Sunday, May 10, 2020 Fifth Sunday of Easter T-Boned

Prelude: “Waymaker” by Michael W. Smith https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxTxSCf51ck

Alleluia! Christ is risen.   Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Welcome to our virtual worship. The Lord be with you.

Confession and Forgiveness

If you were to keep watch over sins, O Lord, who could stand? Yet with you is forgiveness, and so we confess: (I invite you to reflect in the privacy of your home before a time of confession.)

Confession: Gracious God, have mercy on us. We confess that we have turned away from you, knowingly and unknowingly. We have wandered from your resurrection life. We have strayed from your love for all people. Turn us back to you, O God. Give us new hearts and right spirits, that we may find what is pleasing to you and dwell in your house forever. Amen.

Forgiveness: Receive good news: God turns to you in love. “I will put my spirit in you, and you shall live,” says our God. All your sin is forgiven in the name of ☩ Jesus Christ, who is the free and abounding gift of God’s grace for you. Amen.

 Gathering Hymn: Alleluya! Jesus Is Risen! ELW 377 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nITcyewdmHI

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another, to follow in the way of his commandments, and to share his risen life with all the world, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 Selection of the Faithful: What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine, ELW 774 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJUqJczZG_4

HEARING OF GOD’S WORD

First Reading: Acts 7:55-60

55Filled with the Holy Spirit, [Stephen] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then 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. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then 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.

Psalm: Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

1In you, O Lord, have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me.
3Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and  my stronghold; for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.
4Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,
for you are my tower of strength. 
5Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me,   O Lord, God of truth.
15My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my  enemies, and from those who persecute me.
16Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” 

Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner,”
8and
“A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Gospel: John 14:1-14

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In 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? 3And 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. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus 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’? 10Do 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. 11Believe 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. 12Very 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. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

SERMON – T-Boned

Have you ever been T-boned by life? That brand new car was rammed from the side by a careless driver? Planning a vacation when the doctor reads the results? Preparing for surgery when Covid-19 moves surgery to July? Suddenly all our plans go topsy-turvy as we attempt to deal with life in real time. As I have been sharing, Easter and Easter season was a T-bone experience for the disciples and followers of Jesus. Their hero was crucified and the body disappeared. The first two weeks of Easter, we listened as followers shared about their encounters with the risen Christ shortly after the resurrection, before the ascension. Not one but hundreds of people report that they saw, touched, heard and interacted with him. He is alive! That’s one proof if we trust testimonies but that might not fit you.

Last week we reflected on a different approach. I test if something is real by juxtaposing the new experience with the old reality. Is there congruity? We looked at Jesus’s claim to be the Good Shepherd with the promise that we would hear his voice, that he was the gate allowing events to touch our lives, and ultimately he would gave us life, abundantly. We experience those claims in prayer, by perseverance through hard times with his presence, and with peace that passes understanding.

Today we look at another passage and another proof. Jesus is walking from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane, facing betrayal and crucifixion. What does he choose to talk about? He focused the disciples eyes on the goal of what was about to happen. Their hearts would be troubled but… Believe in him, he is going to prepare a place for us and we will be with him. Pie in the sky? Does the goal justify the price? Does sheltering flatten the curve and save lives? We know the question and live in the process!

I taught ELS for eight years in the Minneapolis Adult Education program with immigrants and refugees from all over the world, with tons of stories and all sorts of education from their home country. For some the story is being caught in political situations that T-boned their lives and brought them here but for many regardless of what led to their choice to seek entrance into the USA, a common theme emerged. One spouse works one or two jobs available for people with little language and the other spouse works the complementary shift. Child care was somehow shared or extended family was enlisted. They navigate exhaustion to get language to get a better life. Often I heard, Yes, I work at fast food, sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms, emptying trash but my children are in school, may go to college and will have a more comfortable life that I dream about. The parents sacrifice, enter upheaval, for the love of the perceived benefit for the children.

Life can be unsettled by the unexpected but it can also become unsettled because we choose chaos for the future good. Our passage today, I would propose is Jesus, knowing that life was going to be turned upside down, focused the disciples eyes on the process (a coping strategy), on place (a strategic goal to keep insight), and on their priest (their leader).

Believe in God, believe also in me.

PROCESS: FAITH

         I have a son who bungee jumped from Victoria Falls in Zambia. The jump is 111 meters, about 364 feet, or a bit more than a football field with the Zambezi River to meet him. Unlike our commercials, there was no soda can at the bottom to grab. It was a life changer for him. Talk about faith! Was the chord the right length? Would it hold? Was it worth it? Early Christians did not have government protection of their right to worship. So many faced horrible deaths, tarred and burned as torches, crucified, Heb. 11:32-40, “the world was not worthy of them.” They did not have a Bible in their language with multiple versions to compare and contrast. No TV, no FB, and no streaming options. No beautiful cathedrals with eloquent pastors to guide them. Knowing this future facing his followers, Jesus starts by saying, “Believe in me.”

As we struggle with the confinements of the social situation now, with the chaos of our political system, with the uncertainty of our economic system, Jesus calls us to faith in a person who is God and not faith in a world system that is fallible. Can you hear your kid asking, “And how does that work for you, Mom/Dad?” And there we are, back to testimony about relationship.

Perhaps this Sunday as we reflect on women that have been inspirational in our lives, we can take time to look back over the years and how faith in Christ has worked for us. Can you identify God’s faithfulness through the rough times, the reversals, the betrayals, the joys and the blessings? Perhaps He was there as a mother, as a wife, or some other woman who mothered you and modeled a life of faith. For many of us, we would say faith is not the result of a theological explanation but because of life lived believing in a Lord who walks with us. Jesus has been our Good Shepherd!

 

I go to prepare a place for you?

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.

A PLACE TOGETHER

“Where are you from?” is a question my children and I have struggled with. Are we from Los Angeles where our worldly belongings are stored or are we from Eldoret, Kenya, East Africa, a place that no-one knows and that pulls up visions of Tarzan? My son would say, “I’m not Joe Doe from Africa.” Jesus was known as “Jesus of Nazareth.” Paul was known as “Paul of Tarsus.” Darius was “Darius the Mead.” Jonah is identified with Ninevah. Adam and Eve came from the Garden of Eden. Place is important. Perhaps it identifies our roots, explains our idiosyncrasies, and gives a face to “home.”

Jesus told his followers at the beginning of his ministry, Matthew 8:20, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son Man has no place to lay his head.” Perhaps that works when he walks the countryside and people welcome him or he turns water into wine or feeds 5000 but what happens after the crucifixion and Jesus disappears? Where do the disciples belong, Jerusalem? This is an issue the early church faced. Judaism had always been identified with Jerusalem. Catholicism became identified with Rome or Constantinople? Our generation identifies with churches, buildings that are now closed. Where is our place? Where do you identify?

Covid-19 confronts this need of place for people. If parents die, where is the home I can run to and identify with? Place is deeply connected to identity. After my parents died, I had an argument with my husband, stomped out and drove to the local library and sat in my car crying. I had no place to retreat anymore, no one who held my history, valued my person. Choices to enter chaos are choices that bring a sense of disconnect from one place while verrrrry gradually connection develop with the new place that is never quite home.

Jesus speaks into our very core need. He is going before us to prepare a place for us to be with him. “Going before” means the home is ready with no mortgage. It is prepared, shelves fully stocked. We came home on furlough one year with five small children and our Sunday school class had stocked our cupboard! What surprise will await us, I do not know, but it is prepared. We are not forgotten and “heaven” will not be surprised when we arrive! And lastly, we will be with him. Now we have a picture, an image! What does it mean? Look to the Gospels where being with Jesus meant the blind were healed, the thirsty fed, the dead raised, the truth spoken, and children valued. Place is so important and Jesus assures his followers that he is going BEFORE to PREPARE a PLACE to be with HIM. What a wonderful vision to keep before us as we tread the challenges of this life.

 

11Believe 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.

PRIEST

 

The priest was the person who mediated between God and his people. The prophet spoke God’s words but the priest, stood between God and humans. During this pandemic, pastors everywhere are working to keep connected with their people. Sheep without a shepherd are vulnerable.

The priests handled the sacrificial system. It is important that the disciples and we understand that Jesus and God are together. The shepherd puts himself between his sheep and the enemy. Jesus is here speaking into the end of the sacrificial system, the link between God and people. He is God. He is the sacrifice. After the crucifixion, when we no longer see Jesus, he will be an eternal priest. Hebrews 4-7 says a lot about this. Heb.7:24, “but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

We start our services with a confessional that we have fallen short knowingly and unknowingly by what we have done or left undone. It is not popular talk these days as we want everyone to follow the “I’m ok, you’re OK” philosophy but I suspect for many of us, we know we are broken people (sinful) in a broken (sinful) world that needs a savior. Jesus is “in God” and God is “in him” as is observable in his deeds.

Our summary: Jesus says

 

Hymn of Day: You Are the Way, ELW 758 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rlm2_A8VQhE (0:03-1:49 only)

 

The Creed

Let us join our voices virtually by sharing the Maasai (a tribe in Kenya) Version of the Apostles’ Creed.

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the bible, that he would save the world and all the nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

Or you can listen to the Creed in vocal form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuDI-sk2nJU

Prayers of Intercession

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

Build us up, living God, as living stones united in your spiritual house. Continually strengthen your church as it is sent forth to proclaim your love. We pray especially during this time of sheltering for new congregations and those in redevelopment. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Humble us, creator God, as part of your creation. Fill us with respect and awe for the world you have made, including volcanoes, ocean currents, tropical rainstorms, glaciers, and other forces that both destroy and create. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Align our ways to your love, O God. We pray for countries, leaders, and other organizations as they prepare places for those seeking refuge and safety. Give us wisdom as the churches in different states face decisions and procedures for opening again. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of healing and rest, help those whose hearts are heavy and weighed down by many troubles. Comfort their suffering, ease their distress, and carry their burdens. We especially think of people worldwide dealing with the complications of Covid-19. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Nurturing God, we pray for those who tend and teach young children, for the safe pregnancies of expectant parents, and for families who struggle with infertility and miscarriage. We give thanks for all who have shown mothering care, and we remember all for whom this day is difficult. Flood our hearts and minds with positive memories and put your arms around those who grieve losses and abuse. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 Generous God, you call into your brilliant light all who have died. Give us faith to take hold of the promise of your eternal life. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Peace If you are worship with someone else, turn and share, “The peace of Christ be with you always.” Response, “And also with you.” You might use your finger to mark you children or loved one with a cross on their forehead. If you are practicing social distancing, put your palms together in-front of your chest and open them outward to the other to show your blessing of them. Peace!

Offering Prayer

Merciful God, our ordinary gifts seem small for such a celebration, but you make of them an abundance, just as you do with our lives. Feed us again at this table for service in your name, in the strength of the risen Christ. Amen.

Communion: I invite you to talk a little piece of bread and eat it. Christ is as close to you as the bread in your mouth and stomach. Always remember. Now take a sip of your drink. Christ is as close to you as the blood in your body, strengthening you. Always remember.

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Life-giving God, you have fed us with your word, and our hearts burn within us. Through this meal you have opened us to your presence. Now send us forth to share the gifts of Easter with all in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing

May the One who brought forth Jesus from the dead raise you to new life, fill you with hope, and turn your mourning into dancing. Almighty God, Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you now and forever. Amen.

 Sending: Now the Green Blade Rises, ELW 379 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYA0tFX2tV4

Dismissal

Christ is risen, just as he said. Go in peace. Share the good news. Alleluia!

Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

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