05-10-2020 Sermon

SUNDAY, MAY 10, 2020
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

Introduction

As we continue to celebrate the fifty days of Easter, today’s gospel includes Jesus’ promise that he goes to prepare a place for his followers in his Father’s house. Our baptism commissions us to share Jesus’ mission in the world. As 1 Peter reminds us, we are a holy people, called to proclaim the one who called us out of darkness into light. In words and deeds we bear witness to the risen Christ—our way, our truth, our life.

Greeting

P:        Alleluia! Christ is risen.

C:      Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

P:The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God. and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

C:      And also with you.

Confession And Forgiveness

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.

P:        Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God, who gives us a new birth into a living hope, who raises us with Christ from death, who fills us with the Holy Spirit.

C:      Amen.

P:        Let us repent of our sin and claim the promise of God.

Silence is kept for reflection.

P:        Living God,

C:      we confess before you and one another our futile ways, our pursuit of perishable things, our own part in crucifying the Lord Jesus. Forgive us, O God; renew the face of the earth; and give us the assurance that you have rescued us from the power of sin and made us alive in the Spirit forever. Amen.

P:        Christ suffered for sins once for all in order to bring you to God. Now you are God’s people; now you have received mercy. In the name of the risen + Lord Jesus, I declare to you that your sins are forgiven. Lay aside guilt, put away shame, for you are chosen and precious in God’s sight. Live in the marvelous light of Christ.

C:      Amen.

Special Music       “God Didn’t Give Me Much”

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God,

your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another, to follow in the way of his commandments, and to share his risen life with all the world, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Acts 7:55-60

Stephen was one of the seven men chosen by the apostles to serve tables so that the apostles could be free to serve the word (Acts 6:1-6). Stephen does more than distribute food, however. For his preaching of God’s word, he becomes the first martyr of the faith.

55Filled with the Holy Spirit, [Stephen] 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.

Psalm: 31:1-3, 16

1In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
  deliver me in your righteousness.
2Incline your ear to me;
  make haste to deliver me.

3Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold;
  for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.
16Let your face shine upon your servant;
  save me in your steadfast love.”

Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10

Christ is the cornerstone of God’s saving work and the foundation of our lives. We are God’s chosen, holy people who continuously celebrate and declare the mercy of God we experience through Jesus Christ.

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
 “See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
  a cornerstone chosen and precious;
 and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
 “The stone that the builders rejected
  has become the very head of the corner,”
8and
 “A stone that makes them stumble,
  and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10Once you were not a people,
  but now you are God’s people;
 once you had not received mercy,
  but now you have received mercy.

Gospel: John 14:1-14

On the night that he is to be arrested, Jesus shares final words with his disciples. As the one through whom God is known, he promises to go before them and act on their behalf.

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

Special Music       “Your Grace Is Enough”

Sermon

Prayers of Intercession

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

Build us up, mothering God, as living stones united in your spiritual house. Continually strengthen your church as it is sent forth to proclaim your love. We pray especially for new congregations and those in redevelopment. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Humble us, creator God, as part of your creation. Fill us with respect and awe for the world you have made, including volcanoes, ocean currents, tropical rainstorms, glaciers, and other forces that both destroy and create. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Align our ways to your love, O God. We pray for countries, leaders, and other organizations as they prepare places for those seeking refuge and safety. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of healing and rest, help those whose hearts are heavy and weighed down by many troubles. Comfort their suffering, ease their distress, and carry their burdens (especially). Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Nurturing God, we pray for those who tend and teach young children, for the safe pregnancies of expectant parents, and for families who struggle with infertility and miscarriage. We give thanks for all who have shown mothering care, and we remember all for whom this day is difficult. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Generous God, you call into your brilliant light all who have died. Give us faith to take hold of the promise of your eternal life. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Blessing

            As you go on your way may Christ go with you.  May he go before you to show you the way; May he go behind you to encourage you; Beside you to befriend you; Above you to watch over; Within you to give you peace.  In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.  Amen.

Streams Theme Song

See the streams of living waters,

springing from eternal love,

well supply your sons and daughters,

and all fear of want remove. 

Who can faint while such a river

ever will their thirst assuage?

Grace which, like the Lord, the giver,

never fails from age to age.

5 EASTER—5.10.2020—JOHN 14:1-14

Several years ago there was a newspaper cartoon that showed two fields separated by a fence. Each field was the same size and each had plenty of lush green grass. In each field there was a mule whose head stuck through the wire, eating grass from the pasture on the other side, even though it was hard to reach.

In the process of reaching the grass on the other side, the mules’ heads became caught in the fence. They panicked and brayed uncontrollably at being unable to free themselves. The cartoonist wisely described the situation with one word: “Discontent.”

So much of human history has been driven by discontent. It has been driven by the quest for more—more money, more security, more power. And this whole treasure hunt that consumes our lives is really a form of idolatry. It’s a way of seeking happiness and significance and security in our desires and achievements, not in God’s plans and God’s provisions. If it were possible for us to find happiness and significance this way, then why haven’t we? Why doesn’t anyone have enough?

Jesus declares that he is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him. Philip catches this glimmer of hope, and he insists, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” What a wonderful statement that is: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

“Enough” is really the hidden treasure that all of humanity is seeking. The Hebrew word “Shalom” is usually translated “peace” by Gentiles. But it embodies this state of tranquility that comes from peace, fulfillment and completeness—in other words, enough. One of the greatest gifts on earth is shalom, enough.

There is one question at the heart of every human being that drives our search for enough. The question is, “Does God exist?” Because if there is a God, then all of our meaning and purpose and identity and destiny flow from the character of God.Philip knew that. That’s why he said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Swiss philosopher and author, in his influential book Émile, wrote that a man’s own feelings are the source of all truth and values. A quote from his book reads, “. . . in the depths of my heart, traced by nature in characters which nothing can efface. I need only consult myself with regard to what I wish to do; what I feel to be good is good, what I feel to be bad is bad.”  Is that the way to find happiness—depend entirely on my feelings? If it feels good, do it?

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer agreed with this view. He based his sense of morality on his own feelings. During police interrogations after his arrest and confession, he commented, “If it all happens naturalistically, what’s the need for a God? Can’t I set my own rules? Who owns me? I own myself.”

So if we remove God from the equation of the universe, then human beings have no inherent identity or worth, our life has no inherent meaning or purpose, and our values of right or wrong have no actual foundation to support them.

So how do people usually respond to a meaningless universe? By seeking control. By seeking to be first or best in everything. By grasping after anything that will give them identity, purpose or meaning in the moment. And we call that happiness.    

But if there is a God, and God is the source of true meaning and purpose and identity, then what is God like?

Author Philip Yancey tells of driving through rural Georgia in the 1960s. He saw a roadside stand that read, “Jesus is the answer.” Beneath this slogan, someone had written, “So, what’s the question?”

Remember Philip’s implied question, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us”? Jesus is the answer to the questions, “Does God exist?” and “What is God like?” Jesus answers Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

In Jesus, we see a God who understandsus. God has tried to communicate with us and have a relationship with us from the beginning of time. Through promises and prophets, God tried to reach out and bring us back to His original plan for us. And when none of that worked, God came in human form in the life of Jesus. He grew up in a poor family. He worked hard for his daily bread. He lived under an oppressive Roman government. That’s why Jesus knew what was in his disciples’ hearts. That’s why, just hours before his own arrest, Jesus was comforting them. He understood their situation.

Back in 1988, the eyes of our country were upon Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Gallaudet is the nation’s only institution of higher education that is dedicated to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

In all of its history, Gallaudet University had been led by presidents who could hear. But in 1988 the student body protested the perceived disrespect in the appointment of yet another president who was not deaf like his students. And the administration listened. They removed the new president and replaced her with Dr. Irving King Jordan, the first deaf president of Gallaudet University.

Immediately after Dr. Jordan was appointed as the new president, he met with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and the Student Body President to discuss the future of the university. When they came out of that meeting, the President of the Student Body turned to the new President of the University and said with tears in his eyes, “There was no interpreter.”

Think about that for a moment. “There was no interpreter.” The students of Gallaudet finally had a president who understood their struggle. They had a leader who spoke their language.

So it is with us. In Jesus, we see a God who understands us. In Jesus, we see a God who speaks our language.

In Jesus, we see a God who has a plan for us.Jesus begins this Bible passage by saying, “I am going to prepare a place for you?” And “I will take you to be with me.”

We have to understand a little more about ancient Middle Eastern culture to get what Jesus is saying. In Jesus’ day, extended families often lived together in the same house. When a young couple was betrothed to be married, the bridegroom would go back to his father’s house and build on some extra rooms for his new bride. Once the building project was complete, he would come to claim his bride and take her back to his newly-expanded house. The wedding would take place only after the bridegroom had completed the building project and prepared a new home for his bride.

When Jesus says that he is going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for us, he is talking like a bridegroom to his beloved. He is making a promise to return for us and bring us to our new home—eternal life with God. Only he can make this promise because he is, as he told his disciples, the only way to God.

Ginger Sprouse, a business owner in Nassau Bay, Texas, drove by the same homeless man on her way to work every day. The man, Victor Hubbard, paced up and down the sidewalk and occasionally spoke to passers-by. One day, Ginger gave in to her curiosity and stopped to talk to Victor. She discovered that he struggled with mental illness. He paced back and forth on this particular stretch of road because he was waiting for his mother. Victor believed that she was coming back to get him, and so he waited. For three years, he had been waiting.

Ginger, touched by Victor’s story, began stopping by to visit with Victor. When the weather turned cold, she and her husband invited Victor to stay with them. Ginger even started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Victor. Soon, he had food and clothing and a few other necessities. But he still did not have the one thing he needed: a home. So, after much discussion, Ginger Sprouse and her husband invited Victor to live with them.

She said, “We kind of had to make that decision. Is he really a part of our family? Do we really mean it when we say that he’s going to be in our lives for the rest of it if that’s where he wants to be? And we said, ‘Yes, he is.’”

Jesus did not have to make a decision about us. From the beginning of Creation, God had a plan to make us a part of His family. God planned for us to be a part of His life forever. That’s why God came in the form of Jesus to show us who He really is. He came to show us how much He loves us. And God came to show us that He has always had a plan for us—to prepare a place for us in His eternal home, and to bring us back to be with Him someday. And the way to this place of eternal life with God is through surrendering to the Love of God in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

“Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” If you are still searching for meaning and purpose in your life, then know that you can find all these things in knowing the Father who knows you, who speaks your language, and who has a perfect plan for your life. Through the love of God in Jesus Christ, I can with absolute confidence offer you this blessing: “May you always have enough!” AMEN.