ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 24, 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 Lord calls us to come aside for a time—
aside from our stresses,
aside from our selfishness,
aside from our strains,
to spend time with the spirit of the risen Christ and
to receive the blessing and benediction of the living God.
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Help us, Lord God, to sense your presence in this place,
to submit our wounds to the healing of your peace,
to open our souls to the revelation of your truth,
to yield our wills to the urgings of your Holy Spirit.
TIME OF CONFESSION
Each of us is allotted a ministry only we can carry out.
When we betray this trust and turn aside to pursue our own limited agendas,
who will share the story only we can tell?
Who will testify to the God who gives us life through Jesus Christ?
Holy God, we have been called together into the church
to live out the resurrection faith,
to embody Easter and touch lives as Jesus did.
We have not done this well.
Our vision has been narrow and limited.
Our testimony has been self-protective.
We listen to the wrong advisors and complain when things do not go our way.
Forgive our limited commitments and low expectations
And help us rediscover the delight and joy of full commitment.
Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that
keep us from being fully free.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Our God reassures us, promising,
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Thank God for this magnificent gift of love.
THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required;
and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
(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
Wishing to be responsible caretakers of all you have given us,
we present these tithes and offerings for the benefit of others
and for the proclamation of the good news of Christ.
Acts of the Apostles 1: 6-14, p. 110 (NT)
1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
1:7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.
1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.
1:11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
1:12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.
1:13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
1:14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
St. John 17: 1-11, p. 105 (NT)
17:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,
17:2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
17:4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.
17:5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;
17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.
17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION
THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you may also watch a recorded version of the sermon at https://youtu.be/V74By8XpXrI. Just copy link and paste in your browser.
May 24, 2020
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts of the Apostles 1: 6-14
St. John 17: 1-11
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” The disciples had been watching as their risen leader, Jesus Christ, left them to ascend to the throne of heaven. Their Savior, the one with whom they had experienced life for so many months and years, was going away from them. Even though he had told them that he would be going and had reassured them that they would not be alone, still it was a powerful moment for those disciples. I suspect that there were some very mixed feelings among the disciples on that day of the ascension.
Surely, it was a day to rejoice, for they were witnesses to the glory that lifted Jesus up to heaven. There were probably some who wished that they could accompany him at that very moment. There were probably some who sensed a bit of fear for themselves, a loneliness concerning what life would be like now that he was gone. And even some sense of confusion about the future. I suspect as well that these disciples paused to reflect on all the time that they had shared with Jesus, daydreaming about how they had followed him from village to village, listened to his words and saw the miracles that he had performed, amazed at the response of the crowds both in positive and negative ways. They most certainly thought about all the events in Jerusalem and the overwhelming amazement of his resurrection. And now they wondered how long it would be until he would return to them. Certainly, their minds were going at a fast pace. Whatever the personal thoughts of the disciples on that day, however, the question abruptly interrupted their contemplations: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
Ever so quickly, the disciples were brought back to reality. The events of the past are over. They could not relive the days when Jesus walked this earth with them. Their lack of faith, their doubts, their empty boasts of loyalty, their running away when danger came – all these things were real and there could be no changing them. The past was over, for good and for bad. Jesus had forgiven them. Now it was time to get on with their lives. But on to what? The disciples had to resist both the temptation to focus all their thoughts and energy on the past and on the future. Jesus would return to them in glory, but the question is “when?” These disciples could have spent their days in isolation, waiting and watching for tomorrow. But that is not what Jesus told them to do. He didn’t tell them to go and wait for him. Rather he told them to go out into all the world to be his witnesses. All the disciples had was the present moment and, in essence, Jesus told them, “Show what the power of God can do when it is alive in the fellowship and the community of those who believe. Show others what it means to be a follower of the way.” This remains the command of Jesus even today. He has not yet returned to rule over the universe. But we believe that Jesus, at the time of God’s choosing, will return to transform this world by His wondrous power. And we, who are bearers of the same commission as those first disciples, are being told to be at work in the world, serving as witnesses to the mighty power of God. As the lives of those first disciples were transformed by their experience of Jesus Christ in their lives – changed into different people with a new outlook on life, toward the world, and toward God – so those who wish to follow in the present day will, in our time, be about the business of witnessing and transforming the lives of others. It is in the context of the hope and the fellowship that we share with each other and with God, that we are called to serve. Just as the first disciples were given power and purpose, and so set out to fulfil their mission, so we are called to that same purpose and given the same power of the Holy Spirit today.
It is to serve that purpose that we are gathered together in the life of the church. When we talk about the church and its purpose, there are many answers. We often talk about the church as a family, a place where people feel nurtured and appreciated, where people are supportive of one another particularly when there is illness or disappointments or difficulties. We often talk of the church as a vehicle for doing good in the community, for sharing of our abundance by generous giving, by helping to replenish the food bank, by gathering diapers and underwear and socks, by financial support of social service agencies that seek to respond to the needs of the poor. We talk of the church as a fellowship, where people can enjoy each other’s company by sharing in a meal, by attending worship, by interacting with one another in healthy ways. However we may talk about the church and its purpose, it really does come down to one basic fact above all. The purpose of the church is to reach and seek to make disciples for Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news of God’s love in Christ and invite others to share in that good news. If the church does not make new disciples, it will soon be unable to do the other things that result from fulfilling its central purpose. It is the power of the Holy Spirit at work within the life of the church and individuals that enables us to reach out and invite.
That power of the Holy Spirit is a compelling and sustaining power. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to do that which seems to be impossible. It is this spirit that allows us to take risks, knowing that God will not judge us by our failure to be successful, but rather by our efforts done on behalf of that love that we have ourselves experienced by God’s grace. The Holy Spirit strengthens us to live out our faith as witnesses; not by my power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me.
Like all power, however, it is meaningless unless it is used. A couple of weeks ago I needed a flashlight for something; so, I found the flashlight, one that I probably have not used for at least a year. Of course, you might suspect what happened when I clicked the lever forward to turn on the flashlight. The batteries were dead because they had not been used for such a long time. All the power of the battery lies with potential inside the flashlight, but if it isn’t used that power will eventually be gone and the battery useless. You really aren’t doing the battery any favor by failing to use its power, by trying to save it.
In the same way the power of the Holy Spirit must be received and used. If this power of God, given to us to transform the lives of those around us, is something we refuse to share; if we think we will reserve it for some mysterious moment of great need, then sadly enough, we will eventually lose it. This power of God is given, not to be kept as a gift under wraps, safely locked away in a safe deposit box or kept under glass. The power of the Holy Spirit becomes more powerful as it is used; there is no danger that the supply will ever run out.
Sometimes, however, we are reluctant to use the power of the Holy Spirit that comes from God. Most of the time, I suspect that is because we realize that to use the spirit will make demands on us. It forces us to take responsibility for being a Christian. We would rather slip in and out of the pew on a Sunday morning and never be called to accountability for how we have used the power made available to us.
Yet there will be a time of judgment and accountability. When we reach the end of our earthly journey, we are promised a time of evaluation and accounting. It will make little difference how many life insurance policies we have purchased, the type of home that we own, or the number of people who attend our funeral. Nor will there be rewards for having played it safe, for having avoided risks because we might possibly fail or be embarrassed. We often seem to be able to come up with excuses for taking seriously our responsibility. When we are teenagers, we are too busy growing up with all the demands of school and activities; in our twenties, we are getting married, starting a family, settling into a job. In our thirties, we have children to raise and a house to tend. In our forties, those same children need to be sent to college and there are all the adjustments to a new situation. In our fifties, it is time to take care of ourselves. In our sixties, we are retiring and need to enjoy a bit of life after all the responsibilities of those earlier years. In our seventies and above, we say we are too old. As for the purpose and mission that God intends for us: “Not now; I’m too busy. But the Christian way calls us to live responsibly – not only to talk the talk but walk the walk. Serve as witnesses by our lifestyle priorities. Live in a particularl fellowship with each other.
Based on what Jesus has told us, it is likely that he will call us to accountability. We will have to respond to how we have used the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the world around us and to serve as witnesses to the risen Savior. And when the question comes to you: “How have you used the power made available to you; how have you spent your power on God’s behalf, on behalf of God’s people, for the sake of the Church, as a witness to the world?”, what will be your answer? There will be that time of judgment and accountability – there is no escape from it. We cannot afford the luxury of disregarding the call of Christ to each of us to be his witnesses to the world. We have been given power to use it. The time to use it is now. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
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.
We recognize that, in the midst of what seem like endless days,
We need your encouragement and the endurance you can give us
to deal with the ongoing need for social distancing and a cautious approach to life.
We get tired of wearing masks every time we go out
as if we were hiding from each other.
Grant us the hope that we will be enabled to continue as long as is necessary
To prevent the spread of this disease within our community.
We know that we need to be nourished by you, so we ask for you to make your presence known in this bread which we bring to you this morning.
Bless it and fill it with your Spirit that we may know that we abide in your love.
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 who are working to try to help us maintain as normal a life as possible; medical personnel, grocery store workers, first responders, trash collectors, sales clerks, truck drivers, and the many others who provide essential work at some risk to themselves.
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.
During this virus crisis, the Office Manager will often be working from home. Please call the office before stopping by.
Faith Family Updates:
Coming Up Next Week:
May 24 Zoom Worship 9:00 a.m.
Zoom Confirmation Mtg 6:00 p.m.
May 27 Zoom Bible Study 6:30 p.m.
May 31 Zoom Worship 9:00 a.m.
June 3 Zoom Bible Study 6:30 p.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 email@example.com.
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: Consistory and the Covid-19 Task Force are pleased to hear Adams County is moving to the Yellow Phase and are working on plans for outside worship in June. Please look for updates in the bulletin, by email, and by regular mail. 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.
Community Aid Update: Hanover, York, and Mechanicsburg Community Aid retail stores are re-opening Friday, May 22nd at 9:00 a.m. Lancaster and Harrisburg stores remain closed.