The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
May 9, 2021
Sixth Sunday of Easter
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Our Lord and our God, we come before Your, O Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. We praise the heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. We praise the Son through His own work and we praise Your by the power of the Spirit who is given by the Lord Jesus Christ from the right hand of the heavenly Father. O God receive our worship, meet with us, teach us from Your word, strengthen our hearts and make the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts to be acceptable in Your sight through our rock and our redeemer, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRELUDE “Prelude on “Middlebury” Gilbert Martin
CALL TO WORSHIP
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for God has done marvelous things.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before God.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord,
for God is coming to judge the earth.
The Lord will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
God’s mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. It is new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness. Knowing that we will find mercy in the presence of our God, we have courage to confess our sins before God and each other. Let us pray together.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart, nor have we loved our neighbor as ourselves.
Indeed, because we have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.
We have failed to be a people fully obedient to these commands; we have not done your will,
we have broken your law,
we have rebelled against your love.
Command what you will, and give what you command
Give us the love that you require of us.
Fill our whole heart with love for you
that becomes a whole hearted love for our neighbor.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The Scripture announces that this is a true saying and is to
be universally accepted: Christ came into the world to save sinners. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Friends, in Christ you are forgiven. Know this and be at peace.
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 “Come Build a Church” Ken Medena
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Gracious God who has given us
the rich and precious jewel of your holy Word,
Assist us with your Spirit,
that it may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort:
to reform us,
to renew us according to your own image,
to build us up, and edify us into the perfect building of your Christ, sanctifying and increasing in us all heavenly virtues.
Grant us this, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
SCRIPTURE John 15:9-17
9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you.15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
About a week ago, Stacey and I both had meetings on a Tuesday afternoon. Ben needed to get to golf practice at the River Winds course, and riding his bike with clubs was out of the question. So, I called members of the church and asked if they could provide transportation to the golf course. They graciously said yes, and I let Ben know that he had a ride to practice.
We sat down for our dinner that night and I asked how practice was and if everything went well with the Presbyterian Uber to the golf course. He laughed and explained that his transportation was a very small sports car and they had fun getting Ben and his golf clubs into the automobile. None the less, he was thankful for such good neighbors. Folks willing to help out in our time of need. I continue to be thankful for this congregation and how it helps its neighbors in the community – either the pastor’s kid or a homeless gentleman in need of groceries and a place to stay. I see good neighbors who are part of this community of faith, but this is not the norm in the larger world.
I’ve noticed society’s ever-growing lack of acceptance of what the itinerant rabbi from Nazareth prescribed in John 15. Sixty or so years after Jesus dies and amid persecution, John offers a commandment given by Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Inhale the love that flows from God to Christ, to the Holy Spirit, to us. Unfortunately, far too often, capitalism has coached us to approach our neighbor through a transactional lens – what do I get out of the deal? If not mindful and vigilant, we can be found guilty of being self-centered and afraid or unwilling to embrace our neighbors, all of which is antithetical to what Jesus prescribes in John 15. Christ offers a self- emptying love that makes us show up for others as he showed up for us even when it is costly. Not because he would benefit from showing up but because love seeks no personal gain but the benefit gained by humanity when it is transformed by love.
This text necessitates that we go back to the basics. As branches that obtain our nutrients from Jesus, the True Vine, Jesus says to us, I want your joy to be complete, so love one another. His commandment reminds us that at the end of the day, there is no greater love than the love Christ has exampled for us. As followers of this love-exemplar from Nazareth, we must forever fight those systems of death, oppression, and division that make it difficult to embody non-transactional agape love towards our neighbor. When we actualize Jesus’ commandment to love others, we are infused with the Spirit-power of the eternal True Vine who sustains us amidst the ugliest barriers that seek to divide and conquer.
Surely, he can sustain us for this love work since he chose us for it. As the chosen, we recognize that we don’t have to elbow each other for a seat at the global neighborhood table. Instead, our faith commits us to craft a longer table as a way of life; after all, they are our neighbors, and there is room for everyone in this neighborhood. Rev. Haddon Robinson said, “Your neighbor is anyone whose need you see, whose need you are able to meet. A neighbor is someone who says, ‘What is mine is God’s, and what is God’s belongs to my neighbor because my neighbor belongs to Him.’” This standard is one that not only Jesus exemplified for his disciples, but one that we are being beckoned toward until Jesus returns.
When was the last time you laid down your life for a friend? When was the last time you demonstrated an act of compassion toward a neighbor who didn’t look like you, expressed different beliefs than you, or didn’t have the same privileges as you? If this pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us the fierce urgency of loving now. It has enlightened our awareness of the fragility of life and the roles of others who we may have ignored. Everyone is essential during and after a pandemic in the global neighborhood. Each of us are the candles someone needs to find their way along the path of tough times and miserable moments.
Can we pause to take a moment and do a self-evaluation? Let’s take a second to capture a spiritual selfie of our own track record. How are you expressing love to those around you? What is your love score? Have you been selective about who deserves your love? Is your love unconditional? Is love your go-to posture as you live in the world as the hands and feet of Jesus?
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” Can you imagine where you would be if it had not been for the love of God? Can you think about how far God’s love had to reach to sustain you in spite of you?
Jesus goes on to say, “Abide in my love.” Jesus could have suggested that the disciples abide in anything, but he selected the one ingredient that always uplifts society – love. Abide in the love of God; allow it to course through every fiber of our being and every interaction and intention of our lives. Love confirms our vertical relationship with God only when it extends horizontally to those around us.
When we choose to love, we become friends of Jesus. In other words, there is a unique communion we share with Jesus once we fulfill this commandment. To know that we were chosen indicates how deep and how wide Jesus’ love is for us. And as a result, Jesus proclaims the final call to action, “Go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” Ironically, it is understood that we all have the capacity to bear fruit, but the work that is ours is to produce fruit that will last and have an impact beyond our mere mortal moments on the earth plane. Agape love lingers. Love never dissipates; it only recreates in another space and time.
Brothers and sisters, this is our call to action, a call to duty. This call is not constituted by a contract; rather, it rests on a covenant. This call is bigger than our individual selves, but it requires our individual response – “love one another as I have loved you.”
A story is told of a 13-year-old boy named Robert Johnson, Jr., affectionately referred to as “RJ.” He lived with his mother, Selena, and his father, Robert, Sr. Just like any teenager, there were moments when RJ would obey his parents and other moments when he would disobey.
The family was preparing for the Christmas holiday. RJ knew that he had to help clean the house prior to guests arriving. This Christmas, RJ was not in agreement. He wanted to use his break the way he wanted to, and that did not include cleaning the house. A few days later, his mother walked around the house and noticed that everything she had asked RJ to clean was clean. With a beaming smile painted on her face, she walked into her bedroom and found a note on her dresser. RJ wrote this letter, and it said:
For cutting the grass – $20
For cleaning my room – $15.25
For removing the garbage – $10
For washing the dishes – $10.50
For vacuuming the house – $10
Total Owed: $65.75
RJ’s mom wrote him a note in response. Her letter said:
“For the nine months I carried you, holding you inside me – no charge.
For the nights I sat up and doctored and prayed for you – no charge.
For the time and tears and the costs through the years – there is no charge.
For the advice and the knowledge and the costs of your college – no charge…
When you add it all up, the full cost of my love is – no charge.”
May we be joyously reminded of the one who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all at no charge to us. At no charge to our neighbors, God helps us to do as Christ commands us – love them wherever we find them in the neighborhood – wither local, national or international.
And in this moment, I’d invite you to join me in prayer.
God of unconditional love and grace, we thank you for your Word that reminds us of our call to action – our call to love. May the commandment of Christ to love be our lifestyle. May we who embrace your Word be reminded to bear the fruit of love and justice for our neighbor. Amen.
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Haddon Robinson, Alyce McKenzie, Chelsea Waite, Diane Moffett, Jerry Andrews, Meda Stamper, David Lose, Karoline Lewis, Scott Hoezee, James Boyce
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.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Divine Creator, we welcome you into our sacred space.
With open hearts, we usher in your presence
And await the movement of your Holy Spirit.
God of all mothers,
Stand with us as we celebrate
Those who have mothered,
Those who are mothering
and those who will mother.
Abide with us as we honor
Those who found ways to give life
And nurture children
even in the midst of the
Jim Crow laws.
And hatred that threatened
To take away life before it was given.
Stand by us as we acknowledge mothers who stand at the border
Seeking life for their children and families
Only to have those children snatched from their hands
By cruel, callous laws that are indifferent to human suffering.
Walk with us as we lift up mothers
Who are frail and in the final season of living.
Mothers who have given more than they ever received.
Mothers who have cared for, caressed and counseled us.
Who have etched their mark upon our flesh.
Mothers whom we grieve because they have died
And their memory leaves us wanting …
Comfort us as we remember mothers
Who are homeless and hopeless,
Who are locked up and locked out of their
Children’s lives because of
Or mental disorders
Or self-imposed imprisonment
That inhibits one’s ability to mother.
Like our earthly mothers,
You have given us life
And brought us forth
To be a source of life and light in this world.
You have blessed us with your merciful love
Even when our behavior breaks your heart.
Forgive our rebellious, wayward ways.
Heal our lives and the planet in which we live.
As we enter the celebration of Mother’s Day
Make us grateful for your unwavering
And help us to share the same with others.
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.
The flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Ed and Carol Parkin in loving memory of Charles E. Parkin
WELCOME OF NEW MEMBERS
Al and Joyce Edwards
Who is your Lord and Savior? Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.
Do you trust him? I do.
Do you intend to be his disciple, to obey his Word, and to show his love? I do.
Will you be a faithful member of this congregation, giving of yourself in every way, and will you seek the fellowship of the church wherever you may be? I will.
Women of the Church Jean Hills
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
In response to the love of God in God’s great gift to us in Jesus Christ, we give now our tithes and our offerings.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Without your love, Lord, we are nothing. Without your giving, we have received nothing. Without your gifts, we have nothing. Receive back these gifts of our love, that you may be always all to us. May our love grow even now as we give. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Go out into the world in peace. Have courage.
Hold on to what is good. Repay no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted. Support the weak.
Help the suffering. Honor all people.
Love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.