Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mother’s Day

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Isn’t She Lovely (Mother’s Day Version)
by Anthem Lights

We delight in God’s ways.
We give thanks to God.
We abide in Christ’s mercy.
We are like children sheltered against the storm.
We are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Together, we are one family and one in Christ.

On Mother’s Day, let us celebrate the women in our lives who have nurtured us and witnessed to the power of love. We are grateful for their strength, compassion, and self-sacrifices. Lord, may we be inspired by such faithfulness and wisdom. We pray as one family in your Son’s name. Amen.

Merciful God, when offered the promise of your glorious inheritance, we settle for the glib assurances that would deceive and devour us. Lift our gaze to see with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may see beyond our own eyes, which are fixed on the ground. Though our hearts are set on earthly power and our aspirations are limited to getting ahead. Forgive us. Teach us anew to wait for your Holy Spirit, that we may be clothed with power from on high, in the name of the One who shows us the way to live on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Hear now these words of assurance:
When we have the patience and courage to wait for the spirit to come, we justify the hope to which we have been called. The Holy One forgives our transgressions and clothes us with new power from on high. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

All readings are from the New Revised Standard Version bible.

PSALTER LESSON ………………………………………………….. Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
   he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;
   for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
   you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
   and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

NEW TESTAMENT LESSON …………………………………… Acts 9: 36-43
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.  At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.  Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.”  So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.  Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.  He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.  This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.  Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

GOSPEL LESSON ………………………………………………………… John 10: 22-30
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.  What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”

SERMON …………………..……. Engagement ……………………………Rev. Mike Daly
Happy Mother’s Day! 

As people of faith, we wrestle with the question of lowering the bar. Couldn’t Jesus have lowered the bar for us? Can’t God shift priorities so we see some reward for doing good? Can’t the Holy Spirit leave us alone? Once in a while, can’t Jesus just say, “Enjoy” and ease off on this whole discipleship thing?

Maybe you wish Jesus would have gone a little easier on the command to “stop being judgmental.” Perhaps you wish that Jesus would lighten up on that command to forgive. Maybe we can get the “go ahead” getting a little revenge without it being a problem. And what is this grand idea about inclusion that Jesus keeps repeating over and over again, like, “love your neighbor.” 

The only problem is – that is never going to happen. It is modern-day lingo, but basically, Jesus has set the bar on divine terms, not ours. In fact, in today’s gospel reading and throughout the entire New Testament, Jesus and Jesus’ teachings makes it abundantly clear that his followers must engage with the world. He never asks for perfection but always asks for our best.

Go and engage the suffering, the lonely, the betrayers, and the homeless, Jesus tells us. Go be peacemakers and stand against all injustice, he says. Even on that evening before his death, Jesus gathered in that upper room with his disciples to prepare them for a future without him. Knowing his own betrayal and execution was about to take place, he stops everything to pray for those he loves, asking God to protect them. 

Jesus prays, not asking God to take his followers out of the world but to take them away from the “evil one.” That is to say, protect them from the evil of the world, protect them from the temptation to seek more and more power, defend them from wanting more and more material wealth, protect them from excluding others, and protect them from all those things that will lead them away from God. 

Jesus’ whole life is an example of striving for that type of high bar. He never sought escape from this world. But instead, he engaged with it. He actively engaged in upending all of the distorted powers, unfair pressures, and deceit-filled evil all around him. He expects the same from us.

Jesus knows that to live God’s way in this world is not easy. In fact, it can seem downright impossible. Jesus knows that many will hate his followers for living lives of love, forgiveness, and inclusion. He knows that standing on the edge with those living at the margins can leave us isolated too. 

Sometimes, being a disciple means dealing with controversial situations and topics, such as idolatry, naming corruption, and speaking truth to power. Sometimes, being a disciple means sitting with and comforting a dear one in their last hours of life. Sometimes, being a disciple means giving more than you really have.  

Jesus’ prayers, then and now, are for God to give us what we need to stay strong in a world that is so full of fear and so in need of redemption. Jesus asks us to remain strong in a world where it would be so much easier not to. In all of Jesus’ prayers, not once does Jesus pray for God to lower the expectations. Instead, his prayers ask for more divine work and for God to keep everyone strong to endure wherever needs are greatest. 

In other words, God’s way makes our lives better. Makes all lives better. It helps us grow into wholeness and allows us to flourish because of our work. Aristotle would say – become good by doing good. So, where can we do the most good as Christians? 

Pain and suffering will not disappear from the world or in our lives. But, when we are deeply rooted in our God’s love, that means that all hardship can be overcome. We must constantly remind ourselves that Jesus has placed us in the care of each other because we are always stronger together than we can ever be alone. 

In a grief workshop (in Fort Wayne) entitled “Being Present to Those Who are Grieving,” the presenter (Jane Munch) asked the attendees to do an exercise of focus and trust. The activity is called Remembrance Gathering. 

Those who had experienced a significant loss, whether recent or decades ago, were asked to share their story. The rest of the group was coached on giving their full attention to the person speaking. They start by lighting a candle and then say a few words about their loved one’s life.

When they finish their storytelling, those who listened ask questions. After those questions have been asked and answered, another person takes their turn in front of the community. And the process begins again. The three people shared their stories that day and then afterward shared their surprise at the level of healing they experienced, even though they shared so much personal information with people they had never met.  

It was a surprise – but experiences such as this speak a word of truth about our reality – that even an unknown group of people, listening intently to stories and showing they cared by engaging, can help to heal any broken heart. 

Jesus knew that. No matter what the world throws our way or puts at our doorstep, we can handle it as long as we stay grounded in God and rooted in a caring community. As a friend of mine once said, Jesus’ life with the disciples mirrored his life with God. Our relationships with each other should have that same character.

Lowering the bar – easing off the gas pedal – grabbing a beer, and sitting on the couch all day (however, you might say it) was never an answer or a solution for Jesus. God’s way is a way of love and inclusion and striving higher. To do that, we find our humility and our humanity. This high bar of trust and devotion amplifies our call never to fear loss, never judge others, and never abandon the poor. We have a heavenly bar, and if we are following Jesus, it is our job to rise to it.

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.

The Gift of Love
by Becky Craig

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are apart one from the other, Amen.

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