Worship: April 26, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Third Sunday of Easter

April 26, 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.

 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

Let the people assemble; God calls each one of us by name.

The promises of God are to us and our children,

and to sisters and brothers near and far.

We gather as a community of faith, united in mutual concern and caring.

Here we break bread, learn, and pray together;

and join in outreach to a needy world.

May our eyes and ears be open to the special message this hour holds for us.

We will listen for God’s living and abiding Word

and strive to be obedient to the truth.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

Loving God, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead to be our Savior,

we are slow of heart to believe or accept our role as disciples.  

When you invite us to be born anew, we are not ready to take that risk.  

Yet we gather for this venture of worship, opening ourselves to your surprises. Meet us here and grant us courage to accept new possibilities for our lives.

 

*GATHERING HYMN # 250 “In the Bulb There is a Flower”

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, and apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

 

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity;

In our death, a resurrection; at the last a victory;

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

God is less than happy when we ignore the ways of peace and love.

As we come to God, may all that is resistant within us melt away.

Let us confess the ways we have strayed from the way of God.

O Loving God, forgive us for betraying your love for us

by failing to love each other.  

Your Word says that we love because you first loved us.

Sometimes we forget.

Help us, God, to love each other in your faith family.

Help us also to reach beyond to a community

and a world in need of your caring love.

Move us all beyond apathy and indifference

to compassion for your family and all creation.

Empower us with your spirit to be people of love.

In Jesus’ loving name. Amen.

 

Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through

the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance

that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

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.

 

RESPONSE HYMN # 288 “Spirit of the Living God”

 

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Melt me; mold me; fill me; use me.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

In a world of need, of pain, of despair, and of seeming hopelessness,

let us offer our tithes and offerings as a positive contribution

to a world sorely in need of help and encouragement.

 

(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 will, through our tithes and offerings present a message:

a message of hope, a message of love, a message of mercy,

a message of caring, a message of peace.

 

FIRST LESSON

Acts of the Apostles 2: 14a, 36-41, p. 111 (NT)

 

2:14a: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,
2:36 “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2:39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
2:40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
2:41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Luke 24: 13-35, p. 84 (NT)

 

24:13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
24:14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
24:16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
24:17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.
24:18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
24:19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
24:20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.
24:21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.
24:22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,
24:23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
24:24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
24:25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!
24:26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”
24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.
24:29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.
24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
24:31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
24:32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
24:33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
24:34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”
24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

 

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – (you can either read it or you can copy and paste this link in your browser to view it:   https://youtu.be/9A-Mzs0VEUs )

April 26, 2020
Third Sunday of Easter
Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41
St. Luke 24: 13-35

Doubt and disillusionment, discouragement and despair: these are emotions that are common to all of us at some point in our lives. Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, divorce, illness, even the loss of a pet, any of these things and more can throw us into a tailspin and fill our hearts with anxiety and fear. We think that things will never be right again. Especially in the middle of the night, things seem at their very worst. We forget that there ever was a thing called hope, and all that we have learned about God’s saving grace is nowhere to be found. If ever we knew how to call upon God, it is now only a distant memory from a better and happier time; and even when we need God the most, we turn our backs on God and walk away.

That is exactly the situation in which we find Cleopas and his friend in today’s Gospel. Followers of Jesus, they had believed in the new life he had promised them. Their hearts were filled with joy and anticipation as they looked forward to hearing more of his words and to being witnesses again and again to his good works, to his miracles. Fed in body, mind, and spirit by their fellowship with Jesus and with other believers, their lives had become filled with a new joy, and even all that they had to give up to follow him was as nothing compared to what they now had. They thought it would go on forever.  But that was then. Now all their hopes and dreams were as dead as Jesus. The events of the past few days, ending with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, had beaten every last shred of hope from them. They thought there was nothing left to do but get out of Jerusalem and go to another place, perhaps to pick up the pieces of their former lives and begin again; to turn their backs on all that had seemed so expectant and hopeful, and walk the seven miles on the road to Emmaus.

So they started out, the two of them, talking as they went, and going over and over the same ground, as if saying it one more time would change the outcome. Don’t we all do that? If we’ve lost something, don’t we keep revisiting the same spot, thinking that if we go there often enough, the lost item will miraculously appear? As they do this, Cleopas and his friend, a stranger meets them on the road. It is Jesus, but their hearts are so full of defeat and so devoid of faith that they do not recognize him. What’s more, when this stranger asks what they are talking about, they cannot believe that he doesn’t know all that has happened. Where has he been? And so they tell it all once more. They even tell him about the empty tomb, how some women had seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was not dead but alive. But still, they said to the stranger, no one had seen him, so perhaps the women had just heard what they wanted to hear.

When they had finished their side of the story, the stranger chided them. “Weren’t you listening when he told you how all of this must come to pass? Don’t you know how, from the beginning of time, the prophets had foretold exactly what has just happened, that the Messiah must suffer before he enters his glory?” As he recites Scripture to them, going all the way back to the time of Moses, they are so taken in by his words that when they reach Emmaus, they don’t want to let him go; they want to hear more, and so they invite him to stay with them. He agrees, and as they sit down to supper, the strangest thing happens. A guest in someone else’s home, Jesus becomes the host. He picks up the bread, he blesses it, he breaks it, and he gives it to them. And in that simple but so meaningful act, something they had seen him do time and time again, their eyes are opened and they know with certainty, not only who he is, not only that this is indeed Jesus, but they also know that all he had said to them was true. It was just like Mary and the tomb. Jesus had only to speak her name, to call out to her in the same way he always did, with the same familiar voice and inflection, and she knew immediately who he was. For Cleopas and his friend, their doubt and despair were instantly forgotten. They were so renewed in faith, so excited and happy that their feet grew wings, and they ran all the way back to Jerusalem to tell others the Good News.

If Jesus was disappointed in the disciples and all the others who deserted him at the end, who, in the midst of their despair and disillusionment, chose to take the road to Emmaus rather than stick it out by his side, we never hear about it. One of the most wonderful things to come out of the resurrection is that we learn this about Jesus: no matter how bad things become for us, no matter where we go to hide ourselves when the world gets to be too much for us, even if we lose our faith for a time, he will come to be with us. He won’t ask us for explanations, we won’t have to justify our position, and there will be no recriminations. He will simply meet us as we walk, each of us along our own road to Emmaus. It may be in a shopping mall where, out of frustration, we are buying something we don’t really need, or it may be in a car that is taking us away from those things we can no longer endure; or it may actually be on a road as we try to walk off the results of that recent medical test that took us completely by surprise. Whatever route we take when we just can’t take it any more, Jesus will meet us there. Even though it is we who are going away, he is always faithful. In the words of the noted preacher Barbara Taylor Brown, “He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. He comes to those who do not know their Bibles, who do not recognize Him even when they are walking beside Him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story about the blessedness of being broken.”

This should not surprise us. Jesus’ entire ministry was centered on those who needed him the most: the poor, the sick, the blind. Wherever he could find them, he shared not only his love, but whatever else he had, until finally he shared his broken body as well. The wonderful truth of this story is that God uses everybody to proclaim God’s kingdom, and not only when we are being good and faithful and true, but even in our moments of waywardness and faithlessness as well. Just as he made himself known to the two men walking along the road, and then used them to make his story and the news of his resurrection known to the world, so he comes and stands beside us in our moments of despair, calling our name, waiting for us to recognize him, to realize again the truth of his words, to be renewed in faith so that he can use us again. In countless ways, Jesus comes among us, never demanding, but patiently waiting for us to open our eyes and see him. It may happen as we stretch forth our hands in prayer, it may happen in the reading of Scripture or in listening to a friend; it may come as we walk along a road or, like Cleopas and his friend, it may be in the breaking of the bread. He is there. We have only to be willing to have our eyes opened in faith so that we can see the Risen Christ for ourselves, so we can feel his presence and his peace as they surround us.

The gift of Emmaus awaits you. Wherever you are on that road, pray that when the Risen Lord comes to you, your eyes may be opened so you can behold him in all his glory; and then, renewed in faith, run to tell others the Good News. Amen.

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.

As the eyes of those who traveled with Jesus were opened as he blessed and broke the bread with them, so too may we experience your presence as we share in this bread this morning. Fill it with your Spirit that it might strengthen us in these difficult and trying days. May it keep us faithful and also encourage us to reach out to our neighbors and those in need around us, as we are able to share with them.

Keep us from being discouraged and frustrated. Grant us patience and an abiding hope that your closeness to us will sustain us.

Be with all those who must be in daily contact with others – first responders and medical care workers, those in the grocery stores and essential businesses, those who provide the things that are necessary even in times of distancing.

We remember as well our church family, our friends and neighbors, and all those who have been touched by this virus, directly or indirectly.

Grant your holy and healing Spirit to all who have need.

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 # 299 “You Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim”

You servants of God, your Master proclaim and publish abroad Christ’s wonderful name.

The name all victorious of Jesus extol, whose kingdom is glorious, who rules over all.

Ascended on high, almighty to save, he still remains nigh; his presence we have.

The great congregation his triumph shall sing, ascribing salvation to Jesus our King.

 

Salvation to God, who sits on the throne, let all cry aloud and honor the Son.

The praises of Jesus the angels proclaim, fall down on their faces, and worship the Lamb.

 

Then let us adore and give him his right, all glory and power, all wisdom and might;

All honor and blessing, with angels above, and thanks never ceasing and infinite love!

 

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

 Zoom Bible Study: Would anyone be interested in doing a morning Bible study on the book of Genesis using Zoom?   Pastor George would be willing to have us experiment with using Zoom as a teaching tool.  Please contact the church office email by May 1st if you would like to participate.   Thanks.

 Coming Up Next Week:

Apr. 27                  Virtual UACT Youth Cmte Mtg

 

Pastoral Care Needs: If you need to contact George, please feel free to call his home number, 717-334-0069 or email at gpheber@embarqmail.com.

 

Worship Service Update: Zion’s worship services, Sunday School, and all meetings at church are cancelled 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.

 

 

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