Posts Tagged ‘joy’

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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!


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  

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.  

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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