The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
May 29, 2022
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Holy One, we recall that the work of sharing the Gospel, the Good News, has been entrusted to us. You called us to be Your witnesses. You called us to abide in Your love. You called us to love one another, and You told us you were coming again. Help us to trust in You. Guide us to find the holy in the world around us, the places where You are already at work. Lead us to give in to hope, and to give up on despair. Hold us accountable to the work of the Gospel, the sharing of the Good News, and the hope found in You. For You are our Way, our Truth, and our Life—and Your way is love eternal. In Your name we pray. Amen.
PRELUDE “How Firm a Foundation” Truuke Ameigh
CALL TO WORSHIP
The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
*HYMN No. 1 “Holy, Holy, Holy” vs. 1-3
1 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
2 Holy, holy, holy! all the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
3 Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinfulness thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.
*CALL TO RECONCILIATION
The proof of God’s amazing love is this: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Christ rose for us. Christ reigns in power for us. Christ even prays for us. With such assurance, we need not fear confession but simply draw near to our maker in candor.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Almighty God, you have raised Jesus from death to life, and crowned him Lord of all. We confess that we have not bowed before him or acknowledged his rule in our lives. We have gone along with the ways of the world and failed to give him glory. Forgive us, and raise us from sin, that we may be your faithful people, obeying the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, who rules the world, and is head of the church, his body.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The saying is true and worthy of full acceptance that Christ died to save sinners. Siblings, believe the promise of the gospel: in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
*RESPONSE No. 1, v. 4 “Holy Holy Holy”
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
*PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Since God has forgiven us in Christ, let us forgive one another. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
ANTHEM “We Sing the Mighty Power of God” Hal Hopson
THE CHILDREN’S MESSAGE
PLEASE JOIN ME IN THE UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION…
O God, as we fully experience the good news of Easter and look toward the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, open our hearts and minds to your Word dwelling within us, calling us to unity in Christ.
THE SCRIPTURE READING FOR TODAY IS LUKE 1:67-79,
HEAR NOW, THIS PORTION OF GOD’S WORD:
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on[a] his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior[b] for us
in the house of his child David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
in his presence all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break[c] upon[d] us,
79 to shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
PAUSE – COUNT TO 10
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.
THANKS BE TO GOD
SERMON “The Candle”
It is hard to light the Christ candle this morning, isn’t it? After the tragic events on Tuesday, it would seem more appropriate to light the candle of sorrow. At this time of year, classrooms should be filled with the excitement of year-end parties as little ones count down the days until summer break – classrooms should not be filled with terror and death. At this time of year, children should be worried about where their family will go for vacation not whether a gunman will enter their lives. And at this time of year, parents should focus on the final days of school, not weeping inconsolably for children who are no more. The senseless murder of 18 elementary school students and 3 adults has left us all reeling with grief and anger and it stirs in us horrible questions that we don’t even want to admit that we are asking God, “How O, prince of peace, could you have allowed this to happen? You can part the Red Sea and roll back the stone from the tomb, but you couldn’t save these children?” And if you have come here for answers, I am afraid you will leave disappointed – but beware the preacher with quick answers to senseless tragedy.
And yet in spite of our sorrow, we light the Christ candle, even while it feels as if there is little room for its light in our broken hearts. But as we light the candle to remind us of Jesus’ presence, my hope is that we remember that in times of despair and pain when the light seems to be crowded out with so much darkness, the light of joy shines bright with the promise:
We are still in the Easter season, and this should be is a season filled with promise: the tomb is empty, and Jesus Christ is Risen…Indeed.
But these words of hope are just that: hope; they speak of a reality that is, but is also not yet, they are a hope that lies just beyond the horizon of today- and they are promises that feel particularly distant today. But the promises that we have in scriptures are not the saccharine words of naive optimists who never faced darkness and despair but rather they are the words of men and women of great faith who in the midst of suffering and pain trusted and leaned into the promises of God. This is the great paradox of our faith: we affirm the pain of today while looking to the promised joy of tomorrow. In thinking about this paradox that is at the heart of our faith I am reminded of the words from our funeral liturgy that proclaims, “yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” We sing because we are not without hope, for Christ has come and Christ will come again, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes. Today we are learning the balancing act of our faith: how to not rush too quickly to hope and yet not give in to despair.
And this truly is what Easter Tide is all about. Easter is a time when we might recognize the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. A kingdom of peace and not war; for love and not hate; hope and not despair, for joy and not pain – a time when the coming of Christ will make all things new.
The tragic events in Texas are a stark reminder that Christ did not come into this world because we needed another holiday or a vacation. God came into the world through Christ because the world is a dangerous, frightening, wounded place in desperate need of God’s healing. That is as true today as it was at the time of Christ’s time. I am guessing that just about every preacher attempting to find words this morning have turned to the gospel of Matthew where we read, “When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed ALL the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
This Slaughter of the Innocents defies understanding – that on the heels of the long-awaited coming of the Prince of Peace that doors would be kicked in, babies torn from their mothers’ arms, and killed by Herod’s henchmen. It makes us wonder, what good was the coming of Christ if such things could happen in Bethlehem, if such things could happen in Uvalde?
In light of the violence surrounding his birth and in light of the violence that continues in our world today we wonder what does it mean to profess that the Word became flesh and lived amongst us?
What does it mean to profess Christ as the Light of the World that shines in the darkness, never to be overcome?
These are the questions that we ask ourselves in the wake of such tragedy and I wish that I had better answers for you this morning. But here is what I do know: that the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ into this world means that God did not wish to remain safe and distant from the pain of the world, but God desired to descend into the suffering. It means that God was so in love with us that God wanted to be with us no matter what that meant. And God desired that the experience of that love and that pain and suffering would become part of who God is because it would bring God closer to us. And so, though we may feel as if we are sitting in the ashes, without hope, without comfort, the power of God’s coming is that Christ sits with us, without hope, without comfort, weeping with us.
In trying to find words of hope for this morning, I had to turn to someone with stronger faith than me. In his eulogy for the Martyred Children of Birmingham in 1963, Dr. King, said, “Life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
This is the meaning of the incarnation, the power of Emmanuel, God with us, is that we do not mourn alone, we do not grieve in solitude, God is with us. For even when we cry out, “my God, my God why have you forsakenness us”- we cry out with the words of Christ himself. And we lean into the promise that one day in the words of the prophet Jeremiah will be fulfilled, “then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow (Jer. 31:13).
Easter has always been a season of joyful celebration. Remembering that Christ rose from the dead that we might have eternal life and have it abundantly. And this morning it is difficult to hear the good news of an empty tomb above the wailing of mothers, refusing to be consoled, because their children are no more. But above their cries we also hear the song of Zechariah rejoicing at the birth of his son John. And we are reminded of the hope that is kindled, of the joy that arrives with the birth of a child. But Zechariah had another cause for his joy because it had been revealed to him by an angel of the Lord that his son would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. And so, in the midst of the suffering of his people Zechariah sees the fulfillment of the promise and he sings: (Song of Zechariah, verses 4 &5) 4 Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or heed me, says the Lord. 5 Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?
This morning the light of Christ shines bright with the promise of its fulfillment, and we struggle to lean into this promise. This is the great paradox of our faith – that we lay claim to something we cannot yet grasp; that we boldly proclaim a vision that we have not yet seen with our own eyes; and we speak words of hope even when our hearts may be filled with doubt.
And so, this morning the Christ candle is joined by the candle of sorrow. They shine together today but we know one day when the Light of the World comes again that only joy will remain. For today they shine together and within their light we dare to proclaim: By the tender mercies of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Amen.
Liturgy and Commentary provided by Alison Harrington, Barbara Chaapel, Brian Peterson, Eric Barreto, Alex Evans, Clover Beal, Richard L. Floyd, and Stan Mast.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 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.
*HYMN No. 337 “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”
1 My country, ’tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty,
of thee I sing:
land where my *fathers died,
land of the pilgrims’ pride,
from every mountainside
let freedom ring.
2 My native country, thee,
land of the noble free,
thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
thy woods and templed hills;
my heart with rapture thrills
like that above.
3 Let music swell the breeze,
and ring from all the trees
sweet freedom’s song.
Let mortal tongues awake;
let all that breathe partake;
let rocks their silence break,
the sound prolong.
4 Our *fathers’ God, to thee,
author of liberty,
to thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
with freedom’s holy light;
protect us by thy might,
great God, our King.
PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
The prophets affirm, “the people who’ve walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We walk in darkness today, O God of Light.
We walk in the darkness of loss, of violence, of fear. We walk in the darkness of unknown, unsure, uncertain.
We stumble through darkness in which words tumble out of our mouths, leaving their chalky residue on our tongues, but they have so little meaning, so little substance, rather they simply add to the darkness, to the loss, to the unknowing.
We stumble through the darkness seeking, struggling to put our fingertips on something familiar, something comforting, something of home. On this faltering journey, may we stumble into our humanity.
We walk in darkness today, O God of Light.
We walk in the darkness of 19 dead in Texas.
We walk in the darkness of more than murders than we care to count.
We walk in the darkness of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, and Portland.
We walk in the darkness of New Town, Buffalo and Uvalde.
We walk in the darkness of wondering how? and why? and where next?
Hear our lament and break forth, O God of Light.
Remind us yet again that flickering light of the candle is as bright as the sun in this overwhelming darkness.
Warm our hearts with the promise that it was you who spoke a word and brought light into being.
Dry our tears with the assurance that it was you who set the sun of day and the stars of night.
Calm our fears with the reminder that it was you who led the way and lit the night with a pillar of fire.
Call us to action with the hope that a star brighter than all the others will take us down the path toward encountering the Prince of Peace.
Give us courage, O God of Light, to not let darkness have the final word. Give us strength to not let fear cloud our commitment to your rule of love. Give us boldness to not ever forget that you have called us to put down the sword. And give us the daring to join our voices yet again with the great cloud of witness and hear us as we, with the confidence of children, pray the prayer Christ taught us…
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.
This week’s flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Ed and Carol Parkin in loving memory of Elinor and Charles Parkin.
OFFERING OF TITHES
Jesus prayed: As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. Living in the world, we gather the gifts we have received, and bring them before God, offering back what we have, so that the world may know the love of Christ and become one.
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully known; Creator, Word and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
* PRAYER OF DEDICATION
As Elisha took up Elijah’s mantle, we present these gifts that through them the church may take up the mantle of Christ and proclaim his Word to the world through acts of justice and love. Amen.
*HYMN No. 8 “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”
1 Eternal Father, strong to save,
whose arm has bound the restless wave,
who bade the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.
2 O Savior, whose almighty word
the winds and waves submissive heard,
who walked upon the foaming deep,
and calm amid its rage did sleep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.
3 O Holy Spirit, who did brood
upon the chaos wild and rude,
and bade its angry tumult cease,
and gave, for fierce confusion, peace:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.
4 O Trinity of love and power,
all travelers guard in danger’s hour;
from rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them wheresoe’er they go;
thus evermore shall rise to thee
glad praise from air and land and sea.
As you follow the journey of discipleship into the post- Resurrection world, remember that Christ prays for you, and draws you into the very heart of God.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and may God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, remains with you always. Amen