The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
May 22, 2022
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Almighty God, you pour out the spirit of grace and supplication on all who desire it. Deliver us from cold hearts and wandering thoughts, that with steady minds and burning zeal we may worship you in spirit and in truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Jesus offers us peace,
So that we will not be afraid.
The Holy Spirit reminds us,
we are never alone.
God makes a home among us,
because God loves us. Let us worship the Triune God.
*HYMN No. 267 – “Come Christians Join and Sing”
Come, Christians, join to sing,
Loud praise to Christ our King;
Let all, with heart and voice,
Before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice:
Come, lift your hearts on high:
Let praises fill the sky:
He is our guide and friend;
to us he’ll condescend;
his love shall never end:
Praise yet our Christ again:
Life shall not end the strain:
On heaven’s blissful shore
His goodness we’ll adore,
*CALL TO RECONCILIATION
Try as we might to stop sinning, we fail more often than succeed. But God’s grace never fails, and God never stops giving us another chance to try. Let us now try again, as we confess our sins together in prayer.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Grace giving God, you ask us to love and to keep your word. Simple instructions. Yet, even with the Advocate to help us, we still fail at loving and following faithfully. Every time we fail, speak to us again of your truths. Keep telling us over and over again, so that one day soon, we hear your words and believe. Amen.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Christ says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” There is peace in God’s forgiveness. Know that you are forgiven, know that you are loved, and be at peace. Amen.
*RESPONSE No. 581 – “Glory Be To the Father”
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
*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.
THE CHILDREN’S MESSAGE
PLEASE JOIN ME IN THE UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION…
God, author of our lives, as we listen now to the words of your story in scripture, we ask that you might continue your story in us. As we listen, guide our understanding. And as we understand, guide our lives as we seek to respond in faith. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE READING FOR TODAY IS John 14:23-29
LET US READ AND HEAR, GOD’S WORD TOGETHER:
23Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
PAUSE – COUNT TO 10
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.
THANKS BE TO GOD
SERMON “NOT abandoned, NOR bereft”
It is after dinner in an upper room. They are reclining, these disciples, leaning on each other’s chests, their freshly washed feet propped up. They have had Passover dinners before, but none like this.
Never before at Passover had a teacher removed his robe and knelt on the floor by a basin, washing his disciples’ dusty feet one by one.
Never before at Passover had a rabbi poured a glass of wine and said, “This is the cup of the new covenant, poured out in my blood.”
Never before at Passover had a dearly loved leader said with such calm confidence that someone would betray him.
What Jesus had hinted at to his followers for years–that he would die–is finally coming into focus. It is no longer just a strange and confusing rumor–it is imminent.
The folks gathered in this upper room are a ragtag bunch who left everything to follow Jesus. They were fishermen and tax collectors and carpenters, but now they are followers. They are disciples of Jesus.
And now he–the one who they trusted would be the fulfillment of all their hopes–now he is leaving them.
Jesus has made it clear that he will be dying very soon, and I imagine that the disciples are lost in the shock of the moment. Their whole life the last few years has been consumed by following Jesus–he is their teacher, their guide, their rabbi, their friend. Without him they will be totally lost.
Although it is an extraordinary moment–this night between Jesus’ life and the beginning of his death–it is also quite ordinary. The disciples are tasting one of the most human experiences possible.
So often, this is what it is to live in the world: it is to find ourselves, over and over again, left alone. It is to be abandoned far before we feel we can handle it.
Living in this world, we, like the disciples, face unimaginable trauma and loss and then, somehow, must survive, must, somehow, continue to live and breathe even when it feels impossible.
The scripture for today is a snippet of the much-longer “farewell discourse” between Jesus and his disciples on the night of his arrest. In our reading, when Jesus explains that he is going away, he says, “I do not give to you as the world gives.” How, then, does the world give?
The world gives us simple beauties: the full moon on an early morning, the feeling of a sweetheart’s hand in ours, a strong cup of coffee before a day of work.
But so often, the world gives trouble. The world gives disappointment. The world gives us fleeting relationships with vulnerable people who hurt us or leave us.
We live our lives trying to give ourselves fully in relationships, only to see our marriages crumble and leave us feeling bitter and alone.
We live in a world full of famine and war.
We live in a country founded on racism and white supremacy. We see our siblings of color consistently subjected to the violence of a system that says they are less-than.
We live with the sense that however we try to mend this hurting world, it will never be enough, and we will not make any difference.
How does the world give?
The world gives us shattering trauma.
The world gives us the slow ache of depression.
The world gives us the grief of seeing those we love slip away into addictions, slip away into violence, slip away into death that takes each and every one of us, always too soon.
“The Message” paraphrase of the Bible renders this verse as Jesus saying, “I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left–feeling abandoned, bereft.” This world with all its fragile beauty leaves us feeling like the floor has fallen out from under us, feeling utterly alone, numb and helpless.
And Jesus knows this when he looks at our lives, and Jesus knows this when he looks at the disciples gathered around him, and Jesus knows they will be filled with fear as they face the world, and yet, and yet, he tells them, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”
Jesus tells his huddled followers that he does not give as the world gives. He does not leave them the way they’re used to being left.
He leaves them with peace.
He leaves them with the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth that God will send. This Spirit will do many things. The Spirit will “teach the disciples everything” and will “remind them of all that Jesus has said.” And the Spirit will bring to these disciples a peace that will allow them to un-trouble their hearts.
To a room of people who are about to watch their leader and their teacher be brutally murdered by a violent empire, “peace” must sound so foreign. But this is what Jesus gives them. What on earth could it mean?
In our individualistic 3rd-millenium minds, “peace” often carries a deeply personalized meaning. I will be “at peace with myself,” I will find inner peace, seek out the peace of a babbling brook. All of that is well and good, but I don’t think that it’s what Jesus had in mind. The Greek word Jesus uses here, eirene, carries first and foremost the meaning of national tranquility, exemption from the rage and havoc of war, peace between people. This is Jesus’ parting gift, on the night before his execution. Peace.
Later in the discourse, we are offered another glimmer of what this peace is like. Jesus tells his disciples, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In the face of the trouble this world gives us, Jesus assures us that we will have peace, and Jesus exhorts us to “take heart.” The verb he uses here is tharseo. Although “take heart” is a beautiful and poetic translation, the Greek would be more accurately rendered “have courage.”
Because Jesus is establishing peace in this world, we can have courage, even in the face of everything the world is throwing at us.
When Jesus tells his disciples that he is giving them peace, he knows what the next days, weeks, months, and even millennia will look like to his followers. He knows that they will be days full of heartache and struggle and oppression and darkness and fear.
He offers peace to us not so that we can find shelter from the world. He offers us peace that we might be able to enter even more deeply into the world–that we would have the courage to live fully and boldly as his disciples, keeping his command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
When everything around the disciples is crumbling, Jesus has equipped us to keep our faith.
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives–do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Jesus, on his way to the cross, says this: The world can kill you, and the world may kill you. Having lived a perfect life of love and justice, Jesus’ body was hung on a cross, because struggling for justice is dangerous, and because love is costly. There is good reason to be afraid, but Jesus says: Do not fear. Do not let your hearts be troubled.
What Jesus has given us is a deep peace that, however the world looks, we can be confident that love is stronger than hate, that hope is more resilient than fear and despair, and that light can and will and does break through the darkness. Brothers and sisters, we are Easter People–we are people of the empty tomb, people of the resurrection.
Do not be afraid. Take heart. Have courage.
The peace given through the Holy Spirit allows us to live out the final commandment Jesus gives to his disciples: to love one another as he has loved us.
In the light of the resurrection, in the peace the Holy Spirit brings, how shall we live? What does the courage of Easter people look like?
Here is some of what I have seen:
We too are the disciples gathered in the upper room. We too are the disciples who live in a difficult world, holding pain and loss and sadness. And yet, we too are the disciples at the empty tomb.
We have the Holy Spirit in us and with us. We have a Spirit that is always at our back, that is the very presence of God, as close to us as our own breath, breathing peace and possibility into us.
Even when our hearts are troubled, even when we are afraid, we will be people of courage in this world.
So, what will we do? As Easter people, what acts of courage and faith will we take?
- Will we love those who are difficult to love?
- Will we fight for justice?
- Will we pray for those who persecute us?
- Will we welcome the stranger?
- Will we listen to the Holy Spirit and dare to follow?
- How will we live out the commandment to love one another as Christ has loved us?
Will you pray with me? O Holy Spirit, you were with the frightened disciples in the upper room. You were with the bereaved and traumatized disciples at the foot of the cross. You were with the abandoned disciples through Holy Saturday and with the amazed disciples on Easter Sunday. Be with us now. Help us to receive the peace that Jesus has given us. Help us to truly be Easter people in this world. Give us courage to move beyond ourselves. Give us courage to walk in this world. Give us courage to love as Christ has loved us. We pray all this through the crucified and risen One. Amen.
Liturgy and Commentary provided by Molly Spangler, Osvaldo Vena, Karoline Lewis, David Lose, Elisabeth Johnson, Scott Hoezee, Mary Hinkle Shore, Lindsay Popper 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. 252 “Day of Arising”
1 Day of arising,
Christ on the roadway,
unknown companion walks with his own.
When they invite him,
as fades the first day,
and bread is broken,
Christ is made known.
2 When we are walking,
doubtful and dreading,
blinded by sadness,
slowness of heart,
yet Christ walks with us,
Stay, do not part.
3 Lo, I am with you,
Jesus has spoken.
This is Christ’s promise,
this is Christ’s sign:
when the church gathers,
when bread is broken,
there Christ is with us,
in bread and wine.
4 Christ, our companion,
hope for the journey,
bread of compassion,
open our eyes.
Grant us your vision,
set all hearts burning
that all creation
with you may rise.
PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Ever present God, on this sixth Sunday of Easter we still marvel at what you have done through Jesus Christ. Even as Jesus prepares to depart the presence of the disciples, he makes arrangements for them, and for us, to be cared for, encouraged and to be reminded of his love for us.
We hear Jesus’ words to us today, telling us not to let our hearts be troubled and not to be afraid, but even as these words fall from our lips, we still find ourselves troubled and afraid. We are troubled by the war in Ukraine, and afraid that the violence there will last much longer than anyone anticipated.
We are troubled by the division in our own nation and afraid that the torn fabric of our tapestry may never be mended.
We are troubled by the many ways injustice makes its presence known in the world and afraid that it will try to stay permanently.
We are troubled by the aches and pains of illness in our bodies and afraid that we may never again feel like ourselves again.
We are troubled by grief that plants itself in our hearts and afraid that even long after the loss it will still be there growing larger.
Holy Comforter, amid all that troubles us and makes us afraid, remind us of your peace. A peace that surpasses all our understanding. A peace that makes its home in the violence, division, injustice, illness, and grief of the world so that one day peace will not need to be made any longer, it will just be.
We ask all of these things in the name of the Risen Lord, who taught us to pray together saying, “Our Father…”
Now, as the body of Christ, we pray as Christ taught us, “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.
This week’s flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Kristen and John Franchetti and family in loving memory of David and Alice Connell.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
Christ gives us his word, his peace and his love. In response to all that we have been given through Christ, let us share our gifts joyfully and generously.
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
God of generosity, we are grateful you do not give as the world gives. Instead, you give unconditionally and abundantly. As we offer our time, talent, and treasure, we ask that you might transform our efforts so that our giving might come to be more and more like yours. Amen.
*HYMN No. 254 “That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright”
1 That Easter day with joy was bright;
the sun shone out with fairer light
when, to their longing eyes restored,
the apostles saw their risen Lord.
2 He bade them see his hands, his side,
where yet the glorious wounds abide,
the tokens true which made it plain
their Lord indeed was risen again.
3 From every weapon death can wield,
your own redeemed forever shield;
O Lord of all, with us abide
in this our joyful Eastertide.
Even as Jesus departs, he promises that we will never be alone. Therefore, we can go out in confidence to love and serve the Lord. And as you go, May the love of God, the peace of the Risen Christ, And the presence of the Holy Spirit Guide you and keep you, this day, and every day. Alleluia, Amen