ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
May 31, 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
The Spirit of God moves among us,
binding us in covenant with faithful people of every time and place.
The Spirit moves within us,
empowering us to proclaim the gospel to all people.
The Spirit moves through us, making us channels of God’s love.
As we gather to worship, we open ourselves
to the Spirit of the living God made known to us in Jesus Christ.
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Holy God, in joyous expectation, we celebrate the birth of your Church.
Pour out your Spirit on all flesh, that our sons and daughters may prophesy,
the young see visions and the old dream dreams.
Re-create us as daring people, open to the new possibilities you offer.
Calm our fears, lest they block us from receiving your power.
Refashion our doubts, that they may lead to bold witness
rather than cautious retreat.
Come, Holy Spirit, to renew your Church.
TIME OF CONFESSION
How often this week have we pondered the magnificent blessings and presence of God?
How have we cared for God’s creation and responded to God’s people?
What have we done to encourage life at its fullest and best?
We violate God’s purpose by our neglect
as well as by our obvious misdeeds.
God invites us to confess our sins and to seek forgiveness
that we might find new life and renewal of life.
Forgive us, Holy Spirit, if we have turned away our ears,
lest you call us to do something we don’t want to do.
Forgive us if we have closed our mouths,
embarrassed to be witnesses of what you have done for us.
Forgive us if we have sealed off our minds,
resisting truth we do not want to believe.
Give us courage to be open to your guidance,
wherever you will lead, and whatever you wish us to become.
Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that
keep us from being fully free.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you
in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven,
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away,
everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
Thank God for this magnificent gift of love.
THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us:
prophecy, in proportion to faith; in ministry, in ministering;
the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation;
the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence;
the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Let us share our gifts, along with our tithes and offerings, as a witness to our loving God.
(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.)
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
We may not actually speak in tongues, but by our gifts
may we enable people of other cultures and languages
to hear the good news in words they can understand.
Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-21, p. 111 (NT)
2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
St. John 20: 19-23, p. 108 (NT)
20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION
THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you can also view the sermon at https://youtu.be/tgIAQGo1J90 – just copy the link and paste in your browser)
May 31, 2020
Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-21
St. John 20: 19-23
Back in the “old days” I think that every small town and village had a place where people would gather in the evening to share the latest news, to socialize, to gossip, and to just loaf. The days before television and the internet, the days before people thought nothing of going to Gettysburg a couple nights a week to go out to eat or shopping, the days before lots of youth activities and social activities that scattered people to many different locations. I suspect the closest thing to a gathering place in Arendtsville today would be the volunteer fire company, where people just go, not for any particular reason necessarily but just to be among friends.
In one of the villages of the parish where I once served as pastor there was a small auto repair shop, which also served as the men’s loafing place – particularly during the winter months. It had been a place where the men gathered for many years, sort of a counterpart to the general store located nearby which served as the gathering place for the women of the community and the area. The general store had closed a long time before, but the men still had “their place” to congregate, to play cards, and to share the latest local stories of hunting, of farming, and, of course, the most recent gossip. I arrived in that parish in the middle of November, so the gathering place, particularly in the evenings, was well attended with men talking and playing a card game called “Euchre”. It so happened that in the first couple of weeks that I was serving there, I made a point of going to the garage just to say hello to the owner. It was quite apparent that immediately when I entered the garage the conversation changed from English to Pennsylvania Dutch. It wasn’t done for nasty reasons, but it was a natural change for these folks when someone new and different “invaded” their territory. It was their way of letting me know that I was a stranger, a newcomer to the area. Now, unbeknownst to them, I had never heard my grandparents speak English until I was ten years old and my parents spoke Pennsylvania Dutch at the dinner table when I was a little kid until we began to understand it. Oftentimes when company arrived at my parent’s home or we went visiting, the adult conversation was in Pennsylvania Dutch. So, although it had been many years, I could understand most of their conversation. When their conversation changed, I just got an inner smile and knew that I would handle the situation in my own way. After about three weeks of this transition from English to Pennsylvania Dutch upon my entering the garage, I walked in and they began to talk in Pennsylvania Dutch about the weather. I walked over to the counter where the owner was sitting and allowed the conversation to continue for a while, and then I turned around and simply said, “I was listening to the radio on the way over here and they said it is only supposed to rain and not turn cold enough to snow tonight.” After they picked up their jaws from the card table, the problem was solved – and I had made a couple friends in the process. The fact that I could understand Pennsylvania Dutch was extremely helpful for me along the way – it allowed many of the older people, who were used to speaking Pennsylvania Dutch all week long, to speak to me in the language which was most comfortable for them, while I responded in English.
Being able to communicate with one another is a wonderful gift that God has given to us. To be able to express, through our verbal language and our nonverbal actions – ideas, feelings, facts, wisdom, emotions. These are absolutely essential to our being human. Language unites us, it gives us a common identity. To not be able to speak the language of the people around you is an isolating experience. It leaves you feeling separated, alone, out of place, that you don’t belong. You know how it feels when you are in the store and there are a number of Mexican people speaking Spanish – you feel a bit “threatened” by the fact that you don’t understand what they are saying. Maybe they are talking about you – almost like a secret and you are left out. To understand another language is to have a grasp of the culture, the ideas and the feelings of the people. That is what makes the Day of Pentecost so meaningful. We are told in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles that on this day the Holy Spirit came, with a rush of mighty wind and tongues of fire, resting upon each of those early followers. Afterward, when they spoke, the Spirit so manipulated their words that their message was understood by the multitude and diversity of people who had gathered in Jerusalem from around the world.
In the events in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, we see walls and barriers being broken; the things that divided people, separating them one from the other, were being removed. We see the possibility that things that create mistrust and misunderstanding and even hostility between people can be overcome, if only the message of God’s love in Christ Jesus is communicated effectively and honestly. On the Day of Pentecost, the stage is set for the disciples. Jesus was God’s message of love come to us in human flesh. Before he left, he gathered his disciples and promised them the continual presence of the Holy Spirit; this gift of the Spirit would empower them to proclaim to the crowds the message of God’s love and mercy for all people.
Just about two thousand years later we, who descend by faith from those earliest followers of Jesus, are still challenged to complete the task begun in Jerusalem. We have been challenged with the responsibility to bear the timeless message of God’s love, a message of hope to a divided world. At the same time the Spirit has provided us with the needed gifts to break down the barriers that separate people from each other and from God. God makes the message known through us. God promises that the Holy Spirit will use our witness, no matter how insufficient or insignificant it might seem, so that we can effectively share the Good News to the world.
This is not a complicated task. It requires no advanced education, nor some difficult-acquired talent. The spirit can take the simplest of what we have to offer to create experiences which can shape and impact the lives of others. God can take the honestly given smile, the warm handshake, the expression of genuine concern and use them for glory. In these pandemic days, perhaps we need to put a smile image on our face masks as a sign of welcome or find a new way to greet other than a handshake, but we will find ways to offer an expression of hope to those whom we meet. We aren’t talking about earth-shattering feats; changing the world comes about in the small actions of ordinary people. We keep the goal of the world before us, but we start precisely where we are. With the Spirit’s presence and blessing we can do far more than we imagine. We may never be aware or see results, but we trust that God will use what we do in ways we will never understand.
Mother Teresa is an example of one who began with the simple task of caring for the people around her in Calcutta, India. She has been joined in that task by many others, including one young man who was featured in a documentary about her life. This young man had been given the task of working with a group of eight boys who were without parents and homeless. He became their parent, their teacher and their friend, raising them and living with them. When the reporter asked if he wasn’t discouraged because there are literally thousands of such children in Calcutta, the young man simply responded, “Here are some boys who need me. I am able to help them. That’s all that matters.”
The language of God’s love and mercy experienced through Jesus Christ; a language spoken in words and by deeds. A language that breaks down the barriers of a world trapped by misunderstanding and mistrust. The power of the Holy Spirit continues to enable us to communicate the message, verbally and nonverbally, in a language understood by all humanity. May that Spirit so fill our lives, may we be open to receiving that Spirit, that with enthusiasm, commitment and a sense of purpose we may carry out the privilege and fulfill the responsibilities of being followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
Holy One, as we gather together at your table,
let this bread be a celebration of our thankfulness for your mercies and tender care, embodied in your Son, Jesus Christ, who walked among us,
and touched us, and healed us.
By partaking in this bread, we remember your providence
when you fed our ancestors with manna as they wandered in the desert.
We remember how Jesus fed the 5000 with only a few loaves of bread and some fish. Likewise, we remember the lilies of the field, holding onto the hope that
even as you care for these that neither toil nor spin, so will you also provide amply for us.
Holy God, we your people remain scattered this morning,
But we trust that you are near to each of us in this day and in all days.
You have promised that nothing can ever separate us from your love,
And that as we are open to your Spirit, you will make yourself known to us
wherever we might find ourselves.
As you poured out your Spirit in abundance upon those first disciples,
we pray for your Spirit to be upon us and within us in these difficult days.
Empower us to be your people in the world,
witnesses to your magnificent and overwhelming love at work even now.
In eating this bread may we be strengthened for the week ahead,
nourished in a spiritual way to be confident and hopeful.
May we be voices of reason and compassion in the midst of the strident
and often harsh rhetoric of those who are impatient and angry.
We understand the frustrations but seek to find a way
to provide both safety and security in these precarious times.
As we enter the time of “yellow” keep all those vigilant and respectful
as we slowly try to enter a new kind of normal.
We pray for all essential workers, for all those who continue to struggle
with unemployment and overwhelming need, for all those who are feeling forgotten,
for all who deal with illness, for all those who are afraid.
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.
Almighty and ever living God, we thank you for feeding us and for assuring us
that we are living members of your blessed and eternal community.
And now, Holy One, send us out to do the work that you have given us to do,
to love and to serve you as faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ.
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
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 31 Zoom Worship 9:00 a.m.
June 3 Zoom Bible Study 6:30 p.m.
June 7 Outdoor Worship Zion House 9:00 a.m.
Fellowship Committee notices: The worship picnic at Oakside Community Park, scheduled for June 14th, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings. The Hot Dog Roasts at Zion House will be held the last Sunday in June, July, and August at 6:00 p.m. Social distancing will be in effect; come join us for fellowship 6 feet apart.
Pastoral Care Needs: If you need to contact George, please feel free to call his home number, 717-334-0069 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zion’s College Students: If you have a student in college, please let Zion’s office know where they attend and what grade level they are. Zion’s members take great interest and pride in our young men and women and enjoy hearing of their accomplishments. Thanks.
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.
Worship Update: On June 7th, Zion will offer an outdoor worship service at 9:00 a.m. on the parking lot next to Zion House. You may stay in your car for worship or bring lawn chairs to place beside your car. Zion Consistory members will be there to direct
parking and handle logistics. Zion will also continue with Zoom Worship for those not comfortable with gathering quite yet. It will be held at 11:00 a.m. unless outdoor worship is cancelled. Bulletins and Pastor George’s sermon will continue to be sent via email, and the recorded sermon will be available on youtube. 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 again in the sanctuary to worship and praise God.
Community Aid Update: Hanover, York, and Mechanicsburg Community Aid retail stores re-opened May 22nd, and there are now regular pick-ups from the bin in Zion’s parking lot! Lancaster and Harrisburg stores remain closed.