The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
May 8, 2022
Fourth Sunday of Easter
God, When you heard Peter say to the body, ‘Tabitha, get up’ were you delighted with his faith? With his belief that in Christ death is actually overcome?
Do you will us to believe yet? To believe that almost one billion people can hunger no more, thirst no more and every tear can be wiped away from their eyes?
Help us to hear the call to life, to get up and serve as Tabitha ‘devoted to good works and acts of charity’ and to live in resurrection hope, that is both now and then. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP
He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
*HYMN No. 239 “Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing!”
1 Good Christians all, rejoice and sing!
Now is the triumph of our King!
To all the world glad news we bring:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
2 The Lord of life is risen today!
Death’s mighty stone is rolled away.
Let all the earth rejoice and say:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
3 Praise we in songs of victory
that love, that life which cannot die,
and sing with hearts uplifted high:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
4 Your name we bless, O risen Lord,
and sing today with one accord
the life laid down, the life restored:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
*CALL TO RECONCILIATION
Our sin is before us, leading us astray. Let us return to God through our prayer of confession.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Merciful God, we have followed the desires of our own hearts and neglected the needs of our neighbors. Forgive our hard and selfish ways. Turn us to Christ and Christ’s righteous path. Guide our steps in mission and ministry. Amen.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
We are an Easter people, forgiven and freed, ready to sing God’s glory and testify to God’s grace. Amen.
*RESPONSE No. 7 “Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth”
1 Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, source of every breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.
2 Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace.
3 Mothering Spirit, nurturing one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flower, until I know.
*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 “Train Up a Child” Pepper Chopin
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
God our helper, guide us into and through your word, that we might be shaped by your Spirit’s message to us today and transformed for service in your world. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Acts 9:36-43
36Now 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. 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since 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.” 39So 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. 40Peter 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. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
SERMON “AUTOBOTS – ROLL OUT!!”
The classic cartoon during my high school years was THE TRANSFORMERS. The cartoon (along with the Marvel comics) set up the basic story of Transformers that most other incarnations were to follow: two warring factions of robots on the planet Cybertron leave in search of resources. The factions crash-land on Earth and, millions of years later, begin their battle anew in Reagan-era America and across the globe. These robots have the ability to transform into vehicles: cars, planes and mechanical creatures. They were announced as robots in disguise and more than meets the eye.
But, in some ways, we are all TRANSFORMERS. Maybe not into cars or planes or robots, but human beings are practitioners of transformation. We can all recall periods of our lives where we went through tremendous changes. For one person, it might be that time you were diagnosed with that terrible illness. For another, it might be that time you sent the last child off to college. For another, it might be that time you decided to get sober. For another, it might be the time you transitioned into retirement. Or, it could be any other countless ways in which we are called to transformations.
Some transformations are welcomed. Others are not. Some, are a curious mixture of both – like the parent helping their child move to college with a mixture of excitement and sadness.
Transformations, by their very definition, form us into different things. They mold us into the form which God is calling us to embody given specific circumstances.
There is perhaps no greater example of transformation in the bible than our good friend Peter. At the beginning of his journey with Christ, Peter was just your average fisherman, fishing the waters of the sea and minding his own business. He had no desire for an “exciting” life. Like Bilbo Baggins, Peter was content to merely live the quiet life of a normal person with no inconvenient adventures like the ones that make you late for dinner.
But Jesus came and told Peter that he would still be a fisherman, only the kind that fished for people.
Peter followed Jesus and joined in his healing and teaching ministry. All was going well until Jesus was arrested a few weeks ago and Peter denied him three times by the charcoal fire. It was the low of Peter’s discipleship. Warming his hands by that charcoal fire, Peter probably wished that all that transformation had just left him alone and that he was still by the seaside fishing for regular fish.
And then, three days later, Peter heard about an empty tomb and had to go run to see it for himself.
And then, a few weeks later, Peter was restored back into the good graces of Jesus by another charcoal fire, this time by the very sea by which Jesus called Peter to ministry in the first place. Only this time Peter was not a simple fisherman. This time, Peter was being positioned by Jesus to be the very rock upon which he would build his church.
And in today’s passage, we see the completion of Peter’s radical transformation. Today, Peter is not fishing for fish. He is not denying Christ. He is not swimming to see his Risen Lord. Today, Peter is raising someone from the dead.
That’s quite a transformation, indeed!
Today’s story tells us of a woman named Tabitha, a disciple of the Risen Christ. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity, we are told. The narrator of the Book of Acts tells us that she was quite gifted in the art of making clothes because, at the event of her death, all of the women gathered with the clothes that Tabitha had made for them. Such was why there was great grief at the event of her death. This was not your average person. This was your Woman of Faith Award Winner from the Presbyterian Women. This was your Teacher of the Year for the entire state. This was everyone’s favorite nursery volunteer. She had died and the tears began to flow.
So, they called Peter. I suppose they called Peter because what they needed was a resurrection. What they needed was transformation. So, they called Peter because he had had a front row seat to the greatest transformation of all. Peter had been gifted with resurrection to share and perhaps some of the abundant life he had been gifted by Christ could spill onto their deathly circumstances.
So, Peter arrives and tells everyone to leave him alone with Tabitha’s lifeless body. He knelt down and prayed. You and I are not privy to the words of his prayer but one can only imagine that he prayed for life where death’s grasp had tightened its hold. It’s a prayer I’m sure most of us have prayed from time to time.
After Peter finished his prayer, he turned to Tabitha’s body and said two simple things – her name and a command. “Tabitha, get up.”
And, just like that, she rises. Tabitha, who had so long been a giver of grace, was now receiving it in the most tangible of ways.
He then invited everyone back into the room and what they found was life where before there had been death, hope where before there had been despair. And the story spread; pretty soon everyone believed in the Lord because of what had been done in his name.
What I find most fascinating about this story is that transformation begets transformation. The transformation of Jesus from death to life continued a dramatic transformation in Peter’s life. Peter, then, shared that transformation with Tabitha and, then, that transformation turned that surrounding community into a community of believers. The Book of Acts, as a whole, is a collection of stories of the growing concentric circles of transformation begun by the spark of the resurrection. Like a pebble that is thrown into a still body of water, the resurrection of Christ is a singular event with exponential ramifications. These “waves of resurrection” wash away the death of Tabitha and restore hope to a broken community.
I also find it fascinating that an entire community came to believe in the Lord with so little words spoken. Think about it, the only words spoken were “Tabitha, get up.”
How many people need those simple words spoken to them?
How many people simply need to be addressed by name and invited to embrace hope?
Every single one of us in this room has the capability of calling another person by name and inviting them to the light of the resurrection. Now, we might not have the ability to restore life to dead people, but what we do have the ability to do something that is needed much more than that; and that is hope and transformation.
If it is true that transformation begets transformation, then there is hope for even a small church such as ourselves that we are called and equipped to share hope in hopeless places and life in lifeless places. Each and every one of us goes from this sanctuary every week into our little corners of the world and engage with people – friends, family, coworkers, complete strangers. It is our task as disciples to be attentive to the people we come into contact with who need to hear their name spoken in love and hear an invitation from someone who cares about them.
That is really all that Peter did. He cared enough to be present with someone in their distress and then invited them to rise. God did the rest.
That is our job. To be present with people in their brokenness, to be present with each other in our brokenness, and to invite one another to share in the life of the Risen Christ – life that is shared with all regardless of color or creed, money or social status. There is much brokenness here in Gloucester County, much brokenness that prefers to be buried in efforts of self-image and privacy. Our duty as a church is to be a safe place where people can share their brokenness without fear of judgement. Then, like Peter, we can call them by name and then invite them to “get up.”
Peter’s transformation began with the fruits of the Resurrection. So, too, is our calling rooted in the work of those disciples in the Book of Acts. The ripple effects of those deeds, done in Christ’s name, are still being felt today. You and I are called to continue those waves, to nurture them, and to speak words of hope and resurrection in Christ’s name.
We all have parts of our lives that, like Tabitha, have been left for dead. May we, with God’s help, be like Peter – who, though broken and scarred from our humanity, are nevertheless called to partake in the life-sharing work of the Risen Christ. There are “Tabithas” all around us in need of renewal. But the good news is we are all a congregation of “Peters” because we are congregation called to service in the name of the Risen Christ.
Liturgy and Commentary provided by Mitzi J. Smith, Alex Evans, Stephen M. Fearing, Doug Bratt, Eric Barreto, James Boyce, Beth Scibienski, and Teri McDowell Ott.
*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. 240 “Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks”
Give thanks to the risen Lord.
Give praise to his name
1 Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
He is the King of creation. (Refrain)
2 Spread the good news o’er all the earth:
Jesus has died and has risen. (Refrain)
3 We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever. (Refrain)
4 Come let us praise the living God,
joyfully sing to our Savior. (Refrain)
ORDINATION & INSTALLATION OF OFFICERS
Service of Ordination and Installation of Ruling Elders, Deacons & Trustees
There are different gifts,
But it is the same spirit who gives them.
There are different ways of serving God,
But it is the same Lord who is served.
God works through different people in different ways.
But it is the same God who achieves his purpose through them all.
Each one is given a gift by the Spirit.
To use it for the common good.
Together we are the body of Christ.
And individually members of him.
Though we have different gifts, together we are a ministry of reconciliation led by the risen Christ. We work and pray to make his church useful in the world, and we call men and women to faith, so that, in the end, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God. Within our common ministry, some members are chosen for particular work as ministers of the Word, ruling elders, or deacons.
In ordination, we recognize these special ministries, remembering that our Lord Jesus said: Whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of all, and whoever wants to be first among you, must be the slave of all persons!
Just as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life to set others free.
God has called you by the voice of the church to serve Jesus Christ in a special way. You know who we are and what we believe, and you understand the work for which you have been chosen. Please answer these questions required by the Constitution:
- Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I do.
- Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you? I do.
- Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our Church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God? I do and I will.
- Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions? I will.
- Will you be governed by our Church’s polity, and will you abide by its discipline? Will you be a friend among your colleagues in ministry, working with them, subject to the ordering of God’s Word and Spirit? I will.
- Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world? I will.
- Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the Church? I do.
- Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love? I will.
- (For elder) Will you be a faithful ruling elder, watching over the people, providing for their worship, nurture, and service? Will you share in government and discipline, serving in councils of the Church, and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ? I will.
- (For deacon) Will you be a faithful deacon, teaching charity, urging concern, and directing the people’s help to the friendless and those in need? In your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ? I will.
- (For Trustees) Will you be a faithful trustee, overseeing the resources of this congregation and guiding the gifts of the community to build the Kingdom of God? I will.
QUESTIONS TO THE CONGREGATION
- Do we, the members of the church, accept as ruling elders: Don Tatham, Wendy Kunz, Karen Criscillo, Eric Campo, Dawn Witherspoon, Scott Kintzing, Donna Gabler, Wendy Hill & Lori Wadding; Julie Farkas, Colleen Seeburgh, Marian Craig, Janet Dahmer, Joyce Mixner, Denise Campo, Larry Diehlman, jr, Lil Carpenter, Mary Lynne Diehlman, Rose Fredericks, Jeremy Landis, Chris Gould & Ben Oehler as deacon and Dale McIntyre, Jules Farkas, Gail Banks, Jesse Edick, Dot Harris & Jim Kaighn as trustees, chosen by God through the voice of this congregation to lead us in the way of Jesus Christ? We do.
- Do we agree to pray for them, to encourage them, to respect their decisions, and to follow as they guide us, serving Jesus Christ, who alone is Head of the Church? We do.
LAYING ON OF HANDS AND PRAYER OF ORDINATION
Almighty God, in every age you have chosen servants to speak your word and lead your loyal people. We thank you for these men and women whom you have called to serve you. Give them special gifts to do their special work; and fill them with the Holy Spirit, so they may have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, and be faithful disciples as long as they shall live.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION (In unison)
God of grace, who called us to a common ministry as ambassadors of Christ, trusting us with the message of reconciliation: give us courage and discipline to follow where your servants rightly lead us; that together we may declare your wonderful deeds and show your love to the world; through Jesus Christ the Lord of all. Amen.
CHARGE AND WELCOME
You are now ruling elders, deacons, and trustees in the Church of Jesus Christ and for this congregation. Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
As Christ’s disciples, let us offer our gifts to his ministry.
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
*HYMN No. 242 “Delight of Day and Beauty Unbounded”
Day of delight and beauty unbounded,
tell the news, the gospel spread!
Day of all wonder, day of all splendor,
praise Christ risen from the dead!
1 Sing of the sun from darkness appearing;
sing of the seed from barren earth greening;
sing of creation, alleluia!
Sing of the stream from Jesus’ side flowing;
sing of the saints in water made holy;
sing of salvation, alleluia! (Refrain)
2 Sing now of mourning turned into dancing;
sing now the mystery, hope of our glory;
sing with thanksgiving, alleluia!
Sing now of fasting turned into feasting;
sing the Lord’s favor lasting forever;
sing, all things living, alleluia!
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed!
Live into the hope of Christ’s resurrection! Honor the God who calls you to new life!
May the grace, hope, peace and love of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you now and always.