Worship: April 19, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Second Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2020

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. Prior to viewing this Sunday’s sermon on YouTube, please read the morning Scripture lessons.
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 have entered this place in confident expectation.
Let us be open to the One who greets us here.
Do not doubt. The miracle is real.
Do not doubt. Christ is right beside us.
Do not doubt. The Spirit breathes hope.
Do not doubt. God’s peace is among us.

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
We come today with thanksgiving on our lips and in our hearts,
for we know that Christ’s life has become our life;
that his resurrection has become our resurrection;
that his hope has become our hope;
that his victory has become our victory;
that his triumph has become our triumph,
that his joy has become our joy.

*GATHERING HYMN # 254 “That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright”

That Easter day with joy was bright; the sun shone out with fairer light
When, to their longing eyes restored, the apostles say their risen Lord.

He bade them see his hands, his side, where yet the glorious wounds abide,
The tokens true which made it plain the Lord indeed was risen again.

From every weapon death can wield, your own redeemed forever shield;
O Lord of all, with us abide in this our joyful Eastertide.

TIME OF CONFESSION
In the midst of doubt, we are called to trust.
But trust is sometimes difficult.
Yet God’s promises are secure.
We can even confess our lack of trust and know we are heard.
With confidence then, let us make our humble confession to Almighty God.
Our news reports are filled with stories of crises and tragedy.
Our own lives are filled with uncertainty and worry.
Incidents in our lives and in the lives of others sometimes cause us to doubt.
We confess that in the midst of trouble,
we have sometimes been tempted to give up and follow another path.
Forgive us if we have wandered, restore us to the confidence of a life of faith,
and share with us the joy of our salvation.
For we ask it in the name of Jesus Christ, our Risen Savior. Amen.

Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that
keep us from being fully free.

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in God’s justice that is more than liberty.
Receive freedom from the burden of your guilt,
And live in the freedom that is yours through Christ.
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 express our intentions to live as God’s people:

We wish to place others before ourselves.
We wish to place ethics before expediency.
We wish to rate principle as being more important than pleasure.
We wish to seek generosity rather than greed.
We wish to value love as higher than lust.
We wish to place character before charisma.
We wish to place Christ before all.

RESPONSE HYMN # 613 “O Lord, our Lord”

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
O Lord, we praise your name. O Lord, we magnify your name:
Prince of Peace, mighty God; O Lord God Almighty.

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
Our tithes and offerings are a visible and tangible sign
of our response to the love of the Holy One for us.
May we respond to the mercy we have received
with grateful thanksgiving and generosity.

(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 # 606 “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him all creatures here below;
Praise him above ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
We consider it a privilege not only to receive, but also to share and to give.
Accept these tithes and offerings as a token of our love for you and for others.

FIRST LESSON
Acts of the Apostles 2: 14a, 22-32, p. 111 (NT)

2:14a But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,
2:22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know-
2:23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.
2:24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.
2:25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
2:26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.
2:27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.
2:28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
2:29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
2:30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.
2:31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

GOSPEL LESSON
St. John 20: 19-31, p. 109 (NT)

20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.
20:31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – You may also type this link in your browser to watch and listen to the sermon. https://youtu.be/__14Stqslz4

April 19, 2020
Second Sunday of Easter
Acts of the Apostles 2: 14a, 22-32
St. John 20: 19-31

Their leader, the one who had taught them about God and about life, had been killed, crucified on a cross. From a distance they had watched the cruel spectacle on the hill outside Jerusalem. All their hopes and dreams had vanished as the life that pulsed through his body surrendered to death. They felt the guilt and the shame of having abandoned him to face death alone. It had now been three days since his death, and the feelings of despair and hopelessness were overwhelming. They stayed together because they didn’t know what else to do – the conversation in the room that evening probably focused on the future and the possibility that the same authorities who had manipulated Jesus’ crucifixion would root them out and do the same to them. They had heard about Mary Magdelene’s experience at the grave, but who could trust a woman’s word? Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved had been out to the grave as well, and they had seen nothing but an empty tomb. What could possibly have happened to the body of Jesus?
And then in the midst of their inner turmoil, their collective guilt and their sense of being lost, sitting and standing, gathered behind locked doors; came Jesus with these words, “Peace be with you.” And suddenly, in that special moment of time, everything came together for the disciples. The one who had been crucified was truly alive. The wounds on his hands, the spear gash on his side proved it was really him. No longer would those disciples live in the midst of despair, for they had experienced the risen Christ in their midst – each one was filled with joy, a peace that could never be taken away from them. Again, the risen Christ spoke to them, repeating, “Peace be with you,” and added, “as the Father sent me, so I send you.” And breathing on them, he gave them, according to the Gospel writer, John, the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to empower them to act in the name of the risen Christ.
In the context of that appearance to the disciples, Jesus assured them of a boundless hope, a direction for their lives, and the power to follow the way shown them through his earthly ministry.

First of all, Jesus gave the disciples a sense of peace in the midst of the chaos and the confusion of their lives. It was a peace that would be theirs no matter what conditions confronted them in the future. In many ways, we have come to understand peace as an absence of war, the disappearance of conflict. On an individual level we have peace as long as things are going well for us, so long as we are able to pay our bills, when we are getting along with family and friends and neighbors, as our work is fulfilling and satisfying. We have come to define ‘peace’ as having an easy life, free of disruption and stress.
We put a great deal of energy into pursuing that kind of peace – for our personal well-being. But if that is the kind of peace that Jesus was promising to the disciples, then the promises of Jesus are indeed empty and in vain. For as we read about the lives of the disciples, they each faced persecution, suffering, torture and, ultimately, death because of their faith in the risen Christ. They did not live lives of ease and luxury, free from the anger of the crowd or the misunderstanding of the world around them. No, rather they intentionally and purposefully went into a hostile world to proclaim the good news of the risen Savior sent by a loving God. (Think of Peter and the crowd in this morning’s first lesson.)
They went with a real understanding of the peace that God was offering to them in Christ Jesus. This peace does not depend on one’s circumstances in life, nor is it achieved by our personal efforts. Rather, this peace is only available through our relationship with Jesus Christ. As we accept the peace that Christ offers, we will find that nothing, nothing indeed, can ever separate us from the love of God we experience. Think about that a little bit. How are you feeling about your life? Are you feeling stressed out because there are things going on in your work, within your family, among your friends, inside the depths of your soul, that have caused you to lack a sense of peace? Do you find yourself ‘losing it’ every time something doesn’t go your way? Do you find yourself overly worried and concerned? Then maybe what is happening is that you have, for whatever reasons, become too independent, relying on yourself when, perhaps you should be relying on the risen Christ. Peace is elusive for those who look at peace as an easy life – and those who do so will soon find themselves disappointed in their misunderstanding of God’s promise of peace. Many are those who have become disillusioned with the Christian faith precisely because they expected the peace of God to protect them from the struggles and difficulties of life. Peace for those who follow the way of the risen Savior is not an absence of conflict in this life, but rather a confidence in God’s loving and sustaining presence that conflict will never destroy. Only Christ can give that peace.

The second part of Christ’s appearance to the disciples is his gift of a direction for their lives. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” The peace that Jesus offers is meant to be shared. Each of the disciples’ lives took on a new direction. Now they are fishermen with a vision, tax collectors with a purpose, farmers with a boundless hope. And that makes an incredible difference, for whatever they do now is not for their own gain or their own advantage, but rather to proclaim the good news of peace that is offered to all. As the disciples have had the fear removed from their lives, so they are called, sent, to fight the fear that keeps people from truly living an abundant life.
It is one of the great paradoxes of faith that God turns things upside down – we proclaim good news of peace, yet we are caught up in a world that resists this good news and turns against those who proclaim it. There are some who are hostile toward the faith, even more are those who are indifferent to the faith. They sometimes think that those who are followers of Jesus Christ are foolish. Proclaiming the good news and living out the faith does not necessarily bring us respect and honor – it can bring ridicule and a bit of a chuckle from those who think they know better. And yet it is precisely in living out our faith that we experience the peace that comes from God. It is in the midst of indifference and misunderstanding that we truly sense God’s presence at work and alive within us. Those who seek to live at peace with God without going out and taking risks to live the faith will never find the peace that God is offering. We are sent by the risen Christ, just as those first disciples were sent, to be witnesses to God’s love at work in the world. Because we are sent by the risen Christ is no assurance of success or that somehow people will suddenly accept the good news we have to offer. But God does not judge us by our success. God does, however, look upon our efforts. Our task is to find ways to share the peace that Christ offers.

We do not go out as witnesses alone. We are not sent by the risen Christ without support. For the final guarantee of Jesus Christ in that room on the day of the resurrection is that the Holy Spirit will be with us. Giving us the power and the wisdom to act in the name of God. Jesus Christ is alive, yesterday, today and forever. This is not a memorial service that we participate in this morning; this is a resurrection service, a service affirming that the risen Christ continues in our midst by the power of the spirit. The living Christ is known to us as we are open to receiving Christ’s life into our own lives. We are not merely remembering an event of the past but living that event in the present. The peace of Christ comes to those who embrace the living Christ, who seek to find their lives in Christ’s life. And we are witnesses to that peace, not because of our own powers and our own abilities, but rather because the spirit enables and empowers us. As we rely on ourselves, we will find that our energy is soon spent, and we become weary of serving God. We merely pay lip service to the message of faith, while avoiding the real work of faith. But as we rely on the spirit to energize and empower us, we will find ourselves able to serve fully and completely, to go the distance, and to do so with joy and purpose. The spirit is meant as God’s gift to sustain us for the long road of faith, and to give us the power to act in the name of the risen Christ.

What does all this mean for us? The same things it meant for those early disciples. It means that the risen Christ assures us that nothing will ever separate us from him. In Christ we find peace and hope. It means that the risen Christ sends us out into the world to be witnesses to that peace and in witnessing to that peace, we will find ourselves experiencing a oneness with God that will sustain and strengthen us. It means that the risen Christ lives around and within us by the power of the spirit so that the power of Christ energizes us and makes us bold to proclaim the good news of God by our daily life and through our words and deeds.
The risen Christ, the one whom the disciples had known and had walked with, the one who had taught them about God and about life, comes to them. He comes to us as well, that we might know him and walk with him, that we might be taught by him and learn about life from him. May we find our peace in him today and throughout all our days as we walk the journey of faith that leads to God’s eternal realm.

SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
Holy and Gracious God, you who created us and continues 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 # 247 “Now the Green Blade Rises”

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been;
Love is come again like wheat arising grain.

In the grave they laid him, love by hatred slain,
Thinking that he would never wake again.
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen;
Love is come again like wheat arising grain.

Forth he came at Easter like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had laid;
Raised from the dead, my living Lord is seen;
Love is come again like wheat arising grain.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
You touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been,
Love is come again like wheat arising grain.

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

COMING UP NEXT WEEK:
Apr. 20 Virtual Consistory Mtg 7:00 pm
Apr. 23 Virtual HolyCow! Mtg for Consistory & Profile Cmte

LOOKING FORWARD:
Apr. 27 Virtual UACT Youth Cmte Mtg

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: to Liz B. who will celebrate 80 years on April 21st! And to Fred B. who celebrates 93 years on April 25th!

OUR SYMPATHY TO: Kelly and Tim F. on the death of Tim’s father, Hugh, in Delaware on April 14th due to complications from the Covid-19 virus. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers.

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.