to gather, a home worship guide will be posted.

Jewish households begin worship every Sabbath at home around the family’s table. Jesus being Jewish would have had a robust practice of worship at home. Our Baptist tradition believes in the “priesthood of believers” meaning every believer is able to lead worship.

Designate a space for worship. A table is a good place because it is a safe place for candles and limits distractions. Set out one or two candles to represent the presence of God. If you want to celebrate communion, pour a cup for each person and have something to eat for each.

The worship guide is based on our regular weekly worship. They are not obligations, but suggestions. Follow them or amend them as needed. Home worship will be more brief than corporate worship in the sanctuary. Involve all the people at your home in the worship time who are able.

Grace and peace, Tonya and Jeffrey

 

 

The Worship of God

Light two candles in recognition of Christ’s presence. In our practice, one candle represents Jesus’ divinity and the other Jesus’ humanity.

Gathering for Worship

Passing the Peace
Say to one another, “May the Peace of Christ be with you.”
Respond by saying, “And also with you.”

Call to Worship  (You may want one to read the non-bold text and all to read the bold.)
Healing God, we come together in our brokenness,
to call to you in your mercy,
to make us whole again.
Wholeness–giving God,
listen to our prayers, we pray.

Restoring God, we gather to worship you,
even as we hopefully seek to be renewed and restored again.
God, our Quiet-Center,
listen to our prayers this day.

Foundational God, we come to praise and thank you!
In the depths of your Holy Being
we find peace and rest.
God – our Beginning and our End,
we hope always in you. Amen.

 

A Time of Prayer, Confession, and Assurance

A Reading from the Book of Psalms

Listen to a collection of our church members reading the psalm.

Psalm 130:1-6

I cry to you from the depths, LORD–my Lord, listen to my voice!
Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!
If you kept track of sins, LORD–
my Lord, who would stand a chance?
But forgiveness is with you–
that’s why you are honored.
I hope, LORD. My who being hopes,
and I wait for God’s promise.
My whole being waits for my Lord–
more than the night watch waits for morning;
yes, more than the night watch waits for morning.

Prayer (The following prayer is based on the Lord’s prayer. We are praying in unison this prayer each Sunday in Lent. Before you begin, if there is more than one of you, choose someone to close the “Silent Prayer and Meditation” by reading the “Words of Assurance.”)

Divine Source of love and life,
holy is your name.
May your Way of living resonate throughout the earth
just like it does in heaven.

With your great wisdom show us
that what we truly need
you freely give us to receive.
With your steadfast love
forgive us
when we fail to trek your Way of life.
With your grace and mercy
make us ready
to forgive one another.

Acknowledging your abiding presence
may we understand
how to surrender to you instead of temptation
for everything belongs to you.

Silent Prayer and Meditation

Words of Assurance.  The Lord is merciful and compassionate, very patient, and full of faithful love. The Lord is good to everyone and everything; God’s compassion extends to all creation. May we bless God’s holy name forever and ever. Amen.

Celebrating Communion

Communion.  (Bread and wine were common foods during Jesus’ day.  As we celebrate communion at home, use common food and drinks you have. The type of food and drink is not what matters, but it matters that you remember Christ as you share, eat, and drink.)

A Reading from the Gospels. Mark 14:22-24.

While [the disciples and Jesus] were eating, [Jesus] took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

Before you eat, have someone say,
“This food represents the body of Christ. As we eat, we remember Jesus.”

Before you drink, have someone say,
“This drink represents the covenant Christ made with us that our sins will be forgiven. As we drink, we remember Jesus.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving. (Offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for coming to live on this earth as Jesus and for the forgiveness promised to all of us.)

Song.  Close communion by singing a hymn. You may want to sing Amazing Grace.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wrench like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
was blind but now I see.

The Gospel Lesson for the 5th Sunday in Lent

John 11:1-45

Listen to a collection of our church members reading the gospel lesson.

A certain man, Lazarus, was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This was the Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped his feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was ill.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This illness isn’t fatal. It’s for the glory of God so that God’s Son can be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. When he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was. After two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s return to Judea again.”

The disciples replied, “Rabbi, the Jewish opposition wants to stone you, but you want to go back?”

Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in the day? Whoever walks in the day doesn’t stumble because they see the light of the world. 10 But whoever walks in the night does stumble because the light isn’t in them.”

11 He continued, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I am going in order to wake him up.”

12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he’s sleeping, he will get well.” 13 They thought Jesus meant that Lazarus was in a deep sleep, but Jesus had spoken about Lazarus’ death.

14 Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you can believe. Let’s go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (the one called Didymus) said to the other disciples, “Let us go too so that we may die with Jesus.”

Jesus with Martha and Mary

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. 19 Many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary after their brother’s death. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.”

28 After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Jesus. 30 He hadn’t entered the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were comforting Mary in the house saw her get up quickly and leave, they followed her. They assumed she was going to mourn at the tomb.

32 When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. 34 He asked, “Where have you laid him?”

They replied, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus began to cry. 36 The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb

38 Jesus was deeply disturbed again when he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone covered the entrance. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said, “Lord, the smell will be awful! He’s been dead four days.”

40 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” 41 So they removed the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 I know you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of the crowd standing here so that they will believe that you sent me.” 43 Having said this, Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came with Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him.

 

Reflection from Jeffrey.  “The Raising of Lazarus

The Raising of Lazarus is an iconic story. Like the Feeding of the 5000 or the Prodigal Son, just the mention of Lazarus’ name draws to mind a vague picture of Jesus standing commandingly before a tomb and shouting, “Lazarus, come out!” My older self cannot shake the image from my childhood imagination in which Lazarus comes tottering out of the tomb looking like an adolescent mummy in costume for Halloween with dirty white strips of cloth hanging over his face.

For all the drama in the story associated with Lazarus, the real star is Jesus. He’s the one summoned by Mary and Martha when their brother is sick. He‘s the one who decides to stay away too long so that Lazarus dies. Jesus is the one upbraided by both Martha and Mary who state emphatically the problem as they see it: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus is also the one in whom Martha offers a word of faith that is profound in its ambition: “But even now I know God will give you whatever you ask.”

As I consider the first people who heard the story of Lazarus, I’m certain it was intended as be a witness to Jesus’ divine authority to grant life. After all, the only One who can bring things to life is God. And if God can bring life from nothing, then surely God can bring life from death. This faith in resurrection—life after this life—serves as the foundation of Christianity. Perhaps we have lost the “wow factor” since we read this story already believing in the resurrection of Jesus. Yet this is the first time we read the story of Lazarus during a global pandemic. For me our context highlights some different parts of this story.

Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (v. 5). We sing cute childhood hymns like Jesus loves the little children, and, Jesus loves me this I know. It would be hard to imagine Lazarus writing song lyrics that say Jesus loves me yet I died. *(Full lyrics found below.) Nevertheless, that is one point of this story: God’s love for us is absolute whether we live or die.

We want to live long. Our sisters want us to be restored to health before we die. Sometimes these things don’t happen, even when Jesus is our friend and “on call” when we need him. And still we know as a matter of faith that God loves us and death does not change that reality.  When Jesus makes that confession “I am the resurrection and the life,” (v. 25) and then adds, “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (v. 26), he does not mean that a virus cannot kill us. Nor cancer. Nor accidents. Nor old age. Nor young foolishness. What might he mean, then? If it is God’s love that gives us life, and if death cannot take away God’s love, then after we die God both still loves us and we still live in God. Resurrection is not just a promise of life but the realization of love for eternity.

Jesus wept (v. 35). Although this verse is forever known as the shortest verse in the entire Bible, it is not to be overlooked as small in significance. Jesus does not weep out of fear. Jesus does not cry because of death. Jesus is not moved to tears because he misjudged how sick his friend was. Jesus is not overwhelmed by his knowledge of the future and thus weeping anxiously over what is to come. These things cause us to shed tears, and rightly so.

In this case, however, Jesus weeps out of compassion for Mary and Martha. It remains, for me, one of the most meaningful changes in what I believe about God—God weeps with us in our grief and struggles and oppression and sorrow. The power of God is not in manipulating nature but in divine compassion. God’s grace is in knowing that God’s presence is healing for our spirit even when illness has taken its toll.  Remember Jesus said, the last shall be first and the weak will be strong. Even for God, divine strength is shown in compassion.

Questions for Reflection: 

God’s presence communicates comfort, not judgment. When have you found God’s presence comforting?

Jesus did many miracles that led people to believe in him. Raising Lazarus was one of them (see v. 45). Which stories of Jesus increase your faith?

Name three people you depend upon. Who are three people that depend on you? These people are the ones who provide meaningful relationships—they are a grace from God. What can you do to keep these relationships strong?

Prayer of Thanksgiving. (Offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for helping us to see the world with different eyes, for changing our hearts, for helping us treat one another as friends, for opening our minds to be able to think differently about things.)

Sending Out from Worship

Benediction (If there are more than one of you, choose someone to read the following.)

May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine upon your window pane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near to you and
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Closing Song.  In our tradition, we close worship by singing the first verse of Blest Be the Tie.  Mindy starts us each week, and so she does today as well.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. Amen.

______________ 

Credits: The Call to Worship was written by Joan Stott. Psalm 130 was read by Tessa and Pam. The video was prepared by Elizabeth. The gospel was read by Kendall, Calley and Galen. The Benediction is a traditional Celtic blessing. Blest be the Tie was sung by Mindy.
______________ 

*The Lost “Lazarus Verse” — To the Tune of “Jesus Loves Me”

Jesus loves me yet I died
And my sisters sat and cried
God had loved me every day
Now with God I ever stay

Read Full Post »

Since we are suspending our gathered worship in the sanctuary to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, you are invited to continue the worship of God in your home. For each Sunday we are not able to gather, a home worship guide will be posted.

Jewish households begin worship every Sabbath at home around the family’s table. Jesus being Jewish would have had a robust practice of worship at home. Our Baptist tradition believes in the “priesthood of believers” meaning every believer is able to lead worship.

Designate a space for worship. A table is a good place because it is a safe place for candles and limits distractions. Set out one or two candles to represent the presence of God. If you want to celebrate communion, pour a cup for each person and have something to eat for each.

The worship guide is based on our regular weekly worship. They are not obligations, but suggestions. Follow them or amend them as needed. Home worship will be more brief than corporate worship in the sanctuary. Involve all the people at your home in the worship time who are able.

Grace and peace, Tonya and Jeffrey

 

 

The Worship of God

Light two candles in recognition of Christ’s presence. In our practice, one candle represents Jesus’ divinity and the other Jesus’ humanity.

Gathering for Worship

Passing the Peace
Say to one another, “May the Peace of Christ be with you.”
Respond by saying, “And also with you.”

Call to Worship
Awaken from Your slumber,
and bring Your fears and anxieties
into the presence of the Lord our God.

Hear the call of our Shepherd,
and allow the voice to lead you
from selfish ambition to the feast of grace.

May the light of Christ
shine into the hidden darkness of our lives
and restore us for the service of the Lord.

Come let us worship God.

A Time of Prayer, Confession, and Assurance

A reading from the Book of Psalms
Psalm 23

The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still water;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff–
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.

Prayer (The following prayer is based on the Lord’s prayer. We are praying in unison this prayer each Sunday in Lent. Before you begin, if there is more than one of you, choose someone to close the “Silent Prayer and Meditation” by reading the “Words of Assurance.”)

Divine Source of love and life,
holy is your name.
May your Way of living resonate throughout the earth
just like it does in heaven.

With your great wisdom show us
that what we truly need
you freely give us to receive.
With your steadfast love
forgive us
when we fail to trek your Way of life.
With your grace and mercy
make us ready
to forgive one another.

Acknowledging your abiding presence
may we understand
how to surrender to you instead of temptation
for everything belongs to you.

Silent Prayer and Meditation

Words of Assurance.  The Lord is merciful and compassionate, very patient, and full of faithful love. The Lord is good to everyone and everything; God’s compassion extends to all creation. May we bless God’s holy name forever and ever. Amen.

Celebrating Communion

Communion.  (Bread and wine were common foods during Jesus’ day.  As we celebrate communion at home, use common food and drinks you have. The type of food and drink is not what matters, but it matters that you remember Christ as you share, eat, and drink.)

A Reading from the Gospels. Mark 14:22-24.

While [the disciples and Jesus] were eating, [Jesus] took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

Before you eat, have someone say,
“This food represents the body of Christ. As we eat, we remember Jesus.”

Before you drink, have someone say,
“This drink represents the covenant Christ made with us that our sins will be forgiven. As we drink, we remember Jesus.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving. (Offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for coming to live on this earth as Jesus and for the forgiveness promised to all of us.)

Song.  Close communion by singing a hymn. You may want to sing Amazing Grace

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wrench like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
was blind but now I see.

The Gospel Lesson for the 4th Sunday in Lent

John 9:1-38

Listen to a collection of our church members reading the gospel lesson.

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Reflection from Tonya.  “Before and After”

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretched like me!”
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.

Just like the song Amazing Grace, the gospel reading today is all about the “before and after.” Between the before and after, there’s a story.

A man who has been blind since he was born meets another man.  That man touches him with light and mud made wet with spit. The man goes and washes off the mud and is able to see the world in a different way.

This man is changed forever!  He met the Light of the world, and world took on a whole new look!  Everyone noticed that this man was different now from what he had been.

God’s amazing grace changes us. God’s amazing grace marks us. God’s amazing grace gives our lives a whole new look! When we encounter God’s amazing grace, people are going to notice. People will see the difference between what we were before and what we are after.

It’s hard to explain how it happens. It was hard for the man who was blind to explain how in the world he could now see. Some things just can’t be explained.

However, being able to explain the moment we are changed by God’s amazing grace is not the important part. What is important is the difference God’s amazing grace makes in our lives. What we were before God’s grace and what we have become after God’s grace.

So what differences has God’s grace made in your life?

  • Once I saw the world like this, but now I see the world like this.
  • Once I believed this, but now I believe this.
  • Once I thought this way, but I think this way.
  • Once I did that, but now I do this.

What sights, beliefs, thoughts, and actions have changed in your life because of
God’s amazing grace?

Prayer of Thanksgiving. (Offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for helping us to see the world with different eyes, for changing our hearts, for helping us treat one another as friends, for opening our minds to be able to think differently about things.)

Sending Out from Worship

Benediction (If there are more than one of you, choose someone to read the following.)

God calls you to be…
God’s light in the darkness,
God’s voice in the wilderness,
God’s hope for the hopeless.

God gives you
strength
peace and gentleness,
words and boldness,
to proclaim
more of God
and less of you.

Song.  In our tradition we close worship with the first verse of Blest Be the Tie.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. Amen.

______________ 

Credits: The Call to Worship was written by Marianne Rennie. The Psalm was read by Tracy, Michele, Addie, Mindy, Alyvia, and Aidan. The video was prepared by Elizabeth. The gospel was read by Jeffrey, Traci, Matthew, and Sarah. The Benediction was written John Birch.

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