Worship: May 10, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Festival of the Christian Home
May 10, 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.
Please also read the Scripture lessons for the morning.

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
Come, let us worship our God, whose love is like that of a mother for her child,
a love that always seeks the highest good,
a love that never lets go, a love that reaches even into eternity.

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
As we gather, we raise our prayer of thanks
for those we call family —
the family that gathers in our homes,
the family that is scattered elsewhere,
the family of close friends,
the family of faith, here and around the world.

*GATHERING HYMN # 14 “For the Beauty of the Earth”
Re-printed under CCLI #1149146
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light.
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony linking sense and sound and sight.
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild.
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best gift divine to the world so freely given,
For that great, great love of thine, peace on earth and joy in heaven.
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

TIME OF CONFESSION
The God revealed to us in the pages of Scripture is a welcoming and inclusive God who
directs us to love one another. So, we gather to seek removal of all barriers to that love.
Come to confess all that separates you from others and from your own best.
For sins we have committed as members of our families, forgive us, we pray.
For words that were spoken in anger and haste, forgive us, we pray.
For actions that were selfish and immature, forgive us, we pray.
For attitudes that were unsupportive and unforgiving, forgive us, we pray.
For judgments that were critical and unfeeling, forgive us, we pray.

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

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
God was in Christ, not only reconciling us to himself,
but also reconciling us to one another.

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 # 613 “O Lord, our Lord”
Re-printed under CCLI #1149146
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
It is now our privilege to invest our tithes and offerings in the
worldwide effort to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.

(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”
Re-printed under CCLI #1149146
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.
3
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
God, you generously pour out the gifts of your Spirit upon your people.
Give us the grace to be as charitable as you have been toward us.

LITANY FOR THE FAMILY
God of all Living and Loving:
How pleasant it is when women, men, and children live together in unity!
How noble is your creation and the world that you have made!
How blessed we are to receive the gifts of life and love!
We are thankful for families,
where scattered piles of stuff testify that we live fully in the moment;
where the noise of laughter and the silence of sadness are freely shared;
We are thankful for families,
where we find sanctuary from danger and judgment;
where words of love and openness are the rule of life.
We are thankful for families,
where our differences are the spices of life;
where our unity is something that we can always take for granted.
We grieve for families,
where violence and rejection are living realities;
where hearts are broken, and dreams are shattered.
We grieve for families,
where walls of protection become fortresses of isolation,
where language is a weapon of destruction and hate.
Help us to understand,
those families whose identities are different from ours;
Help us to understand,
the ways of loving, parenting, partnering and working together for peace.
Help us to dare,
to stand strongly against hate and divisiveness;
to encounter our differences with love and respect.
This we believe:
that love is stronger than hate; that hope is stronger than despair,
and that good is stronger than evil.
In the name of the One who is Loving and Living. Amen.

FIRST LESSON
Acts of the Apostles 7: 55-60, p. 118 (NT)

7:55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
7:57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.
7:58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
7:59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
7:60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

GOSPEL LESSON
St. John 14: 1-14, p. 102 (NT)

14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
14:4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
14:7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – Pastor George’s sermon – it can also be viewed at this link, just copy and paste in your browser.

May 10, 2020
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Festival of the Christian Home
Acts of the Apostles 7: 55-60 St. John 14: 1-14

This is the day we celebrate Mother’s Day or the Festival of the Christian Home – a day that we might well observe 365 days a year rather than just one. Parents, I have a special message for you this morning. Whenever you are feeling particularly worn and haggard after a day when your children just seemed to get the better of you, remember that even God’s all mighty power did not seem to extend to God’s children. After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing God said to them was:
“Don’t.”
“Don’t what?” Adam replied.
“Don’t eat of the forbidden fruit,” God said.
“Forbidden fruit. We got forbidden fruit?” Hey, Eve… we got forbidden fruit!”
“No way!”
“Yes way!”
“Don’t eat that fruit!” said God.
“Why?”
“Because I am your father and I said so!” responded God, wondering why He hadn’t stopped after making the elephants.
And wouldn’t you know, a little while later God saw His children having an apple break and God became very upset.
“Didn’t I tell you not to eat the forbidden fruit?” the First Parent asked.
“Uh huh,” Adam replied.
“Then why did you?”
“I dunno,” Eve answered.
“She started it,” Adam said.
“Did not!”
“Did too!”
“Did not!”
Having had it with them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. In this way the pattern was set and it has always been like that since the beginning of time. So, if you have tried over and over again to give your children wisdom and they haven’t taken it, don’t be so hard on yourself. If God had trouble handling children, what makes you think it would be any easier for you?

Family. What do you think of when you think of the word, family? Of course, there is the biological family – mother, father, children, stepchildren, grandparents, today a really mixed understanding of the biological family. There is the family of choice – those people to whom you may not be blood related, but your relationship is just as close, if not closer, than blood relation. And there is a family that I am reminded of each Holy Week – the family that Jesus gathered together in that room where he met his disciples for the last time. It was a family of those whom he had chosen and has an urgent message for His disciples, and for us; things that He wants to tell us before He goes away. “I am with you only a little longer,” Jesus says, and “you will look for me, “but where I am going you cannot come.” And because the disciples could not at that time follow where Jesus was going, he told them that he was going to prepare a place for them and, out of his love, Jesus would return to take them to that place. It is a statement of reassuring love that they would be separated from Jesus for only a little while.

We too wait for that time when Jesus shall receive us to that place that is promised to those who wait in faithfulness. And it is what we do in this waiting time that reflects our confidence in Jesus’ love for us and our trust in God’s abiding grace and mercy. Jesus may be physically gone from this earth, but we will find him in the love that we share. We will find Jesus whenever the love of our brothers and sisters becomes a sign of God’s love for us.

Most of us first experienced love in the arms of our mothers of both of our parents. The effect of a parent’s love on the growing child cannot be overestimated. Any clergy can tell you that an adult who has experienced unconditional love as a child finds it much easier, even as an adult, to believe in and accept God’s love. It is the adult who did not receive this kind of love who winds up in the pastor’s office saying, “God couldn’t love ME, or, “God couldn’t forgive ME.” Or perhaps they never visit the pastor at all, but just go through life feeling unloved and unworthy. It is the adult who did not receive this kind of unconditional love who believes that God is a severe and stern God, always looking for the mistakes and ready to punish.

Mothers, and fathers, are not perfect. Even the most loving of parents have no doubt made mistakes with their children. If we grew up in a loving environment, then we are fortunate. If we didn’t receive the kind of love we needed when were young, it is never too late. God’s love is always available. God does indeed say to us, “I’ll love you forever, for always my child you will be.” And God calls us to be instruments of that same love for our brothers and sisters, to live in a community where God’s love is shared and experienced. If this is true, then what is the love that Jesus intends for the community of faith? It is the quality of mutual love and concern for one another that Jesus believes is our greatest attraction. People within the life of the church, as a community of faith, live differently from others. The end result of that mutual love and concern is that others take notice and wonder how these Christians love one another. Within the life of the community of faith, each one is valued and cherished – the pain of one is felt by all and the joys of one are celebrated by all. Value is determined, not by what that person can do, but rather simply because that person is, like everyone else, a child of God. There are plenty of places and organizations where there are disputes and petty bickering, but the community of faith is different and calls attention to itself precisely because it is different.

In this intimate gathering of His disciples, Jesus is telling them that love is an expression directed to individual persons. Jesus is not commanding them to love the world, but to love one another. Christian love has to do with actual people, people who have a name and a name we know, people with whom God has shared our lives. To love as Christ loves has to do with real people, one by one. Christian love begins with precisely those whom God has bound us in the church and in our families. It is not possible to love “all of humanity” without loving first those who share our lives on a daily basis. If you don’t care about the people who are your church family, then it is impossible to say that you care about some nameless child in a remote village in Africa. How you feel about the people with whom you are in contact on a regular basis says a great deal about your attitudes toward those in extreme need but anonymous to you. And finally, the kind of love about which Jesus is speaking has to do with accepting love, being on the receiving end of love. That may be the most difficult aspect of love. This is especially true for those who have been very unselfish throughout their lives and then find it a struggle when the shoe is on the other foot. But for love to be Christian, we have to be able to receive it as well as give it. None of us wishes to be totally on the receiving end, helpless and dependent, for it is an attack on our pride. But in a very real way, to receive love with thanks is also a way to express love. I believe it is true that the one who benefits the most from giving is the giver – for those who give actually receive the larger blessing. As we are able to give of ourselves, we feel ourselves also drawn closer to Christ – we feel like we are participating in the work that Christ would have us do. Those who receive, with gratitude, then help draw us to Christ. Think about it – isn’t there a real satisfaction from giving, and isn’t it frustrating to not be able to give; so when you refuse to receive, you are actually causing another person unneeded anxiety. If by receiving the generosity of another Christian, we are helping to bring that person closer to Christ, then that is indeed sharing the love of that same Christ.

To love as Christ loves us is the best way we as Christians can love each other. It reflects our commitment to each other and to our biological families as well. For what greater gift can we give each other and our children than the joy and the peace that is found in experiencing God’s presence near us? We are called to live differently with each other and among those in our wider community; to be supportive of one another in our sorrows and in our joys; to nurture and to challenge one another as needed; and to be open to receiving the gifts that we have to offer one another. In this way we can use the waiting time until Jesus comes to receive us as a way of reflecting what we know Jesus wants us to do and how Jesus wants us to be. Amen.

SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
Holy God, we your people remain scattered this morning;
We cannot worship together as your family,
but perhaps even more stressful is that we cannot gather on this day
as biological families to celebrate with people who are special to us.
We are disappointed, but we know that we want our families
to be safe in these difficult days.
We lift up our prayers for our own families and all the families of the world
that all may be blessed by your loving and caring presence.
We know and we trust that even as we are scattered,
you remain near to us as your people and your witnesses in the world.
As you have been with all people through the ages,
so you remain near to us and for this we give you thanks.
Send your Holy Spirit and its mighty power to be with us,
that in you we might have strength and patience in these times.
We pray for all those who continue to work toward finding treatments and a vaccine
so that this coronavirus will lose its power over society
and we can get back to more normal days.
Even though we cannot be together as one,
we remain together in your spirit and we share in the breaking of the bread.
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.
We give you thanks, O merciful God, for this bread
through which we receive the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
May it strengthen us always to be your willing and obedient servants
until that time when life’s journey ends,
and we share in the eternal feast of your heavenly realm. Amen.

BENEDICTION

*CLOSING HYMN # 65 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”
Re-printed under CCLI #1149146
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land,
I am weak, but thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer, be thou still my strength and shield;
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside.
Death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.

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

COMING UP NEXT WEEK:
May 10 Zoom Worship service 9:00 a.m.
May 13 Zoom Bible Study 6:30 p.m.

LOOKING FORWARD:
May 17 Zoom Worship service 9:00 a.m.
May 18 Consistory virtual meeting 7:00 p.m.
May 20 Zoom Bible Study 6:30 p.m.

ZOOM BIBLE STUDY: Bible Study is open to anyone wishing to participate. Just let the office or Pastor George know your interest so a Zoom invitation can be sent to you prior to the meeting.

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 UPDATE: In addition to the bulletin and sermon sent by email blast and the youtube sermon, Pastor George is beginning a Zoom worship service on Sundays at 9:00 a.m. If you would like to participate, please let the office know so that an invitation can be sent to you. Please continue to pray for our nation, our state, our health care workers, and our service industry workers as we face the challenges of gradually re-opening the economy. We look forward to the time when we can gather in one place to worship and praise God.