April 25th

Sunday Worship Service


 Click Here To View The Worship Recording 

~Service for the Lord’s Day~


April 25, 2021  10:00 a.m. 

Worship Leaders:
Elder Val Gordon, Worship leader
 Andrea Barbour, Ministry of Music
Elder Kelly Milton,  Liturgist

 Recording Operations
Dave Gaeiwski                                                          GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE, 
PRELUDE              “Joy Dawned Again”                                         Franklin Ritter 

CALL TO WORSHIP                                                                                                             (Geoff Gordon)
                                                                                                         The Lord in my shepherd; I shall not want
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
Jesus said: I am the good shepherd.
Christ lays down his life for the sheep.
The Lamb of God will be our shepherd;
He will guide is to the water of life.
 *HYMN :#410                              “God is Calling Through the Whispers”.  
God is calling through the whisper of the Spirit’s deepest sighs, 
through the thrill of sudden beauties that can catch us by surprise. 
Flash of lightning, crash of thunder; hush of stillness, rush of wonder: 
God is calling – can you hear? 
God is calling – can you hear?
God is calling through the voices of our neighbors’ urgent prayers, 
through their longing for redemption and for rescue from despair. 
Place of hurt or face of needing; strident cry or silent pleading: 
God is calling – can you hear? 
God is calling – can you hear?
God is calling through the music of sublime and human arts, 
through the hymns of earth and angels, and the carols of our hearts. 
Lift of joy and gift of singing; days and nights our praises bringing: 
God is calling – and we hear! 
God is calling – and we hear!                            PRAYER OF CONFESSION                                 Almighty God,
in raising Jesus from the grace,
you shattered the power of sin and death.
 We confess that we remain captive to doubt and fear,
bound by the ways that lead to death. 
We overlook the poor and the hungry,
and pass by those who mourn;
we are deaf to the cries of the oppressed, and indifferent to the calls for peace; we despise the weak,
and abuse the earth you made.
Forgive us, God of mercy.
Help us to trust your power
to change lives and make us new,
that we may now the joy of life abundant
given in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
                                                                                                                                                     ( Tate Gordon)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
                           SECOND READING                                                                                                                 John 10:1-18
 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes[a] it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
                                                                                                                                                 PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION                                                                                                                       
SERMON                                                         50 Days of Easter

I have a colleague Bobby who likes to remind me a couple weeks after Easter Sunday, that it’s still Easter season.  It’s always a jarring comment.   Easter happens, and I move on.  Lent is 40 days filled with some optional but well-known disciplines that help us.  Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday…40 days of leaning into our mortality, 40 days to consider our selfishness and dark hearts, 40 days to fast as a way to remember our need, 40 days to prepare so we can fully celebrate the resurrection life that come with Easter.  And maybe you are unlike me, maybe you lean into the hope and joy way past Easter Sunday.  I wish there were things that we put in place to celebrate Easter over these 50 days in the same way we do with Lent.  Maybe you have some practices and if you do, please share with the rest of us.  Bobby says the feasting of Easter should last longer than the fasting of Lent, that it’s intentional that Lent is 40 days and Easter is 50.  But I’m not sure I have paid attention.
This year Easter came and went. It was a struggle to live in the joy that should come.  I’ve been pre-occupied and anxious.  Now if you have listened to me over the past couple months you know that anger is sort of my go to, it’s unfortunately like a warm well-worn sweater, something I put on and it feels very familiar and embarrassingly comfortable. But Anxiety?  Anxiety is for the birds.  It’s so distracting.  Any creativity and strategic thinking go by the wayside.    And it’s been hard to nail down what the anxiety is related to.   It’s true that when I put all the games and activities in the calendar for the almost return to normalcy of the kids schedules it was a little anxiety producing to figure out how I could be at two places at the same time, sometimes three.  I should be thrilled after 15 months of almost nothing, but the zero to 60 mph is a bit jarring.  There have been some work deadlines, normal family and life chaos when you live with three active and expressive teenagers and your husband is an undiagnosed ADHD entrepreneur who thrives when he can see how much he can fit into a day. And then outside of my little bubble is a whole world. There are so many emotions that rise to the surface when you read the news about the number of deaths that have happened since Easter.  In less than 50 days we have heard about mass shootings, police shootings, COVID 19 resurgences and increased deaths in countries like Brazil and India, anxiety has been like an unwanted blanket I’m hiding under. Anxiety about what it all means, and will things change?  Can we become a nation that is safe for all people?  Will we have the courage to change our systems when it’s obvious there’s a problem?  Will there be a day when we won’t be worried about this virus? The joy and life of Easter feel very far away.  But it’s still Easter.  22 days in actually, we are not even halfway through Easter season. And if my friend Bobby is right there’s still time for me and for you to lean in and receive more in this Easter season.
Our scriptures today are trying to help us do that, reminding us of who our resurrected King is. Psalm 23, arguably one of the most famous passages in the Bible and John 10, provide a familiar and comforting analogy –the Lord as shepherd.   Shepherding was a very common occupation for those in the Middle East. The Old Testament leaders were all shepherds—Jacob, Moses, David.  Psalm 23 is extolling all the benefits of the Lord as Shepherd.  A former colleague used to say that Psalm 23 is like a commercial for God: “Do you lack something?   You need the Lord as your shepherd!”
Let’s pretend for a minute that we were designing a commercial for God as shepherd.   Some of my favorite commercials are Nike ads.  They use images and words in the most effective way, they either help you believe you are just like the athlete or you want to be.  Some of their later ads depict failure and then victory and they make it so attractive to want to fail, to experience incredible defeat, because of the way the portray rising to victory after.  If Nike were selling God as shepherd instead of shoes, they’d probably show beautiful, luscious green open landscapes with children running through the perfect non itchy grass.   Deep blue skies.   White fluffy clouds.   The lighting would make it so picturesque as the sun fell on peaceful streams and curated stones.  There’d be someone cupping water into their hands to drink.  The background music would be soothing, what restaurants play when they want you to feel comfortable and peaceful.  There would be images of beautifully set tables like on Thanksgiving with abundance of food.  And the few words that were spoken would say something like, ”with the Lord as your shepherd goodness and mercy will hunt you down for the rest of your life.” That’s actually true, the words in the Psalm, “surely goodness and mercy will follow me” are better translated into goodness and mercy chasing us down…David writes a commercial for God as a really good shepherd.
 Jesus references Ps 23 in our New Testament reading when he calls himself the Good Shepherd.   I am like the shepherd your hero David wrote about.   I am the one who wants to protect you, care for you, provide for you.  Jesus describes the shepherd who knows the sheep, knows them by name inferring an intimacy that he wants with his people.  And then he mentions 5 times in some form how the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  Now any good English teacher would say to pay attention to repeated words and phrases.
In John 10 Jesus repeats himself 5 times.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep
And I lay down my life for the sheep
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again
but I lay it down of my own accord
I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.
Seems like for sure Jesus is trying to communicate something.   And post Easter we know this story—Jesus was foreshadowing what he would do…he did lay down his life and life came back to Him.  Why is he saying this now and who is he saying it to? Just before Jesus calls himself the Good shepherd, there has been another controversial healing, Jesus has just done one of his more bizarre healing methods by spitting into ground to make mud and then putting that mud on a man’s eyes to restore his sight, but the problem for the pharisees, the religious leaders, is that it’s the sabbath.   And so, this is a bit uproar that mostly the former blind man has to deal with. He’s on trial to identify to the Pharisees who this man who healed him is. And in the process of being questioned he’s gaining more and more insight; you could say that spiritual sight is following his newly acquired physical sight as he is realizing this man that healed him is from God. The pharisees say something demeaning to him and drive him out of the temple.
Jesus goes and find the man so that he can give the man perfect spiritual insight to go along with his ability to see and tells him, you’re right I am from God and I am God and then says 39 “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” The Pharisees overhear this and are like, hmm um okay we do see so you’re trying to say we’re blind –we’re not blind.  Jesus shrugs his shoulders.  Not really but if I were playing Jesus in a movie, I probably would do that.
So that’s just happened and then Jesus starts to talk about shepherds, gates and sheep.  And what many people believe he is speaking to the Pharisees and he’s contrasting their religious leadership with God’s leadership, the leadership of the good shepherd, his leadership.  Remember these religious leaders knew the Bible, they knew Psalm 23 and that ways that God likened himself to a shepherd, so they know the reference.
So, what is the difference in leadership?  Jesus says in addition to being the shepherd, that he is the gate and the gatekeeper for the sheep.    Gates held the sheep and unlike what might come to our minds of some flimsy dilapidated gate that anyone could crawl through or climb over, the gates for the sheep were tall sturdy impenetrable gates that required a gatekeeper to open it up so the sheep could walk through.  Jesus says I am both the gate and the gatekeeper, I am the gate that protects you and I am the gatekeeper that opens the gate of protection to you. And he contrasts that to thieves who try to get in the gate another way, they want to sneak in.  They don’t want to go through the gatekeeper, through Jesus, they want to bypass Jesus.
The Pharisees were like thieves, they tried to rob people of the healing that Jesus wanted to offer, they don’t want Jesus to heal people because they care more about the law, following the Sabbath than they do about people.    Jesus wants to give people their life back by offering them full healing.  Pharisees are trying to steal life.
Jesus as shepherd describes his relationship with the sheep.  He knows them, he knows their names, and the sheep know him, and they know his voice.  He contrasts that with strangers who don’t know the sheep.   The Pharisees even though they were leaders of the people treated people like strangers.  They didn’t know their stories and they often judged them by the little they could observe—wait you’re sick? you’re blind? well you must be sinning. There was a harshness to how the Pharisees saw and treated people. Jesus knew people.  He knew his disciples, he knew the people he was healing, sometimes hearing their whole story, going back to their homes to meet their families.  There’s an intimacy that comes with Jesus as shepherd leader, something the Pharisees did not care to have.
Jesus like a shepherd, lays down his life.   Shepherds risk their life for their sheep.  When a wolf comes, the sheep are toast without the shepherd’s protection. The Shepherd understands that and embraces that role.  Contrasted to a hired hand.  Someone who is hired to take care of the sheep runs away when danger comes, when their own lives are more important than sheep’s. The Pharisees were desperate to protect themselves, their own self-image, their own status, their own power.  They were like hired hands; the people they were entrusted to lead did not matter to them.   Jesus says I lay down my life, I choose to do that, that’s how I am using my power.
The Lord as shepherd.   On this 22nd day of Easter, we are invited to continue to take hold of the resurrection and the promise of new life.  Our scriptures today want us to write our own commercial about why God is the best and only shepherd we need and why Jesus is a shepherd leader unlike anyone else– our shepherd who knows us, loves us, dies for us and desperate for us to experience abundant life. 
Seems like this news should have a big impact on us.  I’m not sure it does all the time for me. It makes me wonder if Jesus would say to me what he said about the Pharisees. “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see like you Val may become blind.” 
We are sometimes like the Pharisees, we think we see, we think we have spiritual insight, we think we know the spiritual truths, and yet we are blind.  We celebrate the joy of the resurrection for a few hours and then we forget. I did reach a period of desperation this week.  I am supposed to call people to life and joy in this Easter season, but all I see is death and all I feel is anxiety and hopelessness.  But if this scripture is true and I think it is, then I think I am more like the Pharisees than the blind man, I am one who sees or thinks I see but needs to become blind and have Jesus restore my sight so I can really see. Here are some insights I’ve had about myself this week.  I share them with you because maybe you, like me, have struggled to remember and live in the Easter story.  Maybe you, like me, have had more negative emotion like anxiety or sadness than joy recently.  Maybe you, like me, have a cognitive understanding about God as shepherd, but you don’t have an embodied experience of God as shepherd the way David or Jesus describes it.
If I am more like the Pharisees than I like to think I am, then what is it that keeps them from knowing the shepherd, from experiencing Jesus the way so many others do?  It seems to me the Pharisees have the most to lose.  Up until Jesus came along, they were the smartest, holiest, most revered.  They had status and power and influence.  What they said people did. What they thought, people believed.  And Jesus messed with that.  They were in a power struggle with Jesus.  And that power struggle takes over their minds and their hearts—they can’t see anymore. The power struggle they have with Jesus is keeping them from seeing Jesus as the Good shepherd who knows them, loves them and gladly lays down his life for them.  Others experience abundant life, they miss out.   What’s the power struggle I have with Jesus that keep me from seeing and experiencing abundant life?  From living in the joy of the resurrection? What’s it for you?   The Pharisees have so much to lose to accept Jesus as the good shepherd means they will need to admit they might have been wrong about things, that they know the law, but they don’t know Jesus.  This may cause them to look stupid or weak.    The blind man has everything to gain.  He has nothing. He can’t see, he’s needy and vulnerable.  The Pharisees are the opposite.
It begs the question if we are more like the Pharisees than the blind man–What do we have to lose when God is our shepherd?  The Psalmist makes it clear that when the Lord is shepherd, he does the leading.  He makes me lie down; he tells me when I need to rest, to stop, but what if I want to keep going? He leads me –if he wants to go right, we are going right.  It’s doesn’t matter that on the left is something I wish he was paying attention to. We are going right.  Like when you were a kid and you wanted to go to Dairy Queen but couldn’t persuade your adamant parents who decided no.  He restores my soul.  I might think I need sleep, copious amounts of television, fine dining to restore my soul, but he might think otherwise.  His version of restoration for the disciples after their big mission trip was feeding 5000 people, a version of rest the disciples likely didn’t think would be very restful. In the Psalm it’s a given that there were dark valleys—it’s not if there’s a dark valley but assumed there will be dark valleys.  There’s an assurance that the shepherd is with us but no assurance that the way may not be dark. In the Psalm it talks about the shepherd using a rod on us.  A little “whack whack” every now and then.  That’s a bummer.   I am not a sheep but I can’t imagine a sheep being excited about a rod.  What’s clear is that we will need a rod, we will not always get it right, we will need correcting. The Psalm talks about enemies as normal…again the shepherd prepares a lavish feast in front of enemies, something meant to describe God’s protection and advocacy even in the midst of backlash or hate, but the Lord as shepherd doesn’t mean there won’t be enemies…and enemies mean pain, anxiety, fear, confusion.
The temptation to be our own shepherd is real…our ways are not God’s ways, sheep and humans tend to go to great lengths to have our own way, to make our own decisions about where to and what to eat and when to sleep and how to have fun.  We go to great lengths to avoid pain, darkness, confusion, fear. The power struggle to allow God to be our shepherd is real.  We do lose some control, power, autonomy.  But the psalmist and Jesus are trying to remind us that the benefits of the Lord as shepherd are also real, and extensive.
 All our needs met.There’s real rest, rest that brings restoration, not rest like when you get back from a vacation and feel like you a vacation from the vacation.There’s protection when evil comes, like a shield around us.There’s guidance and direction. How often don’t we really know what to do?  How often do we pretend that we know what to do when the Lord would offer that?There’s abundant life.  I often say following Jesus is not boring.  It’s a life like none other.  Jesus’ intent for our lives is love, joy, peace, risk,Goodness & mercy hunting us down, literally chasing after usThe shepherd Jesus promises us an intimate relationship with Himself, the one who has infinite love, grace and power. We could lack nothing.  Imagine lacking nothing? In these 50 days of Easter, we are invited to celebrate God in all his resurrected glory, this week remembering what it means that he is our Good Shepherd, the world’s Good shepherd.  The truth is I’ve missed it because I’ve been so busy shepherding myself.  I’ve been so busy trying to figure out how to control the chaos in my own life, I ’ve been anxious trying to control the thoughts and actions and minds of politicians, police and policy makers and just anyone who is not making the choices I wish they would make. To feel the benefits of the Good shepherd means I need to allow myself to be shepherded and trust that the shepherd can provide what I need.  And it’s a tradeoff, not being control is uncomfortable but it’s so much better than anxiety.  Anxiety creeps in because we feel out of control.  Better to skip that altogether. So on this 22nd day of Easter as you try to shepherd your own needs, anxieties, frustrations and limitations consider what it would take to allow God to be your shepherd and then declare with the psalmist that the Lord is your shepherd and you lack nothing.  And celebrate the joy and life of Easter again.
I believe I need a shepherd.
Because I am sometimes timid and other times overconfident,
because I often don’t know the best path yet pretend I do,
because I rush into dead ends or lead others into hazardous places,
because my brightest ideas are seamed with darkness,
because the things I crave may not be what is good for me,
I need a shepherd.
I believe in Jesus, the best possible shepherd;
his wisdom leads me to the best opportunities,
his word comforts me when I’m anxious or afraid,
his arm steadies me when I feel weary and heavy-laden,
his wounded body displays the cost of my rescue,
I believe in Jesus, the best possible shepherd.
I believe that I do not find him but he finds me,
that I under his care by virtue of sheer grace,
the love he gives me is to be shared with others,
that he treasures my name and prepares a place for me,
that his fold transfixes earth and heaven.
I trust Jesus, the good shepherd. Amen.
                                                                                                 * HYMN: #187                           “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”
  Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare:
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
You have bought us, we are yours;
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
You have bought us, we are yours.

 We are yours in love befriend us,
Be the guardian of our way;
Keep your flock, from sin defend us,
Seek us when we go astray:
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
Hear your children when we pray;
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
Hear your children when we pray.

 You have promised to receive us,
Poor and sinful though we be;
you have mercy to relieve us,
Grace to cleanse, and pow’r to free:
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
Early let us turn to You;
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
Early let us turn to You.

 Early let us seek Your favor,
Early let us do Your will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior,
With Your love our spirits fill:
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
You have loved us, love us still;
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,
You have loved us, love us still.  
                                                                                                                                       PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS         (If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
 We are an Easter people! We believe that faith can move mountains, and that caterpillars can be transformed into butterflies. We trust that with your grace present, even the smallest act of kindness, the shortest practice of goodness, or the slightest gesture of generosity can have significance well beyond all expectations. With that faith, we rise. With that faith, we are resurrected into new life. With that faith, we give – freely and joyfully. And so now we give, out of what we have, to bless those who have not, in order to bear witness to, and to inspire, a spirit of resurrection – in ourselves, and in others
  *HYMN:  #720                                               “Jesus Call us”   Jesus calls us o’er the tumult 
of our life’s wild, restless sea; 
day by day his sweet voice soundeth, 
saying, “Christian, follow me!” 

 Jesus calls us from the worship 
of the vain world’s golden store, 
from each idol that would keep us, 
saying, “Christian, love me more!” 

 In our joys and in our sorrows, 
days of toil and hours of ease, 
still he calls, in cares and pleasures, 
“Christian, love me more than these!” 

Jesus calls us! By thy mercies, 
Savior, may we hear thy call, 
give our hearts to thine obedience, 
serve and love thee best of all. 

POSTLUDE                                                    “Melodie Sacra”                                              David Paxton