The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury

May 16, 2021
Seventh Sunday of Easter
9:30am

PRAYER OF PREPARATION

Triune God, you are three and yet one, the image we are born to resemble. We gather as the body of Christ many and yet one through the mysterious power of your Spirit. In this time of worship pick the locks which hold our hearts shut that we may love you that we may love each other with the same totality of love which you love us. Amen.

PRELUDE                   “Happy the Home When God Is There”    Daniel Burton

CALL TO WORSHIP

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater.
Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts.
This is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Whoever has the Son has life. We gather knowing that you have eternal life.
Let us worship the Lord of life together.

HYMN No. 264 “At the Name of Jesus”

CALL TO RECONCILIATION

Remember that our Lord Jesus can sympathize with us in our weakness, since in every respect he was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with boldness approach the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in this and every time of need. Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS

We pray, O Lord, not due to our own wisdom, insight and strength, but through you. You intercede for us because we do not know how to pray as we ought. You even hear and know our sighs, which are too deep for words. Forgive us, O Lord, when our prayers are filled with empty phrases and meaningless platitudes. Forgive us, O Lord, when our prayers fail to express our love for you and our neighbors in need. Forgive us, O Lord, when our prayers do not lead to engagement with justice and peace. Fill us with your word and grant us a new beginning in you. Through Jesus Christ, your Son, we pray. Amen.

Silence is observed

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Hear the good news. Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us and Christ prays for us. My friends, hear and believe the good news of the gospel.
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven! Thanks be to God!

Click for: RESPONSE “Holy, Holy, Holy” v.4

PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST

In sharing the peace of Christ, we express the reconciliation, unity, and love that come only from God, and we open ourselves to the power of God’s love to heal our brokenness and make us agents of that love in the world. 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                   “The Heart’s Offering”                     Anthony Baldwin

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE

(all children will remain in the sanctuary)

PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION

Open our hearts and our minds, O Lord, that above all the many voices that swirl around us we might clearly hear your word to us today; and in the hearing of your word, may our lives might be transformed by this encounter with you. Amen.

SCRIPTURE               John 17:20-26

20”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

SERMON

Final words often carry extra weight, and Jesus wants his disciples to grasp the gravity of the moment. He has been sharing wisdom with his disciples for three years, and no doubt he worries that once he is gone, their minds will draw a blank. So, in his farewell discourse, Jesus highlights the essentials. We can almost hear him say, “If you do not remember anything else, remember this.”

First, he begins the evening with a dramatic gesture that leaves an indelible impression. As the twelve disciples are seated around the table Jesus pours water into a basin, wraps a towel around his waist, lowers himself to his hands and knees, and affectionately washes the feet of Peter, James, John – each of the twelve, including Judas.

In first century Palestine, this was the job of a servant, so it was bound to make the disciples squirm. Their Master took on the role of a servant and cleansed their filthy feet to drive home his point. As he has served them, they are to serve others. That is what it means to be a follower of Jesus – to be one who serves.

Second, Jesus gives them a new commandment. He says they are to love one another as he has loved them. Not only are they to serve others, but love is to be at the core of their being. Every thought, every word, and every action is to flow from love.

Third, he tells them that he will be betrayed and taken from them. Seeing their heightened anxiety, Jesus tries to comfort them by assuring them that they will not be alone. God’s Spirit will be with them through both smooth sailing and turbulent waters.

Finally, as dinner is drawing to a close and immediately before trekking down through the Kidron Valley and to the Mount of Olives, Jesus prays. This morning’s reading is the conclusion of his prayer. It is not a private prayer, but one that is intended to be overheard by those gathered for the final meal AND for his followers in every succeeding age. Jesus prays that his followers “may all be one.” He prays for unity. We who follow him are not to allow our differences to divide us. We are to respect one another, to care for each other, and to use our diversity to enrich our community of faith, not splinter it.

Jesus knows that such unity does not emerge naturally. In fact, it is nearly impossible to achieve. People see things differently, they hold different priorities, and push hard for their own agenda to triumph. So, Jesus prays that God’s Spirit will be in them. This is the part of the passage that can be challenging. He prays that his followers may be in him and that he will be in them. What does it mean for Christ to be in us?

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, a day to remember and to give thanks for our mothers. Unfortunately, for some it is a day to rant or to ignore because they did not have loving, supportive mothers. For you who would prefer to forget your unkind mother, I hope and pray you have someone else to thank – someone who gave you what a good mother would give.

No mother is perfect, because all of us have our human failings, but some of us were blessed by wonderful mothers and this holiday provides an opportunity to give thanks for such a blessing.

Regardless of the kind of mother we had, our mothers made lasting impressions on us. However, they did more than merely leave impressions on us. They touched our psyches and our souls. They shaped our characters and our values. They are so much a part of us that I suspect many of us have made statements and then said to ourselves, “I sound just like my mother.”

You may say, “My mother gave me a spirit of hope and a drive to do my best. Those are foundational parts of who I am.” Such things are so deeply embedded in your essence that it makes perfect sense to say that there is a part of her that is IN you.

In a similar way, God is IN us. In the opening creation story in Genesis, we read that human beings are created in the image of God. Recognizing this human-divine connection, Jesus says we are children of God. Augustine writes, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”

God is not a distant deity. Rather, like the air that surrounds us and is within us, God is everywhere, pulsating throughout creation, including within us.

We can deepen our awareness of God’s Spirit within us or we can allow distractions to dull our senses to the Divine within us. We can enlarge the impact of God’s Spirit on us or we can diminish it, by living shallow, self- centered lives.

If you desire to broaden the influence God has on you, prayer is essential. In prayer, we open our souls to God and pray that God’s Spirit will fill us. As followers of Jesus, we seek to embody his essence so that we have in us his loving spirit, his thirst for justice, his eagerness to heal and to forgive, his courage and determination, his desire for peace.

For eons, spiritual leaders have shared a simple way of praying in which we focus our attention on our breathing. One method is to select a metaphor for God that works for you, such as: Gracious God or Loving Spirit or Creator of all. Then, choose a simple phrase that expresses your desire – such as: fill me with compassion or give me strength or guide my path. Say your metaphor for God as you inhale. [Demonstrate] “Gracious God” inhale. Hold it for a couple of seconds. Then, as you exhale, say your phrase: exhale “Fill me with compassion.” Let’s try it together: inhaling “Gracious God” – exhaling “fill me with compassion.”

For centuries, people have prayed this way. It appears that “the repetition opens a neural and muscular pathway in the brain and body,” which God can fill. This mantra-like way of praying helps us to assimilate God into our being which enables God to transform us into the people God yearns for us to become.

When God is in us, we overcome our small, selfish way of being and grow into something noble. God enlarges our capacity to love and to experience the joy that comes with doing something that enhances the common good.

Early in his gospel, John writes, “For God so loved the world.” When God is in us, our compassion for others broadens and deepens to the point that we cannot witness injustice and be unfazed by it.

A pastor in Richmond, Charlie Summers, remembers a man from his first congregation whose name was Stewart. This church was in Washington, DC and Stewart was a police officer. Some evenings, Stewart would go to his pastor’s house and they would head down to the basement and play table tennis. But before they would begin, Stewart would bend over and pull a gun out of an ankle holster and place it on the shelf. When you are getting ready to play ping pong and your opponent places his weapon on a shelf in plain view, you think twice about how important it is for you to win!

Stewart had a tough exterior, but he had a warm heart for the poor, the abused, and anyone who never seemed to catch a break. He was ordained a deacon in that church and led the other deacons into a ministry for battered women. These were women he met while he was on duty. Stewart guided the deacons into setting up a few apartments – safe havens for these women. This was years before battered women shelters were on anyone’s radar. His pastor said, “I talked about the Bible, but Stewart did something about the Bible.”

Jesus prayed that the love of God would be in his followers. There’s no doubt that God’s love was in Stewart.

If you see someone being oppressed, and it does not bother your conscience; if you see someone being treated with disdain, and it does not bother your conscience; if you see someone who is hungry and it does not bother your conscience, you are muffling the voice of God within you. God wants injustice to disrupt your equilibrium and unsettle your soul, because it breaks you open to the possibility that you can be filled by God’s love.  A love that we are called to share with others!  Jesus’ final discourse was about recognizing God’s presence IN ALL PEOPLE!

Commentary and Liturgy provided by Charlie Summers,  Linda Douty, Greg Knox Jones, Matt Rich, Barbara Lundblad, David Lose, Karoline Lewis, Lucy Lind Hogan, and Mary Hinkle Shore.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH                        The Apostles’ Creed

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

Click for: HYMN No. 258 “A Hymn of Glory, Let Us Sing”

THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER

As Christ prays on behalf of his disciples, let us pray on behalf of all those Christ loves. God of grace, the world is full of those who delight in your teachings and those who scoff at your ways. We pray that we might meditate on you day and night, that we might be an influence for good in the world.
May we be like trees planted by streams of water.

God of wisdom, the world is full of those whose faith seeks understanding and those who discard the truth. We pray that we might receive your Word and know that you are the truth that transforms our lives.
May we be like trees planted by streams of water.

God of justice, the world is full of those who seek to do what is right and those who seek only their own self-interest. We pray for those who protect the innocent and seek to overcome systems that oppress. May we carry your light until all might see your way.
May we be like trees planted by streams of water.  

God of healing, the world is full of those who are sick, injured, alone and in need of care; and those who dedicate their lives to caregiving and healing. We pray that your holiness and wholeness will draw near to all those who are in need, that they might be filled with your presence.
May we be like trees planted by streams of water.

God of unity, the world is filled with those who claim that they belong to you and those who actively work against your plans and purposes for a new creation. We pray for reconciliation, courage and faith for your church; that your followers will  be sanctified in the truth; and that we might proclaim the good news of redemption in you with great joy to a world in desperate need of good news.
May we be like trees planted by streams of water.

As Christ prays on behalf of his disciples, we lift up to you the prayers of our hearts for those we know and love, trusting them to your protection and care. (Silent prayer.)

Hear our prayers and give us confidence and courage that we might join our voices together, praying with the words that Christ himself taught his disciples,

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.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

The flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Schnarr and Family in loving memory of Margaret E. Sallinger; and by Thomas Moore in loving memory of Arlene Myrtle.

MINUTE FOR MISSION                  Family Promise                     Rosemarie Parker

TRICENTENNIAL MOMENT

Women of the Church                      Jean Hills

OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS

As God’s blessings shower upon us, we respond to God’s amazing grace with our hands, our feet, our hearts, our prayers and our tithes and offerings. Let us bring our gifts in gratitude and praise.

OFFERTORY

RESPONSE

PRAYER OF DEDICATION

Christ has made the name of the Lord known to us, so we give thanks. In your name, O Lord, use these gifts, and the time, talents and very lives they represent, for your glory as your kingdom breaks forth in this world. Amen.

Click for: HYMN No. 270 “O Lord, You Are My God and King”

BENEDICTION

As our service of worship concludes, may our lives of worship and service begin anew. As Christ prays for you, pray for one another.  As Christ forgives you, forgive one another.  As Christ loves you, love one another.  And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and forever more. Amen.