The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
February 28, 2021
Second Sunday in Lent
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Thank you, Lord God, for the opportunity of worship for the freedom to be amongst your family meeting together and in the warmth of your embrace. Thank you that in worship we can put aside the uncertainties of this world and rest upon the certainties of the Kingdom -for your promises are not changeable as those of a politician might be -but immovable and eternal. Thank you that we can bring to your feet all the hurts and fears that trouble us and leave them there knowing that your strength and assurance are all that we require. Thank you that as we draw near in worship we are transported from a world of concerns and fears to a place where we can be at peace in your presence to find healing, wholeness and refreshment. Thank you, Lord God, for the opportunity of worship. Amen.
PRELUDE Prayer by Alexandre Guilmant
CALL TO WORSHIP
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to God;
God’s face is not hidden from us when we cry to God.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
For dominion belongs to the Lord, and God rules over the nations.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
If we would only confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from the wrongs we have caused. Let us confess our sin together, trusting God’s promised mercy.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you and one another in our thoughts, our words and our actions. There is a brokenness in us that reflects the brokenness of our world — and it is deep and broad. Yet in your mercy and healing grace, you can restore us and empower us to walk in the way of Christ. In your mercy and healing grace, you can reform our paths toward love and justice for our neighbors and for the earth. In your mercy and healing grace, you can make your peace – your shalom – a reality in our communities and lives. Amen.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God’s mercy and healing grace are sure for each and for all. Friends, hear the good of the gospel: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven and restored. We are set on right paths of love, justice and peace.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”
ANTHEM “Be Thou My Vision” Bob Chilcott
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
O God, send your Spirit to us to open our hearts that we might discern your Word amid the words of Scripture we read today, so that in hearing your Word we may be formed in the way of Christ for one another and our world. Amen.
SCRIPTURE 1 Peter 1:3-5
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
SERMON This Is It???
The time was coming when everyone would be reminded why he was the king! He was timeless, his followers were from all generations. This would be his greatest moment. The dancers were getting ready, the venue was set, tickets were sold, and the dates were confirmed. This would be it! The finale. A capstone to remind everyone why he was the king. It would be a performance of a lifetime, something that no one would forget. The concert was deemed the most important pop comeback in history and ironically followed the previous tour called the HIStory world tour. For Michael Jackson it would be imperishable, undefiled and unfading for all time. It would be his legacy. This Is It!
What? That wasn’t it? It didn’t happen? You are telling me that he died before HIStory could be retold and cemented? Yep, that is what happened. The greatest performance ever ended up as a movie made up of rehearsals for the greatest performance ever. True, it’s on its way to be the highest grossing musical movie ever, but it is not the legacy that Michael Jackson was looking to have. It isn’t the perfect ending to an imperfect career! Some were angry. How could this happen to our idol? Some were lost in a flood of emotion: “This man meant so much to me, he touched my life.” Some just were apathetic to the whole situation, “Go figure, another celebrity dying before his time…” But all in all he was perishable, he was defiled by the controversies in his life and his legacy will fade. This is it???
Is that our story too? If you were to wrap your life up in one story, just one story, what would it be? What would be the one big story that makes sense of all the other little stories? Our lives are filled with countless little stories. We go to work in the morning and come home at night, each year seems to get us home a bit later. Each promotion comes with more work, a salary is great, but it also means you don’t get overtime anymore. Everyone is looking to put their little stories into the context of the big, defining story of their lives. Some of us go big and try out for “American Idol,” others go a little smaller and just hope that we can leave a little something to our kids. Some of us just want enough stashed away so that we can go see the world and put some pictures on the Web so people can see what we have done. Others of us go on mission trips to do some good in the world. We all are searching for that thing that gives life meaning. We hope it will be imperishable, undefiled, and unfading for all time. This is it?
Two thieves were crucified with Jesus. Each thief had his own story, just as each of us has our own stories. Your stories are not my stories. Your stories are not your neighbor’s stories. Your stories are not the stories of your spouse or the stories of your children. Each of us has our own stories and yet our individual stories overlap. That was certainly true of the thieves. The overlap in their stories was their lives of crime, their condemnation, and their execution. But in the end, each thief was defined in dramatically different ways.
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ?’ Save yourself and us!’” (Luke 23:39). That thief’s defining story is cynicism, death, and eternal death. But the other thief’s story reads this way:
“The other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:40-43). What’s this thief’s story? It is a simple story: Confession of sin, forgiveness from Jesus, and the promise of paradise. This is it, not with a question mark but with an exclamation point. This is it! This is the big story that brings all our little stories together. This is the defining story that helps us understand who we are and where we’re going.
Peter had this story in mind when he wrote to Christians scattered in Asia Minor, what we know today as Turkey. In his first letter to these Christians, Peter writes,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3- 5).
Their “life together” was defined by that incredible story. So is ours. Because of the loving acts of God, you and I have a resurrected Savior who gives us hope and a heavenly inheritance. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
There’s insight in this text for living as Christians today. In the past America was an overtly Christian nation. Going to church was a social norm. Most people, whether they were church- goers or not, knew their Bible stories. Today all kinds of stories are being told in America. Today the Christian message is no longer the privileged story. Our situation is, in some ways, similar to the situation of the Christians to whom Peter was writing. They were not people of privilege. They had never been the “party in power” and had no hopes of becoming so.
So how should we live?
The same way they did. Amid all the stories swirling in our fractured and fragmented society, Peter encourages us to live together in the story that defines us. He would have us yearn to be immersed in the story of God’s mercy, his acts of loving kindness to you. “In his great mercy he has given us a new birth.” Our story is about the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wow, doesn’t that give us hope! “…a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Our story is about living with a purpose, a goal, “to an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” And what can keep you in this greatest story of all? “…through faith [you] are shielded by God’s power that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Faith is like a fortress. As the walls of a fortress keep people safe within, so the teachings of Jesus Christ in God’s Word keep us safe. That God sent him to die for our sins, that his resurrection gives us hope, that we have a heavenly future… Surrounding ourselves with these teachings of faith is the way the Spirit of God keeps us safe for eternity.
You, I, and the world are in the same position as those thieves on the cross. Michael Jackson too. Where is my imperishable, undefiled and unfading life? Should I close this sermon by quoting lyrics from “This Is It?” We know that is not where it’s at. Let me close with the lyrics that have brought us our “Life Together:”
Upon that cross of Jesus Mine eye at times can see the very dying form of One, Who suffered there for me; And from my smitten heart, with tears, Two wonders I confess, The wonders of His glorious love, And my own worthlessness. (Beneath the Cross of Jesus, v. 2)
This is truly it! Amen.
Commentary provided by Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Steve Wilbraham, Karl Jacobson, Eric Barreto, Carla Works, Scott Hoezee, David Lose, Karoline Lewis, and Roger Gench
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
Praise be to you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
You have given us new birth into a living hope, an inheritance that can never perish!
O God, in this hope, we remember that life alone is nothing
without life together,
and that life together is nothing
without life in you.
O Lord, remember us when you come into your kingdom.
O Christ, thy kingdom come.
O Lord, remember this fractured, fragmented world.
O Christ, thy kingdom come.
O Lord, remember the church, your broken people everywhere, and this congregation.
O Christ, thy kingdom come.
O Lord, remember the sick and suffering . . . .
Remember those who grieve . . . .
Remember all these lives in your gracious mercy.
O Christ, thy kingdom come.
O Father, all these burdens and cares, and all that weighs upon our hearts, we leave in your care,
shielded by your power until your kingdom comes,
in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, who taught us to pray saying, Our Father…
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.
Flowers Are given in the glory and honor of God by Fred Schnarr to his loving wife Diana on her birthday and his good friend Bernie Carlson on his birthday.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
God is a fountain of good gifts that are bestowed upon all of us. Let us respond to these gifts by returning a portion of our resources as a sign that all of who we are is a gift from God. Amen.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
O God, receive these gifts as a sign that our lives are committed to your work in this world. May these gifts enable flourishing for all your children and the whole creation.
Go out into God’s world in the power of the Spirit,
Resist evil and stand for the good.
Be a blessing to your neighbor,
And lift up the brokenhearted,
Stand with the oppressed
Let all that you do be out of love.