Worship: May 3, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Sunday of the Good Shepherd
May 3, 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
“My sheep hear my voice,” said Jesus, “I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
Hearing the invitation of the Good Shepherd,
let us come to hear his voice and to follow him wherever he leads.
We come today, each with our own needs.
If we are weary, may we find rest.
If we are anxious, may we find calm.
If we are afraid, may we find confidence.
If we are doubting, may we find renewal.
If we are ailing, may we find healing.
If we are apathetic, may our commitment be energized.

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Draw us together, Eternal One, from paths of aimless wandering.
Lead us toward the community you intend.

Draw the fragments of our lives together into some meaningful whole.
Help us deal with present concerns in constructive ways,
yet point us beyond ourselves to engage with you in larger issues.
Help us feel the hunger and thirst of others;
then lead your Church to make a caring response.
May your love fill us and overflow into the lives of others.

*GATHERING HYMN # 187 “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us”

Savior, like a shepherd lead us; much we need your tender care.
In your pleasant pastures feed us; for our use your fold prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, you have bought us: we are yours.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, you have bought us: we are yours.

We are yours: in love befriend us; be the guardian of our way.
Keep your flock; from sin defend us; seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, hear your children when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, hear your children when we pray.

You have promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
You have mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse, and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, early let us turn to you.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, early let us turn to you.

Early let us seek your favor; early let us do your will.
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with your love our spirits fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, you have loved us; love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, you have loved us; love us still.

TIME OF CONFESSION
How often it is winter in our lives.
The good we would do seems frozen within us, and our faith is cold and sluggish.
A voice calls us to believe and to care,
to confess our doubts and awaken the potential within us.
Let us confess our unwillingness to follow the Good Shepherd
wherever he might lead us.

Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd to all who will follow you,
we confess that we have erred and strayed like lost sheep,
we have sometimes obeyed the call of false shepherds,
we have sometimes neglected to give thanks while walking in the pleasant meadows,
and we have sometimes failed to trust you as we walked through the dark valleys.
Forgive us for not following more closely,
and give us the confidence that you always walk with us.

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

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Be assured of this:
God sees us,
God loves us,
God pardons us,
and God leads us.
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”

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
Jesus, in calling himself the Good Shepherd, said,
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Let us give generously so the words of Jesus can be fulfilled.

(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
Our tithes and offerings this morning are accompanied by prayers that others
will hear and accept the invitation to be members of the flock of the Good Shepherd.

FIRST LESSON
Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47, p. 112 (NT)

2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
2:43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.
2:44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;
2:45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
2:46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,
2:47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

GOSPEL LESSON
St. John 10: 1-10, p. 97 (NT)

10:1 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.
10:2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
10:3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
10:4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
10:5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
10:6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
10:7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
10:8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
10:9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.
10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING –  Pastor George’s sermon
You can either read it or copy and paste this link into your browser to see it on youtube: https://youtu.be/v7p6T4X_ZIc

May 3, 2020
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47
St. John 10: 1-10

Just before we moved into the pandemic time of social distancing and the closing of nonessential businesses, my neighbors down the street adopted a young, furry puppy. Her name is Freda, and she has the shape and conformity of a German Shepherd but is a deep brown and black – and very lively. I walked past their house one morning this week and my neighbors were outside working on building a rail fence around their backyard. I told them that I didn’t think that a rail fence would do much good at keeping Freda in their yard, but the neighbor pointed out to me that they were installing a mesh wire fence attached to the split rail fence to keep her inside. A decorative fence and a second utilitarian fence so the dog will have the freedom to run in the backyard while keeping her confined inside of the area they chose.

I have another neighbor who lives in the opposite direction and whose house I passed by about a week and a half ago and stopped to admire their garden which was beginning to grow. The neighbor came outside and we talked, of course observing social distancing, and she told me that she was going to be installing a wire fence around the garden that day in order to keep the rabbits out of her garden. She didn’t want the rabbits to eat her sugar peas and lettuce and everything else she was trying to grow.
One neighbor building a fence to keep something inside, namely their dog; the other neighbor building a fence to keep something outside, namely rabbits. That got me a bit curious about my neighborhood as I took walks this week and I discovered that lots of my neighbors have fences of some sort or another. There is the neighbor who has a fence built around his swimming pool as required by law to protect unattended children or stray animals from falling into the pool by accident. There are white picket fences that serve mostly a decorative function and really have no utilitarian purpose at all, except more grass trimming. There is a neighbor who has a high fence around his property with a “No trespassing” sign which obviously is intended to keep people away. There are natural fences using bushes to create a hedge that serves as a kind of barrier, maybe to keep any errant vehicle from hitting the house.
Many types of fences dot the towns and hillside, cities and industries all around us. These fences can give us a lot of information, if we pay attention to them and really take notice. Some fences are to keep people or animals out, and others to keep them in. Some are so old that they aren’t doing much good anymore. Some fences are welcoming, others formidable. But so much of all this depends on our perspective, doesn’t it? If we live in a gated community, we welcome the kind of fence that surrounds the community because of the protection that it affords us; but if we are incarcerated and imprisoned, the fence keeps us from freedom. It’s all a matter of how we look at the fenced-in area, isn’t it?

Now there is something else about a fence as well; that is, a fence has a gate, a moveable structure that controls the entrance and exit from the inside to the outside of the fenced in area. And in this morning’s Scripture image, Jesus refers to himself as the shepherd who leads his sheep in and out of the fenced area. Now let me tell you something about shepherds and sheep in the days of Jesus. There were, of course, many shepherds in a village, each with his own flock of sheep. They would take the sheep out into the surrounding countryside to graze during the day, each one probably having his own special area for his flock; and then in the evening, he would lead his sheep back again. But each shepherd did not have his individual fenced-in area for his sheep. The sheep of all the shepherds were together in one fenced-in area where they mingled with one another at night, secure and safe against predators. The next morning the shepherd would go to the gate and call his sheep and, the sheep knowing the voice of their shepherd, would follow him. Notice that the sheep willingly follow the shepherd out into the meadows because they trust the shepherd and know that he will be with them through all the possible dangers. This is in contrast to cattle you know, don’t you? If you want cattle to go where you want them, you have to herd them; you have all seen the western movies of the cattle drives, where the cowboys are constantly having to watch if one of the cows strays from the herd and then ride his horse to get them back into the herd. Cattle don’t very easily follow, although I do know occasions when dairy farmers have had cows for a long time, those cows will respond to his voice. But sheep do that as a natural course of their lives, they follow the voice of the shepherd.

Jesus refers to himself in this morning’s Gospel as the good shepherd, the one who calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And Jesus says, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” It is safe to say that just as a shepherd who not only keeps his sheep alive, but provides for them abundantly – abundant grass, abundant water – and therefore his sheep are held in the highest favor; so will those who follow Jesus find an abundant and favored life. We learn something about Jesus and about ourselves from John’s image: a shepherd is to his sheep, as Jesus is to the faithful.
The dynamics between sheep and shepherd seem simple but are really quite profound. On the surface, the shepherd leads the sheep out to the pasture, where they fill themselves on grass, and then return to the safety of the sheepfold. Nothing to it.
But in reality, there is much more to the relationship in order for the sheep to not only survive but to flourish. Firstly, the sheep must trust the shepherd to lead them to a place of good grass and clean water. The shepherd needs to know the territory, the surrounding area, and its current conditions either by personal observation or through the qualified reporting of other trusted shepherds. The shepherd must build a positive track record of consistently leading his sheep to good feeding grounds or else they may start resisting his leadership. Who wants to follow a shepherd who repeatedly leads the sheep to dry or sparse grassland and to foul water?
Secondly, the sheep need to know the look, the voice, and the ways of the trusted shepherd so that they do not follow an impostor. To be honest, sheep are among God’s dumber animals. Most sheep are completely unable to recognize danger even when it is staring them in the face. Their best hope for survival is their ability to recognize their good and protective shepherd who can not only lead, but also protect.  And thirdly, the shepherd must have a clear idea of what is best for sheep. He must spend time considering the life and the condition of the sheep in order to guide them to the best possible choices. The shepherd does not want his sheep to be mediocre and barely surviving; he wants them to have a full and abundant life so he leads to green pastures and good, clean water. It turns out that shepherding carries with it tremendous responsibility.

And now I am going to ask you to use your imagination for a few minutes to think about what this image of the shepherd and the sheep might mean for us today. Let’s think about the church where we usually worship every Sunday morning as the safe and secure place where we are nourished and sustained and fed by the presence of God in music and in word and in fellowship with each other. Like where the sheep spend the night. But like the sheep, we cannot stay in that sheltered place. The shepherd, Jesus, calls us to go out into the world and promises us that as we follow the Good Shepherd, we will experience life to the fullest and in abundance. As we do the work that we are called to do as the people of God, to share the Good News in word and deed – proclaiming God’s loving presence with all those who are open to a merciful God and responding to the needs of those around us, we will know a life of purpose, of peace, and of value for ourselves. As we have been nurtured and strengthened, supported and affirmed by Jesus, so we go out into the world to do the same. We follow in hope and in trust because we have experienced the Good Shepherd in our lives. He goes with us out into the world, and we find life in all its abundance. This is our hope and our confidence as we live each day.

SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
Holy God, we your people are scattered this morning.
Because of this pandemic we are not able to gather as we usually do,
and we miss our time together. We miss our church family, our friends, as well as the music and the sense of fellowship that renews us and reminds us that we are your people.
So we pray for that day when we can again worship together
and give praise and honor to your holy name.
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.
We remember those early followers who gathered in their homes
and shared bread together and felt the joy of their common life.
They knew the hope and the power that your spirit provides to your people.
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 # 542 “God Be with You Till We Meet Again”

God be with you till we meet again, loving counsels guide, uphold you,
With a shepherd’s care enfold you; God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again; unseen wings protecting hide you,
Daily manna still provide you; God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again; when life’s perils thick confound you,
Put unfailing arms around you; God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again; keep love’s banner floating o’er you;
Smite death’s threatening wave before you; God be with you till we meet again.

ZOOM BIBLE STUDY: Pastor George will be holding a Zoom Bible study this Wednesday, May 6th from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. If you are interested in attending, please let him know so he can send an email Zoom invitation to you.

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: Sunday School has been cancelled for May. Zion’s worship services and all meetings at church are cancelled as we wait for the Governor to lift stay-at-home orders and limits on social gatherings. 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.