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WORSHIP SERVICE

May 17, 2020

Sixth Sunday of Easter

PRELUDE MUSIC

(click play on each video to listen)

Upper Room Link.png

GREETING

Good morning! Welcome to St. John’s Sunday worship for the 6th Sunday of the Easter season. We are glad you have joined us and trust that you may find joy and blessing as we worship God today.

CALL TO WORSHIP

At Easter, light scattered darkness, and life overcame death. Today we come together as a community of faith to meet the risen Christ, for it is in meeting Jesus that our whole being is transformed. Come, let us worship him, the way, the truth, and the life everlasting.

OPENING HYMN 

"What A Friend We Have In Jesus"

(click play on the video to listen)

PSALM OF THE DAY ~ Psalm 66

     Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,

          Who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

     For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

          You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;

     You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water;

          Yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

     I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay my vows,

          Those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

     Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.

          I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.

     If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

          But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

     Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer,

          or removed his steadfast love from me.

 

CALL TO CONFESSION

     We have been baptized and claimed in the name of Jesus Christ, yet we are often intimidated by our fears and ignore the commandments God has given us. Come, let us confess our sins and ask forgiveness.

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

We confess O God, that when we forget the cross of Christ and the empty tomb, we love our own way more than we love you. The Spirit of truth does not abide in us, and we neglect the spiritual disciplines that would draw us close to you. We begin to fear both life and death. Forgive us, we pray, for the weakness of faith and lack of trust  which rob life of vibrancy and hope, and forgive our failure to be the mind and heart of Christ, witnessing to Easter hope in an uncertain world. Amen.

 

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

In Christ, God has shown us the reality of resurrection life, and by repentance, and the assurance of God’s pardon, we and enabled to open our minds to new truth, our hearts to new love, and our lives to new action. This is God’s gracious gift to us in Christ. Thanks be to God! Amen.

THE PRAYER OF THE DAY

Revealing God, at Easter our thinking was turned upside down. We were lamenting the state of the world, the church, and our own lives, but you rolled the stone away, and raised Christ from the grave—and us with him! Now we are called to think of the world, the church, and our own lives differently. Help us to open our minds and hearts to the truth of the amazing new-life promise revealed in the resurrection. And as we worship this day, help us to surrender ourselves anew to your ongoing transformation as individuals, and as a church commissioned to be agents in your recreative work in society and in the world. Amen.

CHILDREN'S SERMON

Good morning! Even though we’re not in our church building today, let’s think about it—what are some of the things we see in church? How about the people? The pews, the altar, the stained-glass windows, the organ and piano, the offering plates, the flowers, the pastor—there a lot of things, aren’t there?

 

Now let’s think of some things we can’t see, but we can feel here. Maybe love, friendship, joy, the Spirit of God, happiness, peace, things like that.

 

You know, when we go to church on Sunday, we experience all those things—we see things and feel things and we really get the sense that we belong to a something special. But do you know—even though we are not able to be together in church these days because of Covid-19—we still belong to a very special church family. And even though we can’t see our church and each other, we know that we still love each other and care about each other and that some day we will all be able to go back to our beautiful church and our friends and church family and, most of all, we will worship God and give thanks for taking care of us while we are away from each other.

     

In the meantime, think about St. John’s—try to remember all the things that are there to see, especially the things that remind us of God and his love for us. And until we can be together again, let’s all say a little prayer each day for our church and our church family!

     

Let us pray: Dear God, we thank you for our church and our church family. Be with us in this time that we are apart as we look forward to the time when we can all be together again to praise and worship you. Amen.

 

HYMN 

"God Will Take Care Of You"

(click play on the video to listen)

READING FROM THE SCRIPTURES

John 14:15-21

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

 

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

 

MEDITATION 

“I Will Not Leave You”

Last Tuesday evening about 7 o’clock I was driving up 61 between Orwigsburg and Schuylkill Haven when I saw one of the most beautiful sights in the sky. The sun was shining and the way the rays were beaming down through several openings in the clouds was spectacular! I happened to be listening to my favorite hymn on a CD (“The Church’s One Foundation”) and the words to the last verse were sung by a great choir: Yet she on earth hath union with God, the Three in One, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won; O happy ones and holy, Lord, give us grace that we—like them, the meek and lowly—on high may dwell with thee.

 

The sight made me think of Jesus’ ascension, which will be commemorated this coming Thursday. In the account of the ascension in Acts 1 we are told that “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Imagine what a sight that will be!

 

Today we are living in the in-between time—the time between the ascension and the return of Christ, and in today’s scripture reading from John 14, Jesus tells us something very important about living in this time.  His words were spoken to his disciples during the Last Supper, when he knew his arrest was imminent, and that he would soon be nailed to a cross, so he wanted to reassure his disciples, to help them to keep going when, soon, they would be at their lowest point; to know that, in the darkest times of their lives, God will still be very much present with them. Jesus’ words still speak to us today.

 

He gives us three simple—yet profound—truths: God is for us, God is with us, and God is in us.

 

First of all, God is for us. In a world where it’s sometimes hard to know who we can trust, we can always know that God is on our side. As the Apostle Paul writes, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38).

Jesus promises his followers that he will send “another Advocate.” That word can also be translated as “helper” or “comforter” or “counselor.” The Greek word is parakletos—it’s a legal term, meaning “one who comes to your defense,” but it has a broader meaning as well: one who comes alongside you, who encourages you, who comforts you or helps you. The Advocate of which Jesus speaks is the Hoy Spirit, and who can deny that in this difficult time we are truly in need of an advocate. The Holy Spirit is our encourager, our comforter, our helper. He whispers in our ears, “God is for you!”

     

But also note the word “another.” Jesus says, “I will send ‘another’ Advocate.” That tells us Jesus is our original advocate. Jesus is for us. Jesus cares about us.

     

Many years later, the elderly apostle John will write some short letters to the churches, what we call 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John, and in 1 John 2:1, he says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate [same word in the Greek] with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Jesus, too, is our advocate, our comforter, our helper. He advocates for us with God.

    

But Jesus, while fully God, is also fully human. Jesus will not physically be with all of us all of the time. So this other member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus himself, reminds us whenever we need it, “Jesus is for you. God is for you!”

     

Today’s passage also reminds us, God is with us. Jesus describes this Advocate as being with us “forever,” and he goes on to say, that the Holy Spirit “lives with you.” He assures his followers that they will not become orphans—that even though he may have to leave their side, he will send another—one they already know—for indeed it is the Spirit of Jesus himself who will be with them, so that they will never be alone.

This is how Jesus can promise, right before his ascension to heaven, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). God is with us.

 

Doesn’t it give you comfort to know that God is with you? God says in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Whatever you have to face, you will not face it alone. When your heart is broken, God grieves with you. When you celebrate, God celebrates with you. When you are lonely, God is with you. When you are depressed, God is with you. When you’re angry, God is with you. When you’re tired, God is with you. When you feel like giving up, God the Holy Spirit is at your side.

     

God is for us, God is with us, and lastly, Jesus tells us, God is in us.  How can our minds grasp this, that Almighty God fits into each one of us? It’s mind-boggling, if we think about it. Yet Jesus says to his disciples that the Holy Spirit “lives with you and will be ‘in’ you.” Now, the disciples knew about the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament, how he moved in the lives of David, of Samson, of Deborah, of all the great leaders of old. They also knew how, when God was done acting through that person, the Holy Spirit would depart from him or her, as the Spirit of God left King Saul. In fact, after David sinned with adultery and murder, he begged God, “Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me!” (Psalm 51:11).

 

Now the disciples are starting to understand that the Spirit of God is present in Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit is living “with them.” But what they don’t yet know is that soon, this same Spirit—for the first time in history—will start to come into the lives of believers permanently, to live “in them.”

 

Everything will change at Pentecost. After Jesus ascends to heaven, his followers will gather in prayer as instructed. There, the Spirit comes down and appears like tongues of fire above each believer’s head, and the believers find themselves doing things they could never do before: They speak in foreign languages, proclaiming God’s love to everyone in the crowd in a way each can understand. The believers speak boldly, without fear, and they know exactly what to say. They sense that God is using them in miraculous ways.

 

And from Pentecost forward, the book of Acts records this new pattern: Whenever someone believes in Jesus as their Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into their life and gives them power to do what they could not otherwise do on their own.

So then, the Holy Spirit is not only for us, he is not only with us; the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ is actually in us. The moment you believe in Christ and turn over your life to God, he puts his Spirit within you.

 

Scripture says the Holy Spirit does lots of things for us while it resides in us. It convicts us of sin, reassures us of our salvation, prompts scripture for us when we need to resist temptation, reminds us of God’s presence, comforts us, he gives us the words we need to defend our faith, and gives us the courage we need to share our faith. The Holy Spirit is the silent partner of the Trinity, always at work behind the scenes, helping us just as we need it, right when we need it. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit in your Life

 

The good news for us this morning is that God is for us, God is with us, and God is in us. No matter what comes into our lives, no matter what happens to us, we have the assurance of Jesus’ promise that he would send an Advocate to help, comfort and encourage us through all our lives. In two weeks, we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, that great day in the life of the church, as Jesus’ promise was fulfilled in Jerusalem and continues to be fulfilled each time someone comes to believe in him.

May you be blessed by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in your life as you put your faith and trust in the risen Christ. Thanks be to God! Amen.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH  “The Apostles’ Creed”

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,

     Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

     Born of the Virgin Mary,

     Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

     Was crucified, died, and was buried;

     He descended to the dead.

     On the third day he rose again;

     He ascended into heaven,

     He is seated at the right hand of the Father,

     And he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

     The holy catholic Church,

     The communion of saints,

     The forgiveness of sins,

     The resurrection of the body

     And the life everlasting. Amen.

 

CHOIR ANTHEM  

"What A Friend We Have In Jesus"

(click play on the video to listen)

MORNING PRAYER & LORD'S PRAYER

     God, who has rescued your people from the hands of their enemies, we your children come before you to sing our praises to your glory. Your power is known to the ends of the earth and we join our voices today to acknowledge your might.

     As Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to the disciples that they may be comforted, so send upon your church today a fresh wind of that same Spirit, that we may be encouraged and strengthened to proclaim your Name to the world.

     We thank you, God, for the covenant relationship we have with you, and for the truth of your promises to us. We give thanks that you are not an unknown God, but a God who is known to us in many ways. We thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, who teaches us the truth and establishes it in our minds. We thank you for the church of Jesus Christ on earth, the fellowship of believers who continue to be the evidence of Easter in the world.

     We pray today for ourselves, for the grace that helps us understand the amazing reality of Easter. Help us to be ever open to the revelation of the Holy Spirit and the hope of resurrection. Open our minds, that we may listen for and be attentive to your continuing revelation to us.

     We pray this day for others, for Christians throughout the world as they bring the good news of Christ’s love to those who have never heard. We ask your guidance for people of all faiths who look with hope and trust to what you will yet do in this world through the power of your Spirit.

     In this Easter season of promise and assurance, O God, fulfill your covenant of abiding with your people. Be present to those who are sick; comfort the lonely; give strength to those who are faint of heart; and give us all a mind to give thanks to you in all things. Especially do we pray today for those who suffer from Covid-19 and its effects upon their loved ones; touch them with your healing spirit and strengthen them day by day. Comfort  all those who have lost loved ones, and grant them your peace.

     We pray today for our nation and our leaders, and for all the leaders of the world, that they would guide their people and their governments in the ways of safety and peace.

     Hear us this day, Almighty God, as we lift up to you these matters on our hearts. And in your hearing grant what we ask according to your will, for we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray, saying...

 

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

OFFERING

St. John’s is greatly blessed to have faithful members and friends who continue to support our ministry. Thank you so much for all your kindness!

OFFERTORY

“God Will Take Care Of You"

(click play on the video to listen)

OFFERING PRAYER

Gracious God, we give thanks for all the gifts we have received this week. We dedicate them to you and ask your blessing, that what is given may be used to bring honor and glory to you and help to those in need. Amen.

CLOSING HYMN 

“Blessed Quietness"

(click play on the video to listen)   

BENEDICTION

The Spirit lives within us and among us as we seek to live as resurrection people. Go forth into this week with the blessing of God Almighty: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

POSTLUDE  

"Toccata On Foundation" 

(click play on the video to listen)

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