Worship: March 29, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 29, 2020

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 on a Sunday morning 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!!
*Where noted, please stand if able.
Congregational response is in bold print.

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

*CALL TO WORSHIP
During the storms of life, it’s easy to lose our moorings.
During the painful times, it’s easy to lose heart.
During the pleasant times, it’s easy to feel that God is unnecessary.
That’s why it’s important to worship, to draw close to God,
to maintain an ongoing relationship with the Almighty.
That’s why we are here this morning,
separately but together as one in Christ.
When our hearts are dry, empty of love.
Blow new life into us, Holy Spirit.
When our bones are dry, torn by struggle and controversy.
Blow new life into us, Holy Spirit.
When our souls are dry, shriveled into bitterness.
Blow new life into us, Holy Spirit.
Raise us up into hope and inspire us
so that we may receive your new dream for creation.

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
As we prepare to worship with joy, gladden our hearts.
As we try to comprehend your truth with clarity, sharpen our minds.
As we seek to be obedient to your plan for us, mold our wills.
As we prepare to do your work in our world, warm our hearts.

*GATHERING HYMN # 169 “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord, let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee, O calm of hills above
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee, the silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our striving cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the hearts of our desire thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

TIME OF CONFESSION
The presence of God is near to us and sustains us wherever we may find ourselves.
God invites us to look at ourselves and at our church.
How consistently have we opened ourselves to our Creator?
How faithfully have we loved God and neighbor?
Confess with me the unfruitful wastelands of your own experience of faith.
Sometimes, Lord of heaven and earth, we feel
like we are participants in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones.
We have lost our vitality. Our souls are dried up. We are burned out.
The good we have done seems to be worthless.
Our efforts don’t seem to be appreciated.
We have a negative and even a cynical view of our world.
We convey a spirit of negativity to our family and friends.
Pardon us, we pray, for our lack of faith, and infuse us with new
life and a new sense of purpose. For we ask it in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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
Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with
him is great power to redeem. 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
Ezekiel 37: 1-14, p. 759 (OT)

37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

37:2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

37:3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

37:7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

37:8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

37:10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

37:11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’

37:12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.

37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

GOSPEL READING FOR THE MORNING
St. John 11: 1-45, p. 98 (NT)

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

11:2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.

11:3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

11:4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

11:5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,

11:6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

11:7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”

11:9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.

11:10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”

11:11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”

11:12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”
511:13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.

11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

11:15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

11:17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

11:18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,

11:19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.

11:20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.

11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

11:22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

11:24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,

11:26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

11:27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

11:28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

11:29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

11:30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.

11:31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

11:34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

11:35 Jesus began to weep.

11:36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

11:38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

11:39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”

11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.

11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

11:43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – See Pastor George’s Sermon attached at the end of the bulletin.

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

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide his face, I rest on his unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, his covenant, his blood support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found,
Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

PASTORAL PRAYER AND THE LORD’S PRAYER

God of mercy and steadfast love,
Our lives have been different over these past few weeks, O God. All normal activity that we take for granted has been upended by a virus that threatens most particularly those who are the most vulnerable and the older in our society. It has created a sense of fear among many people and we are not quite sure how long this situation may last. So we pray for patience, for a depth of faith that relies on you to get through each day free of being discouraged or angry or afraid. Help us to remember that you are near whenever we call on you to support us. Keep us mindful of the needs of those around us and, when this is all over, may there be a more gentle and caring society. Be near to all health workers and first responders in these days, those who are on the front lines of caring for those who are ill; be near as well to all those who serve the public delivering necessary food and medical supplies, those who work in grocery stores and pharmacies, those who are exposed to the possibility of contracting this virus. And be especially near to those who are struggling to deal with this time financially, for whom no work means no income and the stress and strain of supporting their family. Be with all of us, O God, that we may continue to have confidence and hope in you.
We remember these days of Lent as opportunities to come to a greater understanding of your direction and will for our living. We pray that our minds might be cleared of all distractions so that we might reflect on your love for us. We pray that our ears may be opened so we might not only hear, but truly listen to what your intentions are for us. We pray that we might truly see, so that we can envision your hopes and desires for us and all people. Remove all confusions from us, so that we may seek you in all the times and places of our lives and walk with confidence along the way that leads to your eternal realm.
We admit, O Holy One, that we do not always comprehend the mysteries of this life – why it seems that those who are good seem to deal with heavy burdens, while those who could care less about faith seem to walk easily through life. At times we find it discouraging, and we even get a bit angry that there seems so much injustice in this world of harsh reality. Help us, and all your people, to never feel defeated, to always trust in your continuing love, and to abide in that peace you offer in the midst of trouble. May we find our strength in you, so that whatever we face we may handle it with dignity and grace.
As we have experienced you, so may we share the Good News with others. May the words of our lips be a source of encouragement, may they invite others to know you in new ways. And may our deeds match the words we speak; through the silent acts of everyday, may we serve as examples to follow, role models to emulate, and witnesses to your Spirit alive and at work. Help us, O Gracious God to be found faithful until you return to claim this world for yourself. For we ask it in the Name of Jesus, who taught us to pray, saying:

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

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, O God, we remember the earthly ministry of our Lord,
how he went from place to place teaching, healing,
and giving hope to people who were in despair.
By our tithes and offerings, we wish to continue the ministry of Christ.

*CLOSING HYMN # 228 “Were You There”

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

*COMMISSION AND BENEDICTION
Go forth in this confidence, that “if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to
the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14: 8)

*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.

THE ALTAR FLOWERS were to be given to the glory of God and in memory of Andrea L. by her son Chance D. and family.

THE BULLETINS ARE SPONSORED by an anonymous donor.

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.

CANCELLATION UPDATES: The Consistory will hold a virtual meeting on March 30th to re-evaluate the circumstances and decide April’s schedule of worship and events. Updates will be communicated via email blast and the Zion House answering machine. Continue to 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.

TRIVIA NIGHT on March 29th is cancelled.

SPRING CLEANUP DAY: The Property Committee has postponed the spring clean-up day. A date in May is being considered. Look for an update in the bulletin!

UPPER ADAMS PRAYER BREAKFAST: The Upper Adams Prayer Breakfast originally scheduled for April 7, 2020 has been postponed due to the closings caused by the Coronavirus. The Apple Bin Grill and Bakery is still open and serving carry-out meals
but may not serve or host larger groups under the present regulations. We hope to hold the next breakfast on Tuesday, May 5th.

LADIES BREAKFAST: Ladies, we are not planning on going to breakfast on April 13th. I doubt if our lives will be back to normal by then. It would be wonderful to sit down with all of you and catch up. Hope to see you on May 11th at the Apple Bin. No decision has been made yet about our visit to The Old Farmhouse. Take care, stay healthy. Sally

HOLY WEEK SERVICES: We are still hoping to hold the Maundy Thursday Seder Meal and service preceded by a light meal of soup and bread at 6:00 p.m. on April 9th, the 7:00 p.m. Good Friday service in solemn remembrance of Christ’s passion, the joint Easter Sunrise service with Trinity Lutheran, and traditional 9:00 a.m. Easter worship service. However, in light of current conditions, this may change. Please look for an email update after the virtual Consistory meeting on March 30th. The trials and challenges of this global Covid-19 crisis can bring a certain poignance to our Lenten journey as we reflect on Christ’s journey through dark days to Resurrection light.

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. The Mission Committee would like all members to be represented in the directory. Access to the directory requires that a personal email address be in the system so accounts can be set up. If you do not receive our email blasts, we need your email address! Once the info and pics are entered administratively, a message with the address for the directory will be sent so you can create your account and conduct a final review of your information. Thanks for your attention to this.

Pastor George’s Sermon

March 29, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Ezekiel 37: 1-14

St. John 11: 1-45

As you read this morning’s Gospel reading, what was your initial reaction? What is the most difficult part of the miracle of restoring Lazarus to life? With what do you struggle within the depths of your soul? What is the hardest problem to handle within the Christian life?          Each of you may have your own answer as you listened to this story of how Jesus came to Bethany. For those of you struggling with the meaning of life and death, this particular story is a miracle of hope and confidence. Jesus has been given the power of God, even to the extent of life over death. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Death does not set the agenda; time and the seasons are limitations only for we humans. It is God alone who has control. As people of faith, we no longer think of life as being this time on earth. For us, life is defined in terms of being in God’s presence. Death is the transition from earthly life to eternal life, a continuing process but always within the presence of God. Without death we would be confined to a limited understanding of God’s presence at work in the world; without death we would be subject to the uncertainties and the frailty of events in this life; without death suffering would last forever. Death frees us from the limitations, the uncertainties, the suffering of this world in order that we may both be fully aware of God’s presence and become fully alive to that presence. Indeed, we believe that those who have gone before us have more life than any of us here. To show us that power of God, and indeed as a foreshadowing of his own death and resurrection, Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus and orders the stone rolled away. As if to prove that Lazarus had been dead a long time, Martha warns Jesus that the smell will be overwhelming, for the stench of death has taken over. But God’s power is to be shown to the people of Bethany. Jesus calls out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out,” and his friend walks out of the tomb, fully alive.

Jesus reached into the future of his own resurrection to revive Lazarus from the dead, and in the process displayed the glory of God at work in the world – the victor over death and the grave. We need not fear death, even though we have difficulty letting go of the familiar, no matter how uncomfortable. Jesus came to Bethany and comes to each one of us, with the promise of eternal life. In this is our hope and our confidence as believers in the risen Savior.  Consequently, for those who are struggling with the issue of life and death, this miracle in Bethany becomes a source of strength and an affirmation of our faith in God’s power, even over death.   But for those who have gained an inner peace about death, holding fast to the belief in the final resurrection of the faithful, there may be another troubling issue. From the record elsewhere in the Gospel of John, we know that the home of Lazarus in Bethany was probably the place where Jesus felt most comfortable. Martha loved Jesus; Mary loved Jesus; Lazarus loved Jesus; and Jesus loved them. But when Jesus hears that Lazarus lies near death, he fails to respond immediately. Jesus waits. He does not rush to be by his friend’s side. Jesus waits. So different from what we might expect. What is the first thing you would do if you heard that your best friend was extremely ill, even near death? Wouldn’t you want to hurry to be there for him/her and for the family? Jesus waits.

Even if he knew that Lazarus was already dead, as the Scripture seems to indicate, wouldn’t your expectation be that Jesus would seek out Martha and Mary? They were heartbroken. This was their brother. Jesus could have gone to offer them some consolation, to give them comfort in the midst of their loss. After all, they had sent a messenger to tell Jesus what was happening – that in itself should have given Jesus some idea that they were looking for him in the midst of their grief and sorrow. Jesus waits. Not for an hour, not for an afternoon, not even for a day, but two full days until Jesus finally starts out for Bethany.  Why? Is that a question you have ever asked yourself? When you have gone to God for help which you feel you desperately need and nothing happens. When your heart is breaking and you need God to be present but it seems God has turned away from you. When the struggle is overwhelming. Those times are difficult to understand, difficult to accept, difficult to keep from getting angry with God. Maybe we don’t ask a whole lot of God, but when we really need God in our moments of confusion and pain, couldn’t you rightfully expect God to respond, some how, some way? Is that too much to ask of God?

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; God’s ways are not our ways. What is even harder to accept is that God’s time is not our time. That is a hard lesson to learn in our minds; perhaps even harder to accept in the depths of our hearts. We want God to act according to our understanding and yet God will not act according to human calculations. From our perspective we seek easy and quick solutions, satisfactory answers. In our impatience we get frustrated with God and allow ourselves to begin thinking that God does not care. We become discouraged and seek solutions and answers of our own creation. No matter how much we believe in the final resurrection, it is in the day to day trenches of life that the limits of our trust are strained.  God’ silence, however, does not mean that God is absent, that God has abandoned us, that we are left alone to struggle with our own problems. There are dimensions of issues about which we know nothing; there are possibilities and opportunities that are beyond our human limitations to conceive of. So, we must wait and quietly trust, knowing that God is working out something.

In this particular story of Lazarus, that becomes abundantly clear. The story of Jesus’ delay in starting out for Bethany is a lesson for us; it is not a sign of Jesus’ indifference. Rather it is a sign of his love. The delay is for the sake of Martha and Mary, for the sake of the disciples, and for our sake as well. Jesus knew that the ultimate outcome God would work through him, the resurrection of Lazarus, would only strengthen their faith. When Jesus arrives outside Bethany, Martha meets Jesus, saying, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died.” Her words are words of regret. Indeed, she expresses her confidence that her brother, Lazarus, will be raised to life on the last day, but in no way does she anticipate that Jesus will act in that moment. She seems resigned to her loss, as does her sister, Mary. Neither one of them, nor any of those who accompany them to the grave, not even the disciples, anticipate what will happen next. They do not even hope for it.

In the moments of their deepest pain, Jesus responds, restoring Lazarus to life. God acts in unexpected ways in the midst of their sorrow. But it is done in God’s time, in God’s way – in this moment, Martha and Mary comprehend the power of God at work through Jesus. Jesus acts in order that they might understand the glory of God revealed through Jesus. Their trust, even in the midst of their suffering, brought Martha and Mary a new hope and strengthened their faith.  And so it is with us as well. As we trust God, we may be surprised. As we wait patiently, we may find that God acts in unexpected ways to help us grow in faith, even in the midst of suffering. The important thing is that God does not abandon us. God does not forget us. God does not remain silent. There is nothing that can happen to us, to our loved ones or to our world that can separate us from God. Suffering never has the last word. For the same Jesus who restored Lazarus to life and was himself raised from the dead to eternal life, assures us even now: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and those who live and believe in me will never die.”