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May 7, 2023
Fifth Sunday of Easter
10:00 am



We gather this day, O Lord, as people who seek your guiding love. Open our hearts and make us ready to stand firm in the faith that leads to loving service. Create a new people in this place so that your love may surround all who enter here. For we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.



Gather us, O God
There is room for us all.
Dwell with us, O God.
Show us the way.
Guide us, O God.
We give thanks and praise for Christ as our way, truth and life.

*HYMN No.  234 “Come, you faithful, raise the strain”

1 Come, you faithful, raise the strain
of triumphant gladness!
God has brought forth Israel
into joy from sadness,
loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
Jacob’s sons and daughters;
led them with unmoistened foot
through the Red Sea waters.

2 ’Tis the spring of souls today:
Christ has burst his prison,
and from three days’ sleep in death
as a sun has risen.
All the winter of our sins,
long and dark, is flying
from the Light, to whom we give
laud and praise undying.

3 Now the queen of seasons, bright
with the day of splendor,
with the royal feast of feasts
comes its joy to render;
comes to glad Jerusalem,
who with true affection
welcomes in unwearied strains
Jesus’ resurrection!

4 Neither could the gates of death,
nor the tomb’s dark portal,
nor the watchers, nor the seal
hold you as a mortal:
but today, among your own,
you appear, bestowing
your deep peace, which evermore
passes human knowing. 


No one is lost to God. All our welcome to witness and receive God’s saving grace. Let us confess our sins before our Savior.


You send us, God of the Great Commission, but we hedge and hesitate. Forgive our fear and our excuses. We are witnesses of your grace and glory but allow others to silence our praise. We imprison ourselves with doubt and shame and fail to shine your light for all to see. Forgive our fears. Free our testimony. Amen.  



Christ has transformed us. Christ has renewed us. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are a new creation, ready to sing God’s glory and testify to God’s grace. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

*RESPONSE No. 260 “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus”

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus;
his the scepter, his the throne;
Alleluia! his the triumph,
his the victory alone!
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion
thunder like a mighty flood:
“Jesus out of every nation
has redeemed us by his blood.”


Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”

ANTHEM                   “Prayer for Peace”                 Benjamin Harlan



Savior God, your Word is a lamp to our feet on this discipleship road. Walk with us. Guide us with your wisdom and grace. Open us to discerning your will and your way. Amen.  

SCRIPTURE Acts 7:55-60

55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.56“Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

SERMON “Things Yet to Come”

“Stephen full of grace and power,” that’s what they said about him. Sure, he did great “signs and wonders,”  but who was behind it all? It wasn’t Yahweh, that’s for sure! Someone operating outside the boundaries like that, not respecting the proper channels—a sure sign that Beelzebub was involved one way or the other, and amazing that people didn’t see it from the start! I just knew he was guilty, and when we found the required number of witnesses to confirm which side he was really on, I was elated. The truth will out. The heretic group Stephen belongs to needs to be condemned promptly and brought to justice. The scourge of society, they stand against everything that’s right, following Je. . .Je. . . (unable to say the name, shudders and speaks in disgust), I can’t even say the name!

So, I was feeling pretty good—we finally had this Stephen dead to rights. And we were thinking -maybe the guilty verdict would start our glorious persecution off on the right foot, and then we could then go on to wipe out his whole sect and get back to the business of being good Jews.  (Pauses a beat and looks perplexed).

I tell you—the guy didn’t have a clue. Instead of backing off, he just kept hammering away at us. (Getting more irritated as he tries to get the wording right)

He called us stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears, people who persecuted and killed the prophets of old, the ones who’d received the law but NOT kept it! We, not keep the law? Preposterous! Can you imagine invoking our prophets to perpetrate an outright lie?

(with great satisfaction)

Then the straw that broke the camel’s back. He claimed to see God up in heaven with their fake Messiah, that man Jesus, at his side.

(covers his ears and starts talking very loudly)

At that point, the sentence went from jail to death. Really, there’s only so far you can let someone go—and then you have to stop them any way you can. So we dragged him outside of the city to stone him.  It was actually more than I’d hoped for—they’d let Peter and John go once, and another time Peter actually managed to escape, but maybe this signaled that the tide was now turning in favor of us defenders of Yahweh and Yahweh’s ways.

(Removes his hands and starts motioning towards himself)

You understand that for ritual reasons I couldn’t participate in the stoning myself, but I told those who could to bring me their coats and lay them at my feet. I was happy to help in any way I could, to do my part to see this heretic meet his end. After all, he was only getting what he deserved! (Pauses, then another look of confusion)

But here’s the thing. . . I can’t quite forget, the thing that sometimes wakes me up at night. Clearly, Stephen was a heretic. Clearly he deserved to die. I knew that. Everyone knew that. But I just can’t make that. . .match with the words he spoke right before he died:

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Do not hold this sin against them.”

It doesn’t make sense. It’s like. . .like we were the ones who were doing the wrong thing. But we weren’t. We couldn’t have been. So what was he talking about?

(Waving his hand in exasperation as he walks off)


Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship, Mikeeal C. Parsons, Matt Skinner, Frederick Buechner, C. Clifton Black, and Brandon Perkins.


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.

*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,
ever awaiting
our invitation:
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.



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!


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.

The 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, for ever. Amen.




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.



Humbled by God’s generosity, let us offer our gifts to God and God’s ministries through Christ’s church.


*RESPONSE N0. 609 “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”

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.


God, you meet our needs and transform us for service. Accept these gifts as signs of our gratitude and our commitment to witness to Christ’s ministry in your world. Amen.  

*HYMN No. 246 “Christ is Alive!”

1 Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
Love, drowned in death, shall never die.

2 Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now,
and touching every place and time.

3 In every insult, rift, and war
where color, scorn, or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,
and lives, where even hope has died.

4 Women and men, in age and youth,
can feel the Spirit, hear the call,
and find the way, the life, the truth,
revealed in Jesus, freed for all.

5 Christ is alive, and comes to bring
good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring
with joy, with justice, love, and praise. 


Christ does not give to us as the world gives.
We leave church today with Christ’s peace to have, to hold, to share with others.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, do not be afraid.
Christ is with us in all things.

May the grace, hope, peace and love of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us all, now and forever. Amen.