Worship Resources for July 2, 2023—Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 22:1-14 and Psalm 13; Jeremiah 28:5-9 and Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42

Narrative Lectionary: 2 Peter 1:1-11 (Matthew 13:44-46)

Our first selection of the Hebrew Scriptures in this season after Pentecost follows the ancestors of the faith in Genesis and Exodus. In Genesis 22, Abraham is instructed by God to offer up Isaac, his only child, the son promised by God, as a sacrifice. Though Abraham had another son Ishmael through Hagar, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. Though God had promises for Hagar and Ishmael, God’s covenant would be with Abraham’s descendants—yet Abraham was told by God to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham did not hold back Isaac. But just before he was about to kill him, the angel of the Lord called out for Abraham to stop and provided a ram instead. While some interpretations of this story suggest that God tested Abraham and this is a story about faithfulness to God, other scholars believe this is a story showing that God was different than the other gods of Abraham’s time—this God did not desire child sacrifice. It is a disturbing story in our scriptures, one that we must wrestle with in understanding historical and cultural context, in light of the abuse of children in religious institutions over the years.

Psalm 13 is a song of trusting in God. The psalmist is facing their enemies and feels defeated, but they trust in God’s steadfast love and mercy. They will continue to praise God because they know God is faithful.

In the second selection of the Hebrew scriptures, Jeremiah 28:5-9, Hananiah the prophet had been preaching peace to the priests and people of Jerusalem. They did not want to believe that destruction was imminent. Jeremiah agreeed this would be a great message, only the prophets of the past warned of war and destruction and no one listened to them, but their words were true. If Hananiah is not proclaiming what God has spoken, it will not come to pass.

Psalm 81:1-4, 15-18 is a song praising God for the covenant and God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Those who know how to worship God are blessed, for God is their protector and strength.

The Epistle reading continues it series in Romans 6:12-23. Sin no longer has a hold on us because we are under grace, but we still should not sin. Instead, we should live as people obedient to Christ instead of the ways of this world. We are now obedient to the teachings in our heart, for we have been set free from the ways of this world. Paul uses the image of slavery, and that sin has a hold on people the way the system of slavery did, but sin and death have no hold on the faithful for they have been freed. The ways of this world—sin—leads to death, but the way of Christ leads to eternal life.

Jesus was completing a set of instructions to the disciples before he sent them out. Matthew 10:40-42 contains a brief conclusion on hospitality, in that whoever shows a disciple hospitality has shown Christ hospitality. When we welcome one another, we welcome Christ, and therefore God, into our lives. When we show hospitality to the most vulnerable in our society, we are welcoming Christ.

The Narrative Lectionary begins a brief series on 2 Peter, beginning with verses 1-11. Both 1 and 2 Peter are considered pseudepigraphal and not written by the apostle, and 2 Peter may have been written as late as 150 C.E. 2 Peter is written to encourage the followers of Jesus, now at least a full century if not more after his death and resurrection. The beginning of this letter tells of how Jesus, through his divine power, has given the believers everything they need to know to live a godly life. The writer speaks of escaping this world’s power for the power of God, for the world wants to corrupt, but God desires for us to live. The believer does best to witness to a faithful life by living into goodness, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. The author states that their lives will confirm their call and election into the reign of God.

The supplementary verses of Matthew 13:44-46 contain two parables: the parable of the treasure in the field and the great pearl. In other words, the life that God offers through Jesus is worth giving up everything else in the world, for the reign of God is a greater treasure than these.

How do we live faithfully today? We live into God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. We love one another, practice hospitality to one another as if it is Jesus the guest we are welcoming into our homes and lives. We witness through our lives by practicing goodness and godliness, self-control and love, as well as endurance in this world that will try to get us down. God helped Abraham break the terrible cycle of child sacrifice that was common in his lifetime. Jeremiah stayed true to what God had spoken to him despite it not being a very popular message—for the prophets and leaders of his time wanted to hold on to the wealth and power they had instead of listening to God. Paul writes of breaking free from the system of sin in this world through Jesus Christ, who sets us free. We are called to live differently. The world today sets us in competition with each other, to consume more and have more. We worry about not having what others have, or holding on to our possessions and wealth so tightly that we forget Jesus called us to welcome one another and give at least the basic needs to the most vulnerable in our society. We are called to live differently, and our lives witness that the reign of Christ is real, important, and eternal.

Call to Worship
We proclaim God’s faithfulness in our lives,
For God’s steadfast love endures forever.
God has been faithful to our ancestors, and God is faithful to us,
For God’s steadfast love endures forever.
God has made a new covenant with us through Jesus Christ,
For God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Live into the joy of God’s love in your life and worship God,
For God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
We confess to You, O Holy One, that our ways are not Your ways. We have sought the world’s wealth and possessions. We have sought to build capital and establish security for ourselves and our families. We have not worked to help the most vulnerable. We have allowed water to become polluted, food to become scarce, housing for the poor to be eliminated. We have neglected the most in need among us and therefore we have neglected You, Jesus our Savior. You came to us as vulnerable as any of us, but we have ignored You in neglecting the vulnerable among us. Forgive us and call us into accountability. Call us back to the work You have given us to do, to welcome one another, practice kindness and compassion, and to do justice by caring for those who are considered the least among us. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, and we hope to participate in it, but we know we cannot if we ignore You in this world, among Your children in need. In Your name we pray. Amen.

You are God’s beloved child, made in God’s image. When we return to God, we know God’s love and God’s ways. We set out to do right, and at times need our direction corrected, but God’s love will never fail. Know God’s love and seek forgiveness, restoration, and healing in this world. Do your part to build and plant and grow the seeds of righteousness, faithfulness, and love, and know God’s mercy in your life. Go with this good news of God’s love and forgiveness.

Sun of Righteousness, You rise over us with healing in Your wings. We praise You and call upon You to help us live into the life You desire for us—a life where we show mutual love and care, build up one another, and tend to one another’s needs. The world is burning around us with neglect and hardship and strife, but You offer us a different way to live and to care for the earth and one another. May we listen to Your voice calling us into that Way, that Truth, and that Life that is abundant, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Worship Resources for June 25, 2023—Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 21:8-21 and Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Jeremiah 20:7-13 and Psalm 69:7-10 (11-15), 16-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Isaiah, 61:1-11 (Luke 4:16-21)

The first selection of the Hebrew scriptures in this season after Pentecost follows the ancestors of the faith in Genesis and Exodus. While we primarily think of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah as growing from a family with one child into a nation, through enslavement to freedom, we are reminded that the family tree is large. The story of Hagar is also one of our ancestral stories, a story of enslavement and trafficking and abandonment. However, though Hagar and her son were cast out by Sarah and Abraham so they would not inherit, God promised Hagar an inheritance through her son, that he would become a great nation. Though Abraham gave very little to Hagar and Ishmael, God provided for them in the wilderness. Though God spoke to Abraham, God also spoke to Hagar, and God’s presence was made known to Ishmael.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 is a prayer for help. The psalmist, perhaps facing enemies, calls upon God to save their life and to answer their prayer, for there is no other God like God. God is good, forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love. All nations shall bow before God. The psalmist concludes by seeking strength from God and asking for a sign so that others will know God’s presence is with the psalmist. God is the one who helps and brings comfort.

Ever wondered how hard it was to be a prophet? In Jeremiah 20:7-13, the second selection of the Hebrew scriptures, Jeremiah complains that God has enticed him to speak up and look what he gets for it? Nothing but trouble. Jeremiah feels he must declare violence and destruction to the people, but he hates doing it. If he tries not to speak on behalf of God, the fire inside of him burns and he can’t keep it in. Everyone else is waiting for him to screw up so they can pounce on him, even his close friends. Nonetheless, Jeremiah knows that God is with him and those persecuting him will not prevail. God is the one who will deliver him. Content Warning: the English translations of this passage are tamer than the Hebrew, which uses the language of rape to describe Jeremiah being compelled to prophecy by God and that same language of his friends working against him.

Psalm 69 is a prayer for deliverance from persecution. In verses 7-10, the psalmist reminds God that it is for God’s sake they have been shamed, that their family has disowned them, for the psalmist is being blamed for what God has called them to do and insulted for being humble. In verses 11-15, the psalmist continues to share that they are ridiculed and gossiped about, but they pray to God because they trust that God will deliver them from their enemies. They call upon God to not let them die. In verses 16-18, the psalmist turns to God, calling upon God to answer them in according to God’s mercy, and calls upon God to draw near to them and set them free from their enemies.

The Epistle reading continues in Romans with 6:1b-11. Paul uses rhetoric here to say that even though it is faith that saves instead of the law, believers are not to continue in sin. Through Christ, we have died to sin and have been raised to life. Knowing that we are united in a resurrection like Christ’s, we are called to live as alive in Christ. Sin has no power over us, but if we know Jesus Christ, we live in the newness of life. Sin holds us back; Christ sets us free.

The Gospel lesson focuses on Matthew 10:24-39. Continuing from last week’s lesson, Jesus is giving the disciples further instructions before they head out in ministry. Jesus reminds the disciples that they are not above the teacher, but a disciple ought to be like the teacher. Nonetheless, Jesus also warns them that the insults thrown at him (such as calling him Beelzebul) will be even greater toward them. Jesus then instructs them to not be afraid and to share everything he has taught them, and that they are precious to God. If they are faithful to Christ, Christ will be with them, but whoever denies Christ, Christ will deny them before God. Jesus further warns the disciples that his teachings will bring division, not peace. Just as Jesus’s own family at first tried to stop him, so will some of the disciple’s families and friends. Those who follow Jesus must be willing to let go of everything, even families, if they hold them back from following Christ. Those who are willing to give up everything for Christ’s sake will find everything of purpose and meaning is in Christ.

The Narrative Lectionary concludes its series in Isaiah with 61:1-11, part of Third Isaiah. The prophet shares good news of God to those who were oppressed and in captivity, those who have returned from exile. The city of Jerusalem and the temple shall be rebuilt, and the people shall be a holy priesthood for God, a witness to the world of God’s faithfulness and they shall receive a double portion of goodness because of what they have suffered. God loves justice and will make sure that all of God’s people are known and blessed in the world. The prophet concludes this chapter with assurance that God will renew the people as a nation, just like spring renews the earth, faithfully.

The supplemental verses are from Luke 4:16-21, in which Jesus, in his first sermon, reads from this very portion of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, probably the synagogue he grew up in, and declares that this portion of Isaiah 61:1-2 has been fulfilled in their hearing. Jesus came to bring good news, though later in that same chapter, he would declare that the good news may be for those outside of Israel.

Living faithfully is not easy. Believers do not have life any easier than anyone else. At times, being faithful can be more difficult. Jeremiah and other prophets were called to speak against injustice and corruption and many prophets faced humiliation, disgrace, and even death. Paul writes that we are called as faithful people to live differently, and Jesus warns that believers will face humiliation, persecution, and even loss of family and friends. But we are reminded that God draws close to us and is with us, just as God was close to Hagar and Ishmael. God was with the faithful when they returned from exile. And Christ promises to be with us, until the end of the age, when we live as disciples and make disciples, following the instructions of our great Teacher.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 86:4-8)
Gladden the soul of your servant,
For to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
Abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
Listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
For you will answer me.
There is none like you, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like yours.
Let us gather our hearts and minds for worship,
For there is no God but God, who hears our prayers, our songs, and our sighs.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that our ways are not Your ways. We look for the easy choice, the easy decision, the easy way out, whether individually or collectively. We do not want to sit in the struggle. We do not want to listen to those who disagree with us. We do not want conflict and we have somehow bought into the idea that if we are with believers we ought to get along. We blame others when things don’t work out. We scapegoat and snark and gossip. We forget that we are flawed and human, each one of us, and that our desire for the easy way sometimes is the stumbling block for healthy decisions and growing from our differences. Forgive us, O God. Remind us that sometimes we need to be silent and listen. Sometimes we are called to speak only to remind others to listen to the voices that have been silenced. And sometimes, You do call us to cry out against injustice. Call those of us with privilege to share space and at times give up space so that all may be heard, and all may know Your love. In the name of Jesus, who has led us on the difficult, rough path that leads from death to life, we pray. Amen.

God is gracious and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love and mercy. You are precious to God, and God loves you so, so much. Know this, in your heart of hearts, that nothing can ever take away that love of God from you. Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Seek forgiveness and grant forgiveness. Seek healing and help bring healing. Participate in the work of justice and restoration, for this is what we are called to do. Go and share the Good News. Amen.

God of all seasons, we give thanks for the light of day and the darkness of night as we pass by the solstice. We give thanks for the ebb and flow of creation, for the beautiful summer of the north and winter of the south. Call us to the work of climate justice and hold us accountable, for You made us to be good stewards of the earth and we have failed. We have misused and abused creation for our own comfort and profit. Call us into accountability and help us, individually and collectively, to do our part to restore the earth and reduce our waste. Guide us to be Your children, caretakers of this beautiful planet, the only one You have given us. In the name of Christ, who came so that all might have life, may we live more simply for others. Amen.

Worship Resources for June 18, 2023—Third Sunday after Pentecost, Father’s Day

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7) and Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Exodus 19:2-8a and Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Isaiah, Isaiah 40:1-11 (Mark 1:1-4) or Isaiah 55:1-13 (John 4:13-14)

The first selection of the Hebrew scriptures in this season after Pentecost follows the ancestors of the faith in Genesis and Exodus, from a family to a nation, through enslavement to freedom. In Genesis 18, three visitors are passing by when Abraham encourages them to stop and have some respite, with he and Sarah offering food and hospitality. One of the men promises to return, and that Sarah will give birth to a son. However, Sarah, listening behind the tent entrance, laughed. God had promised Abraham and Sarah that they would be ancestors of a multitude, but now it was well past the time that they believed they could have children. God questioned Abraham as to why Sarah laughed, because there is nothing too wonderful for God, but Sarah denied that she did. However, in due season, she conceived and give birth, and Abraham named the son Laughter (Isaac) because God brought laughter into Sarah and Abraham’s life. The joke was on her—God is always true with God’s promises, even when it seems impossible.

The psalmist’s prayers were answered by God, and they sing God’s praise in Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19. The singer pledges to call upon God as long as they live because they know God’s faithfulness. Even in death, the faithful are precious to God. The psalmist pledges to live out their vows and to serve God as their mother did before them, recalling the ancestors who served faithfully, and a pledge to live out their faith in God in the temple and presence of the people of Israel.

The second selection of the Hebrew Scriptures is Exodus 19:2-8a, when the Israelites reached Mount Sinai. As the people camped in the wilderness, Moses went up the mountain for the first time, and God told Moses what to say to the people: if they obeyed God and kept God’s covenant, they would be God’s treasured people. Even though all peoples of the earth belong to God, they would serve as a holy, priestly nation, a people for whom God would be made known through to the rest of the world. When Moses returned to the people, they replied that they would do everything God had told them.

Psalm 100 is a call to worship for the people as they prepared to enter the temple. The psalmist calls upon the people to worship with gladness and to remember that they were made by God and belong to God. God is the shepherd, and the people are the sheep of God’s pasture.

The Epistle selection continues its series in Romans with 5:1-8, which was also the Epistle reading on the third Sunday of Lent back on March 12th. Because believers are justified by faith, they share in the glory of God through Jesus Christ. Even though they may suffer, in their suffering they will still experience the hope of God because they know God’s love through Jesus. Even though not all knew Christ, Christ died for all. There is no one who cannot know God’s love through Jesus Christ. Paul views Christ’s death as a sacrifice that saves everyone, regardless of being under the law or not, and Christ’s death reconciles everyone to God. It is not the believer’s works, but rather one’s faith in Christ that matters.

Jesus saw the needs of the people and had compassion on them, sending the disciples to minister among them in Matthew 9:35-10:8. Jesus appointed the twelve disciples, and in Matthew’s account, one might take note that there are fishermen, tax collectors, and a Cananaean (or Zealot, a member of a revolutionary group). What an eclectic group! Yet Jesus sent them out to minister among the Jewish villages, and to avoid the Gentiles and Samaritans, making clear that Jesus’s ministry at this point was to his own people. The message they were to share was simple: the kingdom of heaven had come near, and they were to minister as if the kingdom was at hand. Casting out demons and cleansing lepers restored people to society, curing the sick and raising the dead restored people to life. They were to go without being paid and to not receive payment.
In the optional additional reading of verses 9-20, Jesus gave further instruction to not take anything with them and to simply accept the hospitality offered them. If hospitality was not given, they were to move along. Those villages would receive the same as they gave—judged by their refusal to show hospitality, the way Sodom and Gomorrah were judged (and how the prophet Ezekiel also interpreted the destruction of those cities as a result of inhospitality in Ezekiel 16:46-50). Jesus sent the disciples to serve God like sheep among wolves, innocent servants in places where they might easily be taken advantage of or handed over to authorities. Jesus urged them to be wise in their innocence, and not to be afraid.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series in Isaiah with two choices, both part of Second Isaiah. In 40:1-11, the beginning of the section attributed to Second Isaiah, God sends a message of comfort to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the people in exile. God is bringing the people home from Babylon, and Jerusalem is the beacon of good news of God’s restoration to all the people of Judah. Even though the people were not faithful, God is always true, and God will accompany the people like a shepherd accompanying their flock, carrying the lambs close to God’s heart and gently leading the mother sheep.

The supplementary verses of Mark 1:1-4 begins the gospel of Mark with John the Baptist arriving out of the wilderness. The Gospel writers all link John the Baptist with Isaiah 40 and the voice calling in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.

The second choice is from the end of Second Isaiah, 55:1-13. God calls everyone who thirsts to join with God, because the spiritual food God offers is better than anything humans could work for in a human kingdom. God’s reign is the one to live for. God made a covenant with David that is everlasting, and other nations will see the people of Israel as a witness of God’s goodness and faithfulness because of what God has done for them. Nonetheless, human beings cannot comprehend all that God has done and will do, for God is the one who provides for the whole earth, and all of nature will rejoice and praise God for what God continues to do for the people.

The supplementary verses of John 4:13-14 are from the passage of the Samaritan woman at the well, where Jesus speaks about how everyone who drinks of the well water will be thirsty again, but the water Jesus offers is a wellspring of eternal life.

The themes of God’s faithfulness run through the Genesis reading of the promise of Isaac, to God’s message through Moses on Mount Sinai, to God calling the people through the wilderness and reminding the people of the covenant in Isaiah. God’s faithfulness endures forever. We experience God’s faithfulness through God’s presence, through our worship, as the psalmist called the people to worship long ago, through God speaking through the prophets such as Moses, and through Jesus and his disciples sent out to minister among the people. God is near to us and desires for us to be in relationship. We understand God’s covenantal presence through community in the Hebrew scriptures and through the life, death, love, and ministry of Christ. Today, we experience that covenantal presence in faith community, in relationship with one another, in ministering among our neighbors, and in relationship with Christ. Jesus never taught is that we were only to be in relationship with him; rather, we are called to be in relationship with both God and our neighbor. As a shepherd accompanies the sheep, we know God is closest to the most vulnerable among us, but God always gathers us together—all of us—to be in community. And in the example of the disciples, we know we are called to share the Good News, perhaps in a similar manner: go forth to help change as many lives as possible and use as few words as necessary (to paraphrase the quote often attributed to St. Francis).

Call to Worship (Psalm 100)
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is God that made us, and we belong to God;
We are God’s people, and the sheep of God’s pasture.
Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and God’s courts with praise.
Give thanks to God, bless God’s name.
For the LORD is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever,
And God’s faithfulness to all generations.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Shepherding God, we confess that far too often we want to do things our own way. We want to love the neighbors we already know. We want to minister among those who won’t ask much of us. We want to work for justice when it benefits ourselves. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and our selfishness. Remind us of Your call to all, but especially the most vulnerable. Gentle Shepherd, You led the people out of exile, carrying the lambs close to Your heart. Remind us to seek those with the greatest needs to serve in Your ways of love and justice, and to allow ourselves to be led by You. May we listen to those most affected by injustice and follow their lead and not our own desires and opinions. In the name of Christ, our Good Shepherd, we pray. Amen.

Psalm 116:1-2: I love the LORD, because God has heard my voice and my supplications. Because God inclined their ear to me, therefore I will call on God as long as I live.
God hears our prayers, our cries, our sobs, our sighs too deep for words. God knows all that you desire, and all that you need, and God provides for us through the blessings of creation, the bounty of the earth, and the love of one another. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Love as Christ loved, as he laid down his life for you. Serve as Christ served. Repair and restore, for God’s faithfulness endures forever. Be a part of the good work of God in this world, and it shall go well with you. Amen.

God of our ancestors, we recall the stories of Sarah and Abraham, how they hoped and prayed and yet You still surprised them in the long run. You are still surprising us with Your goodness and mercy. Sometimes it is difficult for us to be surprised because we are caught up in the day-to-day busyness of the world, or the day-to-day difficult news. Sometimes despair keeps us from taking notice. Nonetheless, You are surprising us in new discoveries of science. You surprise us in a gentle breeze on a hot day. You surprise us in the hatching of eggs and the soft rain on the grass. You surprise us when the news is not as dire as we thought, when the lost are found, the vulnerable are rescued, the houseless are given a home, and someone receives good news for their illness. We know that we are not always the recipients of the good news, but there is good news in the world, and You are at work in it all. Sometimes You call us to be the good news for others. Sometimes we are the ones who answer a call for a neighbor in need, provide a meal for someone who is hungry, and help someone find their way who is lost. Remind us that we might be the answer to a prayer, that we might be the surprise needed in the world. For long ago, You surprised Sarah and Abraham by stopping by, a group of three strangers walking down the road, and Abraham surprised You by inviting You in, and Sarah made You a cake. In turn, You surprised them with the best news, even though they still had to wait. God of our ancestors, teach us how to surprise You and to surprise one another with Your good news. Amen.

Prayer for Father’s Day
Abba God, we come to You on this day knowing that it may be a difficult day, for those who are missing their fathers and for those who have difficult relationships, for those who are estranged and for those who never knew their fathers. We thank You for those fathers who demonstrate Your love, and for stepdads, uncles, coaches, grandpas, teachers and neighbors. We thank You that we know Your love like a father to Jesus Christ, who called You “Abba.” Abba God, may we know Your love surpasses our human understanding and that You are beyond gender, but You love us, Your children, far beyond what we can comprehend or imagine. Abba God, may we draw closer to You, to abide in You as Jesus abides in us, and it is in Your Son’s name that we pray. Amen.

Worship Resources for June 11, 2023—Second Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 12:1-9 and Psalm 33:1-12; Hosea 5:15-6:6 and Psalm 50:7-15; Romans 4:13-25; Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Isaiah, Isaiah 9:1-7 (John 8:12)

In the season after Pentecost, the Revised Common Lectionary contains two choices for the Hebrew Scriptures and Psalms—one selection that is semicontinuous, and a second selection that pairs with the Gospel reading. The semicontinuous readings for year B follow the ancestors of the faith in Genesis and Exodus, from a family to a nation, through enslavement to freedom.

We begin with Genesis 12:1-9, the call of Abram and Sarai. The two had traveled from Ur to Haran with Abram’s father Terah and family, but now God spoke to Abram and Sarai and called them with a promise that they would be the ancestors of a great nation. Abram, Sarai, and Abram’s nephew Lot set out to Canaan, and along the way, Abram built altars to sacrifice to God, first at the oak of Moreh in Shechem, then in the hill country east of Bethel. They journeyed via states through Canaan to the Negev, the desert land south of Canaan, and they knew the same God who called them was with them on their journey.

Psalm 33:1-12 is a song of praise to God for God’s faithfulness and sings of God’s love for those who are faithful. God’s steadfast love is made known to the world through God’s acts of creation. God’s voice is known because with it, God creates. For the nations that choose God, they are blessed and content. For those who choose their own way, God frustrates their plans. Those who know God are in awe of God, for God’s works in creation and God’s righteousness and justice.

The prophet Hosea doesn’t mince words in 5:15-6:6. Hosea, writing as the northern kingdom of Israel was about to be invaded by Assyria, lived out the metaphor of Israel’s unfaithfulness in his own marriage. The people of Israel have turned to other nations, other gods, and have forsaken God’s ways. God has stopped intervening and instead waits for the people to turn back. God knows the people will only turn to God when everything has become bad enough for them to remember God is there. However, God is tired of their empty rituals and their assumption that they can turn back to God as a last resort. God desires their love and faithfulness in relationship, not their sacrifices and performative repentance.

Psalm 50:7-15 contains a rebuke for those who are religiously pious for appearance’s sake. The people are continually offering sacrifices but also repeatedly turning away from God. God instead desires true worship. God knows all the creatures of the earth and air, for God made them, so why sacrifice them? God suggests a sacrifice of thanksgiving—instead of depending on God to response with mercy, offer God thanksgiving for all God has already done, for God will deliver the people.

The Epistle readings begin a series in Romans this season after Pentecost, overlapping some with the readings from Lent. Paul wrote to the church in Rome to introduce himself and his theology of understanding that in Christ, Jews and Gentiles were now one people. For the Gentile believers, Paul wanted them to accept their Jewish neighbors, including those who didn’t follow Jesus, because Jewish believers in Jesus were still tied culturally to their Jewish neighbors. For Jewish Christians, Paul wanted them to accept their Gentile neighbors even though they had different social customs and opinions. In 4:13-25, Paul argues that it is not the law that brings faith. Abraham was the ancestor of all nations, and it was his faith that was reckoned to him as righteousness, not the acts of the law. The law does not bring faith, Paul argues, so for Jewish Christians it is faith in Jesus that saves. This save faith is available for Gentiles without living under the law, for those who believe that Jesus is raised from the dead, for Christ was raised for the justification of all.

Jesus is among “unclean people” in Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26. Jesus called a tax collector to follow him, and the tax collector invited Jesus to his home to eat with him and some other tax collectors and “sinners.” Jesus was questioned by some of the religious authorities as to why he was eating with them. We need to understand that ritual purity was not something usually bothered with on a daily basis, it only came into play if one was to enter the temple or participate in religious practice. Nonetheless, the Pharisees were generally more interested in maintaining religious purity even outside the temple, and because Jesus had much in common with them, when they disagreed, they disagreed pretty strongly. Tax collectors worked for the Roman Empire and were seen as participating in their own people’s oppression. Sinners might be anyone who was either ritually impure or those who might also be seen as helping the oppressors. Jesus responds that he came not for the righteous—not for those who are already living rightly under God—but for sinners. Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but those who are sick, do. Those who must survive by working for their oppressors are the ones who need God’s love and mercy.

Skipping ahead to verse 18, after Jesus had dinner with the tax collectors and sinners, a leader of the synagogue came to him, for the man’s daughter had died but he believed that if Jesus laid his hand on her, she would live. While on the way to see the little girl, Jesus was touched by a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. Jesus told her that her faith made her well. When he arrived at the girl’s home, the funeral has already begun but Jesus explained she was not dead, only sleeping. He took her by the hand, and she got up. Jesus, being touched by the woman bleeding and by touching the dead girl, should have been considered unclean himself, but the woman with the hemorrhage was healed and the dead girl brought back to life. By faith they were healed, and laws around ritual purity were circumvented. Again, Jesus’s actions seem to only offend certain religious leaders of the Pharisees, not the entire community, probably because Jesus interacted more with the Pharisees than other groups.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series in Isaiah, with 9:1-7. This passage, often quoted by Christians in Advent, is the prophecy associated with the newborn king, one who would not be corrupt and would lead the people as David once did. Hezekiah, born in Judah, was the hoped-for king who would bring about a reign of peace after the northern kingdom of Israel (especially the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali) had been taken into exile by Assyria. The first prophet called Isaiah had witnessed the destruction himself. Assyria had attacked Jerusalem, but had not prevailed, and the prophet found hope in the next king. Using the imagery of darkness and light, Isaiah believes the destructive past is over and a new day has begun. Six hundred years later, Christians found resonance in this passage, in the hope of Jesus as the Messiah.

The supplementary verse of John 8:12 reminds us that Jesus has come as a light into the world. By following him, we will know eternal life, a flame never extinguished.

The theme of faithfulness appears through all these scriptures: God’s enduring faithfulness through all generations, and our own faithfulness to God, though our faithfulness is sometimes circumspect. God made a promise to our ancestors Abram and Sarai and they believed in that promise (most of the time), enough to travel far away from their family with hope for their future generations. The prophet Hosea was skeptical of the people of Israel’s faithfulness because all he saw were people responding out of desperation for the situation they had made, instead of responding to God’s faithfulness first in gratitude. Paul wrote of Abraham’s faithfulness to God without the need of the law. Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel account experiences the faithfulness of both a powerless woman and a leader in the synagogue—a reminder that not all the religious leaders opposed Jesus. In the Narrative Lectionary, Isaiah shares God’s faithfulness through the birth of Hezekiah, the promise of a new king.

God’s promises lead to life, and life eternal. The ways of the world that we have made—worldly power, greed, notoriety, even worldly acceptance—they lead us away from God. Hosea warned that those who only turn to faith in false pretenses, as sort of a back-up option when things get really bad as a last desperate attempt—will find that it may be too late. God may not intervene in worldly situations. Nonetheless, God promises that we will not be alone. God promises there will always be a new start. We may have to live through the consequences of our own actions, but God’s promises to our ancestors endure in us—God will always do a new thing. Christ is a flame that cannot be extinguished. The Spirit will continue to work good in the world and in us. God’s faithfulness endures forever.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 33:1, 3a, 4-5, 21)
All you who are righteous,
Shout joyfully to the Lord!
It is right for those who do right to praise God.
Sing to God a new song!
Because the Lord’s word is right,
Every act of God is done in good faith.
God loves righteousness and justice,
God’s faithful love fills the whole earth.
Our heart rejoices in God,
Because we trust God’s holy name.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Everlasting God, we confess that we are a fickle people. We demand that You save us. We cry out to You in our distress. Yet the moment we have comfort, the moment the storm we have faced is gone, we go back to our old, selfish ways. Like Your people, having been delivered from Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, we complain the moment things aren’t as we want them to be. Turn our hearts toward gratitude, O Faithful One. Remind us of how You have led us thus far and will continue to guide us through this life. Keep our hearts to Your steadfast love, not out of fear, but out of hope and gratitude. Guide us in Your ways of loving our neighbor as ourselves and in our love for one another may we have gratitude for all we have. You are a God of abundant love; may we be reminded of Your abundance in our lives, especially in this moments when life is difficult, when it feels we do not have enough. May the love of our neighbors overwhelm us and remind us of Your great love for us, and may we be called to share that love, building up Your Beloved Community on earth as it is in heaven. In the name of Jesus Christ, who laid down everything for us that we might have life, we pray. Amen.

The Faithful One is with us, now and always. There is no place we can hide, no place we can fade away, where God will not know us. God is beside us in the valleys of shadow and in the pastures of rest and safety. In gratitude, may we accept God’s forgiveness and grant others the same. In hope, may we love one another and know that we are loved. In mercy, may we repair and restore what has been broken so that others might help to repair and restore us when we are ready to fall apart. Beloveds, let us love one another. Amen.

Spirit of Life, help us to slow down and pause in awe and wonder at all You have done for us. The blades of grass under our feet. The dandelions that continue to grow back and bring forth seed. The green leaves above us, the blue sky that at times seems endless. May we breathe deep of Your love and grace and peace in our lives. May we stop for a moment and remember that You are the Creator of everything, down to the particles that make up the atoms that make us, all the way to the distant galaxies we can barely glimpse from a telescope. In Your magnificence, You somehow decided to make us in Your image and make us so that we might know just a fraction of who You are, our Wondrous Maker. If we can pause for a moment to be in awe of You, perhaps in that pause we can be filled with Your love for all the earth, all the creatures You have made, and all our siblings in humanity. In that pause, may we put down our weapons. May we turn our anger to the pursuit of love and justice. May we remember that all of us are here for only a blink of time, and may we hold on to that blink that is holy and precious by our willingness to give up the things of the world we have made, in order to cling to You and Your love. In the name of Christ, who laid it all down, everything of the world made by human beings, to show us Your love, Your truth, and Your life, we pray. Amen.

Worship Resources for June 4, 2023—Trinity Sunday

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Isaiah, Isaiah 6:1-8 (Luke 5:8-10)

On Trinity Sunday, we begin with the first story of Creation in Genesis, where God refers to themselves in the plural, creating everything, including all of humanity. There is a sense of equality and equilibrium in God’s intentions for creation, and that humanity’s dominion over the earth is mirrored in God’s dominion over everything, for in the image of God, God created humanity. Even with the creation of sabbath, there is a balance of work and rest. Light and dark, sky and water, dry earth and plants, sun and moon/stars, creatures of the water and creatures of the sky, then creatures of the land and human beings. The work of creation also happens when resting and finding joy in it. While the primary focus of God in this text is of God the Creator, there is also the wind from God that swept over the waters, often thought of as the Holy Spirit. And perhaps in creating humanity in the image of God, as Christians, we can imagine Christ present already (John 1:1-5; see also Proverbs 8:22-31 for Wisdom’s presence at the beginning of creation).

Psalm 8 is a song of praise to God, a song full of wisdom in asking the ancient question, “who are we compared to almighty God?” The psalmist looked up at the stars and asked the same question we often do—in the vastness of the universe, what are human beings? Yet God has made us a little lower than divine. God has given us dominion over the earth the way God has dominion over us. If we are to “fear God”—which is better understood as trembling awe—then we will do our very best in caring for creation the way God cares for us. God is Sovereign over all the earth.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13 are the final verses of this letter, in which Paul encourages the church in Corinth to listen to what he has said, especially on the financial appeal for the church in Jerusalem, and to live in peace. His final benediction also includes one of the few instances of Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit listed together in a blessing, fitting for this Trinity Sunday.

The Gospel lesson is known as the Great Commission, the final message from Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew. Even as the disciples experienced the risen Christ, some doubted, yet Jesus called all of them to go into the world and make disciples. Disciple means student. They, and we, are to go into the world to teach everything that Jesus taught us. Far too often that message has been simplified into a message of being saved from sin and hell for eternal life, rather than how we are to live in this world—as last of all, servant of all, working as peacemakers, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and so on. Jesus taught them to baptize in the name of God the Father/Creator, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to remember that he is always with us, until the end of time.

The Narrative Lectionary begins a new series in Isaiah. In Isaiah 6:1-8, in the year King Uzziah died, the prophet experiences a vision of God in the heavenly throne room. In this vision Isaiah beholds the seraphs praising God and the throne room filled with smoke from the altar, and Isaiah knows as a mortal he is unworthy to witness such a vision. But in the metaphor of unclean lips, a seraph takes a live coal from the altar and touches Isaiah’s lips to purify them. Isaiah is told that his sin is blotted out, and when God asks, “Who will go for us? Whom shall I send?” Isaiah boldly answers, “Here am I, send me!”

In the supplemental verses of Luke 5:8-10, as Jesus calls the first disciples, in this account there is a miraculous catch of fish, and Simon Peter tells Jesus to go away because he is a sinful man. However, Jesus tells him, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.” God uses those who feel they are unworthy and impure to do holy work.

On Trinity Sunday we remember that as Christians we have spoken of the relationship of God with the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ as triune. However, our Orthodox siblings might remind us that the Trinity is a mystery—this is not something we can truly comprehend. Just like the psalmist gazing up at the stars, who are we in comparison to the awe-inspiring Creator of us all? We who have but a glimpse of the vastness of the universe, how dare we think we could understand all of God? Yet God has made us a little lower than divine, with great responsibility over the earth. God made us, along with everything, because God desires us to live. In that life, God desires for us to have rest and joy. What the world has become is far from what God intended it to be, but Jesus has called us to teach others about God’s intentions for us. This is the Great Commission for us: never to make clones of ourselves, but always to make disciples, teaching by our own lives, the way Jesus lived and taught. This is the way.

Call to Worship
Architect of the universe, Creator of heaven and earth,
We join together in awe and wonder to praise Your name.
Spirit of Life, breathing life into all and moving us to justice,
We worship as one body with many gifts of use to the world.
Jesus Christ, the True Son, who lived and died and lives again for us,
We follow Your way, Your truth, and Your life as disciples.
Holy God, Blessed Three-In-One,
Though we do not fully understand, we trust in You,
And worship, follow, and join with You on this journey of faith.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy God, we confess that we continue to try to put You in a box when You constantly show us Your love cannot be contained. We confess that we try to put borders on Your love that knows no bounds. We confess in our self-righteousness we have condemned others to the point of harm. We have been unjust, unkind, unloving, completely antithetical to the ways You taught us through our ancestors, the prophets, and Your own Son. Call us into accountability. Help us to learn our painful truth of systemic sin, even within our churches, and guide us into ways of reparation and restoration. Help us to let go of what we cannot control or change but to work on what we can, to better ourselves and the world around us. Call us to love all our neighbors as ourselves as we strive to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with You. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (from 2 Corinthians 13:11b, 13)
“Live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” May this blessing of Paul remind us to live into God’s love and peace, and love and peace will be known to us through the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the community of the Spirit. We are one body, though many members. We need one another. We must do the hard work of repairing, restoring, and forgiveness, so that we can truly be disciples of Jesus Christ in this world. This is how we witness: by love. So in love, may we go forth and share the good news of Jesus. Amen.

Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity. O Holy One we sing Your praise, and on this Trinity Sunday we sing and pray in the metaphor we know best to describe You. Yet we know our words our inadequate to capture the fullness of Your being, of Your majestic work in creation. Your thoughts are beyond our comprehension. The words of Scripture are still not enough to tell Your whole story, but they do tell us enough: we are to love. We are to love one another, love this earth that You made and care for it as we care for ourselves, and we are to love You. Guide us into ways of care instead of harm. Teach us how to live out Your loving-kindness with one another and ourselves. Keep us to Your ways as taught by Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, now and always. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 28, 2023–Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 2:1-21 or Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21; John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

(If the reading from Numbers is chosen as the first selection, then the Acts reading is chosen instead of the Epistle reading)

Narrative Lectionary: Nothing Can Separate Us, Acts 2:1-4 and Romans 8:14-39 (Matt 28:16-20)

We have arrived at the penultimate moment of the Christian year. While the liturgical year begins with Advent, bringing us to the Incarnation at Christmas and the revealing of Christ to the world in Epiphany, then the season of Lent brings us through the wilderness of faith through Holy Week and the life and death of Jesus, and resurrection at Easter. But just when we think things couldn’t get any better than Jesus rising from the dead, giving us the promise of new life now and the hope of eternal life, and Jesus ascends to be one with God, Jesus’s promise is revealed—God is always with us! The Holy Spirit is present and active in our lives and in our world, gathering us as the church and working through us to bring about Christ’s reign on earth as it is in heaven.

On the day of Pentecost, when the Jewish people had gathered in Jerusalem fifty days after Passover, they gathered to celebrate the festival of the first fruits of the garden and the Torah being given to Moses at Sinai, the festival of Shavuot. The disciples were all together when they felt the rush of wind so powerful it shook the room they were in, and divided tongues, as of fire, appeared above them. Suddenly, the disciples could speak all the languages of the Jewish diaspora around the Mediterranean. Some of the crowds were perplexed, others said they were drunk, but Peter boldly declared that this was what God spoke through the prophet Joel, that the Holy Spirit was to be poured out on everyone. This was a sign of God’s faithfulness and God’s power upon the people, and there would be even more signs to come as prophesied of the day of the Lord.

The alternate for the Acts reading is Numbers 11:24-30. Moses had hit his limit of the people’s complaining, and in turn complained to God about it. God told Moses to gather seventy elders of Israel, to help share in the leadership with Moses so he would not be burdened. God portioned out some of the same spirit on Moses onto the seventy leaders. However, two others who were in the camp also began to prophesy, for the spirit had rested upon them as well. Though Joshua, Moses’s assistant, told Moses to stop them, Moses questioned Joshua’s motives. Moses wished that all people had the Spirit!

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b is from a great psalm praising God for all of creation. In this portion, the writer speaks of God’s wisdom, often associated with the Holy Spirit, and how in wisdom God made all creatures and how God provides for everything in due season. When God’s Spirit is sent forth, life is renewed, especially plant life as it grows and provides oxygen for us to breathe. The word for spirit in Hebrew, ruach, also means wind and breath. Every living thing that has breath has the Holy Spirit. The psalmist praises God for all of God’s works in creation, for they are so awe-inspiring they cause the singer to tremble. The author blesses God and prays that their meditation will be acceptable and pleasing to God, the audience of this psalm.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 about the gifts of the Spirit. There are a variety of gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit of God. They are all different—prophecy, healing, teaching, discernment, speaking in different tongues, interpretation of different tongues, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, etc.—all different gifts from the same Spirit. Just as the body has many members, so also the diversity of members and their gifts make up the one body of Christ, into which all believers are baptized. One body, one Spirit.

(If the Numbers passage is chosen, then Acts 2:1-21 is used in lieu of the Epistle reading).

The first choice for the Gospel reading today is John’s account of the arrival of the Holy Spirit in John 20:19-23. On the same night Jesus rose from the dead, when the disciples had gathered in a room and shut and locked all the doors for fear of some of the religious leaders, Jesus appeared before them, said, “Peace be with you,” breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In a similar way of the elders of Israel receiving the same Spirit that was on Moses, so too did Jesus’s disciples receive the Spirit and the power and authority to forgive sins.

The second choice is John 7:37-39. At the end of Succoth, the Festival of Booths, Jesus spoke to the crowds and called for those who were thirsty to come to him, for those who believe would have an overflowing faith. The writer of John notes that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit, which had not yet come because Jesus had yet to be glorified at that time.

The Narrative Lectionary pairs Acts 2:1-4 with Romans 8:14-39. In Acts 2:1-4, the writer of Luke-Acts describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. In Romans 8:14-39, Paul writes of life in the Holy Spirit. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Paul makes it clear that neither Jew or Greek or anyone of any background can be kept out of God’s reign, because if the Holy Spirit is present, they are a child of God. The Jewish and Gentile Christian communities in Rome were at odds with each other after the Jewish population returned during Nero’s time, and the Gentile believers didn’t quite understand how to fit in with their Jewish neighbors, whether they were believers in Jesus, or not. There were struggles, even suffering, during that time, but the Spirit is the one who brings aid and comfort and intercedes when things seem impossible. “All things work together for good for those who love God.” God has continually been working to bring all of God’s children together, no matter their background, no matter what struggles or suffering they have been through. There is nothing they have done and nothing anyone else could do that could separate themselves from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The supplementary verses of Matthew 28:16-20 contain what is known as the Great Commission. After his resurrection, Jesus gathered the disciples—even those who still doubted—and told them that the authority he had been given by God was now on them. The disciples were to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to teach them all Jesus had taught them. And they were to remember that Jesus was always with them, for all time.

It is hard to find something new to say on Pentecost, but the truth is the Holy Spirit is always making things new. One might focus on how the word for spirit is also the word for breath and wind (in Greek it is the same for the word, pneuma) and that creation care is intrinsically part of our theology of the Spirit. God renews the face of the ground in Psalm 104, the earth in which all our living plants are rooted and give us oxygen to breathe. The wind brings us clean air—or smoke from forest fires. If the Spirit is rooted in Christian community from the beginning, then our own rootedness in the Holy Spirit must also be to care for the earth. The call of the Great Commission is to create disciples for Jesus. To be baptized in water and receive the Holy Spirit is to remember that all water is sacred. All water is Living Water, for all water is connected to the Spirit (a wind from God sweeps over the waters of the deep in Genesis 1). The Spirit is poured out, like water, into us and all living things. May we use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to do good in this world, to care for the earth that God has entrusted to us and remember that all people are children of God. Water is life.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 104:24, 30-31, 33, 35b)
O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom God has made them all; the earth is full of God’s creatures.
When You send forth Your spirit, they are created;
God renews the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
May we rejoice in God’s works.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
Bless the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, we confess our sins to You. We have not cared for Your precious earth the way we care for some of our prized possessions. We have polluted the air and poisoned the water. For a people who are baptized in water as symbolic of the Holy Spirit, we have treated You and Your gifts as if they were trash. Forgive us, O God, and hold us accountable. Help us to find ways to reduce and eliminate pollution, especially for communities that do not have clean water to drink. May we work to clean the air and reduce our carbon footprint in this world. For how can we know Your Spirit when we do not treat Your breath, Your wind, as if it were precious? How can we know Your Spirit when we waste water, the very lifeblood that flows in You as a wellspring of eternal life? Forgive us, O God, and instill in us Your wisdom and understanding to care for the earth as Your precious gift to us. For You have shown us through Scripture that the dividing line of heaven and earth will one day be no more, and that You will make Your home with us. You have shown us through the Spirit that we are all Your children. Help us to care for this home You have given us and for the basic needs of clean air and water for all Your children. Amen.

From Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from God’s love. May that love of God fill us and renew us and restore us. May that love of God call us to love our neighbors, our siblings, as ourselves, and to care for their needs. May that love of God remind us that we are intertwined with all creation and that we are called to care for the earth as if it is our only home. May that love of God encourage us to live in new, sustainable ways, to be at one with God, others, and nature, for God is one, and made us all dependent on one another. May we depend on each other to do this work Christ has called us to do. Amen.

Prayer (can be sung to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”)
O Holy Spirit of our God,
descend to us we pray.
Lead us from sin to enter in
relationship today.
We hear the Spirit’s calling
Our baptism like birth—
To clean our air in grateful care;
One love, one faith, one earth.

O Holy Spirit, come upon us, breathe in us and stir in us. Remind us of the gifts You have given us for Your good work here on earth, to love one another, and to meet our neighbor’s needs as You have called us to do. We know when we love one another, we are loved. When we care for one another, our needs are met. Your Spirit intercedes and binds us together. May we be open to the movement of Your Spirit in our world, in our communities, and in our lives, for You make all things new. Call us into the faithful work of Your Spirit’s love. Amen.

Some tips for celebrating Pentecost:

-Invite everyone to wear red.
-Have pinwheels or make pinwheels to celebrate
-Use red streamers and balloons
-Make red and orange folded paper cranes
-Learn about the watershed you live in: https://water.usgs.gov/wsc/map_index.html

Worship Resources for May 21, 2023—Ascension of the Lord, Seventh Sunday of Easter

(Apologies this post is a couple of days late–very busy week the last week!)

Revised Common Lectionary
Ascension of the Lord: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Narrative Lectionary: Hope of Resurrection, Romans 6:1-14 (Matthew 6:24)

The Ascension of the Lord is observed ten days before Pentecost, so this year on May 18th. It is an additional choice for this Sunday’s readings.

We begin with the beginning of Acts, written by the author of Luke, who summarizes what they wrote in the Gospel according to Luke and begins with the ascension, whereas the Gospel according to Luke ends with the ascension. Jesus instructs the disciples to remain near Jerusalem, for as they were baptized by water, soon they will be baptized by the Holy Spirit. At this point, some of Jesus’s disciples ask him if this is when the kingdom of Israel will be restored. Some of the disciples still have a worldly understanding of a kingdom like David’s. Jesus reminds them this is not something for them to know; instead, what they will know is the work of the Holy Spirit among them. Jesus is preparing them for living into God’s reign on earth, rather than a worldly reign, and this kingdom is through the Holy Spirit, not a worldly throne. As Jesus literally ascends into the clouds, two angels (perhaps the two from the tomb?) ask the disciples why they are standing around and looking up? Jesus will return the same way he left—unexpectedly. Since we can’t know the time or what exactly God will do, we are not to be passive in our waiting, but active, knowing the Holy Spirit will do so much more than we can imagine through us.

Psalm 47 is a song of praise to God who is the God of all people, ruler of all nations. God chose to be the people’s God through their ancestors, but all nations and all peoples will know God, the one who rules over all. The psalmist calls upon the people to praise God, for God is exalted above the whole earth.

An alternative psalm reading is Psalm 93, another song of praise to God who is sovereign over all. God’s reign is established from of old and all the earth, even the floodwaters, roar their praise to God. All praise belongs to God, for God’s holiness endures forever.

The writer of Ephesians, purporting to be Paul, writes in 1:15-23 of the faithfulness of the people of Ephesus and prays that they will have a spirit of wisdom and revelation as they come to know Jesus Christ. God’s immeasurable power and greatness has been put to work in Jesus Christ, who has been raised from the dead, who has authority over all things, and is the head of the body—the church—and the church is the fullness of Christ on earth.

The account of the ascension at the end of Luke’s Gospel account is different than the account given in Acts 1, though it is the same author. In Luke 24:44-53, Jesus explains the scriptures to the disciples, about how he was to suffer, die, and on the third day rise, and they are now the witnesses of what has happened. Jesus instructs them to stay in the city to receive the Holy Spirit promised to them, and then, as he blesses them in Bethany, Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples worshiped him, and continued to worship in the temple and praise God.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter readings overlap a bit with Ascension Sunday, beginning with Acts 1:6-14. Following the ascension and the message of the angels in verse 11, the male disciples, along with the women disciples, Jesus’s mother, and brothers, gathered in Jerusalem at the house they were staying and devoted themselves to prayer. They trusted in Jesus’s words as they waited for the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 is a song of praise to God for victory in battle. The psalmist sees God as the defender and protector of the most vulnerable of society, becoming a father to orphans, assurance to widows, and liberator to prisoners. God brings restoration to those who have lost everything. God led the people through the wilderness and showed power through nature, providing for the people. The psalmist concludes by calling all of creation and the people to praise God—because God is the one who will fight for those on the margins.

The Epistle reading concludes the series in 1 Peter with 4:12-14, 5:6-11. The writer again assures the beloved community of Christ that they do not suffer alone. In the time when they are facing persecution, they are sharing in Christ’s sufferings and are blessed by God’s glory in those times. The author urges the listeners to be humble and steadfast with God and to resist evil. All believers are struggling and suffering around the known world, but the author gives assurance that Christ will restore, support, and strengthen those who are faithful.

Jesus’s final prayer for the disciples in John’s account begins in John 17:1-11. Jesus prays that he might be glorified so that all people will know that God is the true God and he, Jesus, is the one whom God has sent. Jesus has finished the work God gave him to do, and now Jesus prays on behalf of the disciples, because they believed. They were sent by God to Jesus, and now Jesus prays that they will be protected by God as Jesus returns to God, and that the disciples may be one, as he and God are one.

The Narrative Lectionary looks to the Hope of Resurrection in Romans 6:1-14. Paul uses rhetoric to show that even though Jesus has saved all from sin, believers are not to continue in sin. All who are baptized are baptized into Jesus’s death and have new life now because Jesus was raised. The old self has been crucified, and believers live into a new life. Death frees us from sin at the end of our life, but Jesus’s death frees us from sin now. We are alive in Christ. Sin has no hold on us anymore.

The supplementary verse of Matthew 6:24 is Jesus’s teaching that we cannot serve two masters. Jesus declares we cannot serve God and wealth. Paul would say we cannot live into the ways of this world if we live into Christ. Our old lives are put to death.

The Ascension is a mystery to us—we know Jesus didn’t just fly up above because heaven is not above us, though that was the understanding of the heavens and the earth at the time. Rather, Jesus came to earth in an unexpected way—as vulnerable as a helpless baby—and will return to us in a similar way. Somehow, Jesus attained oneness with God, and we, too, will one day be at one with God and one another.

Call to Worship
Praise God, who reigns over all.
Praise the One who made heaven and earth, the whole universe.
Praise God, whose reign is not of this world.
Praise the One who commanded us to love one another and laid down his life for us.
Praise God, who will never fail us as worldly politicians do.
Praise the One who became last of all and servant of all.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
Praise the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Architect of the Universe, You created the expanse beyond our wildest imagination. There are stars so massive and particles so small that we can never comprehend it. We struggle with day to day living when You have made so much that we will never know. The world’s challenges seem unsurmountable and yet You made planets so distant that none of us will live to see even half of Neptune’s orbit around the sun, though we witness Mercury in retrograde a few times a year. Great Designer, may we remember with humility how small we really are, and yet Your love for us is as vast as the galaxy. May we recall in our moments of loneliness that You know the number of stars and the number of hairs on our heads. May we hold on to the knowledge in our most despairing times that You sent Your Only Son for us, to show us Your Way, Your Truth, and Your Life. All in all, if there is nothing we can truly know except one thing, may it be Your love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

God fashioned us all out of stardust, the same molecules that are the building blocks of the universe are in our bones and tissue. We were made out of love. You are made in God’s image. When you look in a mirror, God is winking back at you. You are precious in God’s sight. May we hold one another tenderly, forgiving each other as we are forgiven, working to repair what has been broken, and to live into the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God loves you so. Amen.

The Ascension is a mystery to us, O God. We know that Christ is not above us physically, but the oneness You have known from the beginning is the oneness Christ experienced at the Ascension, a oneness we live into as the body of Christ on earth. It is a mystery how all of us, with all our differences, with all our struggles and challenges, can be one in You, but You have ordained it so. Help us to live into the Body of Christ with our diversity of gifts and strengths, to remember we need one another, and to build each other up. Christ is our head, we are the body, and we are joined at the heart by our love for one another. May we seek to share that love and oneness with the world. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 14, 2023—Sixth Sunday of Easter, Mother’s Day (U.S.)

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

Narrative Lectionary: God’s Love Poured Out, Romans (3:28-30), 5:1-11 (Matthew 11:28-30)

Continuing in Acts this season of Easter, the Revised Common Lectionary turns to Paul’s speech to the people of Athens in 17:22-31. Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, had left Thessalonica in 17:10 for nearby Beroea where they were received more warmly by the Jewish community there, but the leaders from Thessalonica showed up and stirred up trouble, and Paul was sent to Athens. While Paul waited for Silas and Timothy to arrive, Paul noticed all the statues to idols in the city. Athens was a religious center, as Paul went to the synagogue to debate with other Jewish people and the marketplace to debate with Greek philosophers. But Paul was distressed over the idols. Paul then went and stood in front of Ares Hill (Mars Hill) and addressed the people of Athens on their religiousness, including the statue to the unknown god, and declared that the Creator who made everything of heaven and earth is a known God. This is the God who made all people from one ancestor. Paul then quoted the philosopher poets Epimenides and Aratus and showed that God has been made known through other traditions, but God called all people to repent, for the world will be “judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” Paul also stated that this man, Jesus, gave assurance to everyone by raising him from the dead. Following this passage, some of the Athenian women followed him and became believers.

Psalm 66:8-20 is a portion of a song of gratitude. This second part of the song is framed by blessings and praise to God who has heard the psalmist’s prayer. The psalmist acknowledges the hardships the people have faced, but God has continually delivered them, through water and fire, out of burdens and traps, and into a safer place. In verses 13-15, the psalmist makes commitments of worship, sacrifice, offerings, and vows—all to demonstrate faithfulness on behalf of the singer. Verses 16-19 share the psalmist’s experience of crying out to God, and how God listened. The psalmist encourages others to be faithful in seeking God, for God has not rejected the psalmist’s prayer.

The Epistle reading continues in 1 Peter with 3:13-22. The author writes of doing good despite suffering, encouraging others to be faithful and honest, to keep their conscience clear. Christ himself suffered and was innocent, and so suffering is part of life for the faithful (though God does not desire suffering). The author comments that it is better, if one must suffer, to suffer for doing good rather than evil. The writer uses the image of Noah and the ark as a metaphor for baptism. In the midst of the flood, Noah and his family were saved. They survived. They started anew. The writer of 1 Peter uses this as an image of baptism: we are made new, despite our suffering.

The Gospel lesson continues with part of Jesus’s final discourse in John 14:15-21, moving to what will come next for the disciples. Jesus reminds them of the commandment to love one another, and that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will come to be with them forever. Only the faithful will know this Spirit of Truth because the world does not know the Spirit. Jesus knew he would die, but the disciples did not understand he would rise and be with them again, and because he lived, they also would live. The disciples would know that Jesus and God the Father not only abide in each other but abide in all believers. The fullness of Jesus will be revealed to those who love him, and so they must love one another.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its theme on Paul in Romans. In 3:28-30, Paul argues that a person is justified by faith. God is God of both Jews and Gentiles, because God is one and there is no other God. In 5:1-11 (which was the Revised Common Lectionary reading for the 3rd Sunday in Lent on March 12), Paul writes that because believers are justified by faith, they share in the glory of God through Jesus Christ. Even though they may suffer, in their suffering they will still experience the hope of God because they know God’s love through Jesus. Even though not all knew Christ, Christ died for all. There is no one who cannot know God’s love through Jesus Christ. Paul views Christ’s death as a sacrifice that saves everyone, regardless of being under the law or not, and Christ’s death reconciles everyone to God. It is not the believer’s works, but rather one’s faith in Christ that matters.

In the supplementary verses of Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus calls the disciples to give over their burdens to him, to be faithful to God by learning from Jesus and to take his yoke upon themselves. In our suffering, we know we can go to Christ, and know that we will find assurance and comfort.

Love is the way. Jesus said it to his disciples long ago that if they loved him, they would obey his commandments, and his commandment is to love. We know the work of God through the love of one another. In the midst of our struggles and suffering in this world, we know that we cannot make it alone. It is the love of others that encourages us and keeps us going. In faithfulness to God, we love one another as God’s children. The world teaches us to put ourselves first and our own desires, but Jesus teaches us that when we love one another, we meet each other’s needs. We recognize that God, who dwells in Christ, also dwells in us. When we love one another, we share that indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit gifts us with the ways we can share that love. Christ came for all and died for all. It is a message to be shared with the world through love. Far too often Christians have failed and have instead judged others, laid upon heavy burdens, and caused other’s suffering instead of relieving it. But we still have hope. We know God’s love has transformed our lives through Jesus Christ. God’s love can transform this world, if we live into it.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 66:16, 19-20)
Come and hear, all you in awe of God,
and I will tell what God has done for me.
Truly God has listened;
God has given heed to the words of my prayer.
Blessed be God, because God has not rejected my prayer;
God has not removed God’s steadfast love from me.
Come and worship, all you in awe of God,
Let us tell the story of God’s love together.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Creator God, we confess that we have followed idols that distract us from You. The idol of wealth. The idol of notoriety. The idol of busy-ness. The idol of worldly success. All the things we wish we had more of, or that we have paid far too much attention to. Help us to let go of these idols, to remove them from our lives. Help us to counter these idols. For wealth, remind us of Your generous and abundant love. For notoriety, remind us that You know our inmost thoughts and the hairs on our head, more than anyone else could ever know us. For busy-ness, remind us to practice Sabbath rest. For worldly success, remind us that our treasure is in You, and in the hearts of one another. May we leave the idols of this world behind and instead live into Your way, Your truth, and Your life. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” John 14:21
If we love one another, we must forgive one another.
If we love ourselves, we will seek forgiveness and restoration.
If we love God, we will seek to serve God in the world.
Know this, that you are God’s beloved child, and with you, God is well-pleased. Go forth into the world sharing God’s love, grace, forgiveness, healing, and restoration, and may God’s peace be with you. Amen.

Spirit of Truth, You have promised us that we will not be left alone, that we will not be orphaned. On this day that can be both joyous and difficult, we are reminded that we are Your children, that You are our God, our Creator, our Parent, Mother/Father, the Source of our Being. You are the only one who will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what has happened to us or will happen, You are with us every moment. You are Trustworthy and True. We know that in You is all love and light and hope. May we hold Your promise tenderly on days that are difficult and know that You are alive in us. May we love one another and share Your grace and peace, on this day and all days. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 7, 2023—Fifth Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Narrative Lectionary: Gospel as Salvation, Romans 1:1-17 (Matthew 9:10-13)

On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, the Revised Common Lectionary continues its series of the first reading from Acts, this time of Stephen’s martyrdom in 7:55-60. Stephen, after his arrest, responded to the charges by sharing how God had delivered the people throughout history and sent prophets to them, but the people of God had rejected God’s prophets and had not kept God’s commandments. The council was enraged against Stephen, but it was when Stephen beheld a vision of Jesus at the right hand of God and proclaimed it to them, the council rushed him out of the city, refusing to listen to him (they covered their ears), and stoned him. Stephen prayed for Jesus to receive his spirit, and that the Lord wouldn’t hold this sin against the crowd, right before he died at their hands.

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 is a prayer of help and trust in God. The psalmist calls upon God to rescue and deliver them, but also prays for God to grant them strength and salvation. They know God is the one who protects them, and the psalmist commits their spirit to God, knowing that whatever happens, God is with them. In verses 15-16, the psalmist puts their trust in God, praying for God to deliver them from their enemies, that they might be saved in God’s steadfast love.

The Epistle readings continue in 1 Peter, backing up to 2:2-10 (before last week’s reading). The writer uses the metaphor of spiritual milk, as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 3:2, but this time it is a positive metaphor: for new believers, they need to desire what will nourish and satisfy so they can grow in faith. Quoting Psalm 34:8, the writer calls upon the faithful to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” The writer then switches metaphors to that of a living stone. Quoting Psalm 118:22, they are the stone rejected by the world. Jesus also quoted this scripture in referring to himself, but now the writer uses it for the believers, now chosen by God to be the foundation of the church in their day. These believers, mostly Gentile, now have an identity in Christ as a people, the temple of God here on earth.

John 14:1-14 contains the beginning of Jesus’s final discourse to the disciples before his arrest and death. Jesus shares how he is going ahead of the disciples to prepare a place for them, but the disciples are still thinking physically rather than spiritually, and they do not understand what he is talking about. Jesus, speaking directly to the disciples in response to Thomas’s question about knowing the way, explains that for them, he is the way, the truth, and the life—there is no other way to know God. Philip then tells Jesus if he just shows them God the Father, that would be enough. Jesus replies with, “Don’t you know me?” Jesus has shown them that he and God the Father are one. Jesus calls on them to believe in him, to know that he is going to the Father but that Jesus will answer their prayers, so that God the Father’s glory will be made known. While we may want to move away from gendered language for God, Jesus uses the term Father to show the intimate relationship he has with God, as God’s beloved One. The disciples have not understood the Messiah in this way before, as being the Son of God.

The Narrative Lectionary for the remainder of this season of Easter moves to the mission of Paul. In Romans 1:1-17, Paul introduces himself to the church in Rome, a church made up of Gentile and Jewish believers in Jesus. Though a previous emperor had expelled the Jewish people from Rome, Emperor Nero had allowed them to return. Anti-Jewish sentiment existed among the Gentile population, even among Gentile believers in Jesus. Paul wrote to them to share that while he had not visited them yet, he wanted to preach the Gospel to them and that they can mutually build up one another. God’s salvation was revealed first to those who are Jewish, but also to those who are Greek. The theme of Paul’s letter can be summed up as this: Both Jewish and Gentile believers are saved by faith.

The supplementary verses are Matthew 9:10-13. Jesus called the tax collector Matthew to follow him, and Matthew invited Jesus to eat at his house along with other tax collectors and sinners. Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus’s disciples why Jesus would eat with those people, but Jesus replied to them that those who are sick need a doctor, not those who are well. Jesus came to call not the righteous but sinners. For those who do not believe themselves in need of a relationship with God or do not see themselves as separated from God, they will not understand Jesus’s message, but for all those who desire to know God more deeply, they will listen to Jesus’s call on their life.

How do we remain faithful to Christ’s call on our life, even when we do not fully understand? How do we remain faithful when we are uncertain about the future, or the struggles of today? Jesus taught the disciples that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What that means has been debated over the years, but it is clear that to those who trust Jesus, there is no other way. Jesus calls us to this new, different life, and we follow. We love one another and live into Christ’s reign on earth, even though we still wait for it to fully arrive. We believe that sin, death, and hell do not have the final word. While some have the certainty of heaven and what heaven might look like, others may simply have the hope of resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11). This is our way. This is our truth. And this is our life.

Call to Worship (John 14:1-3; 13:34; 14:6; 13:35)
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, believe in Jesus Christ the Son.
For God has prepared something new for us,
The reign of Christ that we have glimpsed here and now.
For this is Christ’s commandment,
That we love one another.
Christ has shown us the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
For everyone will know that we are Christ’s disciples,
If we have love for one another.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Parental God, You love us as Your children, but as children we have not always listened to You. We fail to heed Your warnings and hear Your call to turn back. We make mistakes, and fall down, and struggle to learn. Nonetheless, Your love for us through Jesus Christ Your Holy One reminds us that love can lift us up, love can restore us, and love can heal us, teach us, and guide us to live in Your ways. Call us back to Your way, Your truth, and Your life, by loving one another, for this is the commandment that all others fall under: may we love one another. In this love, may our faith grow that You make all things new, and restore all things, even us. Amen.

Jesus never gave up on the disciples, even though they betrayed him, denied him, doubted him, argued who was the greatest, tried to call down hellfire and brimstone in a fit of anger, and didn’t believe their sisters who told them repeatedly that he had risen. Jesus doesn’t give up on you, either, when you struggle in your faith, say things you regret, and fail to trust others. So get up. Dust off your knees, wipe your eyes, and know that Christ loves you so much. You are precious to God, despite any flaws or shortcomings. God loves you madly and wants you to be part of Christ’s reign on earth. Join in the fun and the heartache. Love one another, forgive one another, and take up the challenge to live into Christ’s way, truth, and life. Share the good news. Amen.

God of Oneness, through our ancestors Sarah and Abraham and Hagar, You showed yourself to be the same God no matter where our ancestors wandered, no matter where they called home. You showed yourself to be the One who knew their pain and suffering under oppression, their loneliness in exile, and the One who helped restore our ancestors when they returned home. Through Jesus, we know Your oneness in a new way, a oneness with us that outlasts the grave and transcends the world that we know. Your Oneness was revealed to the early followers of Jesus as they recognized themselves as Your body in Christ, regardless of their culture or ethnicity or gender, or any other way of dividing. You are One. You bring us together and bind us as One people. In all the divisions of the world that we know, may we be united by Your love, across gender, orientation, race, culture, economic status, language, politics—may we recognize Your face in each other and strive to be Your people, Your body, Your love to one another. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 30, 2023—Fourth Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Narrative Lectionary: Paul’s Mission, Acts 13:1-3; 14:8-18 (Matthew 10:40-42)

The Revised Common Lectionary continues with lessons from the early church in Acts. Following the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, we learn that awe came upon everyone in Acts 2:42-47. The new believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, and became a new community that shared their resources with each other, broke bread together, worshiped and fellowshipped together. Their faithfulness was observed by others as they had the “goodwill of all the people,” and new believers came to join them every day because of how the Spirit was lived out in their life together as a community of faith.

The Shepherd’s Psalm of Psalm 23 has long been attributed to David, but this ancient song of assurance and comfort while facing evil and death continues to speak to us today of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. God is the one who provides for us and cares for us as a good shepherd, and will be with us through life’s greatest challenges and loneliness. Even in the face of evil, God’s blessings overflow, and we know God is present with us, now and always.

The Epistle readings for the season of Easter are from 1 Peter. In this week’s selection of 2:19-25 (coming after next week’s selection of 2:2-10), the writer of 1 Peter identifies Christ’s suffering with that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. The writer assures the believers in the early church who were struggling that their suffering was in solidarity with Christ, who also suffered unjustly. The writer states that Jesus suffered on the cross for sin, so that sin would not have a hold on humanity. In Christ, believers have healing and hope, even while they suffer. Christ is our shepherd, the one who guards us and has delivered us from the sin of the world.

The Gospel readings turn to John for the remainder of the season. In John 10:1-10, Jesus speaks of the shepherd as the one who guards the sheep and is the gate, for the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and know how to enter through the gate. Anyone who does not enter by the gate are thieves and bandits, those who want to cause harm to the sheep. Jesus as the gate wants to save the sheep, while others want to steal and kill (in the first century, there were others claiming to be the Messiah before Jesus). Jesus shared this metaphor but those listening did not understand that he wanted to lead the people to eternal life, not to a temporary safety, but an eternal assurance of God’s faithfulness.

The Narrative Lectionary turns to Paul for the remainder of Easter, though in this lesson is Luke’s account in Acts of Paul’s mission in 13:1-3 and 14:8-18. In 13:1-3, the Holy Spirit speaks to some of the leaders gathered at the church in Antioch, calling Barnabas and Saul (Paul). In Lystra, a disabled man approached Paul and listened to him speak. Paul turned to the man, calls him to stand upright, and the man was able to walk. Immediately the crowds identified Paul and Barnabas as Hermes and Zeus, and the priest of Zeus wanted to offer a sacrifice. Paul and Barnabas insisted that this was the work of the living God, the one who made all heaven and earth and the sea. Paul and Barnabas were simply human beings, not gods. There is only one God, the God who provides for everyone and all things. But it was hard to convince the crowds otherwise.

The supplementary verses of Matthew 10:40-42 contain Jesus’s teaching to the disciples about welcome and hospitality, and that the one who welcomes Jesus welcomes not just him but the one who sent him. Those who welcome a prophet receive a prophet’s reward. All are called to welcome and receive one another as if God is among them.

In this season of Easter, we remember that Christ was present with the disciples after his resurrection before his ascension. We think of Christ as our Good Shepherd, the one who is with us always and is calling us to listen to his voice. We are reminded that there is no other shepherd who would suffer for us and knows when we are suffering. Christ calls us into fold, and we are not alone. We are also reminded that in the early days, the first followers of Jesus came together in community, sharing in worship and fellowship together and witnessing to others by their way of life. Others were drawn to their practices and sharing so joyfully and faithfully of Christ. When Paul began his ministry, he did not bring healing and hope to people so they would worship him, but so they would know Christ. Even when others thought he was a god, he pointed them back to Jesus. The early church did the same, with awe and wonder and deep joy as they fellowshipped with one another, they shared the Good News in all their actions as well as their words. May we be inspired by those early believers and leaders, and listen to the voice of Christ who calls us into community with one another.

Call to Worship
Awe and wonder, gladness and generosity;
May we witness God’s love in community.
May we share in worship and fellowship together,
Knowing God’s faithfulness and steadfast love.
God calls us to share what we have with those in need,
For our own hearts and lives are full of God’s abundance.
The Shepherd is calling you by name, listen to their voice,
For you belong to God, and we belong together in Christ.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of the Covenant, You called us from the beginning to be in community. You covenant with us through our ancestors to be our God, and You promised to be faithful in steadfast love. You have always remained true to us, though we have strayed from You. Remind us that Your covenant is written on our hearts, that even when we are faithless, You remain faithful. Instill in us the hope that we always can find forgiveness, healing, and peace in You, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, the maker of the unbreakable Covenant that is love in our hearts. Amen.

The Lord is our Shepherd, the one who leads us in safety and assurance, providing for us out of an abundance of steadfast love. There is nothing we can do that will separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Know the Good Shepherd in your life, and listen for Christ’s voice. Go forth and help one another to know the voice of love that is in their heart, that they are God’s beloved child. Listen to that voice yourself, for You are God’s beloved. God is well pleased with you. Share the good news. Amen.

God of Peace, bless us with peace in our heart. May peace be on our tongue; may we speak truth in love. May peace be in our gut, to calm the rage we feel; may our anger be channeled into positive work for justice. May peace be in our hands, to help those in need, rather than to harm those who’ve hurt us. May peace be in our soul, for we are not alone. God of peace, we know You are with us, in the friends who share their love with us. Bless us with peace, now and always. Amen.