Worship: April 12, 2020 Easter

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Easter Sunday
April 12, 2020

Christ is risen!!! He is risen indeed!!! In spite of the fact that we are not able to gather as a community of faith in this day, Christ is still risen and Christ is still the Lord and Savior of our lives, continues to be present with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, and gives us a steadfast hope that cannot be taken from us.

Before you begin to follow this service and before you view/read the sermon, please get a piece of bread and keep it close by.

Welcome to Zion and a special welcome to our visitors. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic we are unable to gather as a community of faith, so we invite you to use this revised bulletin to pause for reflection and as an expression of your abiding faith that our God is merciful and present with us in these difficult days. We hope you are keeping safe, doing minimal travel, and maintaining social distance in order to slow down the spread of the virus and protect yourself. But please continue to check on your friends and neighbors via social media or the telephone. We may learn a new meaning of community and caring by the time that things return to a more regular routine. God bless!!

Light a candle before beginning your personal worship, signifying the presence of God in this time.

*CALL TO WORSHIP
We come here on this Easter Sunday morning to celebrate
Christ’s resurrection, to anticipate the eternal life that
will join us with those who have gone before,
to embrace the hope of eternal life,
to know that God’s promises are fulfilled,
and to celebrate all the dimensions of our earthly life.

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
With thanksgiving, praise, and joy, we worship you, marvelous God.
How amazing is all your creation!
How glorious is this day of new life!
Come among us now, we pray,
to raise us up from our fears and our doubts and our confusion.
We want to believe. We want to trust.
We want to dare. We want to live.
Touch us today with a spirit of hope,
that our discipleship may honor the Risen One.

*GATHERING HYMN # 232 “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing, Alleluia!

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as God’s love, Alleluia!
Praise our God, ye heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia!

TIME OF CONFESSION
Doubters, believers, disciples, searchers: come to the One who makes all things new.
The gates of righteousness are open to us, and a welcome awaits
all who truly enter the presence of God seeking forgiveness.
The God whom we have often rejected, both by our words and by our deeds,
offers acceptance and healing.
Risen Lord, we confess that we are prone to forget the power of your resurrection.
One day we are alive with hope and confidence,
and the next day we are overburdened with the difficulties and tragedies of life.
One day we are aware of your presence with us,
and the next day we feel very much alone.
One day we are able to ward off the temptations that threaten to pull us down,
and the next day we struggle with both ethics and faith.
Forgive us, we pray, for living the old way of life, and transform us by the power of your resurrection.

And now let us confess in silence those fears
that keep us from loving as Christ has loved us.

KYRIE ELEISON
(congregation sings response)
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
We have been buried with Christ in baptism,
then raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When we were dead in trespasses, God made us alive together with him
when he forgave us all our sin.
Thank God for this magnificent gift of love.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
And now, experiencing once again the forgiving power of our loving God,
let us say what we believe, using the Apostles’ Creed.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only begotten son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

HYMN # 233 “The Day of Resurrection”

The day of resurrection! Earth tell it out abroad,
The Passover of gladness, the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal, from sin’s dominion free,
Our Christ has brought us over with hymns of victory.

Let hearts be purged of evil that we may see aright;
The Lord in rays eternal of resurrection light,
And listening to his accents, may hear so calm and plain,
His own “All hail!” and hearing, may raise the victor strain.

Now let the heavens be joyful; let earth its song begin,
The round world keep high triumph and all that is therein.
Let all things seen and unseen their notes of gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord has risen, our joy that has no end.

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” said Paul to the church at Corinth;
“everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”
Let us express that new life by presenting our tithes and offerings.

(At this time set aside your offering of the morning; you can either place it somewhere to put in the offering plate when we are able to meet as a community of faith or you can mail it to Zion United Church of Christ, PO Box 538, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania 17307. Your ongoing support of the church is deeply appreciated in these days.)

OFFERTORY

*OFFERTORY RESPONSE # 708 “We Give Thee But Thine Own” v.1
We give thee but thine own, whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from thee.

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Accept these tithes and offerings, we pray,
as an expression of the new life we have through Jesus Christ;
through his resurrection we have been renewed
and restored to a life of love and commitment.

FIRST LESSON
Acts of the Apostles 10: 34-43, p. 121 (NT)

10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.
10:37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:
10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
10:39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;
10:40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,
10:41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

GOSPEL LESSON
St. John 20: 1-18, p. 108 (NT)

20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
20:2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
20:3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.
20:4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
20:5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.
20:6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,
20:7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
20:8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
20:9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;
20:12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.
20:13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
20:15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
20:17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – See Pastor George’s sermon below
(you can either read it or there is a link to watch it online.)

SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
Holy and Gracious God, you who created us and continue to sustain us by the power of your love, we come together remembering that we have been fed and strengthened by your presence throughout our lives.  We remember that your bread has nourished and sustained your people throughout history. When the Hebrew people were enslaved in Egypt, you commanded them to bake unleavened bread to eat for their escape to freedom across the Sea of Reeds. While they wandered through the desert of Sinai, you provided manna for them every day.  When Elijah was hiding in fear in the caves, you provided for his need through the generosity of a poor widow.  When you sent your Son Jesus to live among us, he fed the crowd of thousands who had brought only a few loaves and fish. And when the time came, Jesus gathered his disciples together in a room. As they were eating together, Jesus lifted up a loaf of bread as we lift up the bread in our hands (raise your bread). You blessed the bread then and we ask you to bless the bread we hold with the power of your loving grace.
In his sacrifice of himself, Jesus told his disciples that they should remember him as the Bread of Life and whenever they break bread together, asking for Jesus’ blessing, he would make himself present through the power of the Holy Spirit. So we take this bread, confident that you are present here and now. May this bread empower us to be your people wherever we might find ourselves. May it remove all fear and all doubt, so that we might be nourished and strengthened for the days ahead, knowing that you walk with us in our journey of this life.
And being fed, may we continue with a new and profound hope, always witnessing to your love by sharing that love and care and concern with others.
Bless this bread and us, that we may be your people at work in the world.

(you may now eat the bread)

Let us pray.
Eternal God, we thank you for Christ’s presence and for the spiritual food of Christ’s Body, the Bread of Life that sustains us always.
By the power of your Holy Spirit, keep us faithful to your will.
Go with us to the streets, to our homes, and to our places of labor and leisure,
that whether we are gathered or scattered,
we may be the Servant Church of the Risen Christ, now and forever. Amen.

BENEDICTION

*CLOSING HYMN # 238 “Thine is the Glory”

Thine is the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o’er death has won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded gravecloths where thy body lay.
Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o’er death has won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom.
Let the church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
For the Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting.
Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o’er death has won.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life!
Life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife.
Make us more than conquerors through thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o’er death has won.
Go in peace, confident that Christ walks with you,
Committed to being his servant at work in the world,
And rejoicing in the power of the resurrection.
Christ is risen!! Christ is risen indeed!!

Pastor George’s Easter sermon:  (If you would like to watch and hear his sermon recorded in the sanctuary, click on this link or type into your browser: https://youtu.be/4jUKdWB_CLQ)

The ministry of Jesus was unique in many ways – he came preaching good news of hope, particularly to those who had been excluded by the religious leadership of the time. Jesus challenged his listeners to live as if God’s reign had begun, to live as citizens of God’s kingdom in healing and healthy relationships with each other. At the same time, he challenged those same religious leaders to move beyond their legalistic and restrictive understanding of Scripture to an embracing faith that reached out to include rather than exclude.

If there is one person who most epitomizes the ministry and the vision of Jesus, it was Mary Magdelene. The reality of the past days had been particularly difficult to accept for Mary Magdelene. Jesus had been such an important part of her life. When all the world was against her, he alone had offered her acceptance and hope. She was, according to traditional Christian thought, the prostitute whom Jesus saved from being stoned to death. The religious leaders had identified her as a person possessed by seven different demons. According to the law, such demonic possession meant that a person was beyond hope, utterly rejected by God, devoid of the possibility of ever experiencing forgiveness. Despised by society, Mary Magdelene faced the ultimate penalty. It was at that critical moment that Jesus entered the situation. He reached out and touched her life; this holy prophet assured her that God’s loving presence was near her. She had never before experienced such acceptance and compassion. She, who had been reduced to the depths of humiliation and despair by the “good” people of her village, had known forgiveness.

But now the One whom she had come to love, who had understood and accepted her as His follower, was dead. She went to the tomb, according to the Gospel writer, John. She needed some time to reflect, some time to be near to the body, some time to consider how He had changed her life.  With the pain of loneliness and the hollow emptiness in the pit of her stomach, Mary Magdalene goes to the garden. It was a painful reality, but the least she could do was go to see where they had placed the body of the one whom she had trusted. In the rush to dispose of the body, there was no time to say goodbye, and it seemed necessary to have a last and personal farewell. Just to be near him, just to touch the stone rolled across the entrance to the tomb, if the guards would let her.

When she got there, Mary Magdelene discovered that the stone had already been removed, so she ran to get Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and they ran to the tomb, discovered it empty with the linen cloths lying there. And then they left.  Mary Magdelene stayed behind, weeping, for she thought that someone had stolen the body. But for Mary Magdelene and those like her, reality is different from what she expected. Reality is changed and altered. For the One who was dead, is alive! The One who was humiliated on the cross, has been raised in victory! God has triumphed over all the forces of hopelessness, of pain, of suffering, and even the last enemy, death. God’s power is shown in this, and reality for the followers of Jesus is forever changed.

Death has become life; hopelessness has become eternal confidence. All that appears to be true is not necessarily the final reality. There are two symbols of Easter that, in a very simple way, try to remind us of this fact. When we are able to have the children’s sermon, I usually use one of these two symbols on this morning. One of those symbols is the egg. There is nothing that looks more lifeless than an egg, yet hidden under the shell is life, which when allowed to develop, suddenly comes alive in a chick breaking forth out of the shell. Reality is life. And the other symbol is the flower bulb, so brown and dried up, shriveled. Yet when planted in the ground, it shoots forth a green stalk and blooms with a fragrant and triumphant flower. Life and beauty and hope in the egg and the flower bulb.

And through the resurrection our perception of reality is forever different. The awful truth of this world is that terrible things happen. We cannot deny that. Life is filled with turmoil and pain. In these days we are experiencing one of those times that is difficult for many people; difficult in many ways – they feel trapped because they cannot go about their normal social activities, they feel desperate because they are unemployed and don’t know when/if they will be able to return to work; they feel overwhelmed because of the unknown future that lies ahead. But even when we are not dealing with this pandemic as a society, sometimes as individuals we face difficulties that overwhelm us and seem beyond our capacity to handle. We are forced to deal with the death of a loved one, with all the loneliness that leaves us broken and feeling beyond hope. There are the daily stresses that wear away at us, and we are exhausted with the heartbreak of broken relationships – of misunderstanding within families, of families where certain members don’t talk to other members of the family, divorce, estrangement.

Easter does not change the truth of life’s struggles and stresses. Each of us has experienced some of them in our lives. Yet we have not been left abandoned to hopelessness and despair. We have a deeper understanding of reality. The power of God’s resurrection victory gives us a hope that cannot be taken away even in the midst of our tears. Your reading/listening to this sermon this morning is a witness to that hope – yours are the stories of faith and spiritual strength. In my relatively short time as your interim pastor, we have shared together in moments of crisis and anguish. I have shared with you the tears of heartache and pain that, in the moment, will seemingly never go away. Many of you still carry the scars of those wounds. But underneath and around, above and below, there is another perception of reality that sustains us. The reality that death, destruction, doom, hopelessness are not God’s final word to us. Indeed, God’s final word is expressed in this day of resurrection: Jesus is alive! And because He lives, we too shall live! The ultimate reality is that God’s victory is sealed for us by the resurrection. We can have hope and confidence that God’s love will abide with us forever. God’s presence is more powerful than any earthly threat. We will share in the same victory one day. God’s grace reaches into the depths of our hearts.

For those who do not celebrate this day of resurrection, life is a series of tragedies and pains – and that is the end reality. But we, who rejoice with thanksgiving and humility, remember that our reality is found in the truth of God’s power at work in the world. And this reality gives us a hope and confidence that we will never be separated from God. We will not be defeated by the struggles of life; we are not like those resigned to despair. In the end, we know we will share in God’s victory. We will experience the glorious presence of the risen Christ who, at that great and final day, shall raise us to a new life and present us to God for life eternal. We share in God’s triumph today, for it is our triumph as well. Christ’s resurrection today is our resurrection future.

We celebrate today knowing that Christ remains in our midst, and that in the day to come we will feast with Him at the table prepared for us and for all people of faith in the home that awaits us in God’s eternal realm. This is our reality, our resurrection reality. Christ is risen from the dead! He is risen indeed! Amen.

During this virus crisis, the Office Manager will often be working from home. Please call the office before stopping by.

WORSHIP SERVICE UPDATE: Zion’s worship services, Sunday School, and all meetings are cancelled for the rest of April in compliance with government and health authorities’ orders to stay home to slow the spread of Covid-19. Please continue to pray for our nation and our health care providers as we go through this challenge together. We look forward to the time when we can gather in one place to worship and praise God.

LADIES AND MENS BREAKFASTS: Breakfast gatherings are cancelled until it is safe for restaurants to re-open their doors. The Ladies Tea planned for May has been postponed. Please watch the bulletin for updates.

BOOK CLUB NEWS: April’s Book Club meeting has been cancelled, but we hope to meet in May to discuss “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah.

TOTEM POLE CANCELLATION: As you may have read in the paper, the Totem Pole Playhouse has cancelled their entire 2020 season and moved it to 2021. So, Zion’s plans to attend “Always . . .Patsy Cline” have been put on hold until next year.

PICTORIAL DIRECTORY: Don’t forget to send new pictures and information to Cindy at zion_ucc_arendtsville@comcast.net to update Zion’s on-line membership directory!

OFFERING ENVELOPES: Please feel free to mail your offering envelopes to Zion House. Your ongoing support of the church in this unsettled time is deeply appreciated.