May 24, 2020
Seventh Sunday of Easter
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Good morning! Welcome to St. John’s Sunday worship on this last Sunday of the Easter season and Memorial Day weekend. May you be blessed as you worship with us today.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Morning has broken! Let us give thanks for the gift of life and for the presence of the Holy One among us. Come, let us worship God.
"The Church's One Foundation"
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PSALM OF THE DAY ~ Psalm 68
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; let the wicked perish before God.
But let the righteous be joyful; let them exult before God with joy.
Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides on the clouds.
Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel; whose power is in the skies.
Awesome is God in his sanctuary; he gives power and strength to his people.
CALL TO CONFESSION
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not within us. But God, in whose presence we kneel, promises us grace and pardon when we acknowledge our weakness and shame. Come, let us confess your sin to Almighty God.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Eternal God, whose word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, we recognize and confess that we have failed to respond fully to your gracious presence in our lives. Through Jesus Christ you have offered us new life, fulfillment, and the freedom to serve you. We confess that we are captive to sin, that our sin binds us with false pride, and that the wrong we do is made worse by the good we leave undone. Reconcile us to you and to all people. God of mercy, forgive all our sin and strengthen us for new life, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
There is no sin that cannot be covered by the sacrificial, forgiving love of God in Christ Jesus. He died upon the cross, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven, there to intercede for us; sin and death were overcome. We are set free to begin again to live, to work and pray, as people who are free. Thanks be to God! Amen.
THE PRAYER OF THE DAY
O God, who in Christ Jesus has called us into one body and invited us to share our lives and all that we have with one another, let our time together this day provide a glimpse of eternal life. Let us know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent, that we may resist evil, discipline ourselves, and be alert to opportunities you give us to witness and serve and extend your kingdom among us. Amen.
“Praying for Others”
So—how are you doing this morning? I hope you are OK and staying safe. Did you notice, in your neighborhood or on TV or Facebook, that there are signs everywhere thanking the people who are taking care of others during this time when so many are sick with the virus? We are thankful for the doctors, nurses, hospital workers, emergency people and others who work hard every day to make sure people are treated so they can feel better and be cured of this bad disease. Those people are being called heroes.
But did you know—there is something we can all do to help. We don’t need to be working with those who are sick, but we can make a difference in their lives by doing something every day to help them. We can pray for them. In fact, the Bible tells us that we are to do that! Here is what it says: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; pray on their behalf, and give thanks for them. . . so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
When we pray for others we show that we love them, that we want what is best for them, and that we are thankful for them, even though they don’t know we are praying for them! So, during this pandemic, let us pray for those who are suffering and for those who take care of them, and for each other, just as Jesus prayed for his disciples in our scripture reading today.
Let us pray: Dear God, we pray today for those who are sick and for those who take care of them. We pray for everyone affected by this virus. We give thanks for all who are working to make things better, and we trust in you to help us and keep us safe. We give thanks for Jesus who taught us how to love and pray for others, and we pray this prayer in his name. Amen.
"Eternal Christ Who Kneeling"
(click on video below words
to listen to the hymn tune)
Eternal Christ, who, kneeling when earthly tasks were done,
Turned unto God appealing, “That they may all be one.”
We thank you for your vision of unity untorn,
Of faith without division with which your church was born.
But we have often slighted the ties designed to hold
Your followers united within one common fold.
On history’s tattered pages we see, O Christ, with shame,
The strife which through the ages has marred your church’s name.
Accept our deep contrition for all our sundering ways
Which still disrupt your mission, which mock our words of praise.
Christ, may your Spirit guide us that we may find, beyond
The things which still divide us, love’s all-embracing bond.
[Jesus] looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 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. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 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.
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. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them. 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.
How many of you have known at one time or another, that someone prayed for you? How many of you have asked someone to pray for you? How about those times when you didn't know that someone was praying for you, yet you felt a presence or experienced what had to be an answer to prayer? Isn't it a good feeling to know that someone cares enough about you to keep you in his or her prayers, or that someone loves you enough to lift you up in prayer each day? There have been many times throughout my life that I knew someone was praying for me, even when I hadn't asked for prayer. Prayer is a very personal way of expressing love for one another—we pray for those we love because we want the best for them, we want God to take care of them.
Here at St. John's we have a "Prayer Community," a group that takes seriously the responsibility we have as Christians to pray for one another. Our group is very faithful in lifting up those who are in need for whatever reason—be it illness, loss of a loved one, family problems—any time someone needs prayer. I know of several "prayer chains" in this area, and it seems that wherever I've been, I've known about people praying for others on a regular basis. Isn't it good to know that not only are others praying for us, but that we're on Jesus' prayer list, that he lifts up the names of all those who belong to him?
In today's gospel lesson, Jesus is praying a very special prayer. It is a prayer for his disciples and a prayer for the church. It is a continuation of last week’s reading, where the setting is the Last Supper—part of John’s account of the last days of Jesus' life. Theological scholars refer to the few chapters in John in which this prayer occurs as Jesus' "Farewell Discourse," his final attempt at getting his message across before he dies.
Being a pastor, I have had opportunities to be with people who are in their last days of life, and, usually, if they are able to speak, they talk of the things most important to them, for it is their last opportunity to express what is really on their minds. For some, there is a confession which frees them from feelings of guilt; for others, it is a time to tell those closest to them how much they love them; for some, it is a reminiscing of past joys and good experiences. For many, it is a time of prayer and preparation for what is to come. But whatever the content of those last words, we know that they are of great importance to the one saying them.
In today's gospel, we hear some of the last words of Jesus before he is arrested. These words are a prayer which is, in a sense, a deathbed prayer, for he knows that he is soon about to die. And so, turning to God, he speaks the things that are most near and dear to his heart.
Jesus communicates that he has finished the task that his Father had assigned him: to confer eternal life on his own by making God's name and word known. Jesus then prays that his father will sustain the Christian community in the same unity enjoyed by the Father and the Son.
He prays that God will glorify him—not that he himself will be glorified, but that God will be glorified through the work that he had done and through the legacy that he would leave behind. Jesus’ destiny on earth had been fulfilled at last. He had kept the faith. He had brought honor upon himself and honor to God, and now he wants to be sure that God is glorified through him.
Then Jesus prays for his disciples, that they, too may keep the faith; that they may now have total conviction that everything which Jesus has been to them has come directly from God, and that they may know eternal life. This, says John, was the purpose of Christ's coming, to reveal the God whom no one had ever seen. Jesus is now ready to go back to God, and he acknowledges that henceforth the fulfillment of his mission to humanity is in the hands of his disciples, and he prays that God will keep them safe by the power of his name. He also acknowledges that the disciples were given of God to Jesus: Jesus gave to them the word of God; they had received, believed, and kept that word; and he was thankful that they had not been corrupted by the unbelieving world in which they had to live and work.
Jesus spoke and prayed concerning eternal life in the presence of his disciples, of how life could be eternally theirs, and that eternal life is more than length of days or duration of time; eternal life is more than quantity—it is life that is saturated with the awareness of God. Eternal life is more than endless time, for duration of endless time apart from God is torture—it is one definition of hell. But Jesus laid out the way to eternal life, that is, to know the Father through the Son, a knowing that is much more than mere acquaintance. Eternal life extends from a relationship of love, sharing and caring, that through such a relationship with Jesus life is eternally ours.
This 17th chapter of John is the Christological foundation of the church—it is the foundation based on Jesus Christ alone, as Jesus prays this prayer to God on behalf of the church. Jesus speaks to God on behalf of the faith community, of which we, too, are a part. Instead of entrusting the community's future to the community itself, Jesus entrusts that future to God. Jesus' final words are not merely last-minute instructions to the community about what it should do in Jesus' absence; instead, his words turn the future of the community—the church—over to God. Jesus' prayer for the church, then, models how the church is to understand and receive its identity in the world. It is to understand that its very life rests in and depends on God's care. In this prayer, Jesus uses some simple, but very powerful words, the words that have come to be the symbol for our own denomination—“That they may all be one." In this prayer, Jesus does not supply directives on how to arrive at church unity. Rather, Jesus places the church's future in the hands of God. That is, the future of the church ultimately does not depend on or derive from the church's own work, but rests solely with God.
In writing this prayer of Jesus, John makes it possible for all generations of believers to hear and experience the love that Jesus and God have for them. To successive generations of believers that leads even to today, this prayer communicates the vision that lies at the heart of faith—that Jesus hands those whom he loves back to God and holds God to God's promises for this community called the church. Indeed, Jesus does not leave his followers orphaned, because he has called on God on our behalf, asking God to protect us and keep us in Christian unity.
Jesus prayed for us, and it is critical that we remind ourselves that we are the recipients of Jesus prayer, and that Jesus prays that God will be present in the life and mission of the church. Jesus has entrusted the church to God's protective care and loving kindness, and it is important that we see ourselves as the church for whom Jesus prays.
Jesus once said that "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend." He laid down his life for his friends, for those whom he loved, for you and me. But before he did, he prayed for those same friends—and he prayed for you and me. He prayed these words: "I am asking on their behalf, because they are yours. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one."
Jesus’ prayer for us is that we may be of one heart and mind among ourselves as we carry forth the mission of the church. In these difficult days, we are not able to be together in one place as pastor and people. But we are still one, and we are still able to carry forth the mission of the church. As the gospel song says, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord—and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” As Jesus prayed for us, so may our prayer for each other continue be one of unity in love, that we may all be one in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God! Amen.
"Blades Of Grass & Pure White Stones"
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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.
MORNING PRAYER & LORD'S PRAYER
Almighty God, the Psalmist reminds us that all those who would challenge your reign shall be cast aside, but the righteous will be filled with your blessing. For having chosen us as your own, we bring to you our songs of praise and thanksgiving.
Jesus promised to fill his disciples with the Holy Spirit, that they might do all things. So fill your church in this day that we might use the power you intend for your work to be done among us. Make us instruments of unity in a world broken by fear, that we would all be one in Christ.
We thank you, God, for the eternal significance of the ascension of Jesus that was commemorated last Thursday, and its meaning for our world today. We give thanks that Jesus ascended to a place of freedom, power, and authority from which to continue to draw us and the whole creation back to you. We give thanks that Jesus cares for us, and intercedes for us and the world according to your perfect will and purpose.
We pray this day for ourselves, that we allow Jesus to be the Lord of every aspect of our lives as individuals and as Christ’s body on earth. May we be enabled by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the responsibility entrusted to us as individuals and as a church for the mission and work of Christ on earth. Grant us the courage, the wisdom and the words to tell the story of salvation to those who need to hear.
We pray today for others, for those who fear the world is out of control, that they would come to trust in you, and to recognize that you hold the answers to life’s questions. We pray for those who have never heard the story of Jesus’ love for them, that you would touch their hearts as we share the message, so that we may all be one in Christ.
Loving God, you have promised that after suffering a little while we will be restored, established, strengthened and settled. Touch those who this day are suffering, and bless those who struggle with the difficulties of this life. Be with all who need you in their own ways, and comfort those who mourn.
On this Memorial Day weekend, we give thanks for those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and we ask you to continue to comfort their families. Be with our leaders and all those who serve in so many places around the world. Watch over them and keep him safe.
O God, glorify your church, as you glorified your Son. Answer our prayers that we lift up to you, for we offer them through the same 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.
We are so blessed with the faithful giving of our many members who continue to support our ministry while we are away from each other. Thank you so much!
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Thank you, God, for empowering our prayers and multiplying our gifts. You provide for the needy through us. What a privilege it is to give, and to see your power working through us. Accept the offerings we bring to you this week in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“O Christ The Great Foundation"
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May the grace of Christ, our Savior, and the Father’s boundless love with the Holy Spirit’s favor, rest upon you from above. Thus may we abide in union with each other and the Lord, and possess in sweet communion joys which earth cannot afford. Amen.
"Recessional On National Hymn"
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