3rd Sunday in the season of Monday

 

   

Carstairs-Bancroft

United Church

April 26, 2020 3rd Easter Sunday

WORSHIP

DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Minister: Rev. Maria Szabo Berces

 

 

Welcome  

Good morning! I wish all of you health and strength in body and spirit on this 3rd Sunday of Easter! I greet you with the words we have been using as a welcome at our worship services:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Based on 2 Cor. 13:13

Lighting of a Candle:

Just as last week – if you have a candle at home – I invite you to light it for the time you dedicated for worship service. Please join me in saying these words for the Candle Lighting Liturgy:

As we light the Christ Candle, let us remember Jesus’ words:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16.)

Amen

Hymn: VU # 374 Come and Find the Quiet Center

Call to Worship

On this Sunday, we celebrate God’s presence with us,

even as we separately worship in our own homes.

We celebrate God’s love expressed to us through Jesus Christ.

As we worship, we remember Christ’s life and ministry,

and the life we are called to live.

We worship as pilgrims, searching for ways to live out our faith.

We seek the strength to carry on our journey.

Let us rejoice and abide in God’s gift, given to us in that first Easter!

Adaption of the Celebrate God’s Presence 13F001prayer;

Used with permission

Announcements:

  • Please carry on the precautionary measures recommended by health authorities:

Practice good flu season hygiene which includes:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
  • Cough and sneeze into your sleeve and not into your hands.
  • Stay home if you are able, but especially if you are sick, to avoid spreading illness to others.
  • Maria is sending a daily encouragement and devotion to those who have e-mail addresses. Many thanks to Chris Whittaker for forwarding these messages to the congregation’s mass e-mail list.
  • Thursday Coffee and Conversation time has moved to ZOOM. If you haven’t received the link to join, please let Rev. Maria or Chris Whittaker know. I plan to forward you the theme of next week’s conversation by Tuesday evening.
  • ZOOM “Office” Hours: If you would like to connect with your Minister beyond e-mails and phone calls, you can dial in to a ZOOM conversation on Tuesdays and Fridays 9:00-10:00 a.m.

For safety reasons, and to avoid too much waiting time, these meetings will require registration from next week on. Here you can find the link to register:

  • For Tuesdays:

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: Apr 28, 2020 09:00 AM Edmonton

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAkcumupzIpGtx_EhmeQsmdp3Rvzo2kfEhG   

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

  • For Fridays:

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: May 1, 2020 09:00 AM Edmonton

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtdeCqrTgtHNA7isBX7njnmzy-ZSWHj4C7  

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

 

Hymn: VU # 315 Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!

 

Prayer of Approach

We sing to you, God of grace and of love.

We sing to you, God of creation, sovereign over all the earth.

You surprise us in your resurrection power: at work in Jesus’ life and death, bringing new beginnings, showing up in unexpected places.

You surprise us in your resurrection power: at work in our lives and in our deaths – the places where we have given up and do not expect you to act in any way that matters.

You surprise us in your resurrection power: calling us by name, giving us one another – siblings we did not know we had, your new community of grace and truth and hope and love.

Now, in our praise, in our prayers, in our waiting, enter our lives again.

Enter our lives with power for newness, with courage to love one another, with hope and peace and joy that we may be your new creation in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Written by Christine Jerrett; Gathering, Lent-Easter 2020 page 45;

Used with permission

 

Prayer of Confession

The Risen Christ said to his disciples: “Peace be with you!”  

May we also find peace, as we say the Prayer of Confession:

God, you are holy mystery and wholly mysterious to us. We have so many questions that we can’t answer. And our unanswered questions lead us to doubt. Help us to live with our questions.

Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed.

Help us to know you as a loving and life-giving presence in our lives.

Help us to know you as our rock and our hope.

Teach us your many names, O You who are holy mystery and wholly mysterious to us.  Amen.

Written by Louise Hart; Gathering, Lent-Easter 2020 page 47;

(Modified); Used with permission

 

Words of Assurance

Jesus said: “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. Everyone who eats my bread will never hunger, everyone who drinks my water will never thirst, for I am the bread and water of eternal life. My word will light your path and guide your way, and I will put a new song in your heart.” (adapted from John 14).

Thanks be to God. Amen

Written by Louise Hart; Gathering, Lent-Easter 2020 page 47;

(Modified); Used with permission

 

Hymn: VU # 371 Open My Eyes

 

Prayer of Illumination

O God, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit,

that as the scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed,

we may hear what you are saying to us today.  Amen.

Celebrate God’s Presence 0M001 pg. 44

Scripture Readings:

Acts 2:14a, 36–41 New International Version (NIV)

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. …

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

 

 

1 Peter 1:17–23 New International Version (NIV)

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,

19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

 

MESSAGE: – “Living in Easter’s & COVID-19’s Aftermath

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Let me start today’s message by quoting one of my colleagues, Rev. Amy Butler:

“The biblical account of the weeks following the resurrection is full of recognition stories. I don’t know what it is with Jesus’ disciples, but there’s story after story about their difficulty recognizing this one with whom they spent years and whose death has rocked their lives to their very moorings. Just think: Mary at the tomb; the disciples in the locked room; the two travelers on the road to Emmaus . . .everybody’s surprised when they suddenly recognize him.

And, frankly, considering the fact that they are recognizing someone who, last time they saw him was dead, you can’t blame them all that much. These moments of recognition are pivot points in the story—in our stories—turning points that change everything.

And, it’s these moments for which we live—moments of recognition and direction that define who we are and what our lives mean. It’s moments where we make sudden, unexpected discoveries that change everything, experiences like . . . Easter morning, in fact . . . it’s these moments for which we live and long.

But Easter comes only once a year, and when it’s all over we’re left, like the disciples, living in its aftermath, trying to figure out what it all means for our lives.” (www.lectionary.org )

I very much agree with her that the moments of recognition define who we are and what our lives mean. We need to meet and to recognize the Risen Christ; otherwise the whole Easter story won’t mean anything for our lives.

We have heard the good news of Easter several times in our lifetime. On this Third Sunday of Easter, in this unusual year of 2020 let’s ask ourselves: what changes did the resurrection bring into our lives? Did we have any “recognition stories” after this festival?

From our today’s readings we can figure out that meeting and recognizing the risen Jesus has really changed the life of Peter, one of his closest disciples.

Before Jesus died, he declared that “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35); but he couldn’t resist his fears and denied Jesus not once but three times. 

It was Peter who run to the empty tomb and could see it with his own eyes, but John states “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

Even after seeing the empty tomb, Peter was among the disciples who were together “with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders” (John 20:19)

Peter needed to meet his beloved Lord, needed to see his hand and side to “recognize” him.  

In the Gospel of John, we can read that this recognition led to the commissioning of the disciples and to receiving the Holy Spirit. Contrary to the previous fearful behavior of Peter, now we could learn that “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd…” (Acts 2:14)

Now he could keep what he promised before Jesus’ death. He admitted to a whole crowd that he belongs to Jesus and bravely stated – not caring about the anger of the Romans or the Jewish religious leaders- that “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

His words were touching the hearts of many. We can read: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37)

Rev. Donovan – the founder of the Sermon Writer Website – explains this verse as it follows: “In response to Peter’s accusation that they have crucified the one whom God made Lord and Messiah, the people suddenly recognize their guilt and peril.  There could be no greater sin than murdering God’s anointed –– the one whom God sent to save them. That understanding caused a sharp emotional pain as if someone had plunged a knife into their heart.

They know from their history that God has punished people severely for lesser infractions.  What will God do with them?  What kind of future do they face?” (www.sermonwriter.com  3rd Easter Year A)

The truth is that in order to have changes and to experience “recognition stories” in our lives we also need to let the words ‘cut to our hearts’. We need to let the questions deep into our hearts: what kind of future do we face? What shall we do?

These questions are valid even without COVID-19. This pandemic might help us to realize this, and to deal with these important questions that we would have avoided otherwise.

Peter’s answer is that we need to turn to God with repentance and with willingness to accept His saving work in Jesus. In the first letter of Peter he writes: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

This recognition and the power of the Holy Spirit changed Peter’s life forever. It definitely changed the life of that 3000, who joined the very first Christian congregation after Peter’s speech. And it changed millions who also became devoted Christians during the history and all over the Earth.

Now we can ask ourselves, too. What does Good Friday and Easter mean for us? Has it changed our life forever?

We are told that COVID-19 has changed our societies and life won’t be the same as before the outbreak. But it’s not only this virus that has a changing power. Our lives should be changed, too, if we were ever cut to the heart by the great love of God towards us.

The first letter of Peter mentions one big change. It was also formulated in a new command, which was given by Jesus to his disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

As you can tell, it is much more than it is voiced in this following joke:

“A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six-year old. After explaining the commandment to “honor thy father and thy mother,” she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” Without missing a beat, one little boy answered, “Thou shall not kill.”…

As Peter puts it in his first letter: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

We are able to do this only if we are ‘inoculated’ into the true vine, the Risen Christ, and by keeping his commands. (Check out John 15.) However, when we have a yearning to remain in God’s love that touched our hearts, we receive a divine support.

I have quoted our New Creed several times at Sunday worships and memorial services, but these days of the global pandemic give these words an enhanced and special meaning: In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone.”

In order to fully experience and appreciate this gift of God, we need to recognize how important it is for us. We need to be touched by our iniquities that led God’s Son to Good Friday, and we need to be touched by the greatness of love, which took up the fight against sin and death for us.

As we feel touched by God’s love and as we ask ourselves: “What shall we do then?” and we turn to God with repentance, we receive joy, peace and guidance from God’s Spirit. We will know exactly what we should do and how we can express our “sincere love for each other”, who are called to be sisters and brothers in God’s family.   Amen

                                                                                

Hymn: VU # 562 Jesus Calls Us

 

Invitation to the Offering

Even though we don’t worship in person, we are encouraged to continue to support God’s mission carried out by our church family, if we are able in these changed circumstances.

Please consider using the ways still open to us for our offerings. As we offer our financial means, let us remember that we are called to imitate Christ’s offering, and it is more than just money. We may offer our time, our talents, and our love to make a difference in this world and in our community.

 

Offertory Prayer

In the name and in the spirit of Jesus, we bring our gifts to you, O God.

Help us to give with them a ready mind, a willing spirit, and a joyful heart.  Amen.

Celebrate God’s Presence 0R001; pg. 49

Used with permission

 

 

Prayer of the People

Holy One, we lift up our heart to you with the beautiful words and the wisdom of this Traditional Native American Prayer:

“O Great Spirit, whose voice we hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear us.  We come before you as your children.

We are small and weak; we need your strength and wisdom. Let us walk in beauty, and make our eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. 

May our hands respect the things you have made, may our ears be sharp to hear your voice. Make us wise, that we may know the things you have taught your people, the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

We seek strength, not to be superior to our brothers and sisters, but to live in harmony with ourselves and all your creation.

Help us to be ever ready to come to you, so when life fades as a fading sunset, our spirits may come to you without shame.”

Almighty God, help us that the attitude formulated in these words may be all ours. We are grateful that in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ we can ask your presence and help in every situation. This is how we pray for those of us who need your power and strength in illness, in any other difficult situation or pain and distress:

Hear our continuous prayers for those who contained the COVID-19 virus. For those, who developed more serious symptoms, and now are fighting for their lives. For the overwhelmed healthcare workers in hospitals and in care-facilities. For those who have other health concerns and now they have wait for relieving surgeries. For first responders; for transporters, retailers, cleaners and all who risk their health in essential services. For those who suffer the economic consequences of this pandemic; for those who mourn the losses of cherished plans.

Grant wisdom, guidance and strength for the political leaders we pray. Bless our homeland Canada, and all the nations that fight this invisible enemy. Guide the scientists to develop a vaccine and a cure to this disease. We pray for ourselves, our families, and those we love; that we may all experience your providence and never-failing love; and that we may find joy and peace in the good news of Easter.

May we all remember and rejoice that we are not alone as you are with us in life, in death and life beyond death. We thank you for this and praise your Holy Name. Amen

(Celebrate God’s Presence 21T003; pg. 60; modified;

Used with permission)

The Lord’s Prayer

In Jesus Christ’s name let’s pray together the Prayer He 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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,

forever and ever. Amen.

 

Departing Hymn: VU # 574 Come, let us sing of a wonderful love

 

Benediction

May the blessing of God, the giver of every good and perfect gift;

and of Christ, who summons us to service;

and of the Holy Spirit, who inspires generosity and love,

be with us all now and forever. Amen