Worship: March 22, 2020 Bulletin & sermon

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 22, 2020

Welcome to Zion and a special welcome to our visitors. Please sign the guest book! If you do not have a church home, we pray that you will find one with us. We have large-print bulletins available, as well as hearing assistance devices. Please ask an usher if you require either of these. Restrooms are located in the church school building. Go through the door next to the choir and straight ahead. We also have restrooms downstairs in Fellowship Hall. Again, exit through the door next to the choir, turn left down the hall, and go down the steps.
*Where noted, please stand if able.
Congregational response is in bold print.

PRELUDE
TIME OF SHARING
CHIME INTERLUDE AND CANDLELIGHTING
*CALL TO WORSHIP
Let us come with joy before the One who can bring sight to the blind,
hearing to the deaf, hope to the discouraged, direction to the wandering,
comfort to the sorrowing, and, yes, even life to the dead.

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
We ask, Lord, a pure heart, that we may see you;
a humble heart, that we may hear you;
a loving heart, that we may serve you;
and a heart of faith, that we may abide in you.

*GATHERING HYMN # 213 “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”

TIME OF CONFESSION
We who are quick to identify wrongdoing in others, are called to confess our own sin.
We who are swayed by outward appearances, are challenged to look into our own hearts.
We who stumble in self-created shadows, are invited into the light that reveals,
in order to be restored to wholeness.
Holy God, if we have mocked anyone who spoke with an accent,
forgive us, and create a clean heart within us.
If we have made fun of someone who was disfigured or disabled,
forgive us, and create a clean heart within us.
If we have shunned anyone who was poor or badly dressed,
forgive us, and create a clean heart within us.
If we have judged people on the basis of their appearance or differences from us,
forgive us, and create a clean heart within us.
If we have closed our mind to any viewpoint other than our own,
forgive us, and create a clean heart within us.
If we have failed to honor others as your unique creation,
forgive us, and create a clean heart within us.

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
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is God’s steadfast love toward those who trust;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove our fear from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion for us.
Believe this Good News and live by it.

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.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON
I Samuel 16: 1-13, p. 248 (OT)

16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

16:2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’

16:3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”

16:4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”

16:5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

16:6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.”

16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”

16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”

16:10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.”

16:11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”

16:12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”

16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

GOSPEL READING FOR THE MORNING
St. John 9: 1-41, p. 96 (NT)

9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.

9:2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

9:6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,

9:7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

9:8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

9:9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

9:10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

9:11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

9:12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

9:13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.

9:14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.

9:15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”

9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

9:17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

9:18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight

9:19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

9:20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;

9:21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

9:22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

9:23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
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9:24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”

9:25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

9:26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

9:27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

9:28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.

9:29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

9:30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.

9:32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.

9:33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

9:34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

9:35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

9:36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”

9:37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

9:39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

9:40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”

9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – See Pastor George’s sermon

*HYMN # 353 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”

PASTORAL PRAYER AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom,
And the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
We as a congregation know that we have an important ministry in this community.
Let us give our tithes and offerings
so we can continue to serve God and others in this place.

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
As we give, we pray that these tithes and offerings
may be acceptable in your eyes, not only in the amount
we give, but also in the spirit in which they are given.

*CLOSING HYMN # 343 “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life”

*COMMISSION AND BENEDICTION
Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage;
Hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all persons;
love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

*CHORAL BENEDICTION # 227 “Jesus, Remember Me” (sing twice)
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

*CHIME MEDITATION

POSTLUDE

Pastor George’s Sermon for March 22nd:

We like to think of ourselves as a religious nation. Over the many years that surveys have been taken, a large majority of Americans still refer to themselves as religious people. If people are to be taken at their word, the general public has an abiding faith in God.  But, at the same time it is a bit more difficult to find those large numbers of people showing up on a regular basis in Sunday morning worship. Evidently there are a good number of people who have taken God’s command to rest on the Sabbath day as a reason to sleep in – perhaps because they are so exhausted from answering surveys! While there seem to be few doubters and skeptics among us, there also seem to be quite a number of people who have chosen to skip the practice of their faith.

There could be many reasons for this lack of participation in the regular worship life of the church. For one thing, the nature of our society has changed tremendously – the church is no longer the center of social life, a position it held for most generations. It used to be – in the times before television and shopping malls and automobiles for pleasure purposes – that the church was the center of a person’s social life. The church was not only a place of worship, it was also the community center, where neighbors gathered, news was shared, stories told, rumors started and squelched, and newcomers welcomed into the community. When I first entered ministry the parish I served would toll the bell in the church steeple to announce the death of a member; the bell was tolled the number of years that a person was old, so that someone listening, who of course knew everyone in the community and which one of those people was sick, could basically determine who had died.  Your closest friends were the people with whom you worshiped on a Sunday morning. Social life revolved around the activities sponsored by the church. Going out to a restaurant for a meal was unheard of; going away for the weekend was unthinkable. People were part of church life because it was the place to be – often the only place to be. It wasn’t necessarily your faith that brought you into the life of the church; the fellowship and the sharing that took place within the context of life in the church was extremely important. To meet and to greet each other was just as vital as to sing and to pray together.

Things have changed significantly. Now if a young boy wants to meet a young girl, he is likely to go on Facebook, or if he is a bit older, to a ski lodge or a singles bar. Although some of your friends may be members of this congregation, most of them come from a rather wide geographical area. Your work takes you out of the community; your leisure time activities mean you travel and pursue interests over the weekends. It is also true that more and more people have to work on the weekends as well.  But, let’s face reality and admit that those aren’t the only reasons why people tend to stay away from the church. The fact is that there are a good many people who have been “turned off” by the organized church. The problem is not that they have become indifferent or lazy or have found other social outlets; it is unfortunate, whether rightly or wrongly, a good many folk have just found the church irrelevant to their lives. Approach someone at a local restaurant or the golf course or reading the Sunday newspaper in their kitchen, and ask them, “Do you believe in God?” and most would probably respond, “Of course.” But when you continue to probe, asking, “Why aren’t you in worship today?” the predictable response would most likely be, “I don’t feel you have to be in church to worship God,” or perhaps more bluntly, “I’m not into organized religion; I have my own beliefs.”

The church, with its programs and stewardship needs, with its clergy and all the institutional trappings, with its appearance as just one more bureaucracy, seems to have become, for a significant number of people, an unneeded and optional part of faith in God. On the surface, they seem to feel no need for walls or institutions such as the church. But if you probe a bit more deeply, I suspect that you might discover an underlying hostility toward the church as an institution. Their perception is that rather than a place of faith, the church is a place of rigid rules and regulations; those who are outside the church often hear people within the church offering judgment and speaking negatively of “those” people. Their perception is that faith is a celebration of grace, but the church seems to point its finger and is always finding things that are wrong. Their perception is that faith is freedom, but the church is trapped by tradition and the “but we’ve always done it that way: attitude. Their perception is that faith is the inner child who is playful and joyful, but the church is the angry parent. Their perception is that faith sees you as a person, but the church sees you as a giving unit. Their perception is that faith is an individual experience of God at work in your life, but the church demands that you conform to a fixed creed. Unfortunately, for some, the church is the last place they truly expect to find God. We in the church know that many of these perceptions of those outside the church are incorrect, but they are, unfortunately, correct enough to become generalized beliefs among those who reject the institutional church.

This morning’s Gospel lesson might provide them with some evidence to support their feelings. The healing power of Jesus had provided a man, who was blind from birth, with a new opportunity. He could see. But almost immediately after this healing, the man is hauled off before the religious courts and questioned by the officials of these courts to give an account of himself. The problem is not that the man is healed of his blindness; everyone seems to agree that this is a good thing. The problem centers around the issue of a healing by Jesus that took place on the Sabbath day, which was considered a bad thing since it violated the religious rules regarding the Sabbath commandment. The result was deadly – a good thing that doesn’t conform to the rules and religious requirements.  Quite naturally, this divided the religious leadership. There were those who emphasized that perhaps this good thing was an exception and the rules and requirements ought to applied less rigidly, while others declared that no matter how good it was to heal a man from blindness, the fact that Jesus did not observe the Sabbath commandment was unforgivable.

As often happens, those who held strictly to the rules and regulations had the upper hand. They thought that somehow they had to protect God. In order to demonstrate their power, they intimidated the family of the new healed man. Their threatening tone created fear and divided the parents from their son. Ultimately, the religious leadership kicked him out the front door of God’s house. The man had experienced the presence of God in Jesus Christ in a way that the religious leadership could not accept, so they got rid of him. For this man it would have been easy to say, “I’m not into organized religion.”  If this story ended here, it would be a classic confrontation between Jesus and the organized religious institution of his day. And the logical conclusion we might reach would be that while we need to be open to a living, personal relationship with Jesus, we should also be very cautious about organized religion. And that is precisely what a number of people say they have chosen to do – they affirm that they want a relationship with God, but quite apart from the church and what they perceive as an institution filled with rules and regulations.

But, according to the Gospels, Jesus himself does not draw that conclusion. If we read the next chapter of the Gospel writer, John, we read that Jesus speaks of how the Son of Man will gather together the sheep that belong to God, and they will become a community of believers who trust and obey the voice of the Good Shepherd. Jesus never dismisses the religious organization, but he does call us to think about the kind of church we ought to be, the sort of Christian community we should seek to be in the midst of the larger community.  It is the religious leadership in Jesus’ day that was blind– blinded by their own traditions and trapped by their own narrow visions. They could not comprehend God working a new thing through Jesus. It did not fit into their preconceived notions, their hardened thought patterns, their limited concept of God’s truth. By their attitudes they had boxed in God, limiting God’s power to what they thought God ought to be and ought to do. They were bound to the past and, in effect, were loyal to their own traditions rather than loyal to God.  The true community of faith seeks constantly to be open to knowing and experiencing God, ready and eager to gain a greater awareness of God at work, prepared to be surprised by God’ grace at work in the life of the community. The community of faith is thankful for what it knows and expects, is ever ready to pray, and is looking for the unexpected. The community of faith is open for God’s mercy to surprise it and rejoice in God’s love at work.

The lesson for us in all of this is simple. While we honor the past and cherish how God has chosen to be part of our lives and the life of the church, we remain open to God’s continuing work in the world. God constantly acts in some unusual and unanticipated ways. We should not try to limit God’s mercy to our own notions and our own ideas of how God should act. We need to remain open to God’s living presence, alive and at work constantly. We are part of a living faith. God’s action is of continuing power. Tradition and the way things have always been done provide a source of security, but we are not bound to them, for the Spirit of God stretches our minds, challenges our ideas and creates a place of lively hope.

The challenge to us? May we never close ourselves to God at work in our individual lives, nor within the life of the community of faith. God just might surprise us if we are open to be surprised by grace. God is still speaking to us, if we will just listen closely.

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

LADIES BREAKFAST GROUP: If the virus crisis permits, please join us Monday April 13, at 9:00 a.m. at the Apple Bin. Some good news after the last few weeks: Ladies, we will be going to The Old Farmhouse on May 22, 2020 to have High Tea and will be served at noon. We will be meeting at the Lutheran Church in Biglerville at 11:15 a.m. that day. Please sign up on the clipboard in the back of church if attending and indicate if you are able to drive. If you have questions, please contact Sally.

ZION’S NEW SANCTUARY LIGHTING has been presented to the glory of God and in memory of Doug P. by Carol P. and Dick & Joe S. We appreciate their generosity.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO Donnie H. who celebrates 81 years on March 22nd, and to Jane G. who celebrates 85 years on March 23rd!

HEALTH UPDATES: Jean S. is currently in the Carlisle Hospital.

ALL UACT GATHERINGS SUCH AS BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY, MOVIE NIGHT, WHAT’S COOKIN’?, EIMI CONFIRMATION, AND SENIOR HIGH ACTIVITIES HAVE BEEN CANCELLED THROUGH MARCH 29TH.

THE FREE LADY CONCERT featuring “Drop the Octave” an all-male a cappella group from Gettysburg College, scheduled for today has been postponed.

CANCELLATION UPDATES: As of now, no worship service or meetings are being held at Zion for the next two weeks as we limit social interaction to help slow the spread of the COVED-19 virus. The Consistory will meet on March 30th to re-evaluate the circumstances and decide April’s schedule. Any updates will be communicated via email blast and the Zion House answering machine. Stay calm, safe, and busy; enjoy a walk outdoors to lift your spirits; check on your neighbors and friends via telephone; and pray for our leaders and health care workers in these challenging times.

SPRING CLEANUP DAY: The Property Committee announces a Spring Cleanup day for
Zion and Zion House. The focus will be yard work and spreading mulch. Anyone
interested in helping, please bring your rakes and shovels along to the Zion House parking lot on April 4th at 9:00 a.m. Many hands make light work!

MAUNDY THURSDAY SEDER MEAL: At present, we are still planning, and you are cordially invited to, a light meal of soup and bread followed by the symbolic Seder meal and the stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday evening at 6:00 pm. Pastor George is
providing the homemade soup! This a very meaningful service which sets the tone for
reflection on the Passion of Christ in the last days of Lent – please consider joining us. A sign-up clipboard is on the credenza in church.

GOOD FRIDAY & EASTER SUNDAY: As of now, we plan that our Good Friday service will be held at 7:00 p.m. on April 10th in solemn remembrance of Christ’s passion. We intend to join with Trinity Lutheran early on Easter Sunday, April 12th, at Fairview Cemetery for the Easter Sunrise service at 6:15 a.m. And we hope to hold our traditional Easter worship service at 9:00 a.m. that same day in church.

VOLUNTEERING can make such a difference not only in the lives of those needing support, but in your life! SpiriTrust Lutheran Home Care & Hospice has free hospice training sessions scheduled for April 8th and 15th from noon to 3:00 pm at SpiriTrust Lutheran, The Village at Gettysburg. They are also looking for seamstresses who could create Memory Bears using a loved one’s favorite blouse, dress, blanket, etc. If interested, please call 717-680-0301 to volunteer.

PICTORIAL DIRECTORY: Looking ahead to when a new called pastor will want to get to know all of us, the Membership Committee would like to update Zion’s on-line pictorial directory, which is almost ten years old, Please send new, updated pictures of your family to Zion’s email address which is zion_ucc_arendtsville@comcast.net, and Cindy will administratively upload the pictures. Please also send her updated personal information such as new email addresses, new spouses, new children, any life changes, etc. The on-line directory requires you to have a personal email address in the system before you can create an account to access the directory. If you do not receive our Thursday announcement blasts, we need your email address! Once the info and pics are entered, an email blast with the address for the directory will be sent so you can conduct a final review of your information prior to a possible printing of the directory for those who would rather have a hard copy.