May 5, 2024

Sixth Sunday of EASTER






Loving God, help us to love others
as Christ has loved us.
Bring us into the spiritual joy
of living our lives as your friend,
and teach us to abide in your love,
that we may show that love to the world. Amen.


PRELUDE          “Meditation on ‘Beach Spring’”                                       Elizabeth Krouse






We come to join with all the earth in praise:

to sing a new song to the Lord,
who has done marvelous things,
who has shown us steadfast love and faithfulness.

We praise the Lord with joyful noises joining the symphony of the earth:

the roar of the ocean,
the call of the birds,

the wind across the hills,
people in every corner of the globe.

On this sabbath day of rest and gladness,

we greet you with joy, our living God!














*HYMN No. 490

“Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters”

1 Wash, O God, your sons and daughters,
newborn creatures of your womb.
Number them among your people,
raised like Christ from death and tomb.
Weave them garments bright and sparkling;
compass them with love and light.
Fill, anoint them; send your Spirit,
holy dove and heart’s delight.

2 Every day we need your nurture;
by your milk may we be fed.
Let us join your feast, partaking
cup of blessing, living bread.
God, renew us; guide our footsteps,
free from sin and all its snares,
one with Christ in living, dying,
by your Spirit, children, heirs.

3 O how deep your holy wisdom!
Unimagined, all your ways!
To your name be glory, honor!
With our lives we worship, praise!
We your people stand before you,
water-washed and Spirit-born.
By your grace, our lives we offer.
Re-create us; God, transform!



There is nothing that can separate us from God’s love. Therefore, let’s confess our sins, trusting that God will forgive us and help us transform our lives.



Tender God, forgive us for our half-hearted faith that loves only when it is easy, and reaches out only to those who are like us, that ignores your less convenient commandments and fails to bear fruit anyone would rejoice in. How can a faith like that conquer the world? Nourish us again, to blossom with whole-hearted faith that abides in your love and shines forth with joy. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.













Hear the Good News! The only one who could judge us calls us friends.

Jesus chose us over his own life, so let us choose Jesus in the life we have now.

By the power of the Spirit, our sins are washed away, and we are made new.

Let us live as God’s forgiven children. Alleluia! 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.
Amen, amen.










Although we believe and trust in God, we have forgotten the covenant which God made with our ancestors, and we have sinned. However, God shows the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembers this holy covenant; giving us the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the Dawn will break upon us, shining into the darkness and the shadow of death, guiding our feet into the way of peace.


Peace be with you.

And also with you.


ANTHEM           “How Firm a Foundation”

arr. Bradley Ellington











Please join me in the unison prayer…

Holy Spirit, help us to hear familiar words with fresh ears, and to take your Holy Word to us seriously, as guide and pattern for our lives. Amen.


SCRIPTURE 1 John 5:1-6

5Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?








6This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.




This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!


















SERMON           “Obedience: A Dirty Word”





The community to whom 1 John was written was facing a crisis.

Former members of the community were denying that Jesus was truly the Messiah, God’s flesh, and blood, fully human, son. Like many churches facing doctrinal conflict, 1 John’s community seems to have been confused, afraid, and unsure what to do. Whom should they believe? How could they know what was true, and what was not? How should they react?

1 John’s simple, confident response is as relevant today as it was when the letter was first written:

You know who you are,

you know whose you are,

and you know what you have been told from the beginning.

God’s own Spirit shows us what is true. There’s no need to panic or argue. Focus on living your faith instead. God has the whole situation under control.

1 John reminds the community that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah — the anointed Son of God — has been born of God. They have no reason to be afraid, for they belong to God. As God’s children, they can rest assured that they are loved and protected by their divine parent and invited to be obedient.

If they love God, then naturally they will love anyone born of God too, because how can one love a parent without loving the child whom the parent brought into being? The child of God referred to in 1 John 5:1 is first and foremost Jesus, but the author also means to say any child of God, as verse two makes clear. Jesus is born of God, but everyone who believes in him becomes his brother or sister. Whoever loves the parent loves not just one of the parent’s children but all of them. The consequences of this conclusion are enormous: every child of God is linked to Jesus. Every injustice done to a child of God echoes the injustice done to him. Every act of violence committed against a child of God recalls the violence committed against Jesus.

Loving God, loving God’s children, and keeping God’s commandments (obedience) form inseparable links in a circular chain. In its depiction of this interwoven reality, 1 John echoes Jesus’ conversation with his disciples on the night before his death: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments;” “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them;” “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

1 John reminds its readers that God’s commands are not burdensome.  Obedience is a positive thing.  Obedience is not a dirty word, and we have example of God the Father and Jesus Christ – a healthy parent-child relationship. In a healthy parent-child relationship there will be a level of trust and obedience. When we talk about obedience, we don’t mean blind and unthinking obedience. That’s not what God is after. In chapter 4 of the letter we are studying we read, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” So, we are not to have a blind obedience, but a discerning obedience- an obedience tempered by wisdom. This is the kind of obedience wise parents want for their children. Parents want their children to have strong wills, but they also want their wills to be directed. They want them to have strong wills because it takes a strong will to stand up against peer pressure. Parents want their children to be able to stand up for themselves and for others even if it is against the flow of their peers. But, wise parents also want their children to follow their direction because they have more experience and understanding and want to guide them both into good and away from evil. Parents hope that their children will be obedient, but not mindless.


Like Jesus, 1 John insists that God’s commands are not difficult. In essence, they consist in the call to love, “not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” Genuine faith, therefore, is firmly connected with active love.  Genuine faith is also connected with obedience.

Those with true faith also confess that Jesus is the Son of God. For 1 John, confessing that Jesus is the Son of God means believing that Jesus is the one who came through (dia) water and blood (1 John 5:6). The verse goes on to specify, “not in (en) water only, but in (en) water and in (en) blood.”  Scholars argue about the precise meaning of this phrase. Some suggest that it refers to the blood and water that came out of Jesus’ pierced side after his crucifixion (John 19:34). Others see it as referring to the water in which Jesus was baptized and the blood that flowed from him during his crucifixion, or as encompassing his whole life from the breaking of his mother’s bag of waters to his bloody death. Whatever the precise meaning of the phrase, its basic point is clear: Jesus did not simply appear to be human. He was truly flesh and blood. Nor was he God’s Son only during his baptism and ministry. The fact that he was God’s Son did not mean that Jesus somehow escaped the full consequences of being human. He shared the whole human experience of living and dying. He remained God’s Son even in his agonizing death by torture on the cross. Jesus was born, baptized, and crucified to empower all of us to become God’s children, cleansed by his blood (1 John 1:7). This is not some inessential doctrinal point. 1 John insists that this is the heart of our faith.

Truly Christian faith conquers the world not by military might or doctrinal arguments or coercion, but by love. Christians believe in the Son of God who, rather than shedding the blood of others to prove that he was the Messiah, allowed his own blood to be shed. God’s children triumph not by inflicting suffering on others or by avoiding pain at all costs but by allowing God to work within and through them even in their suffering.

What applies to individual Christians applies also to the Christian community. The Church triumphs over false teaching not by force or argument, but because of and through the suffering love of the crucified Messiah. This is the truth to which the Holy Spirit testifies: God’s son was tortured and broken for us. This is the faith that overcomes the world: God’s love brings life even out of brokenness and death. This is the victory to which we are called: loving God’s children, and thus living our faith in the crucified, risen Son of God.



Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), “Call to Worship” Website, Judith Jones, Chris Roth, Michelle L. Torigian, Scott Hoezee, Tara W. Bulger, Teri McDowell Ott, PCUSA Book of Confession, and The New Interpreter’s Commentary


Ordination and Installation of Deacons and Elders

Commissioning of Trustees



Sentences of scripture

There are varieties of 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 each person in a unique way, but it is God’s purpose that is accomplished. To each is given a gift of the Spirit to be used for the common good. Together we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.


Statement on ordination and installation

We are all called into the church of Jesus Christ by baptism, and marked as Christ’s own by the Holy Spirit. This is our common calling, to be disciples and servants of our servant Lord. Within the community of the church, some are called to particular service as deacons, as elders, and as ministers of the Word and Sacrament.  Ordination is Christ’s gift to the church, assuring that his ministry continues among us, providing for ministries of caring and compassion in the world, ordering the governance of the church, and preaching the Word and administering the sacraments.



Representing the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, the session of the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury now ordains N. and N. to the office of deacon, and N. and N. to the office of elder, and installs them to active service on their respective boards.


The session also installs to active service those who have been previously ordained: deacons N. and N. and elders N. and N.



The session also commissions to active service those called to serve as Trustees:


Constitutional questions

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 office 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 seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?

I will.


To deacons:

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.


To elders:

Will you be a faithful elder, watching over the people, providing for their worship, nurture, and service? Will you share in government and discipline, serving in governing bodies of the church, and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ? I will.


To trustees:

Will you be a faithful trustee, faithfully receiving, holding, encumbering and managing the resources of this congregation? Will you share in the government and discipline, serving in governing bodies of the church, and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ? I will.


To members:

Do we, the members of the church, accept N. and N. as deacons and elders, chosen by God through the voice of this congregation to lead us in the way of Jesus Christ?

We do.


Do we agree 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.


Prayer of ordination

Eternal God, we give you thanks for your steadfast faithfulness to us.  In every age you have called forth leaders to serve you and equipped them with your gifts. Among your people Israel, you anointed prophets, priests, and rulers. You called pastors and teachers, bishops, elders, and deacons to build up your church.  With Moses, the seventy elders bore the burdens of your people, ministering in the power of your Spirit.  Alongside the apostles, deacons cared for all in need and guarded the community’s peace. In the church, deacons, elders, and pastors serve together, so that your whole people might be equipped for ministry, and built up into the full unity of Christ.  For your servants in every age, O God, and for the church of Jesus Christ, we give you all thanks and praise.


Gracious God, through the waters of baptism, you have claimed us as your own and called us to share in Christ’s ministry.  Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may discern the gifts you have given, calling them forth from one another, and together use these gifts for the good of all.  In obedience to Christ, and in the unity of his Spirit, may we proclaim good news, make disciples, be light and leaven, share our bread, offer a cup of cold water, wash one another’s feet.  Make us strong in Christ to live as your people and show forth your saving love in the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



Declaration of ordination and installation

  1. and N., you are now deacons and elders in the church of Jesus Christ and for this congregation. Be faithful and true in your ministry so that your whole life will bear witness to the crucified and risen Christ.





The end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.


*HYMN No. 529       “Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether”

1 Draw us in the Spirit’s tether,
for when humbly in your name
two or three are met together,
you are in the midst of them.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Here we touch your garment’s hem.

2 As disciples used to gather
in the name of Christ to sup,
then with thanks to God the giver
break the bread and bless the cup,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
so now bind our friendship up.

3 All our meals and all our living
make as sacraments of you,
that by caring, helping, giving,
we may be disciples true.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
We will serve with faith anew.



On this day, we celebrate the risen Christ
On this day, we celebrate resurrection in our lives.
On this day, we embrace the grace which reaches from the tomb.
On this day, we embrace faith by committing to love in action.
On this day, we shout Hallelujah!
On this day we shout, Christ is risen!  Alleluia!


Prayer of Communion
It is through our neighbors and creation that we see the rising of Christ, O God.


Creator of Our Earth: We celebrate the shifting of seasons from one to the next.  As the earth sheds its snow, it begins to drink in the warm rains and creation comes alive once again.

And so in this spirit of brightness and life, we celebrate.  We celebrate the risen Christ in our midst.  We celebrate the table in which we can join together with friends and strangers, loved ones and enemies.


Through this meal which has stood the test of time, we covenant to love you, God.   We covenant to love as Jesus the Christ loved us- loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Through a simple meal of grain and grape, we, your children, unite.


As we enter this season of Easter, we ask that the warm winds of the Spirit encircle this table and accompany us on our journey.  May this Spirit help us to recognize the Christ-presence in our midst.  May the Spirit open our souls in order for us to see humanity, God and creation through the eyes of Jesus.


It was Jesus who introduced this meal to his followers.  Even though Jesus knew he would be betrayed and deserted by those at this supper, he still continued to join them at the table, sharing time and space with whom he grew closest.


As the night lengthened, Jesus took a simple portion of bread.  He blessed it and broke it, and shared it with the disciples.  He urged them: Remember me.


Afterwards, Jesus took the cup.  During his blessing, Jesus reminded them how he would go to the ends of the earth in his love for them.


Today, we celebrate this earth-shaking love of Jesus – a love that sent him to the cross and a love that lives eternally with us, encouraging us to live a resurrected life.


The Bread of Life and the Cup of the Covenant: Gifts to unite the Body of Christ, and so we now join our voices together in the prayer that he taught us saying, “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, for ever. Amen


Distribution of Elements


Prayer of Thanksgiving

Through this space and time together today, we celebrate the covenant that ties us with God, Jesus the Christ, our neighbors and creation.  Thank you, Divine Crafter of the Table, for fashioning us a holy meal unites us with the Body of Christ.  Send us into the world resurrected, refreshed and ready to share Christ’s unconditional love.  Amen.





With gratitude for all God has given us, let us return our offerings to God.




*RESPONSE N0. 607               “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
praise Christ, all people here below;
praise Holy Spirit evermore;
praise Triune God, whom we adore. Amen.



Generous God, we bring you our offerings today, and ask that you bless them. Bless the money in the plates that it might be saved, stewarded, and spent in ways that honor you. Bless the tasks we will undertake this week that we might be coworkers in your coming kingdom. Bless the hours of our week – 167 until we meet again – that our lives may be our offering to you. Bless us to be blessings in this world. Amen.


*HYMN No. 262       “Since Our Great High Priest, Christ Jesus”

1 Since our great high priest, Christ Jesus,
bears the name above all names,
reigning Son of God, surpassing
other titles, powers, and claims;
since to heaven our Lord has passed,
let us hold our witness fast!

2 Since we have a priest who suffered,
knowing weakness, tears, and pain,
who, like us, was tried and tempted,
unlike us, without a stain;
since he shared our lowly place,
let us boldly seek his grace.

3 Sacrifice and suffering over,
now he sits at God’s right hand,
crowned with praise, no more an outcast,
his preeminence long planned;
such a great high priest we have,
strong to help, supreme to save.

4 Love’s example, hope’s attraction,
faith’s beginning and its end,
pioneer of our salvation,
mighty advocate and friend:
Jesus, high in glory raised,
our ascended Lord, be praised!



As you go out into God’s world this week, be Easter people! Be those who say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here. He is risen.” Be ready to be surprised with what God will do next. Look for the risen Christ in those you meet. Let the Holy Spirit nudge and guide you. The tomb is empty because Jesus is out in the world, and now we must go out into the world too! May the joy and wonder of that first Easter morning live in your hearts today and every day. Amen.