Pentecost Sunday Worship Bulletin for May 31, 2020

HYMN God Is Here As We Your People

1. God is here! As we your people meet to offer praise and prayer,
May we find in fuller measure what it is in Christ we share.
Here, as in the work around us, all our varied skills and arts
wait the coming of the Spirit into open minds and hearts.

2. Here are symbols to remind us of our lifelong need of grace;
Here are table, font, and pulpit, here the cross has central place.
Here in honesty of preaching, here in silence, as in speech,
here, in newness and renewal, God the Spirit comes to each.

3. Here our children find a welcome n the Shepherd’s flock and fold;
Here as bread and wine are taken, Christ sustains us as of old.
Here the servants of the Servant seek in worship to explore
what it means in daily living to believe and to adore.

4. Sovereign God, of earth and heaven, in an age of change and doubt
Keep us faithful to the gospel, help us work your purpose out.
Here, in this day’s dedication, all we have to give, receive;
we, who cannot live without you, we adore you! We believe!

WELCOME

READING T. Loder

O God of beginnings, as your Spirit moved over the face of the deep on the first day of creation, move with me now in my time of beginnings, when the air is rain-washed, the bloom is on the bush, and the world seems fresh and full of possibilities, and I feel ready and full.
I tremble on the edge of a maybe, a first time, a new thing, a tentative start, and the wonder of it lays its finger on my lips.
In silence, Lord, I share now my eagerness and my uneasiness about this something different I would be or do; and listen for your leading to help me separate the light from the darkness in the change I seek to shape and which is shaping me.

BELL

THE PROMISE FOR THE MORNING Ezekiel 36:26

I will lift the stone from your heart,
And a new spirit I will put within you.

AN ABBA PRAYER • By © Monica Furlong Published in The St Hilda Community. (1996).

God, who cares for us, the wonder of whose presence fills us with awe. Let kindness, justice and love shine in our world. Let your secrets be known here as they are in heaven.
Give us the food and the hope we need for today. Forgive us our wrongdoing as we forgive the wrongs done to us. Protect us from pride and from despair and from the fear and hate which can swallow us up. In you is truth, meaning, glory and power, while worlds come and go. Amen.

READING Excerpts from Acts 2:1-21 (paraphrased)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Peter said, “This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your young shall see visions, Your old shall dream dreams. Both Men and women shall declare wisdom, and I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

REFLECTIONS ON PENTECOST AND EVERY DAY

TEACH ME YOUR WAYS by T. Loder in Guerrillas of Grace; Augsburg Books 2005

Teach me your ways, Lord, that I may be open to the same Spirit who moved over the face of the waters in the first day of creation and moves also over the chaos of this time
to fashion a day like this, a world like ours, a life like mine, a kingdom like leaven in bread, like a treasure buried in the fields that daily I plow.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

THE LORD’S PRAYER

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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For
thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

BELL

BENEDICTION by John McQuiston II

Evneloping Spirit,

We thank you for this priceless day, which will never cme again.
Through it, you offer us
The opportunity to fill it with compassion and joy.
Help us to trust in your unfolding grace
And transcend self-concer,
So that at this very moment, and throughout this day,
We may live fearlessly and generate loving-kindness,
And thereby experience the only true wealth,
That of life in you.
Amen.

SONG: Come, O Holy Spirit

1. Come, O Holy Spirit, set the Church on fire;
strike it as the lightning hits a posing spire.
Burn away the structures and consume the sham
of our holy systems; come, in Jesus’ name!

Refrain
Come, come, come in Jesus’ name! Take our hearts by storm.
All the world lies open; Pentecost is
now! I said a Come, come, come in Jesus’ name!
Take our hearts by storm, All the world lies open: Pentecost is now! Now!

2. Blow away the cobwebs of our stubborn past
Come, send flying from us myths unfit to last.
Wind of change, refresh us and disturb our calm;
teach us what true love is, take our hearts by storm.

Refrain

3. Free us from the babble of our Babel mind;
spark in us a language all can understand.
Lighten then our darkness, come and show us how
all the world lies open: Pentecost is now!

Refrain

 

 

Ascension Sunday and Memorial Day Worship Bulletin for May 24, 2020

OPENING MUSIC and CANDLE LIGHTING
HYMN Called as Partners in Christ’s Service

1. Called as partners in Christ’s service, called to ministries of grace,
We respond with deep commitment fresh new lines of faith to trace.
May we learn the art of sharing, side by side and friend with friend,
Equal partners in our caring to fulfill God’s chosen end.

2. Christ’s example, Christ’s inspiring, Christ’s clear call to work and worth,
Let us follow, never faltering, reconciling folk on earth.
Men and women, richer, poorer, all God’s people, young and old,
Blending human skills together gracious gifts from God unfold.

3. Thus new patterns for Christ’s mission, in a small or global sense,
Help us bear each other’s burdens, breaking down each wall or fence.
Words of comfort, words of vision, words of challenge, said with care,
Bring new power and strength for action, make us colleagues, free and fair.

4. So God grant us for tomorrow ways to order human life,
That surround each person’s sorrow with a calm that conquers strife.
Make us partners in our living, our compassion to increase,
Messengers of faith, thus giving hope and confidence and peace.

WELCOME WITNESSES!

Notes about today’s two themes: Ascension and Memorial Day.

BELL

CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 95 excerpts

O come, let us sing unto the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come before God’s presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great Ruler above all gods.
In God’s hands are the deep places of the earth;
the heights of the mountains also.
The sea is God’s, for God made it,
and God’s hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before God our Maker.

REMEMBERING TO SAY GOOD-BYE

A MEMORIAL TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE HOLYOKE SOLDIERS HOME

OPENING

Risen and ascended Christ, you surround us with witnesses and send us the Counselor
who opens our minds to understand your teaching. Bless us with such grace that our lives may become a blessing for the world now, and in the age to come. Amen.

PSALM 31:1-5

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

ABBA PRAYER by Sherri Wienberg
God – heart of the world:
revealed through every aspect of creation:
understood through our awareness.
May we honor the holiness of creation and act accordingly
so that your love is reflected in the way we live.
May we always be thankful for the food we eat
and the friends we have.
May we forgive those who transgress against us
and be forgiven for our own.
In the freedom of love may we live as your heartbeat
and not be compromised by hesitation.
Through our freedom, may your justice
be seen and heard and experienced
forever and ever. Amen.

READING Luke 24:44-53 The Message (MSG)

Then Jesus said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”

He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then — a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem!

You’re the first to hear and see it. You are the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what God promised to you, so stay here in the city until it arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.” Jesus then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands, he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven.

And they were on their knees, worshiping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes.

COMMENTARY AND EXPLORATION: We Are the Witnesses

THE LORD’S PRAYER

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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

BENEDICTION

HYMN This Is My Song

1. This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands a far and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

2. My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.

You can watch this worship service here

Worship Bulletin for May 17, 2020

OPENING HYMN Praise to the Living God
1. Praise to the living God of love and light, Whose
word brought forth the myriad suns and set the worlds in flight;
Whose infinite design, which we but dimly see,
Pervades all nature, making all a cosmic unity.

2. Praise to the living God, from whom all things derive, Whose
Spirit formed upon this sphere the first faint seeds of life;
Who caused them to evolve, unwitting, toward God’s goal, Till
Humankind stood on earth, as living, thinking souls.

3. Praise to the living god, who knows our joy and pain, Who
shares with us our common life, the sacred and profane.
God toils where’er we toil, in home and mart and mill; And
deep within the human heart God leads us forward still.

4. Praise to the living God, around, within, above,
Beyond the grasp of human mind, but whom we know as love.
In these tumultuous days, so full of home and strife, May
we bear witness to the Way, O Source and Goal of life.

WELCOME/BELL GATHERING     L Bates/adapted
As we gather in this sacred place, let us open:
our minds to the challenge of reason,
our hearts to the healing of love,
our lives to the calling of conscience,
and our souls to the comfort of joy.

Astonished by the miracle of life,
grateful for the gift of friendship,
and confident in the power of a living faith,
we celebrate this time together.

PRAYER AS INVITATION by Earl Holt
The moment of prayer is an invitation to be
calm in the midst of the tumult of the
world and our over busy lives…
To bring together thought and feeling,
mind and spirit, and to find some center,
some still point, of perspective and peace.
Here in this sacred place which has been
home for so many secret thoughts and
hopes, fears and desires, may we feel free to
look at ourselves honestly.
May we be unafraid to face the decisions we
have been trying to avoid, the doubts and
questions it has been easy to ignore, the
things we have tried to keep hidden not only
from others but even from ourselves.
May we come to discover that there are
resources within ourselves and beyond us…
New dimensions of the spirit…
May we be emboldened by these discoveries
to reach out to others in their need and so
finally to discover that to give is not only
more blessed than to receive, but that to give
to others is to receive what we most need for
ourselves.

CENTERING SILENCE
Come apart from the busy-ness of family
and work, and dwell in the present-ness of
the sacred, source of being.
(Silence)
May the silence which we now share
quieten us, touch our need,
refresh our courage,
enlarge our wonder.
(Silence)

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We invite you to hold in prayer all those you
know – names and specific situations will
not be spoken during the morning live
streaming.

THE ABBA PRAYER by Jim Burklo, 2010
Dear One, closer to us than our own hearts,
farther from us than the most distant star,
you are beyond naming.
May your powerful presence become
obvious not only in the undeniable glory of
the sky, but also in the seemingly base and
common processes of the earth.
Give us what we need, day by day,
to keep body and soul together, because
clever as you have made us, we still owe our
existence to you.
We recognize that to be reconciled with you,
we must live peaceably and justly with other
human beings, putting hate and bitterness
behind us.
We are torn between our faith in your
goodness and our awareness of the evil in
your creation, so deliver us from the
temptation to despair.
Yours alone is the universe and all its
majesty and beauty. So it is. Amen.

READING: Acts 17:22-28
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus
and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely
religious you are in every way.
For as I went through the city and looked
carefully at the objects of your worship, I
found among them an altar with the
inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What
therefore you worship as unknown, this I
proclaim to you.
The God who made the world and
everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and
earth, does not live in shrines made by
human hands, nor is God served by
human hands, as if needing anything, since
God gives to all mortals life and breath and
all things.
From one ancestor God made all nations to
inhabit the whole earth, allotted the times of
their existence and the boundaries of the
places where they would live, so that they
would search, reach out, and perhaps find
God — though indeed God is not far from
each one of us.
For ‘In God we live and move and have our
being;’ as even some of your own poets
have said, ‘For we too are God’s offspring.’

EXPLORATION OF THE READING

THE LORD’S PRAYER
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. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
forever. Amen.

BENEDICTION John O’Donohue in “Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger to Belong”
May you awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

CLOSING HYMN We Sing the Greatness
1. We sing the greatness of our God That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad And built the lofty skies.
We sing the wisdom that ordained The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, And all the stars obey.

2. We sing the goodness of the Lord That filled the earth with food;
God formed the creatures with a word And then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed Where’er we turn our eyes;
In every season of the year, And through the changing skies.

3. There’s not a plant or flower below But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise and tempests blow By order from Thy throne,
While all that borrows life from Thee Is ever in Thy care,
And everywhere that one can be, Thou, God, art present there. Amen.

You can view the worship service here

Worship Bulletin for Mother's Day, May 10, 2020

WELCOME TO WORSHIP
Picture us gathered as the human family. For the moment, drop attachments to things that don’t give
life. Imagine a world in which justice and peace wrap their arms around us. Plan for a day when we
can unite as the beloved people of God.

HYMN/LIGHTING OF CANDLES
1. Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day.

2. All thy works with joy surround thee, Earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around thee, Center of the unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain, Call us to rejoice in thee.

OPENING SENTENCES
We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other’s arms, and the larger circles of lovers, whose
hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures, Passing in and out of life,
who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it, except in fragments.
Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.

BELL

WE PRAY
The Spirit of Creativity is all around us. We are grateful for the possibility of being ever
more aware, human and alive. Our world touches us in so many ways. May the joys
and the concerns of this present day move and jolt us to our greater selves and our
greater thoughts. Amen.

WORDS OF THANKSGIVING
For our community gathered or scattered,
For the spirit that called us together and drew us to this time:
Let us give thanks.
For the moments we have shared with others;
For those who have been as mothers to us;
For times when we have reached out across barriers of distance and fear;
For times when others have reached out to us:
Let us again give thanks.
For our weaving together out of many separate selves
These moments of celebration and reflection:
We give thanks for this day.

A TIME OF PRAYER

THE LORD’S PRAYER
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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine in the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, Santificado sea tu Nombre. Venga tu reino. Hágaste tu voluntad en la tierra como en el cielo. Danos hoy el pan de este día y perdona nuestras deudas como nosotros perdonamos nuestros deudores y no nos dejes cer en al tentación sino que líbranos del malo. Amen.

READING Acts 7:55-60 The stoning of Stephen
But filled with the Holy Spirit, he (Stephen) gazed into heaven and saw the glory of
God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the
heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they
covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then
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. While they were stoning
Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then 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.

MOMENT OF FOCUSED REFLECTION: Wanda Cooper-Jones and Other Mothers

LOVING LETTERS FROM A DEAD HERETIC

CLOSING PRAYER
May God’s peace rest upon us;
May God’s great love reach to every heart;
May we always sense God’s care among us, so that we find the good of one another

You can watch this worship service here

Worship Bulletin for May 3, 2020

WELCOME TO A TIME OF REORIENTATION FOR THE COMING WEEK

SETTING THE TABLE

In your dwelling place: candle, bell, loaf, cup

In the church: candles, bell, loaf, cup

BELL

OPENING WORDS

We long to celebrate life’s beauty and find healing for its pain; to honor our kinship with each other and with the earth, and to be inspired to create a more compassionate world, beginning with ourselves. So, let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.

SUNG INTROIT

APPROACH TO GOD

Creator of the universe, you made the world in beauty, and restore all things in glory through the victory of Jesus Christ. We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed, the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace, to the glory of your name. Amen.

HYMN Community of Christ

1. Community of Christ, who make the Cross your own,

Live out your creed and risk your life for God alone:

The God who wears your face, to whom all worlds belong,

Whose children are of every race and every song.

2. Community of Christ, look past the church’s door

And see the refugee, the hungry, and the poor.

Take hands with the oppressed, the jobless in your street,

Take towel and water, that you wash your neighbor’s feet.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE – CONCLUDING WITH:

Open our hearts to your power

moving around us and between us and within us, until your glory is revealed in our love of both friend and enemy, in communities transformed by justice and compassion, and in the healing of all that is broken. Amen.

RESPONSE

READING AND MESSAGE Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home –

– and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.

And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

PREPARATION

We pray: May the Spirit of Wisdom comfort and inspire us. The symbols of life are all around us: light and noise, infants and adults, birds and animals, colors and movement, words of goodwill, songs of joy.

May we recognize and renew these symbols of life everyday; and be inspired to share them generously. May it be so.

LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy nae; 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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.

THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION

Hungry Hearts and Thin-Stretched Souls -Morkin

Beloved Sisters and Brothers, this sacramental meal points the way from darkness to light. The Bread is food for our hungry hearts. When you are on the path of healing and hope, it will sustain you. The cup is drink for our thin-stretched souls. When you are seeking peace and your higher calling on the path, this cup will nourish you.

God of eternal light, speak to our hungry hearts and thin-stretched souls during this holy meal. Receive us as we are, and we shall open to your presence. Touch us in our dark places and lift us into your light.

The community gathered at this table stretches around the globe. Here, in this moment, we remember the night in an upper room when Jesus and his disciples came together to observe the Passover.

After he gave thanks, Jesus picked up the bread for hungry hearts and broke it. He passed it to his disciples. “This is my body. Remember me!” They were hungry, and their hearts were filled.

He held up the cup for thin-stretched souls, took a drink, and passed it around the table. “This cup signifies a new relationship with God.” They drank, and their thin-stretched souls sipped holiness.

You who are hungry, take this bread and eat. You who are thirsty, take this cup and drink. May this loaf fill our hearts. May this cup heal our souls. Christ in this bread. Christ in this cup.

GIVING THANKS

CLOSING HYMN

1. Learn from all the songs of earth that we never sing alone, that our music has its birth in what wind and wave intone, that before God spoke a word, God first blew up on the sea, and the breath of music stirred everything that came to be.

2. The creation God conceives brims with melody and beat, From the wind among the leaves to the thunderstorm’s retreat, from the whispering of snow to the waterfall that sings psalms and anthems rise and flow from the plainest, simplest things.

3. And the songs we daily hear in the creatures’ chirps and cries, from the notes that signal fear to their hymns that fill the skies, beckon us to join earth’s choir with our own distinctive parts that God’s melodies inspire as the Spirit fills our hearts.

4. When we harmonize with earth and its elemental song, we recall who gave us birth and to whom we all belong, we more deeply understand what the living Christ displays: we are fashioned by God’s hand for a life that sings God’s praise.

BENEDICTION

Watch this service on YouTube by clicking here

Worship Bulletin for Earth Sunday, April 26, 2020

PRELUDE
WECOME
OPENING WORDS      Adapted Kenneth L Patton
Let us reverence life with our eyes, ears, and fingertips.
Let us love the world through heart and mind and body.
We feed our eyes upon the mystery in the faces of our sisters and brothers,
of mothers and fathers, and children everywhere.
Let us be open to our full and emerging humanity. 
We gather, not in bowing down, not with closed eyes and stopped ears, but with the opening of all windows of our beings,
with the full outstretching of our spirits.
Let us gather in meditation and singing, as those who have fallen in love with life.GIVING THANKS ON EARTH SUNDAY
May we give thanks for all the silences in our lives…
(Silence)
Praying by Mary OliverIt doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

HYMN         For the Beauty of the Earth          It’s Earth Sunday!

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

THE LORD’S PRAYER
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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

READING
Luke 24:13-24, 28-35.  (Inclusive Text, adapted)

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened.

Now as they talked this over, Jesus came up and walked by their side, but something prevented them from recognizing him. Jesus said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’

They stopped short, their faces downcast. Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days?’

‘What things?’ Jesus asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth,’ they answered, ‘who proved to be a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people.

‘And how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that this Jesus would be the one to set Israel free.

‘And this is not all; two whole days have gone by since it all happened, and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body there, they came to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared Jesus was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of Jesus they saw nothing…’

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, Jesus made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening,’ they said, ‘and the day is almost over.’  So Jesus went in to stay with them. Now while Jesus was with them at the table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then broke it and handed it to them.

And their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus; but he had vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road…?’ They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem… ‘It is true. The Christ has risen and has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread.

REFLECTIONS
What is bread?
What kinds of bread are not eaten?
What have you learned while breaking bread   ….with a stranger?
….with a friend?
….with a family member?

HYMN        Trav-ler, Are You Passing Through?

WORDS OF BLESSING                        (Joyce Boyce-Tillman/wb)
Fall in love with living – wrestling with the chaos and the pain within ourselves and within the world. Join the celebration of life, dancing with the angels and the clowns.
And may the God of peace and joy who is continually making all things new, embrace you as a partner in the divine creating.
     Amen! May it be so.

POSTLUDE

Watch this service on YouTube by clicking here

Worship Bulletin for Sunday, April 19, 2020

PRELUDE
WELCOME
OPENING WORDS
Let us begin with gratitude for the present moment, for the green earth which is our home, for the waters that bring life, and for all the beings that journey with us in this time of uncertainty.  Let us continue with Hope. We cannot know what’s over the horizon in this time of pandemic, but we can always see a reflection of the Divine in our encounters with creation, and the beloved beings with whom we seek the bread for the journey.  AMEN

 

HYMN     Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah(Alternate Text below)

1 Guide me, O my great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.
2 Open now the crystal fountain,
where the healing waters flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
ever be my strength and shield,
ever be my strength and shield.3 When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside.
Death of death, and hell’s Destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever sing to you,
I will ever sing to you.

Exodus 16:1-4 (paraphrased)
Not long after Moses freed the Israelites from their captivity to the Egyptian pharaoh, the whole lot of them began to complain, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat?  Moses, you’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death.”
God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration.”  I’m going to test them to see if they’ll live according to my Teaching or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have gathered, it will turn out to be twice as much as their daily ration.” God spoke to Moses, “I’ve listened to the complaints of the Israelites. Now tell them: ‘At dusk you will eat meat and at dawn you’ll eat your fill of bread; and you’ll realize that I am God, your God.’”
That evening quail flew in and covered the camp and in the morning there was a layer of dew all over the camp. When the layer of dew had lifted, there on the wilderness ground was a fine flaky something, fine as frost on the ground. The Israelites took one look and had no idea what it was. So, Moses told them, “It’s the bread God has given you to eat.” The Israelites ate the manna for forty years until they arrived at the land where they would settle down.

ANTHEM        Rain Down       J. Cortez
Rain down; rain down; rain down your love on your people.
Rain down; rain down; rain down your love, God of life.

PRAYER AND PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
LORD’S PRAYER
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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

A NOTE ABOUT OFFERING
Usually, when we gather in church on a Sunday Morning, we invite an offering to support God’s mission here in the church. This morning, we’d like to affirm that those offerings are life-sustaining – not just for our church, but for many organizations who strive to do good works. So, we encourage you to make your gifts to organizations that live out the words of the Prophet Micah to “Do Justice, Love Kindness, and Walk Humbly with your God.”  If you are part of a church, synagogue, or mosque that expresses justice and compassion for all of God’s beloved, send them a gift. It will be a sign of hope in these uncertain times.

MEDITATION AND DISCUSSION                                                                                                    Bobbie and Chuck

HYMN                         God That Madest Earth and Heaven

  1. God that madest earth and heaven darkenss and light, who the day for toil has given, for rest the night: may thine angel guards defend us, slumber sweet thy mercy send us; holy dreams and  hopes attend us, this, live-long night.
  2. When the constant sun returning unseals our eyes, may we, born anew like morning, to labor rise. Gird for us the task that calls us, let not ease and self enthrall us, strong through thee what e’re befall us, O God most wise!

BENEDICTION        J. Mauldin
The God we worship is never confined to any sacred place. Look to God who is found in ordinary and surprising places – even in these uncommon times.
Now may the love of truth guide you, the warmth of love hold you, and the spirit of peace bless you, this day and in the days to come.
At Home:  May it be so.

POSTLUDE

Worship Bulletin for Maundy Thursday April 9, 2020

THE SERVICE
We gather in the presence of God, who invites us to take our place at the table as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We shall come in silence, seeking the peace that passes all understanding.
We remember that the night before he died, Jesus called his disciples to an upper room, where he offered a blessing, broke bread, and poured wine. We enter this time, attending to God with our hearts and minds.
Now we take our places at the cosmic table, recognizing the presence of Christ among us everywhere. We nourish ourselves and our community in him.BELL                      
The first day of Unleavened Bread was the day when the Passover lambs were slain. The disciples approached Jesus concerning the place for observing the feast. JOHN asked Jesus, “where would you like us to prepare the Passover?”
Jesus answered:  “Go into the city.  A man will meet you carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  When he enters a house, give this message to the householder:  The Master says, “Where is the room reserved for me to eat the Passover with my disciples?”  He will show you a large room upstairs, set out in readiness.  Make the necessary preparations for us there.
The disciples left and went to the city where they met the man as Jesus had said.  They gave him the message. Later that evening, Jesus gathered with the Twelve for the Passover feast.  With a heavy heart, he tried to prepare them for the coming ordeal.READING   John 13
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Then JESUS said:  I have something to tell you.  One of you will betray me – one who is dipping into the same bowl with me.PONDERImagine yourself in this upper room with Jesus and his friends.
With whom do you identify? How do you feel?
Peter resists Jesus’ service of footwashing. Would you?
Are you surprised that Jesus included Judas
in the footwashing?
What would it take to offer a service of love
to someone who hurt or betrayed you?
What manner of love does Jesus model and command of
us?

Tonight, as we remember the shadows surrounding the last hours of Jesus’ life, let us also remember the light which God’s love shines upon us.

HYMN:     What Wondrous Love Is This?
1 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul!3 To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing!4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on!Jesus put away bowl and towel and reminded his friends that they were called to serve.   We come before you, O God, prepared to search out the focus and pattern of our Christian service.  Amen.SILENCEPRAYER OF CONFESSION
Giver of Life, from time immemorial you call us to yourself.
In ways too numerous to mention, we fail to respond.
Forgive us, we pray. Our limited understanding of culture
gets in the way of fellowship with those different from ourselves.
Our limited vision of community gets in the way of your call
to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to seek justice and peace for all.
Replace our arrogance, Merciful One, with the humility and caring service Jesus modeled, for truly we are not greater than our Teacher.  Amen.WORDS OF ASSURANCE
You speak, O God, and we hear your voice. It comes through trusted friends, through the challenge of world events, through reflection on the scriptures.  It comes through study, meditation, and prayer.        As we respond to God, pardon and peace are ours. Thanks be to God!  Amen.THE LORD’S PRAYER 
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.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.
ANTHEM  Remember Me 
                               music by A. Adams; words by S. Andrews
At the close of the day in an upper room,
the Lord sat down with the twelve. 
It was then that He took the bread,
broke it and blessed it and said:  
“Take, eat and remember Me.
This is my body I give for you. 
Take, eat and remember Me. Remember Me.”The disciples ate with their Lord that night,
not knowing this was the last. 
It was then that he took the cup,
raised it and blessed it and said:
“Take, drink and remember Me.
This is My life-blood I give for you.
Take drink and remember Me.
Remember Me.THE SACRAMENT OF THE LAST SUPPER
This commemorative act, central to our tradition,
comes alive for us each time we gather
at the Communion Table.
In re-enacting this event,
what is it that we receive in doing so?
and pass on to future generations?
At this table, and especially on this night,
we stand remembering our past, faithful in our present
and hoping in God’s future. 

WORDS OF INSTITUTION                                 
1 Corinthians, 11:23-26
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
SHARING THE LOAF AND THE CUP
        If you have communion elements, we invite you to share them.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Eternal God, we have come to your table poor and needy, and you have fed us with your own life. Grant that we may know the fullness of your blessing.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
THE HYMN  Beneath the Cross of Jesus
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty Rock
within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness,
a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat
and the burden of the day.
I take, O cross, thy shadow
for my abiding place:
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss;
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross.


BENEDICTION
Go out into the night,
contemplating what Jesus faced on that fateful Friday.
Make note of what you experienced this evening.
May you be continually transformed into the image of Christ.
Just as Jesus honored God by placing God’s will above his own,
may God be glorified through our lives.
Be of good courage!
Trust in God in whom we have salvation and hope

AMEN

Worship Bulletin for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020

This worship bulletin has been prepared for use during the                    
Coronavirus pandemic. May God’s light shine upon all.
BE SILENT
SIGNAL READINESS–Make a sound by tapping, ringing, humming or breathing.
CLOWN ON A DONKEY
by John Cranmer, 9 April 2017
Clown on a donkey
Stirred onwards
By an hysteric crowd
Living their Prophetic Edge
“Next Year in Jerusalem!!”

People camping outside the gates
“Today we are slaves
Next Year we will be free!”
Exiles coming Home
Again and again and again!

Here is living out a stream of life
At least 500 years deep
Remembering return from Exile
Babylon to Jerusalem
Anchored in the words of Zechariah
Prophet of National Revival
And his vision of the king
Coming with counter-cultural presence
Riding a Donkey’s foal
Not the War-Horse of overt power

And the Nazarene?
An ongoing question
For Contemporary Power 

National Savior at the Gates?
Underground Liberation Bringer?
Or something else?

Peace and Shalom
On this Day!

 

AT HOME:  Bring together photographs of the people in your life (past and present). Picture yourself with them along a parade route. Visualize hope.

HYMN             All Glory, Laud and Honor

All glory, laud and honor
To Thee Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of all children
Made sweet hosannas ring:

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name comest,
The King and blessed one!
The company of angels
Are praising Thee on high,                                                                           
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply:
The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our praise and prayer and anthems
Before Thee we present!           
To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
to Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise:
Thou didst accept their praises –
Accept the praise we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King! Amen.   
A REFLECTION ON THE PALM SUNDAY PARADE
by Brent McCauley
Small dust devils go spinning down the empty street.
Wind rattles the dry leaves
Of palm branches tossed in careless heaps.
Today crowds packed the street.
We cheered, we sang, we danced, waved palm branches,
A hero’s welcome for the one who comes,
The one who changes lives,
Some say the promised one, the one we have waited for.
We laid our branches down before him,
A royal carpet for his feet.
Now his friends and he are off somewhere,
The street is quiet, the crowds have all gone home.
So, what happens now?ACT OF AWARENESS  (Gretta Vosper/wab)
When, in the bursting forth of a new day’s truths, we feel the unbinding of what once stood fast, might we recognise the freedom upon which we are invited to embark and feel ourselves released into a future of goodness, truth, and beauty. We open ourselves to this possibility with love for the ground upon which we walk and the stars for which we reach.THE “ABBA” PRAYER
by Tom Hall
Eternal Spirit, Source of all that is and ever shall be, Loving Parent in whom we discern heaven, May knowledge of your holiness inspire all peoples. And may your commonwealth of peace and freedom flourish on earth,  until all of humankind heed your call to justice and compassion. 
May we find the bread that we need for today. And for the hurts we cause one another may we be forgiven in the same measure that we forgive. In times of trial and temptation, help us to be strong; When life seems overwhelming, help us to endure; And thus from the yoke of sin deliver us. May you reign in the power of human love, Now and forever.

Amen.

PSALM 51:10-2, 15-17             New Revised Standard Version
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

A READING                         Matthew 21:1-11
When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.” This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet: Tell Zion’s daughter, “Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mounted on a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”  The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”  As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”  The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”

REFLECTIONS
The language of faith includes a lot of “first person plural.” We gather. We pray. We sing. Our community. Our common vision. We all get the picture. But this morning, we are sequestered in our individual places, physically apart from one another.
I was thinking about the events of that last week of Jesus’ ministry.  The parade into Jerusalem was a “WE” event, and thus full of “WE” energy and confidence.  Toward the end of the week, that “WE” grew smaller and the tone became more somber.  While on trial, the “WE” turned against Jesus. Even the disciples faded into the background.  Hanging on the cross, the sense of community energy and confidence was gone. It must have been a first person singular event for many.
We can do some things with “WE” energy and vision that don’t work so well with “I” energy. Those of us who are introverts might see it just the opposite, but even then, those occasions when the parades of like-minded people flow around us are precious. This morning, let’s ponder the relationship between the “I” and the “WE” of our spiritual journey(s).  We’ll look for your responses by email.

READING             Creative Love

by W. DeWitt Hyde

Creative love, our thanks we give
that this our world, is incomplete,
that struggle greets our will to live,
that work awaits our hands and feet. That we are not yet fully wise,
that we are in the making still –
as friends who share one enterprise
and strive to blend with nature’s will. What though the future long delay,
and still with faults we daily cope?
It gives us that for which we pray,
a field for toil and faith and hope.Since what we choose is what we are,
and what we love we yet shall be,
the goal may ever shine afar –
the will to reach it makes us free. 


COMMUNION HYMN
Let us break bread together on our knees

  • Let us break bread together on our knees
  • Let us drink wine together on our knees
  • Let us praise God together on our knees

Refrain: When I fall on my knees, with my face to the rising sun, 
       O Lord, have mercy on me.

A JESUS BANQUET
by Rex A. E. Hunt

Welcome to the Table…At the table we give thanks for justice, love, peace and freedom. At the table we give thanks for friends and strangers together in community in a safe place. At the table we welcome old and young.

Thanksgiving…
We give thanks for the unfolding of matter, mind, intelligence, and life that has brought us to this moment in time.

We celebrate our common origin with everything that exists. We celebrate the mystery we experience and address as ‘God,’ ground and sustainer of everything that exists, in whom we live and move and have our being.

And we acknowledge this mystery embodied in every human person, aware that each one of us gives God unique and personal expression.

God is everywhere present. In grace-filled moments of sharing. In carefully created communities of loving solidarity. We are one with everything, living and nonliving, on this planet. Connected. Interrelated. Interdependent.

The Story…
We remember the stories from our tradition… How on many occasions Jesus would share a meal with friends. Bread and wine, the very basics of life, shared in community.

How the bread would be taken, a blessing offered, and then shared between them. And all of them ate.  How some wine would be poured out, a blessing offered, and then passed between them. And all of them drank.

The bread and the wine symbolized human lives interconnected with other human lives,
and the power of giving and receiving.

May the passion for life as seen in Jesus, and in the lives and struggles of many other
committed and faithful people then and now, enable us to dare and to dream and to risk…
may we re-imagine the world. Together may we work to make all things new. May we celebrate the possibilities and hope we each have and are called to share.

For everyone born, a place at the table.
We break the bread for the broken earth, ravaged and plundered for greed. May there be healing of our beautiful blue and green planet.

We break this bread for our broken humanity, for the powerful and the powerless trapped by exploitation and oppression. May there be the healing of humanity.

We break this bread for those who follow other paths: for those who follow the noble path of the Buddha, the yogic path of the Hindus; the way of the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs; and for the descendants of Abraham, the children of Hagar and Sarah.  May there be healing where there is pain and woundedness.

We break this bread for the unhealed hurts and wounds that lie within us all. May we be healed.

Wine is poured into the cup.  This is the cup of peace and of new life for all. A sign of love for the community of hope. A reminder of the call to live fully, to love wastefully, and to be all that we can be.

The Sharing…
To eat and drink together reminds us of the deeper aspects of human fellowship, for from time immemorial the sharing of bread and wine has been the most universal of all symbols of community.

After The Sharing…
We give thanks that we have gathered together in our sacred places. We rejoice in the giftedness of each person. We are grateful for who we are for each other. May we continue to be truly thankful in all we do and in all we become.

LORD’S PRAYER
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.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

BENEDICTION 
J. Philip Newell
The blessings of heaven,
The blessings of earth,
The blessings of sea and sky.
On those we love this day
and on every human family
The gifts of heaven
The gifts of earth
The gifts of sea and sky.  Amen

Worship Bulletin for March 27, 2020

This worship bulletin has been prepared for use during the Coronavirus pandemic. May God’s light shine upon all.

BE SILENT
SIGNAL READINESS –Make a sound by tapping, ringing, humming or breathing.

TO BLESS THE SPACE BETWEEN US
by John O’Donohue, from his book by this title

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

HYMN            In the Midst of New Dimensions          
1.     In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways,
                 Who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate                           ways?  
                 God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,
                 We, your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever,
                 now and evermore.

  1. Through the flood of starving people, warring factions and despair,     
    Who will lift the olive branches?  Who will light the flame of care?    God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,                
    We, your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever,     
    now and evermore.
  1.  As we stand a world divided by our own self-seeking schemes,      Grant that we, your global village, might envision wider dreams.  God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,                We, your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever,    now and evermore.

4. We are man and we are woman, all persuasions, old and young,                      Each a gift in your creation, each a love song to be sung.                                   God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,                               We, your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever,                       now and evermore.

           5. Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain,
               May your blazing phoenix spirit resurrect the church again.
               God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,
               We your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever 
               now and evermore.

THE “ABBA” PRAYER           by Tom Hall

Eternal Spirit,
Source of all that is and ever shall be,
Loving Parent in whom we discern heaven,
May knowledge of your holiness inspire all peoples.
And may your commonwealth of peace and freedom flourish on earth, until all of humankind heed your call to justice and compassion.
May we find the bread that we need for today.
And for the hurts we cause one another                                                          may we be forgiven in the same measure that we forgive.
In times of trial and temptation, help us to be strong;
When life seems overwhelming, help us to endure;
And thus from the yoke of sin deliver us.
May you reign in the power of human love,
Now and forever.  Amen

PSALM 46            New Revised Standard Version
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.  Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
God speaks, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.   Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord
who brings desolations on the earth,
who makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
who breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
who burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah

(Note: I once asked a Rabbi what the word “Selah” meant in psalms.                He didn’t know how to answer.  He said it was like a verbal punctuation;      It may mean there is to be a break in the singing.)

TIME OF SILENCE AND PRAYER
There is rarely enough silence in our lives. Perhaps we are too busy for silence. Perhaps we are afraid of what we might discover. Today we will again give silence its place.
(Silence)
We gather at this time and in this place to celebrate the mystery of life. As Winter days begin to give way to early Spring we commit to moving beyond our previous selves and to continue emerging into persons and into a community dedicated to enhancing this world.
(Silence)
We celebrate the fragile signs of blossom, heralding new and fruitful growth. And bird song that beckons us to a slower pace, to listen, to appreciate, to wonder; to be at peace with ourselves in the harried world we often create.
(Silence)
We affirm the worth of all, and commit ourselves to honouring the sacred in all. Thus we seek to open ourselves to be more in tune, more involved with each other and the world.
(Silence)
We sense our greater connection to the sacred within all, and resist old models that would place us at the egotistical center, with the world and others revolving around us.
(Silence)
We commit ourselves to learning, changing, thinking again, doing our theology and daring again to imagine how faith and risk lead us to each other, engaging us all in the depths and dimensions of what it means to be human, to be neighbor, to love, to include, to laugh, to be free.
(Silence)
And may we be inspired to be carriers of the spirit of caring.
(Silence)
This is our prayer. May it be so.

A READING             John 7: 25-31
Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true.”
(I think tone of voice is critical in reading this speech by Jesus; when he cries out, “You know me, and you know where I am from!” –I hear a very human cry of frustration – exasperation.)   
Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

REFLECTIONS            by Bobbie and Chuck
At least one member of our congregation is reading a volume called “The Decameron” by the 14th Century Florentine writer, Giovanni Boccaccio.
I can guess why someone might see it as a possible read for these times: it was written around the time of one of the first recorded global pandemics. The Plague, also known as the “Black Death,” had swept through much of the world, and was just beginning to wind down.
I don’t know if our Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic would put me in the mood to read something that might have come out of the plague, but it has a certain appeal.
The book follows seven young women and three young men to a small country villa away from the city of Florence, Italy. Each morning, one of the ten would set the theme for the day’s storytelling. They told ten stories a day for ten days – a hundred altogether. We might call this “binge-storytelling.”
The thing that stands out for me is that as the deadly plague ran its course, a renaissance of arts, invention, exploration and learning was born. Boccaccio, himself, brought a flowering of the Florentine language. And the human spirit began to breathe free. People began to reject old practices and beliefs that had held people down. They sought new ways of imagining humanity.
Thus, out of a great tragedy, new life blossomed.
So, we still don’t know the scope of the disease that now sweeps across this planet. It threatens to devastate communities and institutions.
Can we mentally withdraw ourselves to some remote villa and take this time to tell new stories about our lives? Can we see it as an opportunity to invite a personal renaissance?  What riches within our hearts and souls will we explore? How can we be better, stronger?
Digging deep into our own selves takes time – and it takes pondering, like exploring roads out there – in the middle of our “nowhere” territory. Some of those roads may lead to places we didn’t know were on the map.  Maybe it’s a personal rebirth that can give the opportunity for all of us.

If one needs a verse to recite, Psalm 46 has it:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear;
though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult,
we will not fear.

What things might change after this Covid-19 pandemic runs its course?  What is already among and within us, waiting to be born?
A renaissance of new energy and fresh ideas may be just around the corner and over the horizon. What does it mean to say that God is our refuge and strength? How do we explore those riches within our hearts and souls? Can we find those roads in our nowhere territory?
Do we put everything back where we found it? Or is there “more truth and light” yet to break upon our active congregation.  Let’s tell ourselves a hundred new stories about life going forward.
Be of strong hope!

CLOSING HYMN            A Song of Peace

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands a-far and mine;
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine: 
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover fields and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, Thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

LORD’S PRAYER
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.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

BENEDICTION             J. Philip Newell
The blessings of heaven,
The blessings of earth,
The blessings of sea and sky.
On those we love this day
and on every human family
The gifts of heaven
The gifts of earth
The gifts of sea and sky.  Amen