Archive for the ‘worship’ Category

Opening Words of Gratitude

Glory be to God in the world around us:
in sun and shade, day and night,
and the rhythms of the seasons.
Glory be to God!
Glory be to God in the community in which we live:
in love and laughter, sorrow and joy,
and the patterns of human living.
Glory be to God!
Glory be to God in the way we live our lives:
in giving and sharing, thanking and knowing,
and all that makes us Jesus’ disciples.
Glory be to God!
Glory be to God in the world:
in the search for justice and peace,
and all that makes us one human family.
Glory be to God!
Glory be to God in the smallest of things:
in tiny creatures, fleeting moments,
the smallest seed of faith new-growing.
Glory be to God!
Glory be to God in greatness and majesty:
in the tallest mountains, the highest clouds,
the awesome dance of the whole cosmos.
Glory be to God!
Glory be to you, O God,
now and forever. Amen

Opening Prayer

Lord of the Sabbath,
welcome us into your silence:
no requirements, no expectations,
only heart meeting heart.
Lord of the Sabbath,
we take your forgiveness and hope
and lay down our burdens.
We seek your silence.
When we find it help us to linger there with you.
As silence sinks into our souls,
help us to pause in your serenity,
feel the comfort of your presence,
rest a while in your peace. Amen.

Song of Praise
Psalm 136
Words: Mwalimu Glenn T. Boyd
Tune: KIHAYA

Give thanks unto the Lord for God is ever good.
Amen, Alele, Allelujah!
God is the God of gods, God is the Lord of lords.
Amen, Alele, Allelujah!
Our God alone does wonders, God made the earth and stars.
Amen, Alele, Allelujah!
God made the sun for day, and moon and stars for night.
Amen, Alele, Allelujah!
God frees us from oppression, gives life to every creature.
Amen, Alele, Allelujah!
Give thanks unto the Lord, the God of earth and heaven.
Amen, Alele, Allelujah!

Psalm 1
Common English Bible

The truly happy person
doesn’t follow wicked advice,
doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,
and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.
Instead of doing those things,
these persons love the LORD’s Instruction,
and they recite God’s instruction day and night!
They are like a tree planted by streams of water,
which bears fruit at just the right time
and whose leaves don’t fade.
Whatever they do succeeds.

That’s not true for the wicked!
They are like dust that the wind blows away.
And that’s why the wicked will have no standing in the court of justice—
neither will sinners
in the assembly of the righteous.
The LORD is intimately acquainted
with the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked is destroyed.

Song of Praise
Like a Tree Beside the Waters
Words: James F. D. Martin
Tune: HYFRODEL

Like a tree beside the waters, nurtured by your loving care,
We, O God, your sons and daughters, your enduring witness bear.
In each passing generation may your voice of love be heard.
Bless, we pray, this congregation with your holy, living Word.

Like a tree beside the river, drawing life from holy streams,
Fill us with your love forever, recreate our hopes and dreams.
Through the storms of life sustain us by the wisdom of your grace.
May the changing of the seasons find us in your warm embrace.

We beside the living waters, drink from your eternal life.
Give to all, your sons and daughter, faith that rises over strife.
O Living God, most glorious, strengthen us for life today.
By the hope of timeless promise guide your church upon the Way.

Prayer for Others

Choral Anthem
Eden’s Song
by Mark Schweizer

A memory of Eden stirs
and walks within the warmth of spring;
it whispers ev’ry hope God has
to Life Eternal, listening.

Stretch past the gloom of winter’s grey,
unfurl by faith and not by sight;
to touch the light of length’ning day
that calls thee forth to green delight.

The work thou hast for me begun,
shall by the grace be fully done;
forever mercy dwells with thee;
O Lord, my God, abide with me.

John 17:6-11a, 16-19
reflection by Rev. Jeffrey Vickery

Common English Bible

[Jesus said] “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. This is because I gave them the words that you gave me, and they received them. They truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. “I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours. Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them. I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you….”

“They don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Response
Sent by the Lord
Words: Cuban oral tradition
Tune: Cuban traditional

Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.

The angels cannot change
a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love,
of justice and of peace.
The task is mine to do,
to set it truly free.
Oh, help me to obey;
help me to do your will.

Sending Out

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
   In the name of Christ. Amen.

Closing Song
Blest Be the Tie
Words: John Fawcett   
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli)

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements
The opening words of gratitude were written by Richard Sharples and the opening prayer is adapted from a prayer by Rebekah Maples, Summer: Liturgical Resources for May, June, and July, ed. Ruth Burgess, Wild Goose Publications, the publishing arm of the Iona Community, ©2019. Used by permission. Psalm 136 comes from Four African Hymns. The original Swahili text was penned by Mwalimu Glen T. Boyd and the tune is Kihaya. Words to Like a Tree Beside the Waters were written by James F.D. Martin who wrote the hymn upon the Campbellsport (WI) United Church of Christ’s 125th anniversary in 1993. They tune HYFRYDOL is a Welsh tune composed by Rowland Hugh Prichard in 1830 when he was 19 years old! Prichard was a textile worker and amateur musician. “Hyfrydol” is Welsh for “tuneful” or “pleasant.” Sent By the Lord is a traditional Cuban tune with words from Cuban oral tradition. May we remember our Cuban brothers and sisters in the Alliance this morning as we join in singing!

Permission to print the words and lead lines to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved. All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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Opening Words of Gratitude

As the elements give life,
soil and air,
sun and rain providing nurture,
We wait for growth; we hope for new life.
With restless impatience
that counts the minutes,
wanting it now,
We wait for growth; we hope for new life.
With steady patience,
trusting roots buried
deep in the ground,
We wait for growth; we hope for new life.
With ceaseless work,
the strenuous effort
of trying to make a difference,
We wait for growth; we hope for new life.
With unforced hope,
living in anticipation
of days yet to come,
We wait for growth; we hope for new life.
In effort and expectation,
in work and rest,
in doing and being,
We wait for growth; we hope for new life.

Opening Prayer

Holy God, you call us together to reflect on your Word and our life in your world. Be with us now as we hum along to the music, as we pray together, as we listen to the scripture readings, that we may hear your voice and understand your way. This we pray through Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Song of Praise
Sing out Earth and Skies
by Marty Haugen

Come, O God of all the earth: Come to us, O Righteous One;
Come and bring our love to birth: In the glory of your Son.
Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!

Come, O God of wind and flame: Fill the earth with righteousness;
Teach us all to sing your name: May our lives your love confess.
Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!

Come, O God of flashing light: Twinkling star and burning sun;
God of day and God of night: In your light all are one.
Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!

Come, O God of snow and rain: Shower down upon the earth;
Come, O God of joy and pain: God of sorrow, God of mirth.
Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!

Come, O Justice, Come, O Peace: Come and shape our hearts anew;
Come and make oppression cease: Bring us all to life in you.
Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!

Psalm 98
Common English Bible

Sing to the Lord a new song
    because he has done wonderful things!
His own strong hand and his own holy arm
    have won the victory!
The Lord has made his salvation widely known;
    he has revealed his righteousness
    in the eyes of all the nations.
God has remembered his loyal love
    and faithfulness to the house of Israel;
    every corner of the earth has seen our God’s salvation. Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
    Be happy!
    Rejoice out loud!
    Sing your praises!
Sing your praises to the Lord with the lyre—
    with the lyre and the sound of music.
With trumpets and a horn blast,
    shout triumphantly before the Lord, the king!
Let the sea and everything in it roar;
    the world and all its inhabitants too.
Let all the rivers clap their hands;
    let the mountains rejoice out loud altogether before the Lord
    because he is coming to establish justice on the earth!
He will establish justice in the world rightly;
    he will establish justice among all people fairly.

Song of Praise
Jesu, Jesu Fill Us with Your Love
Tune: CHEREPONI, Ghanaian Folk Song

Refrain:
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.

Knelt at the feet of his friends,
silently washing their feet,
Jesu, you acted as a servant to them.
Refrain

Neighbors are rich and poor,
varied in color and race,
neighbors are near and far away.
Refrain

These are the ones we should serve,
these are the one we should love;
all these neighbors to us and you.
Refrain

Loving puts us on our knees,
showing our faith by our deeds,
serving the neighbors we have from you.
Refrain

Kneel at the feet of our friends,
Silently washing their feet,
this is the way we should live with you.
Refrain

Prayer for Others

Choral Anthem
If Ye Love Me
by Carson P. Cooman

If ye love me,
keep my commandments,
and I will pray the father,
and he shall give you,
and he shall give you another comforter,
that he may abide with you forever,
even the Spirit of truth.

If ye love me, keep my commandments.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 15:1-8
Common English Bible

[Jesus said,] “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.

Reflection on the Gospel
Rev. Tonya Vickery

When I was a child, my Aunt Evelyn gave me a little yellow colored card which had a poem on it along with a tiny wooden cross glued to the paper.  My house burned the summer before my junior year of high school, so I no longer have the card. But thanks to the internet, I a picture of one and here’s what it said.

I carry a cross in my pocket
A simple reminder to me
Of the fact that I am a Christian
No matter where I may be.

This little cross is not magic
Nor is it a good luck charm
It isn’t meant to protect me
From every physical harm.

It’s not for identification
For all the world to see
It’s simply an understanding
Between my Savior and me.

When I put my hand in my pocket
To bring out a coin or key
The cross is there to remind me
Of the price He paid for me.

It reminds me too to be thankful
For my blessings day by day
And to strive to serve Him better
In all I do and say.

So I carry a cross in my pocket
Reminding no one but me
That Jesus Christ is Lord of my life
If only I’ll let him be.

The card made an impression on me teaching me many things which became foundational to my faith.

First, I learned that when you see a cross, it should remind you that you are always a Christian and you should always act like one.  To my child’s mind the cross meant, “You had better behave and if you don’t you will get in trouble.”  I was too chicken to break the rules, so behaving wasn’t hard for me. And, there definitely were not any tempting misbehaving behaviors to do.

Secondly, the poem taught me that the cross is not magic. I watched cartoons as a child and a regular Saturday morning one was Scooby Doo. It was not unusual for the Scooby Doo gang to run into vampires. But no worries, Velma always had a cross at the ready to ward them off. We all knew that was just a story, it was a tall tale that vampires would run away from crosses. As I got older and watched different movies, I could readily see that a cross didn’t amount to a hill of beans when used on Friday the 13th.  Anyhow, this idea that the cross is not a magical “weapon” helped me to understand early  on that bad things can happen to everyone, whether you are a Christian or not.

The poem also taught me not to turn the cross into a badge of honor. I learned that we don’t “wear” a cross to brag to the world of our position or title or religion. The poem reinforced the idea that a Christian is to be humble and that being a Christian doesn’t make me better than everyone else.

Lastly, the poem taught me that on the cross Jesus paid a price for me therefore I should be grateful and work hard to serve God.  As a child, I liked pleasing people, so it was easy for me to want to please God. I was at the ready to serve God however God wanted me to serve.  Growing up in the USA, I also strongly believed that if you work hard, you will reap a great reward. The more you put into something, the more you get out of it. Now the idea of “Jesus paying a price for me” made sense because I saw grownups had to pay for a lot of things in life.  If you wanted a new dress, or a new pair of shoes, you had to pay for them. My mama loved to shop which meant as a child I spent a lot of time in department stores and malls. I figured the phrase, “Jesus paid a price for me” meant Jesus thought I was good enough to buy.  I watched mama spend a lot of time deciding which was best to buy. However, as a child I’m not sure I ever thought about or asked anyone who Jesus was paying.  I heard more phrases like, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe,” or “Jesus died so I could live,” but I never remembering thinking about who Jesus was paying.  You see, I didn’t grow up in a religious culture that said God was angry and Jesus had to pay the price for all the bad things I had done. Somehow instead, I had this idea that Jesus was rescuing me, helping me not choose the bad things of life. And the rescuing cost Jesus a lot.

Over the course of 2,000 years, the cross has become for us a symbol of the Christian narrative of salvation. It is grounded in the theology that Jesus laid down his life for us, died on a cross in order to save us. 

Years ago one of our local preachers at the Easter sunrise service shared with us his belief that Jesus had to die on a cross for it to matter. If Jesus had died of old age, then his death would not have mattered. If Jesus had died from an infection while travelling around Galilee, his death would not have mattered. If Jesus’ life and ministry was cut short by a stroke or heart disease, then his death would not have mattered. Any other way of dying would have been something other than a sacrificial death, any other way of dying would have been something other than Jesus willing to die, choosing to die, offering to die.  Any other death would have not been laying down one’s life for one’s friends.

If you are like me, there are times when I look at the cross and I wonder about our interpretation of its meaning. Sometimes we polish the cross up. We wrap it in silver or gold or bronze. Sometimes we even wear a decorative image of it around our necks.  I have lots of “cross” jewelry–a simple silver one given to me upon my ordination to the gospel ministry, a rose gold colored one my Aunt Bobby gave me at my ordination, a silver colored one with a blue stone that one of our youth years ago bought at Disney as gift for me, I used to have gold cross earrings, I also have a very, very old golden cross pendant that came from my Grandma Easterly’s family. It is interesting how some of those cross pendants are meaningful and some of them are just jewelry items. You know what I mean. For some people a cross pendant is just wardrobe accessory along the same lines as the buddha in my Aunt Almedia’s house. It was a decorative piece in the den. Think about how we print the cross on a t-shirts. We put the cross on bumper stickers. Some people turn the cross into an instrument of hate and violence.  I will never understand what a few of you may have seen with your own eyes, how a group of white people who called themselves the kkk turn the cross into a message of violence and hate against black people. What message of “salvation” does oppression or personal adornment mean for the cross? 

A simple wooden cross stands in our churchyard on the edge of the cemetery. It’s presence proclaims among the graves the great hope we have through Christ Jesus. Jesus suffered and died. God raised Jesus from the grave. Jesus has ascended into heaven and that is where we will join him one day. 

A brass cross stands on our communion table every Sunday. During Lent we tend to exchange it for the rustic wooden one that Ron made for us. But we always have a cross on our communion table. Placed on that particular table the cross echoes the words of Jesus, “This is my body, broken for you.  This is my blood, shed for you…” Like the cross on the yellow card in my pocket, the cross on the table reminds us.

How ironic it is that you and I have pledged our lives to a crucified savior. Those two words “crucified” and “savior” only work together when enacted by the Divine. Nothing or no one else could be crucified and save.  Crucifixion was the Roman’s answer to how to deal with people who rebelled against Rome. Crucifixion was public, out there for everyone to see what would happen to you if you didn’t follow the rules and if you tried to overthrow those in charge. It was torture. It was shameful. It was humiliating. It was cruel. Even the words of Deuteronomy say, “Anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”  (21:23) 

But Jesus’ death on a cross firmly says, “Hope comes from being defeated.  Suffering and death do not have the last word.” The crucifixion of Jesus was a wrongful outrageous death, but it became God’s critique over and against dark and harmful powers.  You see, the worst can happen. The most honest and honorable people can be falsely accused. The right ways can be abandoned. The weak turned over to oppressors. The kind and compassionate can be hated. The gentle can be brutally murdered. But none of that is greater than the hope we have in God through Jesus Christ. Suffering and death do not have the last word.  Life is meaningful even in the face of death. Hope can remain alive in the midst of defeat and powerlessness.

The words of Jesus found in John 15 come just two pages in your printed Bibles before Jesus is arrested. Jesus is about to lay down his life for his friends. Jesus is about to show us the fullness of God’s love for us. Jesus is about help us understand clearly that suffering and death do not have the last word. Jesus is getting ready to show us that hope can remain alive in the midst of defeat and complete powerlessness.  As Jesus prepares us for the defeat, what does he say?

First, Jesus reminds us that he loves us. And Jesus wants us to have the same kind of joy in life that he has and he wants it to be full and complete. In fact, Jesus wants our joy to be filled to the brim!  Not just a little joy. Not just enough to get you by. But Jesus wants you to have complete joy.

Second, our relationship together with Christ is on-going. This is not a one-time event, meaning when Jesus has left the scene, when Jesus is no longer apparent to our eyes, our relationship is still happening. Jesus says, “I chose you.” But it a choosing that is ongoing. It is better understood perhaps by saying Jesus chose us and keeps on choosing us. Jesus says, “I appointed you” and it is the same perpetual idea as the choosing. The appointing never stops. Jesus appointed us and keeps on appointing us. And just like the choosing and the appointing, we are to bear fruit and keep on bearing fruit. (For a better understanding about bearing fruit, go back and listen to last week’s sermon.) You see, this relationship with God through Jesus Christ is not a checklist of things to be done, it is a way to be and it is ongoing all the time.

Third, Jesus calls us friends! We are not bond servants–working to pay off a debt. We are not employees of Christ–working a job to earn the pay check called eternal life. We are not paid workers–reaping success because we are doing what Christ says. We are Christ’s friends. We are Christ’s associates. In other words, we are in this life together through the thick and thin. We are friends for life–a bond that cannot be broken even by death.

Fourth, Jesus reminds us that this is not a solo “job.” We are in this all together. And we are to love one another. If we haven’t learned anything this far in our Sundays after Easter, it is this. We are to love one another. In fact, Jesus commands us to do so. How do we maintain that love for one another? You can list all the many things that break down relationships, they are easy to spot after they have torn things apart. But what are the things that keep that relationship of love going?

We have it easier than any other group out there. For our love for God through Jesus Christ is the source of our love for one another. Our love for God through Jesus Christ is the source of our love for one another. Let me say it this way. We love one another because Christ loves us and we love Christ.  The 4th chapter of 1 John shares the same idea but says it quite bluntly. You may recall these words, “Those who say, I love God,” and hate their brothers or sister cannot love God.” And earlier in the chapter we read, “If we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.”  Again, “Those who love God must love their brother and sister also.” 

This love for one another is woven deeply into our lives because it comes from God above. Our love for one another is a discipline, a habit that is perfected over time through our love for God and our care and concern for each other. 

So you can imagine what happens to our love for one another when our love for God grows. Our love for each other grows too.  Now this doesn’t mean I’m not going to drive you crazy. This doesn’t mean that we will never have a spat or never disagree. This doesn’t mean that our relationship with one another will be perfect. But it should mean that at all times, we love one another through the thick and the thin, just as Christ loves us.

I pray that our church family will continue to embody the love of God for everyone as we continue growing our love for one another!

Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Thank you, God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Reponse
Help Us Love Each Other
Words: Fred Kaan  
Tune: AURELIA

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe
We are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

Teach us O Lord, Your lessons, as in our daily life
we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people, for all, not just for some;
to love them as we find them, or as they may be come.

Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved
in living situations to do the truth in love,
to practice your acceptance until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness and laughter’s healing art.

Lord, for today’s encounters with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance, for righteousness and bread,
we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on;
renew us with Your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!

Sending Out

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
   In the name of Christ. Amen.

Closing Song
Blest Be the Tie
Words: John Fawcett   
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli)

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements
The opening words of gratitude were written by Jan Berry, Summer: Liturgical Resources for May, June, and July, ed. Ruth Burgess. The prayer was written by the United Church of Canada, Voices United, 2007. Wild Goose Publications, the publishing arm of the Iona Community, ©2019.  Used by permission. 

Permission to print the words and lead lines to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved. All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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Opening Words of Gratitude

When flowers bloom in the desert,
Christ is risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!
When enemies sit around tables and talk about peace,
Christ is risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!
When people stand up for what is right in the face of great evil,
Christ is risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!
When, despite hardship and struggle, people sing and dance,
Christ is risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!
When prison bars are shattered by the cry of “Freedom!”
Christ is risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!
When in our wounded and broken world,
life triumphs over death, peace over war,
hope over fear, freedom over captivity, love over hate,
Christ is risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!

Opening Prayer

Almighty Creator God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name this morning; through Christ our Sovereign. Amen.

Song of Praise
Praise God for Easter Flowers
Words: Carl Dixon    
Tune: DARWALL’S 148th

Praise God for Easter flow’rs that cover all the earth,
their vibrant glowing colours, a promise of new birth.
Praise God for all his love and care, his glory displayed everywhere.

Praise God for morning dew that sparkles all around,
with myriad shimmering hues refreshing thirsty ground.
Praise God for all his love and care: his glory displayed everywhere.

Praise God for risen life with each and every breath;
and praise the living Christ who conquers fear and death.
Praise God for all his love and care: his glory displayed everywhere.

Psalm 22:25-31
Common English Bible

I offer praise in the great congregation because of you;
   I will fulfill my promises in the presence of those who honor God.
Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
   Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
  I pray your hearts live forever!
Every part of the earth will remember and come back to the Lord;
    every family among all the nations will worship you.
Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
    he rules all nations.
Indeed, all the earth’s powerful will worship him;
    all who are descending to the dust will kneel before him;
    my being also lives for him.
Future descendants will serve him;
    generations to come will be told about my Lord.
They will proclaim God’s righteousness to those not yet born 
    telling them what God has done.

Song of Praise
What Wonderous Love is This
Words: Cluster of Spiritual Songs, 1823   
Tune: WONDROUS LOVE

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.

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 when 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.

Prayer for Others

Choral Anthem
Christ the Vine
by Robert J. Powell

Christ, the vine, and God, the gardener,
we, the branches bearing fruit.
We can bring forth shoots of promise
when our lives in Christ take root.

Christ, the fruit from Jesse springing,
you fulfilled the prophet’s trust.
And you pray that we, your body,
will fulfill your trust in us.

Christ, may we submit to pruning
that we bear more grapes for wine.
Help us, when we’re overburdened,
draw new strength from you, the vine.

You invite us to be partners,
growing Spirit’s fruit anew.
Keep us one in love together:
you in us, and we in you!

John 15:1-8
Common English Bible

[Jesus said,] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.”

Reflection on the Gospel
Rev. Jeffrey Vickery

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Thank you, God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Reponse
Like the Murmur of the Dove’s Song
Words: Carl P. Daw, Jr.     
Tune: BRIDEGROOM (Cutts)

Like the murmur of the dove’s song, like the challenge of her flight
like the vigor of the wind’s rush, like the new flame’s eager might:
Come, Holy Spirit, come.

To the members of Christ’s body, to the branches of the Vine,
to the church in faith assemble, to our midst as gift and sign:
Come, Holy Spirit, come.

With the healing of division, with the ceaseless voice of prayer,
with the pow’r to love & witness, with the peace beyond compare:
Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Sending Out

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
   In the name of Christ. Amen.

Closing Song
Blest Be the Tie
Words: John Fawcett   
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli)

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements
The opening words of gratitude were written by Liz Delafield from Summer: Liturgical Resources for May, June, and July, ed. Ruth Burgess. Wild Goose Publications, the publishing arm of the Iona Community, ©2019.  Used by permission. 

Permission to print the words and lead lines to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved. All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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Opening Words of Gratitude 

For birds making their nests, for eggs and chicks: 
Thank you, God, for spring. 
For young rabbits hopping in the fields,  
for tadpoles swimming in the pond: 
Thank you, God, for spring. 
For bright spring flowers in the garden,  
for fresh green leaves on the tree: 
Thank you, God, for spring.
For longer days to play outside, for warm sunshine on our face: 
Thank you, God, for spring. 
For Jesus dying to show us love, 
coming alive again on Easter Day 
and bringing new life to the world: 
Thank you, God, for spring.  Amen 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. 
Christ is risen, indeed.   
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! 

Opening Prayer

God of new life, whose buds grow in days of darkness to open into increasing light, accept our thankfulness for the beauty of springtime.  Give us patience to wait for the flowering and the fruit. Give us joy in the harvest of your generosity. Teach us to respect and care for the earth and for the whole creation, that infused with hope and expectation, we may take our place in your plan to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth through the example of Christ, your Word made flesh, whose love restores and unites. Amen.

Song of Praise
The Silent Witness of the Heavens 
Words: Janet Pybon   
Tune: BEGINNINGS (Young) 

The silent witness of the heavens tells of the glory of the Lord. 
Vast galaxies of constellations declare God’s power with one accord. 

The crimson hues of fiery sunsets and dawn-flushed clouds at morning’s light, 
the lightning flash, the clap of thunder speak of God’s majesty and might. 

The tiger prowling through the jungle, the darting flash of hummingbird, 
the snake that slithers through the desert tell of God’s power without a word. 

The giant redwoods in the forest, the grandeur of the mountain’s height, 
the myriad life-forms in the ocean speak of God’s mystery and might. 

Creator God, whose power we worship, teach us to know our proper place, 
to recognize the claims and value of all, not just the human race. 

Oh, help us act as proper stewards, and understand your gift’s true worth; 
to make the necessary changes, that will protect our precious earth.  

Psalm 23
Common English Bible 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; 
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. 

John 1:11-18
Common English Bible 

[Jesus said,] “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Song of Preparation
Come Find the Quiet Center 
Words: Shirley Erena Murray
Music: Swee Hong Lim 

Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead, 
Find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed; 
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see 
All the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be. 
 
Silence is a friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace,  
God it is who speaks and names us knows our being, touches base, 
Marking space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun, 
Raising courage when we’re shrinking, finding scope for faith begun. 

In the Spirit, let us travel, open to each other’s pain, 
Let our loves and fears unravel, celebrate the space we gain; 
There’s a place for deepest dreaming, there’s a time for heart to care, 
In the Spirit’s lively scheming there is always room to spare! 

Prayer for Others 

Choral Anthem 
The Good Shepherd 
by Zebulon M. Highben with RESIGNATION and ST. COLUMBIA 

My sheep hear my voice and they follow me; 
I know them; I give them eternal life. 
My sheep hear my voice and they follow me. 

I am the good shepherd of all. 
My Shepherd, you supply my need; 
Most holy is your name. 
In pasture green you make me feed 

Beside the living stream. 
You bring my wand’ring spirit back 
when I forsake your ways, 
And le me, for your mercy’s sake, 
In paths of truth and grace. 

1 John 3:16-24
Common English Bible 

This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17But if someone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but refuses to help—how can the love of God dwell in a person like that? 

18Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. 19This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence. 20Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. 21Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence in relationship to God. 22We receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us. 24Those who keep his commandments dwell in God and God dwells in them. This is how we know that he dwells in us, because of the Spirit he has given us. 

Reflection on the Scriptures 
Rev. Tonya Vickery 

Listen to the sermon from our 2pm service and/or read below.

Creating a World Where No One Fears Evil

Psalm 23 resonates with me in a multitude of ways. It brings to mind many, many memories. When I was a child, my Grandma Easterly prayed these words while tornadic winds roared over the house in southern Illinois.  They brought us comfort. Those striking words, “Even though…I will fear no evil.” It was hard to lean into that proclamation while I sat on the couch with a pillow over my head! “Even though…I will fear no evil.” “Even though … [fill in the blank with whatever darkness threatens you, or the world right now], even though,…. I will fear no evil.”

Imagine with me, a world where no one fears evil, a world where no one is afraid. A place where there is no fear of violence, no fear of poverty, no fear of oppression. Imagine, a world where there is no fear from forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, domestic violence. Imagine a world where there is no fear from battle grounds, killing fields, hunger, thirst. Imagine a world where there is no fear of those in authority. 

Even though . . . I will fear no evil.

The children of Myanmar come to mind. Try to be a child while living under a military coup and you have friends who have been shot dead by the militants. Evil. The children of Brazil who are hungry. Their leaders have shunned the virus and plowed ahead and it is the people who suffer from economic loss and death. Evil. But come closer to home. What about children and youth who live in Arkansas? State lawmakers are working hard, working hard to limit the rights of trans children and youth. They are even considering penalizing parents and doctors who might seek or provide gender-affirming medical care. Here we go again. A state in our United States entertaining the idea of legislating the right to treat another human being as something lesser and they sugar coat it in religious language. Evil. We remember that fight from 2017 in our own state when some lawmakers tried to restrict which bathrooms transgender people could use. A system meant to protect bullies and shuns and shames.

Despite the audacity of others, despite the arrogance, despite the lack of compassion, despite the powerful opposition, as Christians we are called to create a world where no one fears evil. I’m hoping the teachings from the John’s this morning can help us learn how to better create and bring about that kind of world where no one fears evil. That’s God’s kind of world, on earth as it is in heaven.

God loves us.

First, let’s talk about us.  I just have to ask this morning, does God love us? Yes.

Does God love you? Oh yes! 

Well, how do you know that God loves you?

We have seen how much God loves us: creating the world, the universe, creating us; giving us life and an invitation to live together with God forever, never separated.  But not everyone feels or knows the love of God so easily.

A former member had the hardest time understanding and believing that God loved them.  I always struggled to find a word or a phrase to help bridge the gap that they felt. And I never could come up with a good replacement or idea for the word “love.”  Their story wasn’t unique. It has happened and does happen in many others as well. For what had separated them from knowing that God loved them, was the fact that they were gay.

They were older than me. They grew up in the 60’s and in the south. Even when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in the south, a love for someone of your same gender was not to be acknowledged, not to be thought about, it wasn’t natural, it wasn’t right.  It was a desire and persuasion that was not to be entertained or even spoken of. To society, it was not normal. But religion took that idea further. Religion said, it wasn’t how God created things to be. So it was seen as a fault and a sin. It was seen as the person’s fault and something they could change.

I cannot imagine living for decades under the weight of such a burden, a burden put on me by other people’s opinions, a burden laid on me under the guise of it being my “fault.” I cannot imagine who I am being considered a disappointment to God.  I can imagine what I do disappointing God, but who I am? And this is how our church member felt. It takes years to overcome all those years you have believed yourself to be a disappointment to God. That “God loves us” was a concept that others could celebrate and find hope in, but an idea with which our church member struggled.

But the blessing came in how you, their church family just kept on showing God’s love throughout the years over and over again. And when we slipped up and didn’t show God’s love, we owned the mistake and tried to make it right. And for years we have worked to be a blessing to others. We have worked to create a safe space within the community of Christ for any one of us to wrestle or struggle with our hardest moments without being judged or shunned or ridiculed. We have been so faithful towards this that we ended up without realizing it creating a space where our church member could “come out” while standing at church’s pulpit. It is a day I will never forget, that one would share such a personal moment. It speaks of how we have taken to heart the need we have for “sanctuary” and we have generously givine that opportunity to others. A true sanctuary for everyone in all times.  And God took our feeble efforts and used them to help another of us come to know that God does love them.

So, if you are not sure if God loves you, or if God can love you, then stick around with us for a little bit at least. We are not perfect, far from it. We are not all wise and always understanding, but we hope that we are living and sharing the love of God which is for every, every one.  It doesn’t have to be earned, It is not a reward for good actions either. The love of God is just there for all of us because God truly loves us.

Our greatest calling is to love one another.

Now, here’s a good place to talk about others. What do you do with that blessed gift of God’s love which is showered upon you at all times and in all circumstances?  What do we do with the love of God? Jesus loves me this I know. Well, good for you. Now what are you going to do?

God loves you, yes. But it’s not just about you. God’s love should be moving us beyond ourselves. God’s love isn’t meant to just make you feel better about yourself. God’s love isn’t meant to just make your day brighter and more cheery. God’s love isn’t just meant to make you a better person. God’s love isn’t meant to make you.  God’s loves is meant for the world. Remove the mirrors that cause you to look only at yourself. God’s love is for the world. God doesn’t love just you. God loves the world.  God doesn’t love you more than God loves someone else. God loves the world. 

Perhaps our greatest calling in the here and now is to love one another. I’m not referring to love that is condescending. It is not a love that comes from pity. It is not a love that comes from feeling sorry for you. It is not a love that is required because you need it. It is not a love that I give to you because I have to. It is not a love that I offer to you because you didn’t have it before. When our purpose for loving someone else is because they are lesser than we are, then we have it all wrong.

It’s like the people that live by that phrase, “love the sinner, but not the sin.” Do they really love the sinner? Calling someone a sinner seems to indicate that they have a problem which you don’t have. And you can love them despite of their fault. How many times did our church member receive this kind of love. I don’t appreciate your life style — your choice of who to love — but I will love you anyway. Yeah, right. It is that word, “but” that devalues things. If you have to make an excuse for someone so as to love them, then it probably isn’t love.

God doesn’t invite us to tolerate one another. God doesn’t ask us to deal with one another. God calls us to love one another. God’s love is the same for me as for you as for the other. God doesn’t love the Pentecostal Christian more than the Vowed Atheist. God doesn’t love George Floyd more than Derick Chauvin. God loves the world.

Now, God teaches us through the writings of 1 John that we are not to love in word and speech, but we are to love in truth and action. We just don’t talk about love. But we do love. And right off the bat, 1 John says, you don’t refuse to help. If you have resources and another person is in need, you help. We need to busy creating a world where no one fears evil. 

Last time I checked, all of us are sporting the majority color of skin–white. Last time I checked, all of us were Christians. Did you know that there is not a single piece of legislation in our nation that has been passed without the support of the white Christian community? I learned this yesterday at the annual gathering of the Alliance of Baptist. That means, if white Christians don’t support something, it ain’t going to happen in our country. Now that’s a shame, a real shame. But there it is. Take note of the power that you have. See it as a responsibility.

Last time I checked, all of us were appreciated by our community. Last time I checked, none of us were being held under suspicion by the authorities. Last time I checked, we all had access to opportunities for education and for work. That means that you and I, all of us, we don’t have to be afraid to show up in the face of evil. We don’t have to be afraid of losing our lives, our social standing, our jobs, our friends, or our church family. If we are going to work about creating a world where no one fears evil, then you and I have better start showing up in the face of evil, naming it for what it is, and tearing down the foundations upon which it stands. Don’t back off. It is wearisome work, but until evil is dismantled, then the world is going to have a hard time knowing and feeling and accepting the love of God.

We tore down that evil for our church member years ago. We provided a safe space where they could come out in the presence of God and God’s people. Now, we have more work to do. We need to keep on working to create the safe places where all can come to worship, to grow, and to know the love of God.  But it will take us showing up in the face of evil. And some of you are really good at showing up in people’s faces. Use that gift of boldness in the name of the one in whom you believe, in the name of Jesus, and yes be co-creators with God in bring back that world where no one has to fear any more.

To God be the glory in all that we endeavor to do! Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving 

Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.  

Song of Response  
Holy Spirit, Go Before Us 
Words: Elizabeth Smith  
Tune: AUSTRIAN 

Holy Spirit, go before us, every mind and heart prepare 
for good news of life in Jesus, for the joyful hope we share.  
Gently lead the lost to safety, gently teach them Wisdom’s way,  
till they come to seek you gladly, till we find the words to say.  

Holy Spirit, come and help us, give us words to Speak of Christ. 
Teach us how to tell all people: deepest darkness can be light!  
Help us tell how faithful God is, and how Jesus sets us free;  
take our words and make them gospel so that many may believe.  

Holy Spirit, stay to show us how to serve as Christ served us.  
May our words of love be grounded in love’s actions, first and last.  
Your good news is news of justice, and the strong befriend the weak  
in your service, till compassion builds the peace the nations seek. 

Sending Out 

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, 
    In the name of Christ. Amen. 

Closing Song 

Blest Be the Tie 
Words: John Fawcett    
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli) 

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain;  
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.  

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way;  
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.   

Acknowledgements.

The opening words of gratitude were written by Simon Taylor and the opening prayer was written by Terry Garley. Both are from Spring: Liturgical Resources for February, March, and April, ed. Ruth Burgess. Wild Goose Publications, the publishing arm of the Iona Community, ©2019.  Used by permission. The hymns were sung by our Mindy accompanied by Tonya on piano. The anthem was sung by Elizabeth, Laura, Mindy, and Tonya.

Permission to print the words to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors. 


 

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Invitation to Worship

based on Psalm 4

We are blessed beyond measure! For God, who created this world and all that is in it, listens to us in our distress and answers us when we call. God fills our hearts with joy! So, let us put our trust in God and celebrate today the wonder of God’s glory revealed in and through the risen Christ. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. 
Christ is risen, indeed. 
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! 

Opening Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, the light of your love shines on,
illuminating the places where you are present.
As the bewildered disciples pondered the stories of your appearance,
you penetrated the darkness of their fear and doubt with your word of peace.
You showed them the appalling marks of evil pierced on your hands and feet.
You opened their minds to understand
why you had to die to defeat such evil and death.
Increase our understanding, we pray,
and open our minds and hearts to receive you, Lord.
Speak your word of peace to us
and let your love shine on any dark areas in our lives.
May this worship which we offer in your name
be a worthy response to your love and your sacrifice for us. Amen.

Song of Praise 
Now the Green Blade Rises
Words: JMC Crum
Tune: NOEL NOUVELET

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
What that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been;
Love is come again like wheat arising green.

In the grave they laid him, love by hatred slain,
thinking he would never wake and live again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen;
Love is come again like wheat arising green.

Forth he came at Easter like the risen grain,
Jesus, who for three days in the grave had lain;
Raised from the dead, the living Christ is seen;
Love is come again like wheat arising green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been;
Love is come again like wheat arising green.

Psalm 4
Common English Bible 

Answer me when I cry out, my righteous God!
Set me free from my troubles!
Have mercy on me! Listen to my prayer!
How long, you people, will my reputation be insulted?
How long will you continue to love what is worthless and go after lies?
Know this: the LORD takes personal care of the faithful.
The LORD will hear me when I cry out to him.
So be afraid, and don’t sin!
Think hard about it in your bed and weep over it!
Bring righteous offerings,
and trust the LORD!
Many people say,
“We can’t find goodness anywhere.
The light of your face has left us, LORD!”
But you have filled my heart with more joy
than when their wheat and wine are everywhere!
I will lie down and fall asleep in peace
because you alone, LORD, let me live in safety.

Prayer for Others

Song of Response
There is a Balm in Gilead
Words: African American Spiritual
Tune: BALM IN GILEAD

Refrain:
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my works in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. 

Refrain

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus and say, “He died for all.”

Refrain

Celebration of the Ordination as Deacon

In our Baptist tradition, each one of us serves the Lord and we are equally capable of doing so. We do not practice any kind of hierarchy in the church for we are all one in Christ Jesus. As we work to better serve the Lord, we call out nine members from our church family to take up the role of intentionally caring for us, the body of Christ. We call these members “deacons,” which means “one who serves.”  When a member answers this call to serve us as a deacon for the first time, we set aside time in our worship to honor their acceptance, express our gratitude, and commit to pray for them as they follow the Spirit. Pre-pandemic, we would be invited to come before the member, set our hands upon their head, and offer our prayers and blessings. This time during our service we will write those prayers and blessings on paper. (You are welcome to email your prayers and blessings to the church and they will be forwarded to the deacon.)

1 Peter 4:8-11
Common English Bible

Above all, show sincere love to each other, because love brings about the forgiveness of many sins. Open your homes to each other without complaining. And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts. Whoever speaks should do so as those who speak God’s word. Whoever serves should do so from the strength that God furnishes. Do this so that in everything God may be honored through Jesus Christ. To him be honor and power forever and always. Amen.

Reaffirming the Call to Serve One Another

In the presence of God this afternoon,
will you recommit yourself to the work and responsibility of serving one another?  I will.

Will you be faithful to pray, to read and study the Scriptures, to support the church spiritually and materially, to seek the will of God for the church, and to foster unity in the body of Christ? I will.

Will you do your best to live in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a witness of God’s love for everyone?  I will.

Will you seek the glory of the Lord Christ in all things?  I will. May the Lord uphold us with divine grace in our service to one another. Amen.

Anthem   
Hear Me When I Call
Composer: Richard Shephard

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness:
Thou hast set me at liberty when I was in trouble.
Have mercy upon me and hearken to my prayer.
Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
Amen.

Luke 24:36b-48 
Common English Bible 

While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish. Taking it, he ate it in front of them.

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”

Reflection on the Gospel
Rev. Jeffrey Vickery 

Prayer of Thanksgiving 

Thank you, God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen. 

Song of Faith    
Christ is Our Peace
Words: Shirley Erena Murray
Tune: PEACE

Christ is our peace, Christ is our health,
He the true Word, His the true wealth –
Gifts to be shared by the simple and poor:
Peace in your land, peace at your door.

Peace in your mouth, peace in the hands
Open to truth, to love’s demands:
Those who would go with Christ also must bleed –
Bright is the flower, burst is the seed.

Who work for peace find the true wealth,
Who heal the hurt find their own health –
Peace will flow on through the hearts that believe:
This may we know, thus may we live.

Sending Out 

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, 
In the name of Christ. Amen. 

Blest Be the Tie 
Words: John Fawcett 
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli) 

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain;  
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.  

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way;  
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.   

Acknowledgements 

The opening prayer was written by Moria Laidlaw. Used by permission. The hymns were sung by our Mindy accompanied by Tonya on piano. The anthem was sung by Elizabeth, Laura, Mindy, and Tonya.

Permission to print the words to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved. All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors. 

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Invitation to Worship

based on John 20:19-22

It was evening on the first day of the week. The disciples were meeting together behind locked doors because they were afraid. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. They rejoiced. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” And said, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  

Let our rejoicing be heard far and wide  
as we witness to our belief in the risen Lord. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. 
Christ is risen, indeed. 
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! 

Song of Praise 
O Sons and Daughters Let Us Sing 
Words: Joean Tisserand; J.M. Neale, trans. 
Tune: O FILII ET FILIAE (French, 15th century) 

O sons and daughters of the King, 
whom heavenly hosts in glory sing,  
today the grave has lost its sting.  
Alleluia!  

When Thomas first the tidings heard  
that some had seen the risen Lord,  
he doubted the disciples’ word.  
Lord, have mercy!  

At night the apostles met in fear;  
among them came their Master dear  
and said, “My peace be with you here.”  
Alleluia!  

“My pierced side, O Thomas, see,  
and look upon my hands, my feet;  
not faithless but believing be.”  
Alleluia!  

No longer Thomas then denied;  
he saw the feet, the hands, the side.  
“You are my Lord and God!” he cried.  
Alleluia!  

How blest are they who have not seen 
and yet whose faith has constant been,  
for they eternal life shall win.  
Alleluia! 

Opening Prayer 

We worship you today, O God. We rejoice in the word of the gospel where John declares that he has written his gospel to confirm and strengthen our belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that in believing, we might have life in his name. We worship you, O God, with praise and thanksgiving for that gift of life made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Strengthen and confirm our belief in Jesus in this time of worship here today. May we know the blessings of your peace within us and the breath of your Spirit upon us. We offer this prayer and our worship in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen 

Psalm 133 
Common English Bible 

Look at how good and pleasing it is 
    when families live together as one! 
It is like expensive oil poured over the head, 
    running down onto the beard— 
        Aaron’s beard!— 
    which extended over the collar of his robes. 
It is like the dew on Mount Hermon 
    streaming down onto the mountains of Zion, 
    because it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing: 
        everlasting life. 

Song of Praise 
How Good It Is 
Words: Ruth Duck 
Tune: DOVE OF PEACE (Southern Harmony, 1854) 

How good it is, what pleasure comes,  
When people live as one.  
When peace and justice light the way  
The will of God is done. The will of God is done. 

True friendship then like fragrant oil  
Surrounds us with delight;  
And blessings shine like morning dew  
Upon the mountain height, upon the mountain height. 

How good it is when walls of fear  
Come tumbling to the ground.  
When arms are changed to farming tools,  
The fruits of life abound, the fruits of life abound. 

What quiet joy can bloom and grow 
When people work for peace.  
When hands and voices join as one  
That hate and war may cease, that hate and war may cease. 

Prayer

We gather here as a fellowship of people who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. One of the major marks of our fellowship is the sense of joy we experience as we gather to worship God, to give thanks for Jesus Christ, and to witness to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Yet, we admit that there are times when we feel afraid, abandoned, and lonely; when faith leads to doubt and questions rather than a sense of joy or peace of mind. Lord Jesus Christ, unlike those first disciples, we cannot touch you or see you, and so it is all too easy to become downcast and given to despair. 

  Forgive us when, like the disciples, we find the truth of Easter hard to believe.   
 Come to us, risen Christ, come through the closed doors of our hearts and minds and take away our fears and doubts; 
    Come to us, risen Christ, breathe on us and fill us with the joy and peace of your presence. 
    Bless us all as people who have not seen you, but who believe that you are truly the risen Christ, Son of God. Amen 

Anthem   
A Gaelic Blessing 
Composer: Roland E. Martin 

Deep peace of the running wave to you. 
Deep peace of the flowing air to you. 
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. 
Deep peace of the shining stars to you. 
Deep peace of the gentle night to you. 
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you. 
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world to you. 
Deep peace of Christ to you. 

John 20:19-31 
Common English Bible 

Listen to the gospel being read and/or read below

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” 

Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” 

But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” 

After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” 

Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” 

Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” 

Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name. 

Reflection on the Scriptures 
Rev. Tonya Vickery 

Listen to the sermon and/or read below. The sermon was recorded live from our 2pm outdoor service, so there is definitely wind noise. 🙂

Jesus’ death was traumatic. It was real. It was on display for everyone. Lifted up on a cross, high above, everyone could see his suffering and his death. As news of his crucifixion and inevitable death was shared throughout Jerusalem, no one would have doubted it for they saw it with their own eyes. It was believable because countless others had suffered death by crucifixion from the government.

But when Mary Magdalene shares the good news that she has seen the risen Lord, people have a hard time believing it. Even though a couple of disciples run out to the tomb, look in, and find it empty, they still doubt Mary’s word that Jesus has risen from the dead. For them, the empty tomb is a source of disappointment instead of affirmation, and a seed for growing fear instead of great rejoicing. The trauma from the reality of Jesus’ death only allowed them to deduce that his body has been stolen. Fear saturated their opinions, ideas, and choices. Fear of what the authorities and bandits had done to Jesus, led them to lock themselves away apart from whatever might be out there to harm them.

It was a different kind of lockdown than what we have been experiencing over the past year.  But in many ways we can identify with the fear of the disciples. We too feared the unknown.  We have had to stay at home to stay alive. We have been separated from one another and still are–six feet apart.  The unpredictable, invisible to the eye, wafting through the air, living on surfaces? Virus, we were able to shut out of our lives until we knew more about it. But don’t forget that fear we had 12 months ago. Fear of what might happen.  Fear of the unknown, the unpredictable, and the uncontrollable.

Our sister church in Brazil, Igreja Batista da Algeria, they don’t have the protection of vaccination which has been afforded to us. On Tuesday night Pastor Vando sent me a message via WhatsApp. He asks us to pray for the church and for their country. You may have seen it on the news, but on Tuesday alone, Pastor Vando said 4200 Brasilians died from COVID.  In one day, 4,200 people died. Their president is very much in control, but does not care about the people. The government has not worked to make their country a safe place to live in the midst of a deadly viral pandemic. Our sisters and brothers of Igreja Batista da Algeria, I imagine they still live in that fear that we lived in just a short time ago. They are suffering. Do you remember the fear you had of going out? Of what you might bring back to your home, to your family, to your friends? Our sister church in Brazil, they are still living through many things which have been alleviated for us. We are slowly rising above our fears as we learn more and more and especially as the vaccine becomes available to everyone. But do remember our sister church in Brazil and how they continue to grow their faith separate from each other. The fear brought by this pandemic shares similarities to the fear the disciples felt after Jesus died. We know very well that faithful living during times of great fear is difficult. But we claim the promise that nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus–not even our fears.

Even as our fear lessens, we are starkly reminded during recent days of what trauma looks like. We know what death looks like. We know what a traumatic death looks like. We now know what it is like to see someone die under the hands of the authorities. If you have watched any of the trial of the death of George Floyd or seen any of the newsclips, you have seen the effect a needless death has on bystanders. The women at the foot of the cross, the disciples at a distance, the Roman soldier, they were all bystanders to the traumatic death of Jesus. How wrenching it was during Holy Week to hear the testimonies of bystanders who felt helpless, angry, and afraid as Mr. Floyd suffered and died. We have also seen the grief of parents in Myanmar. Their children killed by soldiers who needlessly and for no reason at all have shot them to death. We have seen what we only thought we would see in movies, Americans chanting to hang an elected official, Mike Pence. When I saw those images, I couldn’t help but think of the crowd that was stirred up against Jesus chanting, “Crucify him.”

The gospel story this morning show us how Jesus responded in the midst of fear, trauma, and doubt. God responds to such threats with peace and forgiveness.

On the evening of what we now call Easter, Jesus appeared before the disciples even though they were behind locked doors. What did he say to them? Look at verse 19. Look in the last phrase of the verse. Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”  Now look down at verse 21. Jesus again says, “Peace be with you.”  Eight days later, Jesus’ followers are still afraid. Imagine I would be too. Jesus comes and goes. So they still lock themselves in the room together. And again Jesus comes. What does Jesus say to them this time? Look with me at verse 26. Jesus says again, “Peace be with you.”

Before Jesus died and was resurrected, Jesus talked with his disciples about peace. It is recorded in John 14. If you have your Bibles, turn back there with me. Look at verse 27. Jesus says these words to his followers, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t troubled or afraid.”  Turn a few pages and look at chapter 16. Here Jesus highlights the contrast between the peace he offers and the peace the world offers. Beginning in verse 31 Jesus says, “Now you believe? Look! A time is coming—and here it is—when each of you will be scattered to your own homes and you will leave me alone. I’m not really alone, for the Father is with me. I’ve said these to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” 

The betrayal and death of Jesus must have made the disciples feel just like the writer of Lamentations. In 3:17-18 the lamenter shares, “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is. My future is gone, as well as my hope from the LORD. My suffering and homelessness are bitterness and poison. I can’t help but be depressed. And all I can do is wait, for surely the faithful love of the LORD has not ended. Surely, God’s compassion isn’t through.” 

Oh how that empty tomb, Jesus’ numerous appearances before he ascends into heaven, his words to the disciples and to the world, “Peace be with you. My peace be with you,” these things tells us loud and clear that God’s compassion is not through. The faithful love the LORD has not ended.  In the word, we have distress, but in Christ, we have peace. The peace we share does not come from the world.  It is not created by human plans or designs.  Any type of peace the world affords us is just temporary and can change abruptly. The peace that sustains, that grounds, that makes a difference, is the peace which comes from God through Jesus Christ.  “Have peace in me,” Jesus says to us. Jesus invites us to share in God’s peace. You see, just as the lamenter writes, the LORD is our portion. We have a hope that does not disappoint.

The second posture the gospel story encourages in us when we face fears, disappointments, and betrayals, is that of forgiveness.  We clearly read that Jesus did not hold it against Thomas that he was having a hard time believing that Jesus was truly alive, risen from the dead. Jesus didn’t come back to scold Thomas. Think back to what Jesus called Peter when Peter tried to convince Jesus that he need not go to Jerusalem and die. Jesus called him Satan. “Get behind me Satan.”  But there is no language like that here. When Jesus appears to Thomas, he says to him, “No more disbelief. Believe!”  However, this is not the setting within the passage where we read about forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t say here, “I forgive you for having a hard time believing.” No, Jesus speaks of forgiveness in regards to the relationships we have with one another and with God well before Thomas is in the room.

Think back to when Jesus comes to John to be baptized. John says of him, “Look! The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”  In the New Testament letter 1 John, it is written, “Everyone who practices sin commits an act of rebellion, and sin is rebellion.  You know that Jesus appeared to take away sins….” Now here at the end of John’s gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection and breathes the Spirit of God into us and upon us. Why? so that we might forgive anyone’s sin. That’s a tall order. That’s a lot to expect from us. But there it is. We are called to forgive. We are empowered by the Spirit of the Holy One to have the courage, the compassion, and the care to forgive. Jesus came to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins. Now we step into those shoes and share those possibilities with the world.

The good news of Jesus firsts highlights some bad news. There is something wrong with each and every one of us. The world is a broken place.  It is not the way God intended it to be nor created it to be. Our lives are broken too. We do not live the way God intends us to live, nor do we embody what God created us to be.  We are falling short of what we could be in Christ Jesus. Every day we do things, say things, think things, that separate us from God and hurt our neighbors and harm the world. Some of those things are big and easy to spot, and some of them are little and hidden from others and even easy for us to turn a blind eye to. But as we have been reminded through the scripture passages of the Lenten season, God will not respond to a broken world again by destroying it and starting over. Just as we celebrate on Easter that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, defeating death not only for himself but for all of us, we also celebrate that in Christ Jesus our sins are forgiven. Those things that separate us from God, they are forgiven.  The forgiveness God showers upon us brings us back to life, raises us up again, never giving up on us. It is a forgiveness Christ calls us to share with others.

We have life in Jesus’ name, a life that has the blessing of peace upon it. A life that is brought about and sustained by a forgiveness that is to be shared.  May we live the life we have been given to the fullness of the glory of God. Thank you, thank you for caring about God today to come and worship whether at home or in person this afternoon, and thank you for hearing the word of God and how we are to live our lives in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving 

Thank you, God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen. 

Song of Faith    
Faith Will Not Grow On Words Alone 
Words: Vernon Griffiths 
Tune: DUNEDIN 

Faith will not grow from words alone,  
from proofs provided, scripture known;  
our faith must feel its way about,  
and live with question-marks and doubt.  

The pattern Jesus showed, we share:  
life comes through death, hope through despair.  
God is made known in brokenness,  
and faith feeds on God’s emptiness.  

The church still tells how Jesus came  
through death to glorious life again –  
the strangest story! Yet, may be,  
our faith will thrive on mystery.  

Faith takes the little that we know,  
and calls for hope, and tells us: Go! 
Love and take courage, come what may;  
Christ will be with us on the way. 

Sending Out 

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, 
In the name of Christ. Amen. 

Blest Be the Tie 
Words: John Fawcett 
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli) 

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain;  
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.  

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way;  
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.   

Acknowledgements 

The prayers were written by Moria Laidlaw. Used by permission. The hymns were sung by our Mindy accompanied by Tonya on piano. The anthem was sung by Ally, Elizabeth, Laura, Mindy, and Tonya.

Permission to print the words to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved. All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors. 

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Invitation to Worship

We come to prepare for the holiest of weeks.
We will journey through praise,
with joy on our lips;
we will travel through betrayal and death,
cradling hope deep in our hearts.

Jesus leads us through this week,
and we will follow,
for he is the life we long for,
he is the Word who sustains us.
We wave palm branches in anticipation,
we lay our love before him,

to cushion his walk.
Setting aside all power, glory, and might,
he comes: modeling humility and obedience for all of us.
Hosanna! Hosanna!
Blessed is the One who brings us the reign of God.

Song of Praise 

We Will Walk With God 
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)  
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional) 

Come and walk with me, my brothers. 
We will walk with God. 
Come and walk with me, my sisters. 
We will walk with God. 
 
We will go rejoicing, ‘til the kingdom has come. (Repeat) 

See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay, woh woh woh, 
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat) 

Goom-shlah wen-jah-boo-lah, 
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat) 

Opening Prayer 

Holy God, you have fed us all out of your own generous and gracious hands.
From them, we have received welcome, nourishment, hope, and consolation.
May these things grow in us, alongside the gift of faith, 
so that we may plant their seeds in the world around us. 
Through the Holy Spirit, guide us in the week ahead 
to re-member our place in your great and on-going story 
of resurrection, redemption, and restoration  
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Song of Praise

Wave Your Branches 
Words: Gwendolyn Emery-Owings
Composer: Thomas Pavlechko 

Wave your branches, wave them high,
Jesus now is riding by. 
Wave your branches, shout and sing 
Loud hosannas to your King. 

Wave your branches, wave them now, 
With Jerusalem’s cheering crowd. 
Wave your branches, shout and sing 
Loud hosannas to your King. 

Litany 

Pastor:  Who comes this way?
People: I wonder who is he? 
Pastor: They say he is the Christ. 
Pastor: That means Messiah, 
People: That means the Anointed One, the Savior, the King 
Pastor: Who comes this way? 
People: Is it really him?
I want him to beat the Romans and save us from poverty and hunger. 
Pastor:  Is he victorious? Is he powerful? Is he scary? 
Pastor: Where is he from? Greece? Rome? Jerusalem? Cullowhee? 
People: They say he comes from Bethlehem  
            and grew up in Nazareth and Galilee. 
Pastor:  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” 
People: Who comes this way? 
Pastor: Who is he? Why are we cheering him on? 
            Is he good or bad? He must be rich to get such praise. 
Pastor: Stop waving that branch in my face! 
Move away! Let me see around this parade. 
Put me on your shoulders. I need a higher glimpse of him.  
I just want to see his face and then I will know who he is, let me see. 
People: Wait! 
Pastor: Wait! 
People: It is only a man. 
Pastor: And he is just on a donkey, no conquering steed. 
Pastor: It is only a man, what is so great about him? 
People: Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest! 
Pastor: Hosanna means “save us” and “we pray” 
Pastor: But who is this man that will save us? 
All:  Who comes this way? 

Song of Adoration   

Come Into the Streets with Me 
Words: Shirley Erena Murray 
Music: Traditional English Melody; arr. Charles Strange 

Come into the streets with me! 
Come to where the crowds will be, 
See a strange and gentle king 
On a donkey travelling – 

Refrain: Come and follow my leader, 
Come and follow my leader, 
Jesus Christ is riding by, 
Come and follow my leader! 

All the people shout his name, 
Waving branches, sing his fame, 
Throw their coats upon his road, 
Glad to praise the Son of God – 

Refrain 

If the soldiers draw their swords, 
Will we dare to sing these words, 
Be his friends for just a day, 
Cheer him on, then run away? 

Refrain 

Jesus goes where things are rough, 
Jesus knows when life is tough, 
Always comes to us, his friends, 
So his story never ends. 

Refrain 

Mark 11:1-11
Common English Bible

When Jesus and his followers approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus gave two disciples a task,  saying to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘Its master needs it, and he will send it back right away.’” 

 They went and found a colt tied to a gate outside on the street, and they untied it.  Some people standing around said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”  They told them just what Jesus said, and they left them alone.  They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it.  Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields.  Those in front of him and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!”  Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve. 

Call for Reconciliation

After a year of struggling to follow Jesus faithfully, we know how we have worn down others by our angry words, how we have wearied loved ones with poor choices. Yet, we also recognize, that in every moment of every day, God has been with us with that love which never gives up, that grace which is always offered freely to us. So, let us come with our prayers, to God’s heart, so we may enter forgiveness and life anew. Let us pray together, saying,

Prayer for Forgiveness (in unison)

We have been so busy this last year, focused on ourselves, Enduring Love, that we have forgotten to imagine what was on Jesus’ mind in those days. We long to shout for joy on a day like this, smiling as we remember waving our palms, even as we look at our empty hands. We harden our faces, not in discipleship, but to turn away those who are still struggling in these days. Yet, because he was fully human like us, God whose compassion never fades, we can be more like Jesus, if we dare. So, as we begin our journey through another Holy Week of worshiping apart, yet strangely more together than we imagine, help us to always choose humility over hubris, weakness over strength, tenderness over bullying, and to seek to stay faithful as we can in these days. We pray this in the name of our Teacher, Jesus. Amen.

Silence is kept.

Assurance of Pardon

God dares us to think like Jesus, because God knows that if we do, we will find the strength to live through these days, to walk with others, to offer our lives in love and service to all. God hears our prayers, listens to our hearts, fills us with forgiveness, and walks with us in these moments and in all the ones to come. Thanks be to God for such incredible mercy! Amen.

Anthem
This is the Day
Composer: Leon C. Roberts


This is the day the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
This is the day the Lord has made;
Let us be glad, be glad, be glad, be glad and rejoice in it!
Let us be glad, be glad, be glad, be glad
Alleluia! Glory, glory!
Alleluia, let us be glad!

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Common English Bible

Open the gates of righteousness for me
so I can come in and give thanks to the LORD!
This is the LORD’s gate;
those who are righteous enter through it.
I thank you because you answered me,
because you were my saving help.
The stone rejected by the builders
is now the main foundation stone!
This has happened because of the LORD;
it is astounding in our sight!
This is the day the LORD acted;
we will rejoice and celebrate in it!
LORD, please save us!
LORD, please let us succeed!
The one who enters in the LORD’s name is blessed;
we bless all of you from the LORD’s house.
The LORD is God!
He has shined a light on us!
So lead the festival offering with ropes
all the way to the horns of the altar.
You are my God—I will give thanks to you!
You are my God—I will lift you up high!
Give thanks to the LORD because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever.

Reflection on the Scriptures
Rev. Tonya Vickery

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith

Not on a War Horse, But a Humble Donkey
Words: David M. Miller
Tune: FINLANDIA

Not on a war horse, but a humble donkey,
the Son of Man came to Jerusalem;
great city full of faithful Hebrew pilgrims
received one more as she had often done.
And yet this time, Christ journeyed into danger;
to be betrayed, to suffer and to die.
They paved his way with scattered cloaks and branches
a prelude to the coming victory.

Crowds of disciples shouting out their praises;
“Glory to God! Hosanna to the King!
Bless’d is the one, Jesus has come to save us.”
The very stones would cry out if they could.
His friends knew not the horrors that awaited,
imagining an end to Roman rule.

Instead God’s plan was moving to fruition;
his Son would gain a greater vict’ry still.
Not by the might of gathered rebel armies,
but strength of purpose and submissive will.
So let us pause, as we this day remember
our humble King who gathers up the lost;
how great his trial, how strong the love he shows us;
how weak a faith that does not count the cost.

We walk with him, come through into the city;
one final meal, a symbol for God’s grace.
Out into darkness, Jesus’ time is coming;
a kiss to greet, a sign – “this is the one”
The soldiers mock, yet still our Lord is silent;
the sentence passed and all our crimes his own.
Christ hoisted high, humanity is ransomed;
through Jesus’ death, we all are given life!

Sending Out

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Blest Be the Tie
Words: John Fawcett
Tune: DENNIS (Nägeli)

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements

  • The invitation to worship, call for reconciliation, prayer for forgiveness, and words of assurance were written by Thom Shuman, and posted on his excellent Lectionary Liturgies blog. http://www.lectionaryliturgies.blogspot.ca/
  • The opening prayer was written by lutheranjulia, and posted on RevGalBlogPals. http://revgalblogpals.org/2016/03/18/friday-prayer-something-is-coming/.
  • The litany was written by Shannon Keeney at First UMC, Littleton, NH.
  • The hymns were sung by Mindy. The anthem was sung by Mindy, Michelle, Elizabeth, and Tonya. Michelle played the guitar. Tonya played the piano. Tessa played the flute.

Permission to print the words to the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved. All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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God says in Isaiah 58:6-7

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
& breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
& bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. (John Birch)

May these 40 days before Easter be a time of spiritual spring cleaning, of removing what hinders and renewing what facilitates our relationships with God, the world, and one another.

The Worship of God for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Invitation to Worship

Jesus said,
“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”

Come let us worship the One who draws us together,
who bears our burdens,
and forgives our sins.
Come let us worship!

Song of Praise
We Will Walk With God
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
woh woh woh,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Goom-shlah wen-jah-boo-lah,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

Opening Prayer
Let us pray:

Creator God,
we thank you for the beauty of your springtime creation,
awakening buds and blooms,
lengthening blue skies and sunshine.

Awaken hope within us.
Renew us.
May we be refreshed with energy and enthusiasm
to see you in the places where we live
and in the people around us.

Redeemer God,
we thank you for your son, Jesus,
for his parables and teaching,
healing and caring,
for his life and death and resurrection.

Awaken love within us.
Renew us.
May we share your love and care with others.
May we and they come close to you.

Companion God,
we thank you for your Holy Spirit,
for your comfort and guidance,
presence and trust.

Awaken faith within us.
Renew us.
May we share your way and life with others.
May we be a witness to your saving love.

Creator, Redeemer, Companion,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we bring our praise and thanks to you.
Amen.

Song of Adoration
O Day of Peace
Words: Carl P. Daw, Jr.
Tune: JERUSALM LMD (Parry)

O day of peace that dimly shines
through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
guide us to justice, truth, and love,
delivered from our selfish schemes.
May swords of hate fall from our hands,
our hearts from envy find release,
till by God’s grace our warring world
shall see Christ’s promised reign of peace.

Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb,
nor shall the fierce devour the small.
As beasts and cattle calmly graze,
a little child shall lead them all.
Then enemies shall learn to love,
all creatures find their true accord.
The hope of peace shall be fulfilled,
for all the earth shall know the Lord.

Psalm 51:1-12
Common English Bible

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
9 Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Prayer for Forgiveness
O God, You who are always doing a new thing,
we confess that we sometimes close windows
against the fresh air of new ideas,
against the noise of other people’s worries,
against the winds of change.

God of every place and time,
we confess that we often draw the curtains
against people who are different,
against world news or community concerns.

Forgive us our insulation in our locked homes,
our shuttered churches,
the security systems on our hearts.
Open up our lives,
and let your Spirit blow through. Amen.

silent prayer and meditation

Assurance and Hope

Hear again the joy and gladness God provides and rejoice!

The Lord forgives.
The Lord wipes away all our guilty deeds.
The Lord cleans our hearts and puts new, faithful spirit deep within us.

Let the joy of the Lord’s salvation sustain you this day!

Anthem
Create a Pure Heart in Me
Composer: Susan Matsui

Create a pure heart in me, O Lord.
Grant me a new and steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me away from thy presence,
or take thy Spirit from me.

Revive in me the joy of deliverance,
Grant me a steady soul to uphold me.
Open thou my lips, everlasting Lord,
that my mouth may sing thy praises.

Thou takest no delight in sacrifice,
nor hast thou any wish for whole offering.
My sacrifice, Lord, is a broken soul,
my offering, a contrite heart.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Common English Bible

The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.

Reflection on Jeremiah
Rev. Jeffrey Vickery

Listen to the sermon or watch below.

Audio

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
God of Jeremiah
Words: Brian Wren
Tune: KELVINGROVE

God of Jeremiah, grieving with an aching heart
for an empire, unbelieving as it falls apart,
when your thunder goes unheard, we will tend the prophet’s word,
and in season out of season, we will sing your song.

When our wound is left to fester, though the pain goes deep,
when we’ve sown a hundred whirlwinds, but have yet to reap,
when the platitudes of peace only make our fears increase,
with a poem and a story we will sing your song.

When the palace looks at poverty with scornful eyes,
when the scroll of truth is shredded by a leader’s lies,
when the glory of the cross is a propaganda gloss,
in the square and in the senate we will sing your song.

We will break the jar of plenty by the gates of gold,
we will buy a field of promise when the farm is sold,
at the ending of the dream, in the death of self-esteem,
at the bank and in the market we will sing your song.

We will praise the grainy granite of the Law’s demands,
and the life creating, Lover God with wounded hands;
we will spin your story line to an empire in decline,
and in exile or in honor we will sing your song.

Sending Out

Go now, to serve Christ and follow him.
Let your old life fall like a grain of wheat into the earth
so that you may bear much fruit
as you allow God to reshape your heart
and live in obedience to the law written within you.

And may God centre you in truth and steady your spirit.
May Christ renew your joy and strengthen your will.
And may the Spirit teach you God’s hidden wisdom
and fill you with songs of rejoicing.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

  • The words by John Birch are posted on “Prayers for the season of Lent (faithandworship.com).” Accessed February 18, 2021. https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Lent.htm.
  • The image was retrieved from https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicteacher.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Lent-prayer-service.png?fit=1000%2C667&ssl=1.
  • The Invitation to Worship is based on John 12:32.
  • The hymns are sung by Mindy, accompanied by Kendall on the djembe, Mindy on the ukelele, and Tonya on the piano and keyboard.
  • The opening prayer was written by Ruth Bowen and printed in Spring: Liturgical Resources for February, March, and April. Edited by Ruth Burgess. Published by Wild Goose Publications, the publishing house of the Iona Community, © 2019.
  • The Prayer for Forgiveness was posted by Teri on the RevGalBlogPals A Place for Prayer blog. http://revgalprayerpals.blogspot.ca/.
  • Create a Pure Heart in Me is sung by Laura, Elizabeth, Tonya, and Mindy, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • The Sending Out was written by Nathan Nettleton and posted on http://www.laughingbird.net/ © 2003.

    Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

Read Full Post »

God says in Isaiah 58:6-7

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
& breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
& bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. (John Birch)

May these 40 days before Easter be a time of spiritual spring cleaning, of removing what hinders and renewing what facilitates our relationships with God, the world, and one another.

The Worship of God for Fourth Sunday in Lent

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Invitation to Worship

Listen to the invitation and/or read below.

Friends of God, believe this –
God loved the world,
God loves the world,
we are the beloved!

May the truth of this great love story,
shine through our worship today,
and renew our sense of calling.

So come, with your tiredness,
your frustrations and your discouragements;
come with your doubts, your fears,
and your longings;
come, to discover yet again
how Jesus reveals God’s love and mercy.

Come, in friendship to God
and to each other,
and in friendship to the world,
to listen for God’s Word to us,
to offer our prayers,
and to renew our calling.

Friends of God, let us worship!

Song of Praise
We Will Walk With God
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
woh woh woh,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Goom-shlah wen-jah-boo-lah,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

Opening Prayer
Let us pray:

Living God,
as we continue our journey through this season of Lent
we are reminded of the steadfast love that the psalmist wrote about.
A love which would endure forever,
through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
A love given not to judge,
but to save,
causing human sinfulness to be encountered by divine compassion.
No wonder we sometimes see the placard thrust in front of television cameras
with the words written large – “John 3:16”.
These words about the depth of your love for us
are etched on our hearts
and made visible through our lives.
Accept our praise and thanksgiving, O God,
for this priceless gift of lives lived eternally with you,
a gift made possible
through the sacrificial love of Jesus, your Son, our Lord,
in whose name we pray. Amen

Psalm 19
Common English Bible

“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever!”
2 That’s what those who are redeemed by the Lord say,
the ones God redeemed from the power of their enemies,
3 the ones God gathered from various countries,
from east and west, north and south.

17 Some of the redeemed were fools because of their sinful ways.
They suffered because of their wickedness.
18 They had absolutely no appetite for food;
they had arrived at death’s gates.
19 So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
and God saved them from their desperate circumstances.
20 God gave the order and healed them;
he rescued them from their pit.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all people.
22 Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices
and declare what God has done in songs of joy!

Song of Adoration
In Deep Distress My Soul Declares
Composer: John Bell, based on Psalm 130
Tune: SHAPIRO

In deep distress my soul declares
its song of lamentation:
“Lord hear my voice. Your list’ning ear
determines my salvation.
If human guilt was your delight,
and sin alone obsessed your sight,
Lord who’d escape damnation?”

Though punishment should be our price,
another gift is given;
for pardon is your property,
the greatest grace of heaven.
We fear your love more than your might
because you exercise the right
to name our sins forgiven.

So now my soul in penitence
affirms the hope I stand on.
Like those who wait to see the dawn,
I yearn to know your pardon.
No pow’r can weaken or deform
God’s will to challenge and transform
abase but not abandon.

Lenten Prayer
Let us pray,

Pray along with the recording above or with the words below.

You have to look your evil in the face to be healed.
The snakes that plagued the Hebrews in the desert
were their betrayal come back to bite them,
their being Eden’s serpent.
The cure was to gaze at their sin.

So we gaze upon the Crucified One, our victim,
and look our awfulness in the eye
and only there grasp forgiveness,
and only then become truly alive.

On the cross is lifted up
our racism, our violence, our materialism,
our deep seated me-first-ism.
Posted there is our last text to God,
“I’ll let you know when I need you.”
We look at it, look at it hard,
to get free of the lie that we’re just fine,
the lie that keeps us from knowing
how deeply we are forgiven,
how vastly we are blessed,
how infinitely we are loved.

silent prayer and meditation

Assurance and Hope

Listen to and/or read the words below.

Even when we were dead, Paul writes.
Even when we turned away from the One who had created us.
Even when we lived in the grip of what drew our gaze from God.
Even when we were oblivious.
Even when we followed a path fashioned of nothing
but our own desires.
Even when we wandered far and willfully away.
Even when we forgot to look past our own feet and to see
the wonders not of our making.
Even when we failed to stand in awe, to breathe thanks,
to lean into the love that had waited long for us.
Even when, Paul writes.
Even when,
even then:
grace.

Anthem
There is a Balm in Gilead
African American Spiritual
arr. Jacques Rizzo

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sinsick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.

If you cannot sing like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul,
you can tell the love of Jesus, and say “He died for all.”

Numbers 21:4-9
Common English Bible

Listen to the scripture being read and/or read below.

They marched from Mount Hor on the Reed Sea road around the land of Edom. The people became impatient on the road. 5The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to kill us in the desert, where there is no food or water. And we detest this miserable bread!” 6So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people and they bit the people. Many of the Israelites died.

7The people went to Moses and said, “We’ve sinned, for we spoke against the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will send the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and place it on a pole. Whoever is bitten can look at it and live.” 9Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. If a snake bit someone, that person could look at the bronze snake and live.

Reflection on Numbers
Rev. Tonya Vickery

Listen to Tonya’s sermon and/or read below.

As I flip through the pages of the book of Numbers in my Bible, I like to read the headings. There’s

  • Confession and restitution
  • Offerings, various offerings
  • Aaron and Miriam are jealous of Moses

Then there are things like

  • Keeping the passover
  • Departure from Sinai
  • And of course, complaining in the wilderness

One of my favorite headings is

  • Aaron’s rod bears almonds. 

Numbers is a disjointed book to say the least. It reads like a story and then all of sudden you run into a bunch of legal matters—take this, put this on that, wash this this way, carry this quickly, build this this way, and so on. It is a story that begins at Mt. Sinai, wanders along a wilderness journey, and ends in the Plains of Moab. It begins with a generation of people who had been set free from Egyptian bondage by the wise and mighty hand of God. And it ends with a whole new generation, a generation of orphans actually, l for all their ancestors, save for one or two, have died somewhere along the journey. 

The entire book is about what life is like when God, the Holy One is in your midst. When God lives among us, life is fraught with danger and possibilities. God’s presence makes a radical difference in how we live. Numbers teaches us that it is possible to push God too far. Sin is real and dangerous.  We ignore our sins at our own peril. Numbers also teaches us that God is all about forgiveness.  We read those words in Numbers 14:8, 

“The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Yes, God justly punishes our sins, but God forgives us with abundant grace. God does not overlook our sins.  At times we are severely punished for putting other things before God. But God’s judgment never, ever overshadows the fact that God forgives those who regret what they have done, and God offers salvation to all who will receive it. 

One of my favorite stories from the book of Numbers is when the Lord tells all the people to add fringes to the corners of their clothes. Fringe reminds me of the 70’s—remember those bobble tassels on our curtains, on the corners of our pillows, and on our ponchos. However, in Numbers fringes are to remind the people about who they are and whose they are. When the people see the fringe on their clothes, and there is to be fringe added to the corners of every garments, they are to remember all the commandments of the Lord so they will do them. They are to remember not to follow the lust of their hearts nor desires of their eyes. When they see the fringe, they are to remember that they are to be a holy people unto their God. They are to remember that God brought them out of bondage, set them free, so the Lord might be their God. 

I sure do like that story better than the snake on a stick story. But there is a reason the snake story is in the lectionary cycle.  In fact, it is the only story from Numbers in all three years of the cycle.

The story of the attack by poisonous serpents comes at the end of a series of stories about the murmuring, complaining, and grumbling mood of the people. They have complained about the conditions of life in the desert. There’s no meat to eat. The food in Egypt was better–remember the cucumbers! Their patience runs thin and they can’t get along with one another. They resent Moses, the leader the Lord has provided them, for leading them out on this wild goose chase. They are thirsty. They are thirsty. Again, they are thirsty. All this grumbling and mumbling comes to a head in Numbers 21. 

By Number 21, the people have continued to fail in trusting God and God is just tired of it. On their journey, they needed to pass through the land of Edom to make the route shorter. But the Edomites refused to let them pass through. So they had to go around Edom. They head south toward the Red Sea, but they are attacked by poisonous snakes. And of course, the people complain. Who wouldn’t. But you see, the snake attack comes after the people became impatient and spoke out against Moses, but also against God. Why did you bring us here? There is no food. There is no water. Well, the food we do have tastes horrible. Why did you bring us here?

All along this wilderness dessert journey, Moses has tried to move the people forward in trusting God. Trust that God will keep God’s word. Trust that God will keep that divine commitment to lead you to a new land. Trust that God will provide. But the people’s ability to trust in God ebbs and flows. At one moment, they sing the praises of the Lord their God and then they fall right back into that lame attitude of unfaithfulness and untrusting. They complain and speak against God. 

Trusting in God is not the same as believing in God. Did they believe in God? Sure. But did they trust God? Not always. Trust is faith. The New Testament tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen. Faith means that even though they are tired, even though they are weary, even though the food doesn’t taste the same or has no taste at all, even though the way is hard and laborious, their feet hurt and their legs ache, you trust that God will keep God’s word—the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen.

The promises of the Lord are everlasting. The grace of the Lord is forever. The love of God which is for the world, and that includes us, the love of God towards us abounds and remains steadfast and sure. Trust that God loves you. Trust that God will never abandon you. The suffering, the bad food, the darkness, the long nights, the pains, the lack of meat, those struggles of the day, those disappointments, they do not define God’s love for us. Can you imagine the relationship between a child and a parent if the child measured the love of the parent by how good or bad their day was? We shouldn’t treat God this way either. We can recognize the silliness of the complaining and murmuring in the story of these people on their journey. You are going throw out your faith in God because you don’t have any meat to eat? You are going to abandon your faith in God because you are tired of walking? Because your feet hurt? It is easy for us to see that the uncertainty of the future was brewing a fear within their hearts that became greater than their faith in God.

Eventually God has had enough of the whining, and sends a pack of poisonous snakes to grab their attention. The fringe didn’t do it. The blooming rod didn’t do it. The water from the rock didn’t do it. The pillar of fire by night and the cloud in the sky by day didn’t do, so let’s give them some snakes. And for some reason, this gets the people’s attention. They own their lack of trust in God. They admit they have done wrong. And yes, they regret it. They ask God to take the snakes away, but God doesn’t. Instead, God provides them another way to practice their trust in God. God has Moses make a snake out of bronze, and set it on a pole. And everyone who is bitten by the snakes can look at the pole and they will live. The snakes don’t stop biting. The snakes don’t go away. They are still there. But if you are bitten, look up at the bronze snake and the snake bit won’t kill you like it did others.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather look at the fringe on my clothes to remember that God loves me and expects me to behave like a child of God, than to have to be snake bitten and look up at a bronze snake on a pole to remember how to act like a child of God. But you know, God will do whatever it takes to make sure we know that God expects us to live like God’s people. And repentance and forgiveness are always options in our relationship with God. God will judge our sins, yes, for they make us less than what God created us to be, and they really do disappoint God. But from God’s view point, repentance is always a possibility and faithful repentance is always met with God grace.

When we recognize and own the wrongs we have done, when we come before God, when we admit our mistakes to our Creator, when we admit how they have harmed us and others and the world, then by the grace of God we start making things right again, for we have been forgiven. When we take responsibility for our wrong doings, our sins, God’s forgiveness and God’s healing are readily available. The Holy One has called us to be more than this and provides us a way.

In the writings between the two Testaments, Old and New, these words are written in a book called the Wisdom of Solomon:

   For the one who turned towards the bronze serpent was saved,
   not by the thing that was beheld,
   but by you, the Savior of all. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
God’s People Were Impatient
Author: Carolyn Winfred Gillette
Tune: ANGEL’S STORY 7.6.7.6 D (“O Jesus, I Have Promised”)

1 God’s people were impatient and spoke against the Lord:
“This wilderness is dried out and we detest the food!
We can’t find any water and so we ask you why,
O God — if you still love us — you’ve brought us here to die.”

2 As sinning leads to judgment, the people soon knew fear.
For snakes were in the desert and danger lingered near.
So Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole;
Whoever looked upon it was once again made whole.

3 O God, this Lenten season reminds us of our sin;
We know our lack of trusting, the times our faith wears thin.
We also know your promise to lead us on our way,
To faithfully be near us, to guide us day by day.

4 Though sinning leads to judgment, repentance is God’s plan;
So on the cross was lifted the suffering Son of Man.
God, may we look upon him and in his suffering see
The one who brings redemption for all humanity.

Sending Out

Let us rejoice: God so loves the world!
May God your Maker
send you out into the world with creative energies refreshed.
May Christ the Light
illuminate your darkest moments.
And may the Holy Spirit of steadfast love
guide you until we worship together again.
This day and forevermore. Amen!

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

  • The words by John Birch are posted on “Prayers for the season of Lent (faithandworship.com).” Accessed February 18, 2021. https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Lent.htm.
  • The image was retrieved from https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicteacher.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Lent-prayer-service.png?fit=1000%2C667&ssl=1.
  • The Invitation to Worship is offered by Emily and was written by Ann Siddall, and posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre website. https://stillpointsa.org.au/
  • We Will Walk with God is sung by Mindy, accompanied by Kendall on the djembe.
  • The Opening Prayer is offered by Robin and was written by Moira Laidlaw.
  • Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 is read by Kristin, Addie, Alyvia, and Alizabeth.
  • In Deep Distress My Soul Declares and God’s People Were Impatient are sung by Mindy, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • The Lenten Prayer and Words of Assurance are offered by Jeffrey and were written by Jan L. Richardson as posted on The Painted Prayerbook. http://paintedprayerbook.com/.
  • There is a Balm in Gilead is sung by Ally, Elizabeth, Michelle, Tonya, and Mindy, accompanied by Tonya on the piano and Michelle on the guitar.
  • The Sending Out is offered by Jeffrey and was written by Rev. Dr. Ginny Brown Daniel, in So Loved: Service Prayers for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Posted on the Worship Ways page of the United Church of Christ website. http://www.ucc.org/worship_worship-ways

    Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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God says in Isaiah 58:6-7

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
& breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
& bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. (John Birch)

May these 40 days before Easter be a time of spiritual spring cleaning, of removing what hinders and renewing what facilitates our relationships with God, the world, and one another.

The Worship of God for Third Sunday in Lent

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Invitation to Worship
based on Psalm 19

Listen to the Invitation to Worship and/or read below.

The heavens are telling the glory of God
May our worship reflect God’s glory.
The firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
May we see each other as the handiwork of God.
Let our prayer and praise, our singing and proclamation project the love of God.
We commune with Christians around the world,
with Christians throughout time.
With Christians across geography and across time,
Let us worship!

Song of Praise
We Will Walk With God
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
woh woh woh,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Goom-shlah wen-jah-boo-lah,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

Opening Prayer
Let us pray:

Listen to the prayer being offered and/or pray below.

We acknowledge you, O God, as creator and as liberator. You are the One who brought the captives out of Egypt and delivered them from the oppression of slavery. You gave laws which shaped how people were to relate to you, to each other and to the whole environment. You implored people to worship only you, knowing that whatever was put in your place would become the object of idolatry – would become the priority of people’s lives. In this time of worship, help us to focus on you, O God, as the priority of our lives. Remind us of your steadfast love revealed so clearly in the new commandment of love which Jesus disclosed with his life and, as we especially remember in this period of Lent, with his death. Speak to us anew as we offer this prayer and our worship in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen

Psalm 19
Common English Bible

Listen to the Psalm being read and/or read below.

Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
     the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
2One day gushes the news to the next,
     and one night informs another what needs to be known.
3Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
     their voices can’t be heard—
4but their sound extends throughout the world;
     their words reach the ends of the earth.

God has made a tent in heaven for the sun.
5The sun is like a groom
coming out of his honeymoon suite;
          like a warrior, it thrills at running its course.
6It rises in one end of the sky;
     its circuit is complete at the other.
     Nothing escapes its heat.

7The Lord’s Instruction is perfect,
     reviving one’s very being.
The Lord’s laws are faithful,
     making naïve people wise.
8The Lord’s regulations are right,
          gladdening the heart.
The Lord’s commands are pure,
     giving light to the eyes.
9Honoring the Lord is correct,
     lasting forever.
The Lord’s judgments are true.
      All of these are righteous!
10They are more desirable than gold—
     than tons of pure gold!
They are sweeter than honey—
     even dripping off the honeycomb!

11No doubt about it: your servant is enlightened by them;
     there is great reward in keeping them.
12But can anyone know what they’ve accidentally done wrong?
     Clear me of any unknown sin
13and save your servant from willful sins.
     Don’t let them rule me.
Then I’ll be completely blameless;
     I’ll be innocent of great wrongdoing.

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
          be pleasing to you,
          Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Song of Praise
Let All Creation Dance
Words: Brian Wren
Tune: DARWALL’S 148th

1 Let all creation dance in energies sublime,
as order turns with chance, unfolding space and time
for nature’s art in glory grows,
and newly shows God’s mind and heart.

2 God’s breath each force unfurls, igniting from a spark
expanding starry swirls, with whirlpools dense and dark.
Though moon and sun seem mindless things,
each orbit sings: “Your will be done.”

3 Our own amazing earth, with sunlight, cloud and storms
and life’s abundant growth in lovely shapes and forms,
is made for praise, a fragile whole,
and from its soul heav’n’s music plays.

4 Lift heart and soul and voice: in Christ all praises meet
and nature shall rejoice as all is made complete.
In hope be strong. All life befriend
and kindly tend creation’s song.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
New Revised Standard Version

Listen to 1 Corinthians and/or read below.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Lenten Prayer
Let us pray,

Hear the Prayer and Words of Assurance and/or read along below.

Liberating God,
in love You have set us free:
free from slavery to sin and self,
free to know and love You,
free to follow and serve You.

We praise You for Your faithful love toward us,
and for the many ways You have demonstrated that love to us.
We see Your love in the natural world around us—
in the sky and trees and rivers.
We see Your love in the gift of Your commandments—
the rules for living that guide us into right relationship with You,
and with the people around us.
And we see Your love in Jesus Christ,
who lived and died to bring us life.

Because we have experienced Your love,
we come before You with confidence,
bringing our needs and the needs of the world.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who live surrounded by violence—
whether from war or political unrest, crime or domestic violence.
We pray for those who have been victims of violent crime,
and for those whose loved ones have been injured or murdered.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who find themselves involved in crime,
whether by choice or through coercion;
those caught up into gangs or prostitution,
those who have turned to crime to pay for their addictions,
those who are imprisoned.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for our homes and families:
for parents juggling the responsibilities of work and family,
for children chafing under parental authority or expectations,
for men and women caught up in adultery or adulterous thoughts,
and for partners whose marriages are breaking down,
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for the many people in our world who do not yet know You,
who have not yet experienced the new life that comes from knowing You through Christ Jesus;
who continue to search for purpose and meaning.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

Merciful God,
give us strength and courage to keep Your commandments,
to live in faithful obedience to Your will.
Guard our lives and minds from all that might distract us
from living out our commitment to You.
Help us to find our true worth in knowing You more fully,
and serving You more faithfully.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Cornerstone. Amen.

Words of Assurance and Hope
God loves us. (Romans 5:8)
We do not need to be afraid. (Matthew 10:31)
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:21)
Jesus says to us, “You are my friends.” (John 15:14)
And Jesus promises, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)

Anthem
O Thou, My Soul, Forget No More
Text by Krishnu Pal (1764-1822), translated by J. Marshman (1801)
Composed by Ronald Turner based on the tune DISTRESS

O thou, my soul, forget no more
The friend who all thy sorrows bore;
Let ev’ry idol be forgot,
O thou, my soul, forget him not.

We taste thee, O thou living Bread,
and long to feast upon Thee still;
we drink of Thee, the fountainhead,
and thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

O Jesus, joy of loving hearts,
Thou fount of life, thou light of all,
from the best thought that earth imparts
we turn unfilled to heed thy call.
Forget not us, we pray.

Reflection on Exodus 20:1-17
Rev. Jeffrey Vickery

Let me invite you to enter your imagination. Imagine that you are an Israelite born in Egypt during the time of the slavery described at the beginning of the book of Exodus. Years later, after nearly a lifetime of harsh treatment and hard work, you and your family along with thousands of your Israelite kin are freed from slavery by a surprising series of miracles. How is it that you pray for a miracle all these years without any clear sign from God? Then all at once miracles in the form of plagues seem to happen every day … for weeks? Before too long your greatest hope is realized! You are told to gather your family and some food and walk to freedom. On that day, you leave Egypt and your slavery behind. You marvel at the dry sea bed beneath your sandals. You gasp as the army pursuing you is defeated by yet another miracle. God is surely watching over all of you. But the weeks moving south through the desert are hard, nearly as harsh as slavery. You don’t even know what the destination is or when you will arrive. After exactly three months, you and the whole company are standing at the foot of Mount Sinai and word spreads that this is the place. You are given three days to prepare to hear from God. The rumor is that you will actually hear God speak. Wonder swirls – what will God say? During those three days, you are told to wash your clothes and remain holy. The leaders build a fence at the foot of the mountain which no one is to touch or go through on pain of death, except for Moses, and eventually Aaron. On the third day, as you and your family gather with the whole company of the Israelites, a rainless storm seems to be sitting on the mountain. Thunder and lightning are accompanied by the sounding of a ram’s horn that is blown like a pleading trumpet. Smoke envelopes the mountain as though from a hot furnace. The loud blast of the horn means Moses is speaking to God. God answers him in thunder as the mountain itself shakes. Honestly, it’s all a bit scary. Finally, the time has come. God addresses you and all the people directly.  

[What follows next are the words recorded in Exodus 20:1-17] 

20:1Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 

7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. 

12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 

13 You shall not murder. 

14 You shall not commit adultery. 

15 You shall not steal. 

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 

17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. 

Shew! That must have been a powerful moment in history! It remains the only time in the entire biblical story when God speaks out loud to all the people. No wonder that we remember this part of the Exodus story so often. No wonder that posting these words on a flimsy yard sign as an act of pride or protest seems an underwhelming gesture. Posting the ten commandments is not an act of faith. Living them is. 

Despite the way we think of these as “commandments” for all of us, I want you today to take them personally. God said these words to you. You hear them from God. We have come to call them commandments, but I like to think of them as God’s first ten teachings. Hundreds more come after these ten although the rest are mediated by someone else who hears God that we trust to relay the message truthfully. Someone like Moses, or Elijah, or Deborah. Nothing is wrong with calling them “commandments.” I grew up with people who had adopted the description of Exodus 20 as God’s “commandments, not suggestions.” Even as a child, I knew that the people who said this intended to mean that they wanted other people to be commanded to follow them like laws. But the words of God, especially these ten, are always to be freely chosen and never imposed by force of law or threat of penalty. Without a doubt, we definitely need a secular legal law against murder and stealing and lying in court. The other seven, on the other hand, should never be legislated even if I think they should always be followed. Commandment #4 should never become “You must require other people to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Instead, the “you” in each of God’s teachings is singular. “You, Jeffrey, shall not use God’s name for your own purposes.” “You, Jeffrey, shall honor your parents.” “You, Jeffrey, shall not want what other people have.” It does not say, “You shall not let other people make idols, or steal, or lie.” They are God’s words for me to follow, not for me to impose. 

Anyone who claims to follow God as a Christian must take these words personally. They are for me to choose freely, to practice daily, to set as a standard for myself. None of us are holy by association. We are not part of God’s covenant because of our family. Another person cannot maintain my relationship with God. No one else can speak my prayer for me. Others can assist my spiritual journey and guide my understanding and teach me God’s Way, but I am the only one who can choose to live in God’s Way. Yes, we find a sustainable community of goodness and justice when all of us let these words orient our Way of living, but that equity is violated when they are forced on any one of us. Yes, our work for justice and fairness and the ending of oppression sometimes requires us to advocate for the forced change in law or behavior so that others can live free and healthy and whole. But the act of loving and following God is not determined by imposition of community or social requirements. The practice of faith in God is personal. One of the historic Baptist distinctions that I will hold the tightest and longest is religious liberty in its fullest sense. Not only am I able to freely choose to follow Jesus myself, I will advocate for others to have the freedom to choose the same, or another religious faith, or no faith at all with the same freedom and an equal amount of respect and kindness. 

Since we are in the Christian season of Lent, these teachings of God take us back to the basics. Exodus 20 gives us God’s message as both an imperative and in the present. Do this. Don’t do that. On this day and with the opportunities before me and among the people with whom I live, do this, don’t do that. A simple and direct message from God such as Exodus 20 gives us a fertile field from which other seeds of faith grow. This kind of simplicity is part of our Lenten discipline. Just like a baseball team reporting to Spring Training starts with the basics of throwing and hitting, during Lent we are called back to the common and simple acts of faith. Put God first. Yes, we work, and we have children or grandchildren, and we volunteer to help, and we need to exercise and have a hobby that helps de-stress us, and there are books to read and television shows to binge, and viruses to avoid. Lent calls us back to the building blocks that started us on this faith journey – put God first. Before my schedule. Before my stress-relief. Before my political advocacy. Put God first. Many things in our world compete to take the place of God in our life. We think that we worship only one God, but are we more committed to something on our schedule than we are too God? Are we more passionate about our political insightfulness than our religious understanding? Are we more committed to grandchildren or children more than we are committed to God? Do we watch more football on television than time we spend in prayer, worship, and scripture? Do our choices in lifestyle, or how we spend our money, or what we want other people to think of us have more of an influence on our decisions than what is pleasing to God? The answer to these questions are personal. Only you know the truth. During these weeks of Lent, these questions stand before us and require an honest appraisal.  

Barbara Brown Taylor notes that in the Book of Common Prayer, the ten commandments are used in public worship during Lent in a specific way. The people in the church kneel while these verses from Exodus 20 are read. After each commandment, the people respond by saying, “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.” [from notes written by Barbara Brown Taylor in Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2.] It presents worshippers with a tangible whole-body way to note that failure to follow these teachings is part of our reality, but it serves as a call to forgiveness and restoration rather than scorn and pity. “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Yet worshippers are also given the opportunity to voice a renewed call to obedience — “And incline our hearts to keep this law.” Our past may require mercy, but our present offers us opportunity to practice our faith anew. Lent will not let us forget our failures, but will equip us for obedience today.   

While everyone seems to know the ten commandments, the question of whether I choose to follow them or not is not a given. With these teachings, God is saying “trust me and my commandments. There are other teachings you can follow, but they are not good for you, they don’t honor me, and they likely keep others from living justly in the human community. If you do trust me and my commandments, live them today.” It is that simple, and also that difficult, but it is worth the commitment. 

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
Gifts of Love Our Lord has Given
Words: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Tune: I WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN

1 Gifts of love our Lord has given, Words of life: “I’m your God!
I have brought you out of Egypt; now I call.
Listen here, listen well:
When you live in gratitude you’ll keep my law.”

2 “Have no other gods before me, says the Lord God Most High.
Don’t choose idols that you worship in God’s place.
Know God’s name, use it well.
Keep the Sabbath for it is God’s gift of grace.”

3 “Honor father, honor mother, and rejoice! God will bless you.
Take no life, for God loves every child on earth.
Celebrate gifts of love;
Take to heart what marriage promises are worth.”

4 “Do not steal from one another, nor speak lies, hurting others;
Do not wish for what your neighbor has in greed.”
Ten great Words, gifts from God,
Help us live in thanks for all we have received.

Sending Out

Listen to the Sending Out and/or read below.

Know that the ever-present mystery we name God
is in your past forgiving you,
in your present loving you,
and in your future meeting you.

And may the blessing of the Source of life, love and hope,
the Word of life, compassion and wisdom
and Breath of life, grace and truth
surround, sustain and surprise you,
this day and all your days. Amen

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

  • The words by John Birch are posted on “Prayers for the season of Lent (faithandworship.com).” Accessed February 18, 2021. https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Lent.htm.
  • The image was retrieved from https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicteacher.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Lent-prayer-service.png?fit=1000%2C667&ssl=1.
  • The Invitation to Worship is offered by Michelle and comes from Jesus Sets the Table, resources by the United Church of Christ, posted on their Worship Ways website.
  • We Will Walk with God is sung by Mindy, accompanied by Kendall on the djembe.
  • The Opening Prayer is offered by Onifer and was written by Moira Laidlaw.
  • Psalm 19 is read by Kendall.
  • Let All Creation Dance and Gifts of Love Our Lord has Given are sung by Mindy, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 is read by Mike.
  • The Lenten prayer is offered by Tonya and was posted on the website re:Worship under Lent 3B.
  • The Words of Assurance are offered by Carmen.
  • Oh, Thou My Soul, Forget No More is sung by Ally, Elizabeth, Laura, Tonya, and Mindy, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • The blessing is offered by Tonya and comes from “Words of Dismissal and Benediction | The Billabong.” Accessed February 18, 2021. http://thebillabong.info/lectionary/additional-resources/words-of-dismissal-and-benediction.

    Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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