In Christ Alone (Virtual Choir #3-Accapella)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY4CW5pte98 Call to Worship Psalm 66:8-20 (Common English Bible) ll you nations, bless our God! Let the sound of his praise be heard! God preserved us among the living; he didn’t let our feet slip a bit.But you, God, have tested us— you’ve refined us like silver, trapped us in a net, laid burdens on our backs, let other people run right over our heads— we’ve been through fire and water. But you brought us out to freedom! So I’ll enter your house with entirely burned offerings. I’ll keep the promises I made to you, the ones my lips uttered, the ones my mouth spoke when I was in deep trouble.
I will offer the best burned offerings to you along with the smoke of sacrificed rams. I will offer both bulls and goats. Come close and listen, all you who honor God; I will tell you what God has done for me: My mouth cried out to him with praise on my tongue. If I had cherished evil in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. But God definitely listened. He heard the sound of my prayer. Bless God! He didn’t reject my prayer; he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me.
Welcoming the Light of Christ Please join me in welcoming the light of Christ into our midst. \ Recognition of Graduates Emma Hively, graduate of Red Lion Senior High School Alison Miller, graduate of Shippensburg University Daniel Mount, graduate of Pennsylvania State University Branden Reichard, graduate of Red Lion Senior School
Prayer for Our GraduatesBook of Worship 536God of truth and knowledge, by your wisdom we are taught the way and the truth. Bless our graduates as they now finish their course of studies. We thank you for those who taught and worked beside them, and all who supported them along the way. Walk with them as they leave school and move forward in life. Take away any anxiety or confusion of purpose. Strengthen their many talents and skills, instill in them a confidence in the future you plan, where energies may be gathered up and used for the good of all people; for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer Thanksgiving & Intercession BOW & 551 Almighty God, you are the shield of the oppressed. Hear us as we pray for the friendless, and the lonely, the tempted and the unbelieving. Be merciful to those who suffer, in body or mind, to those who are in danger or distress, and who have suffered loss. Let your love surround the sick and the aged. Be especially near to those who are passing through the valley of death. May they find eternal light at evening time; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Lord, we now place in your hands all who have been mentioned in your presence here today, and those who quietly remain on our hearts.
Bless them, heal them, and may your will be done in their lives.Almighty and merciful God, from you comes every good and perfect gift. We give you praise and thanks for all your mercies. Your goodness has created us, your bounty has sustained us, your discipline has chastened us, your patience has borne with us, your love has redeemed us. Give us a heart to love and serve you. And enable us to show our thankfulness for all your goodness and mercy by giving up ourselves to your service, and cheerfully submitting in all things to your blessed will; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
New Testament Lesson 1 Peter 3:13-18 (NIV) Gospel Lesson John 14:15-21 (NIV)
Morning Message You’ve Got a FriendLet’s pray. God of Wisdom and Love, bless the reading and receiving of your Word today. Use it to equip us for faithful service in your Kingdom. Amen. On March 13th, a little over two months ago, I had lunch with friends, and did some grocery shopping in East York. I thought I should stock up on some things since I have never been the type to keep a whole lot of food on hand, or toilet paper. This was also the day the Red Lion School District cancelled classes for two weeks. Very quickly as a church, we made the same decision. And as stay-at-home guidelines were put into effect, life in general changed. Work, school, income, the way we grocery shop, the way we eat restaurant food, even things like birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals had to be done differently.I am saying all of this fully aware that opinions on this matter, the rights and wrongs of it, the legality of it, are all over the board. But that’s not my point today. My point is simply that very suddenly life as we know it changed, and we all had to find a way to deal with.I remember the first couple of weeks I woke up every morning saying to myself, “Is this real? Is this really happening?”
Every single day. Like many of you, I swear I experienced every emotion possible: sadness, depression, anger, frustration and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.Then a friend of mine shared an article from the Harvard Business Review that gave a name to what I was experiencing, and that name was grief. Most therapists and counselors will tell you that if we can name it, we can find a way to deal with it.The article was an interview with David Kessler, who is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on grief.
I want to share a few quotes from the article: When asked if it was right to call some of what we’re feeling right now grief, he said:“Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”When asked how we can manage all this grief, he shared this advice:“Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world.
There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally, there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”Kessler adds that perhaps the most troubling thing about all of this is the open-endedness of it.*
We don’t know when it will end, or what the end will look like. We just don’t know.But naming this as grief has helped me deal with all this change tremendously. Personally, I’ve spent some time waffling between anger, bargaining, and sadness. It all still sets in now and then, just not as often. Just being honest here. I kind of like to do what I like to do. And I only like change if it suits me. But I have, by the grace of God, always came back to acceptance where I can continue to work on a plan and proceed with a new routine.And when I say “by the grace of God”, it’s not a cliché, or something that I say because I’m a pastor and I’m supposed to say nice stuff like that.I mean it with every ounce of my being. Despite the ups and downs, I fully trust God with all of this. We may be facing unknowns, but our Almighty God is not. He already knows the outcome of all of this. He is ultimately in control. I will place my faith and trust in him.
I said this earlier this year as we approached our denomination’s General Conference, which would have been this week. There was, and really still is, the threat of a split for United Methodists. All I know now is that we’re all going to have to live with each other for another year or so. But God knows what will happen. I trust him with that.I said it the first time in 2004 the night before my first cornea transplant. I didn’t know how that surgery would go, or what the result would be. But God did. I trusted him with it.The peace we experience in all the trials of life is because we claim the truth that God is all-knowing and he is in control. Job 12:10 says, “For the life of every living thing is in His hand, and the breath of all humankind.”AND because of what Jesus tells us in our Gospel reading today, “I will not leave you alone. I will not leave you as orphans.” In John 14:15-22, Jesus knew he would soon be leaving his disciples. But he also knew he would remain with them. How could this be possible? Jesus promised that the Advocate—the Spirit of God Himself---would come after Jesus was gone to care for and to guide the disciples.
In John 20:22, the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples just before Jesus ascended to heaven, and in Acts 2, the Spirit was poured out on all believers shortly before Jesus ascends to heaven. And this outpouring of the Holy Spirit continues even now for all who call on the name of Jesus.The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God within all Christians, helping us live as God wants and building Christ’s church on earth. By faith, we can rely on the Spirit’s power each and every day.This means we can rely on the Holy Spirit for comfort and counsel. Scripture tells that as our Advocate, he is our Comforter, our Counselor, and our Encourager. And Jesus promised he would be with us ALWAYS.With the Holy Spirit, we know God is on our side.
The end result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is deep, lasting peace. Unlike worldly peace, which is often defined as an absence of conflict, this peace is confident assurance in any circumstance. The peace of Christ through the Holy Spirit means we have no need to fear the present or the future. Sin, fear, uncertainty, doubt, and a host of other negative forces are at war within us. The peace that our Holy Spirit Comforter brings restrains every hostile force that can attack us. Sometimes we wish we could know the future so we can prepare for the future. God has chosen not to give us all that knowledge. He’s given us everything we need to live this day and this life. We can trust him to take care of the rest. And we can rest knowing he is with us every step of the way.I want to close with a quote from theologian Henri Nouwen in his book The Life of the Beloved: “My own experience with anguish has been that facing it and living it through is the way to healing. But I cannot do that on my own. I need someone to keep me standing in it, to assure me there is peace beyond the anguish, life beyond death, and love beyond fear.”
That, my friends, is who Jesus promises in the Holy Spirit: a friend and comforter through every storm, and a guide to show us the way. Praise be to God.(*from “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Called Grief”, found at hbr.org on May 13, 2020.)
Prayer of Confession (inspired by Luke 10:26-28, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31)Jesus said: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Eternal God, we confess that we often do not obey your commands, and that many times, we do things that satisfy our own stubborn and selfish will, and not your perfect, holy will. Jesus said: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But we rebel against that more often than we care to admit, most often because we are worried about our own needs.Forgive us, Loving God, remind us that you provide for our every need, and that you have promised to never leave us as orphans in this world. In Christ’s name. Amen.(silence for personal confession)
Words of Assurance (Titus 3: 4-8)“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.The saying is sure.” Amen.
The Lord’s PrayerLeader: And now, with the confidence of children of God, let us pray as Christ taught us:All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is inheaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass 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.
Dismissal with BlessingMatthew 5:14-16 (NIV): “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”