GRACE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Third Sunday in Easter – Native American Awareness Sunday
April 26, 2020 Pastor Ami Sawtelle
Greeting and Announcements
Lighting of our Light of Peace and our Prayer for Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: so mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all people and nations may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one God, to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever. Amen.
*Opening Hymn: “Open My Eyes, That I May See” #454 UMH
*Call to Worship: (Psalm 116)
Leader: God’s ear is inclined to hear us; God hears our voices and our supplications. When we suffer distress and anguish, when we call on the Lord, our prayers are heard. Let us sing praise to God, who journeys with us in good times and in bad.
All: Let us worship the Lord, our God, in joyous celebration.
*Prayer of the Day (in unison):
How long, O Lord, how long? We seek you morning, noon, and night, but the numbers continue to climb, more sick, more dying, more without work and income. We know you are with us. We know you care, but we need you to show forth your strength once more.
We give thanks for the power you demonstrated through your son, Jesus. He healed the sick, made the blind to see and the deaf to hear. He fed many, body, mind and spirit, and he rose on the third day, proving your power over death.
Heal us. Show us once more your power, by wiping out the disease that threatens us. Heal us. Strengthen the weakness of our faith and trust, showing us that you are present and that you care.
We worship you this and every day, trusting your strength, your mercy and your grace. As we continue to serve you, show us new ways to show your love and mercy to others. Amen.
Celebrating God Sightings and Sharing Concerns
Pastoral Prayer (ending with the Lord's Prayer)
As we begin a new week, we hear stories of states that are beginning to open their businesses despite the numbers of cases of the coronavirus that are still in the communities. May the people be wise in their response to the openings. May they continue the practices that will keep them safe and may they put their trust in the science that you have given us to keep us safe. We hear stories of people struggling to make ends meet, to have food on the tables, electricity and water and a roof over their heads. Help us find ways to help the most vulnerable, to share from our abundance with those who have nothing. We hear stories of families unable to be by the side of loved ones as they make their final journey home to you. We know those coming to you are not alone. Comfort their families. Give them your comfort and peace that will help them to weather this storm. We hear stories of emergency responders and health care personnel contracting the virus. Lord, in your mercy, keep all safe who put their lives on the line that others might have what they need; that they may have the care they need in the midst of difficult situations, that they may know you are the giver of life and light. Lord, we hear stories of increasing violence among family members; change the hearts of the perpetrators, help the victims to find safety; protect those that must respond to these instances and give them wisdom as they deal with all.
We give you thanks, that you walk among us; holding us when no one else can; hearing us, when no one else is around; comforting us in our distress. Let us continue to walk in faith and trust, knowing that your son, Jesus, trusted you, even when he faced the cruelty of the cross. And now, as Jesus taught his disciples, we are bold to pray:
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,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Acts 2; 14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
Two men who knew Jesus, walking along the road, traveling about the distance from the church to Newbury. They encounter a stranger. What would they have been talking about today? Today the topic of conversation would likely be the pandemic; how so many have gotten sick; how so many have died. They likely would have talked about their own employment status, the fact that they had to stay 6-10 feet apart and wear masks in public would have been obvious. They may have spoken about the way some states were beginning to open up businesses, trying to get people back to work, and their personal feelings about whether that was too fast or not fast enough. That would have been the topic of the day.
For Jesus to appear and not automatically know that these men were discussing the crucifixion and the disappearance of the body, would no more have entered their minds than the thought that the men walking to Newbury maybe talking about anything other than the pandemic would have entered ours.
It is interesting to note that the “stranger,” once appraised of the matter under discussion, was not only able to enter into the discussion, but to explain what had happened from a scriptural standpoint without being recognized. It wasn’t until the journey was at an end and the stranger accepted an invitation to stay the night that the recognition came. It was not some great announcement from on high, but in the day to day setting of the dinner table. Jesus sat at table with the believers, he spoke the blessing, he broke the bread and he offered it to those at the table.
It is not in great acts, touted on the news, that Jesus is most often shown to the world. It is in the simple acts of day to day living that Jesus can more often be found. The meal offered to a homeless person feeds them for that meal. A meal shared with the same person, not only feeds their empty bellies, but also acknowledges their personhood, their value. Food dropped on a person’s porch helps to fill their bellies and is important, but speaking to them, even through a closed door, helps to break the cycle of isolation so many are facing.
The journey through to COVID-19 crisis can be used as a wakeup call to all of us. There was a story I read this week of a woman who lived in isolation and liked her “isolated” status most of the time. She was independent and really didn’t want to ask help from others, but when a neighbor made a second contact that she was going to the store and offered to pick up some things, the woman allowed her to help. It was a big step, but helped her to recognize her own needs in the midst of the isolation, her need for, at least occasionally, human interaction and contact. Let this be a wakeup call to all of us. We are an independent group of folks, but sometimes it is important to acknowledge our own needs and allow others to reach out and help us. It helps not only us sometimes, but the person offering the assistance, as they experience the joy of giving.
We know that this crisis will eventually pass. Life as we once knew it may be a lot longer in coming, if ever, but the ability to go out, to go to restaurants and theaters, to attend sporting events and have a BBQ with our neighbors will happen. As we work to help one another, as we allow others to help us, we need to keep in mind that, “God’s got this.” God will get us through all that is happening and, once it is behind us, we will be able to see God’s hand in how people responded. We are over six weeks into this situation and we still have close to a month, at best, to go, but we can weather this storm as we have weathered others, as long as we trust the stranger that opened the eyes of the believers. If we believe that Jesus is with us in our struggles, that “God’s got this,” then we will find the additional strength that will help us get through this crisis and any others that may arise.
*Hymn: “Abide with Me” #700 UMH
Bringing our Gifts Before God
What do we have to offer to God? We are struggling to make ends meet, but God has richly blessed us. The woman who gave only 2 small coins was more celebrated because she gave from her poverty, than the rich who would never miss the coins they placed in the alms box. When we give in thanksgiving for what God has given us, we often find ourselves richly blessed by God’s love.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
*Offering Prayer (in unison):
We praise you, God of all, and offer these small gifts in thanksgiving for the riches you have given us. Use them to further your message of love and grace in a world desperate for touch and contact. Amen.
*Hymn: “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” #133 UMH
*Blessing, Sending Forth and Postlude
Unless otherwise noted, liturgy today by Pastor Ami Sawtelle.