Sunday, May 10, 2020
Happy Mother's Day everyone! Here is the liturgy for today's worship service.
May 10, 2020 Liturgy
Happy Mother’s Day to all of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, step-mothers, bonus mothers, and spiritual mothers.
We’re going to be worshipping online through the end of May.
Session and I are preparing for in person worship, more information TBA.
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
Essential workers, healthcare workers, those returning to work this week.
Call to Worship
I am the way, and the truth and the life, says the Lord.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus said: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
Ubi caritas et amor
Ubi caritas deus ibi est.
Live in charity and steadfast love.
Live in charity, God will dwell with you.
Prayer of Confession
Merciful God, in your gracious presence we confess our sin and the sin of this world. Although Christ is among us as our peace, we are a people divided against ourselves as we cling to the values of a broken world. The profit and pleasures we pursue lay waste the land and pollute the seas. The fears and jealousies that we harbor set neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation. We abuse your good gifts of imagination and freedom, or intellect and reason, and have turned them into bonds of oppression.
Lord, have mercy upon us; heal and forgive us. Set us free to serve you in the world as agents of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ.
Words of Assurance:
Hear the good news: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer (Pastor)
Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you taught us to pray, and to offer our petitions to you in his name. Guide us by your Holy Spirit, that our prayers for others may serve your will and show your steadfast love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord:
Let us pray for the world.
Let us pray for the church.
Let us pray for those who govern us.
Let us pray for world leaders.
Let us pray for the sick.
God of compassion, bless us and those we love, our friends and families that, drawing close to you, though we are apart, we may be drawn closer to each other, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Name the things you don’t know that are giving you anxiety right now. For example: I don’t know what in-person worship will look like in the 'yellow' phase.
How can you share the heart of God with others this week?
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’
Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Sermon “We Don’t Know”
Let us pray,
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be pleasing and acceptable to you, our rock and our redeemer…
I imagine our Scripture reading for today is a familiar one for many of us. It is one of the most popular texts to be read at a funeral service. And for good reason. In it, Jesus reminds us not to worry about our loved one because Jesus is going to prepare a place for them in heaven. While we mourn their physical presence among us, we rejoice that they are able to reunite with their heavenly Father. This is why in the Presbyterian tradition we call funeral services “A Witness to the Resurrection.” While we’re sad to no longer have our loved one physically with us. We rejoice that because of Jesus, our loved one is in heaven.
But this morning, I am not preparing a funeral meditation. I am sitting at my mother’s dining room table. Trying to keep the cat from falling asleep on my notebook. Her dining room table is the place where I am spending the majority of my time until Pennsylvania’s stay at home order is lifted. Every week I try to find something hopeful to say to people who are mourning a way of life that isn’t possible during a global pandemic. On this particular morning, I found my attention resting on a different part of the text than it usually does. Thomas’ plea to Jesus:
Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?
We don’t know. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said, e-mailed, or texted ‘we don’t know’ in the last week. We don’t know when the stay at home order will be lifted for Allegheny County. We don’t know when it will be safe to resume in person worship. We don’t know if we can sing together in person until there is a vaccine. We don’t know if we can have our usual summer and fall festivals and picnics.
I believe that the chorus’ of ‘we don’t know’ is a sign that we have entered the messy middle of the pandemic. The place in between the start of the crisis. Where we all hunkered down and figured out how to use Zoom. And the end of the crisis. Where schools will re-open. And we can hug people during the passing of the peace. This messy middle is a challenging place to live. It is filled with a lot of frustrated we don’t knows. How, like Jesus’ disciples, can we plan for a future if we don’t know what that future will look like?
In our Scripture reading, the disciples find themselves in a messy middle of their own. The messy middle between Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven. They thought Jesus was dead. They were wrong. Because Jesus appeared to them on Easter. How long is Jesus here for? They don’t know. He keeps talking about returning to the Father. What will life look like without his physical presence? They don’t know. How will they share the good news with all of the nations? Again, they don’t know. But they’re getting a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach that somehow they will be the ones tasked with figuring it out.
Into this messy middle, Jesus offers the disciples this advice:
‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’
In the midst of all of these unknowns, Jesus reminds the disciples that Jesus himself is all they really need. There is no need to panic. There is no need to go looking for a secret map. Jesus and God are the same being. We don’t have to go looking for the way, Jesus is the way. Jesus makes it possible for us to know God because we can relate to Jesus’ humanity. The only thing left for Jesus to do is to return to God. When he leaves, he will send the Spirit so that Jesus can continue to be with us when he is no longer physically present.
One of the questions I’ve been reflecting on this week is how can we share the heart of God- the heart of God that Jesus reveals to us in his teachings- in an age of social distancing? I really love the way that New York City residents take a few minutes every day at 7pm to thank their health care workers during the hospital shift changes. And the way that grocery stores are allowing seniors to shop during the first hour they’re open. And the way that crafters are re-purposing their leftover fabric to make masks for hospital workers, homeless shelters, and food distribution workers. All of these examples proclaim that God cares for the vulnerable, the helpers, and those who are struggling.
One area where we might practice sharing the heart of God with others is in how we share information on social media. I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook where people are sharing articles meant to scare others. For example, articles like “How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America,” or “Nearly All Patients Hospitalized with Covid-19 Had Chronic Health Issues, Study Finds,” or my favorite, “Pittsburgh Skatepark Filled With Sand By Order of Peduto To Discourage Skating During Coronavirus Pandemic.” When we share articles like these on our timelines we are giving into fear. Fear that we will never see the other side of this pandemic. Or fear that God is not with us in this pandemic.
Instead, why don’t we share stories that illustrate the power of love to transform communities? Stories like, “Reopened campgrounds see rush of guests while observing social distancing.” “A Guide for First-Time Pet Owners During the Pandemic,” or “How Coronavirus is Changing the Dating Game for the Better.” I’m not suggesting that we never acknowledge the challenges of living through a pandemic. But I do think one way we can love others right now is by not giving into fear on the internet.
Because, Friends, In the face of life’s cruelties, love is the only helpful response. No, love never rescues anyone from death. But it does cover us, nurture us, and consumes us in a way that does and always will matter completely. Our task as Christians living in the messy middle of a global pandemic is to figure out how to love fiercely, pray boldly, honor, name, and grieve the dead. Of not shying away from the pain and grief but having patience that hope and love will survive.
Our Scripture reading for today ends with the disciples realizing that Jesus is ascending to the Father- and that is their destination too. The disciples cannot allow their hearts to become troubled or they will miss out on the good news of Easter. Because of Jesus, we too can enjoy an intimate relationship with our creator, redeemer, and sustainer. While the middle parts of our stories may get a bit messy, the ending makes it all worthwhile.
Thanks be to God,
In Jesus’ name,
In the Lord I’ll be ever thank-ful; in the Lord I will rejoice.
Look to God, do not be afraid, lift up your voices the Lord is near.
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.
You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a plan and a purpose to you being there. Christ who dwells in you has something he wants to do, through you, wherever you are. Believe this and go in his grace and love and power, Amen.