Sunday May 24, 2020
Session will be mailing out plans for re-opening this week. If you do not receive the plan either via e-mail or mail by June 1, please let me know.
MN- Session meeting- May 26, 2020 at 6:30pm
GV- Zoom Congregational Meeting- May 31, 2020 after worship
Both- Bible Study- Thursdays, 2pm on Zoom.
Happy Memorial Day!
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
Remember the men and women who died in service to our country.
Cathy Sagi- treatment for her UTI
Call to Worship
Psalm 68: 32-35
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, 33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice. 34 Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens. 35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
Wait for the Lord, whose Day is Near.
Wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart.
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: (Pastor)
Hear the good news: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia. Amen.
Apostle’s Creed (Everyone)
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.
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.
What are you waiting for from God?
How does that waiting make you feel?
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? The same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew: Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the woman and May the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Sermon “Prayer and Quarantine”
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…
Today is a very special Sunday. Today is Ascension Sunday. It is the last Sunday of Easter. The Sunday before we celebrate Pentecost. It is the day where we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Basically where Jesus decides to work from home until further notice. Where Jesus is welcomed into the Father’s presence. Jesus’ ascension proves that he is Lord. Because only God has the power to rise from the dead and return to the Father in heaven. So today we celebrate that Jesus is God. That there are no other rulers but Jesus.
Ascension concludes Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is the event that allows Jesus to send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will aid the disciples as they fulfil Jesus’ commission- to share the good news with every nation and every peoples. But even with the Spirit, the disciples must figure out how to live without his physical, visible presence among them. Our Scripture reading for today reminds us that because of Jesus’ ascension, nothing and no one can separate us from God.
In our Scripture reading for today, the disciples gather together waiting for God. Waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And while they are waiting, they ask Jesus if now is the time that Jesus is going to restore the kingdom of Israel.
Jesus responds by telling them that they’re going to have to wait a while longer. Because it is not for you or me to know when the Father will act. He instructs them to go back to the city and wait. While they are waiting, Jesus ascends to the Father and the disciples return to Jerusalem. The disciples isolate together in an upstairs guest room. While they wait, they pray.
What I love about our Scripture reading for today is that it illustrates that we do not control when or how God’s Spirit interacts with us. Sometimes the Spirit moves so quickly and clearly through us that we feel like a little kid, riding a roller-coaster, hanging on for dear life. Other times we, like the disciples, have to wait upon the Spirit. And it is in that period of waiting that we draw closest to God.
I know that in my own life, I do not enjoy waiting upon the Spirit’s guidance. I do not enjoy waiting because it makes me feel like I’m not in control of my own life. I’ve learned in these periods of waiting that I’m not, but so far this knowledge has not improved my attitude about waiting. I’ve also found in my own life that periods of waiting are usually followed by major changes. I know something big is about to happen, but I don’t know what, and the unknown makes me anxious.
To me, this ‘yellow’ phase of re-opening Pennsylvania feels like a community wide waiting game. Particularly during this first full week of eased stay-at-home order, and the opening of many retail establishments. We’re waiting to see if easing restrictions will lead to a surge in coronavirus cases. We’re waiting to see how comfortable people feel being in public with no treatment or cure for coronavirus yet found. We’re waiting to see what impact our new normal will have on our mental health, our finances, and our sense of who we are.
When I was in Guatemala last winter, I learned an important lesson about waiting upon the Spirit. Guatemala was the country where half of our group, myself included, came down with a nasty stomach bug. Our bodies weren’t used to Guatemalan food and our tummies were not happy. The stomach bug ranged in severity. The younger folks just had a couple days of dehydration and diarrhea. But some of the older participants developed much more severe symptoms. One had to be hospitalized and return home early she was so sick.
During the height of our illness, those of us who could eat gathered in the dining hall for dinner. Our practice throughout our trip was to participate in a devotion together after dinner. I can’t remember who lead the devotion that night, but I do remember the prayer they shared. It is a prayer written by the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. It goes:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I hope that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Friends, the most helpful thing I have found to do during periods of waiting is to pray. To acknowledge that I do not know what I am doing. But I trust that God does. And I trust that God will not leave me to face my perils alone. In these waiting prayers I confess that what I thought was going to happen isn’t and that’s okay. Because it is in these moments of waiting that I remember that God is in control, not me.
As Pennsylvania transitions to the yellow phase of re-opening, Session and I are working to communicate our plans for re-opening to you this week. We appreciate your patience as we weigh the risks of reopening and the restrictions necessary to mitigate these risks.
Our plan for re-opening comes out of the many, many prayers we prayed as we waited for the Spirit’s prompting. We know that no plan eliminates all risk. And we know that our plan is bound to ruffle a few feathers. But we trust that because Jesus is Lord, and that God acts on God’s own time, things will be different going forward- and that’s okay.
In my theology class in seminary when we learned about the ascension, my professor said that ascension clarifies what the resurrection means. What he meant by that is that Jesus returning to the Father was God’s plan all along. Jesus didn’t come to die, but to defeat death and return to the Father. The same God who suffered death and rejection by the world, now welcomes us at the right hand of the Father. Ascension reminds us that Jesus is God’s plan for the world. And neither death nor life. Minions or a global pandemic. Can stop God from acting in our world for our benefit.
Thanks be to God,
In Jesus’ name,
The kingdom of God is justice and peace.
And joy in the Holy Spirit.
Come, Lord, and open in us.
The gates of your kingdom.
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.