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Sermons and Services

 

First Congregational Church of Sunderland, Mass.

Sunday services and Sunday School–11:00 AM

All Are Welcome

Masks Required for the Unvaccinated.  Masks required for everyone when singing.

We will continue to broadcast via Zoom; you can see recordings on YouTube and FCAT.

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91 South Main St , PO Box 453, Sunderland  MA  01375

(413) 665-7987                Founded 1717

Pastor:  Rev. Randy Calvo

Organist and Choir Director:  Anthony Tracia

“We are called together by God to follow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and to welcome ALL who want to grow in faith through inspiring and shared worship, meaningful Christian Education, joyful fellowship, and compassionate ministry to the local and world community.”    [Our Church’s Mission Statement]

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WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY SERVICE

WE GATHER AS GOD’S PEOPLE

May 15. 2022 – Fourth Sunday after Easter

Welcome & Announcements

Prelude: Come Down, O Love Divine (Thomas Keesecker)

*Opening Hymn and Candle Lighting: (Blue #68) Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Call to Worship:

Leader:  Come to praise God, all you faithful people.  Come, for God welcomes us and offers to draw even closer to each of us.

People:  Praise to God, who rules over all creation.  Praise to God, who also is as near as our next breath. 

Leader:  Sun and moon and stars shine in praise to God.  God created them and established the order of a nurturing universe.

People:  God has a place and purpose for us in the world.  We come so that God may instruct and equip us as His church.

Leader:  Mountains and hills, trees and animals all praise God. Let the rulers of the earth, people and nations of power, do so as well.

People:  God provides for our needs and asks that we share with one another, making all on the earth into one family.

Unison Prayer:  We praise you, O God, and celebrate your

presence with us as we gather as this worshiping

community.  Your glory fills all of heaven and earth, all time and space.  Your gifts surround us and empower us so that we may better follow Jesus’ “new commandment,” so that we may learn to love one another more honestly and generously.  We are your people.  Come into our midst, O God, to heal our divisions and overcome our

prejudices.  Our differences should not divide us.  Rather, they hopefully help us to look deeper.  Come so that we may be loved into discipleship.  Amen. 

 *Gloria Patri (Red #513)

First Scripture Reading: Acts 11:1-18              Sue Wright 

Message for the Children (and anyone who was once a child)

Anthem:  Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (arr. Peter Amidon from the Prayer of St. Francis)

Invitation to Prayer:

     Prayers for Others              

     Silent Prayer

     Pastoral Prayer

Lord’s Prayer (P.513) (“debts and debtors”)

     Organ Response

The Gift of Giving

     Our Gifts to God

     *Doxology (Red 515)

     *Prayer of Dedication

*Reflecting Hymn: (Blue #422) Amazing Grace 

Gospel Reading:  John 13:31-35

Sermon: Jesus did not stutter

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)

          So a few hours before Jesus dies on the cross he’s meeting with his closest followers.  And Jesus tells them, “‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” 

          That sounds uncomplicated.  That sounds about as straightforward as it can be.  In those three sentences, Jesus uses the word love four times.  It’s kind of hard not to hear it.  Jesus even calls love “a new commandment.” 

          You know who was there listening to Jesus?  Peter.  He was there when Jesus said you have to love one another. 

          Now let’s say it’s a month after this, two months, three months.  We’re not sure, but it’s not long.  And this is when we hear the story that was read for us by Jeff/Sue.  Peter is in the village of Joppa.  He has a vision that is repeated three times.  There’s something about Peter and this three times. 

          Three times there was that “Peter do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?”  And now Peter must watch this heavenly vision three times, but it finally convinces him to stop making distinctions, separations, where God has not, especially after a heavenly voice declares, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

          Peter may have thought at first that this was limited to clean and unclean foods, but with a well-timed rap at the door, with messengers standing there from the foreign city of Caesarea, Caesar’s city, messengers who were Gentiles, and again with a heavenly voice commanding that Peter go with them and stop making distinctions, separations, where God has not, Peter realizes that the heavenly vision wasn’t limited to a message about kosher and non-kosher foods.  It was a revelation to stop making distinctions, separations, between people where God has not.

          Before Peter had shared this story, the church and the apostles in Jerusalem were ready to take Peter behind the woodshed because they had heard rumours that Peter dared to share Jesus with people who were different than they were.  That’s the church and the apostles

          Those apostles are the same ones, who just like Peter, were there with Jesus only hours before the cross when Jesus commanded almost as His last will and testament to “love one another.”  This is how they’ll know you are Christians, says Jesus, “if you have love for one another.”  And yet maybe a month or two or three after Jesus had said this, they were furious with Peter for loving people who were different than they were.

          This is not an age-old attack against Peter and the other apostles.  The Bible is not meant to be read primarily as a history textbook.  The Bible is about the still-speaking Word of God to us, to us believers in 2022. 

          We are supposed to learn from the mistakes and the hesitation of those first believers.  We are supposed to realize that it can be hard to follow Jesus, especially as He says only hours before going to the cross, “‘Love one another just as I have loved you.’”

          Remember what Jesus prays from the cross for the ones who have just put spikes through His flesh:  “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  This is the amazing standard Jesus sets for us when He says, “Love just as I have loved you.”  It’s not easy, but it is most definitely clear.  Jesus did not stutter. 

          When Jesus says, “Love one another,” it can’t be limited to the other who is like us.  The Roman soldier who mercilessly nailed Jesus to the cross is the polar opposite of who Jesus is.  He is the definition of other, and yet Jesus prayed for him because Jesus loved even him.  Jesus did not stutter.

          So as Christians today and as churches today we have inherited Jesus’ one new commandment – to love one another just as Jesus loves. 

          I started thinking about today’s sermon after Tuesday evening’s Bible study.  We were discussing Mark’s Gospel.  Mark asks, “Who then is this?” in his Gospel, and he then offers six different answers to explain who Jesus is.  And then he concludes with a miracle story where the miracle of restoring sight to a blind man doesn’t take right away.  Jesus has to work at it a second time.  This is extremely unusual.

          The lesson behind this strange miracle is that when it comes to Jesus it’s hard to figure out “Who then is this?”  It’s hard to see.  Then, if it wasn’t hard enough already to see who Jesus is, Mark then takes the reader through three separate predictions by Jesus that He will be arrested and killed in Jerusalem, and it gets even harder.

          Then, after Bible study, I opened the online edition of the current issue of the Atlantic Magazine.  That’s where I read the scary story of the anger and violence and hatred that are motivating, and this is where it hit close to home, that are motivating an awful lot of churches and an awful lot of Christians in America today.  One conservative, evangelical pastor was trying to swim against the current. 

          He was trying to convey to his congregation that Jesus came for all people.  He created a PowerPoint presentation.  He scrolled through several well-known faces generating some laughs when people saw themselves or their friends.  The sermon was going well.  Of course Jesus loves all these people.

          Then he put up a photograph of Ilhan Omar, the Democratic representative from Minnesota and a Muslim, wearing her hijab.  The pastor asked, “What about her?  Did Jesus come for her?” The room went absolutely silent.  She was the definition of other for many of them.  People left his church to worship elsewhere, to churches where they would not be confronted by Jesus’ gospel. 

          Isn’t this the same message as we heard in today’s first reading about Peter at first reluctantly sharing Jesus with people who were different, and who the other church leaders were ready to condemn for doing this? 

          Isn’t this the same message as Jesus only hours before the cross commanding us to love one another just as he loves us?  Isn’t this why it’s the still-speaking Word of God?  Isn’t there still a hesitancy on the part of some Christians and some churches to love like Jesus loves? 

          Jesus did not stutter.  His final commandment is to love when it’s hard to love, to love the other, the ones who are not like us and maybe who we don’t even like.  The earliest followers of Jesus got past their reluctance to love and the church grew.  This is others, outsiders, like us Gentiles, are here. 

          We need to recommit ourselves to Christian love again, in this time of war, separation, distrust, hatred and violence, and we need to be brave and loud about it because some in Jesus’ name are doing the opposite.  Jesus did not stutter, and we can’t either.  We must love one another just as Jesus loves.

          In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/06/evangelical-church-pastors-political-radicalization/629631/

The pessimist says that the glass is half empty.  The optimist says the glass is half full.  The engineer says that glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

*Hymn of Closing: (Red #433) Blest Be the Tie that Binds 

*Benediction

*Congregational Response:

     Go now in peace. Never be afraid.

     God will go with you each hour of ev’ry day

     Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.

     Know God will guide you in all you do.

     Go now in love, and show you believe.

     Reach out to others so all the world can see

     God will be there, watching from above.

     Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.

Postlude:  Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain (Thomas Keesecker)

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May 8, 2022 —  Third Sunday after Easter 

Welcome & Announcements 

Prelude: Down at the Cross (Hoffman & Stockton, arr. Marianne Kim) 

*Opening Hymn and Candle Lighting: (Red #327) Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us 

Call to Worship:

Leader:  Arise, people of God, to greet the one who calls us together and enlivens us as this worshiping community.

People:  May the Holy Spirit awaken and restore our souls.  Surely God’s goodness and mercy are with us now. 

Leader:  The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, protects us and invites us to follow Him, carefully leading us to good pastures.

People:  In Jesus’ care, we will not fear.  Jesus will care for us as a mother care for her child.  Jesus’ love surrounds us all.

Leader:  Jesus speaks and we hear His voice.  We are comforted, nourished and blessed by Jesus’ abiding presence among us.

People:  Surely Jesus will guide and protect us as we seek eternal values even as we walk with Him in our daily lives.

Unison Prayer:  Draw us together and protect us as the Good Shepherd.  Love us with a nurturing, motherly love.  If we wander, guide us back to paths that lead to your truth.  Help us become the believers and the community you intend.  Draw the various fragments of our lives together into a meaningful whole.  Help us deal with present concerns and dangers in constructive ways, yet point us beyond ourselves to engage with the Spirit as we struggle to establish the greater good. Let us feel your comforting presence, and then help us to comfort others in need.  May your love, Jesus, fill us and overflow into the lives we lead as your people and your church.  Amen.  

*Gloria Patri (Red #513) 

First Scripture Reading: Acts 9:36-43                  

Message for the Children (and anyone who was once a child) 

Special Music:   

Invitation to Prayer:

     Prayers for Others             

     Silent Prayer

     Pastoral Prayer

Lord’s Prayer (P.513) (“debts and debtors”)

     Organ Response 

The Gift of Giving

     Our Gifts to God

     *Doxology (Red 515)

     *Prayer of Dedication 

*Reflecting Hymn: (Red #80) The King of Love My Shepherd Is 

Gospel Reading:  John 10:22-30 

Sermon: A mother’s choice

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)

          Today is Mother’s Day.  Let me begin by wishing all mothers a wonderful day, one filled with expressions of gratitude and love, and hopefully a bit of pampering.  In today’s two readings, we get a sense of what makes being a mother a spiritual calling and one that should be honoured today by churches. 

          From the reading shared with us [earlier], we hear of Dorcas, a woman who was loved for all the kindness she showed in life.  The message of Dorcas’ generosity and compassion is easily transferred to mothers on this Mother’s Day. 

          And likewise, today’s Gospel is drawn from John’s passage about Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd defends the flock from any and all predators no matter the cost or the danger.  The Good Shepherd is constantly on guard and always watching – as it seems, so are mothers.

          Only a few feet into Amherst at the Sunderland-Amherst town line on Route 116 there is a bank of cameras looking down on the road.  I don’t know who’s watching at the other end of those cameras, but I’m assuming it’s the Town of Amherst.  I’m assuming that if the need arises, if something happens in town that should be investigated, they can call up the video of traffic entering or exiting on this roadway because those cameras are constantly on guard and always watching.

          I drive past those cameras almost every day, and every time I drive by, I wave.  I get a kick out of imagining that somebody somewhere is wondering, “Who is that nut who’s always waving at us?” 

          And when I wave to the cameras, it’s not only the cameras that see me.  Especially when I’m heading from Sunderland into Amherst, I need to wave across the lane of traffic heading the other way.  A couple of times I’ve noticed passengers in the other lane reactively waving back to me.  I think they’re under the impression I’m waving to them like I know who they are.  This also makes me smile because I wonder how long they’re stuck thinking, “Who was that in that lime green car?” 

          I share this story on Mother’s Day because mothers have this deeply innate ability to watch and to see things, to keep track of what’s going on, and who’s doing what to whom, and they do so just about as thoroughly as those cameras I wave to every day.  I don’t understand how mothers do what mothers do, but at least on this one special day we pause to say to all mothers, “Thank you.”

          Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the love, wisdom and care we see in mothers every day.  We respect the choice a woman makes to become a mother because it is so all encompassing.  A woman’s body goes through amazing adaptations during her pregnancy, maybe enduring more physical and psychological changes than at any other time in her life. 

          A mother by adoption also is making these fundamental life altering choices.  I was in the company of a young woman last weekend who said that with overpopulation and with there being so many children waiting for adoption, that adoption may be the course she chooses to follow to be a mother. 

          There is no substantial difference between a mother who gives birth or a mother who adopts because motherhood is a lifetime commitment.  Both are making life-altering choices, and on Mother’s Day we acknowledge and respect their choice.  We acknowledge and respect their choice.

          And we need to respect their choice because motherhood is almost mysterious.  I had a wonderful conversation with a couple of women who were speaking of birth and motherhood in terms of a miracle.  I couldn’t get to where they were.  For me the definition of miracle is a divine intervention that disrupts the ordinary.  For me birth is an ordinary.  It happens millions and billions of times.  It can be explained down to the minutest physical detail.  It gets into all that wet-biology that makes me squirm. 

          But talk about male bias.  I missed the women’s point that to choose to give life and to nurture life is one of life’s grandest blessings, that it is not unlike Dorcas or the Good Shepherd in its deep spirituality, that it truly is a miracle in a sense larger than my dictionary definition. 

I did not grasp this.  I did not see this.  Motherhood is a mystery that is so profoundly intertwined with a woman’s choice that I should have listened better.

          We acknowledge today and respect a woman’s choice to be a mother.  And if this is what we celebrate today on Mother’s Day, if this is what we acknowledge and honour today, then let me ask why would we think it prudent to interfere in a woman’s decision about whether or not she is ready for motherhood? 

          If she is ready and prepared, supported and excited about motherhood, God bless her.  However, if she is not ready or prepared, supported or excited about motherhood, then why would we think it best to take the freedom of choice about motherhood away from her, and think it better to have that choice made for her according to law and bureaucracy, politicians and police?    

          Motherhood, like my story about the cameras in Amherst, is an always-on responsibility.  And with motherhood’s similarities to the sacred stories of Dorcas and the Good Shepherd, motherhood should be a blessing, one given and one received, not a decision made and enforced by others for them. 

          Motherhood is one of the most important and impactful decisions in a woman’s life, and that choice should be respected because more often than not women will make that choice with a great deal of thought and care, not only for herself, but for the child she carries.[1] 

          A forced pregnancy inserts a whole bureaucracy into one of the most private decisions of a woman’s life, and I can’t help but feel that this has something to do with the still lingering idea that women are not capable of making this choice themselves, that it needs to be made for them.

          I cannot help but feel that this is about control and power, and going back to a time when women could not be as assertive as they are now.

          I would ask us on this Mother’s Day to think about this hard and difficult topic, and maybe we should even think about creating a way for us as a congregation to discuss hard and difficult topics with respect for each other, and in reference to the faith we share with each other.

          We’ll soon be finishing our Exploring the Bible Bible study.  Maybe we could venture into something like “exploring the Bible today.”  Let me know what you think about this.

          As we acknowledge, honour and celebrate Mother’s Day, let us pray for all of the women who have made the choice to give so much of themselves to bring a child, to bring children, into this world and to nurture them. 

          May God bless them for the wonder of a mother’s love.  And when it comes time for a woman to make the choice about motherhood, may she be supported in her choice, and may she be allowed to make that choice because no one will do it as well as she will.  Amen

*Hymn of Closing: (Blue #614) Let There Be Peace on Earth 

*Benediction

*Congregational Response:

     Go now in peace. Never be afraid.

     God will go with you each hour of ev’ry day

     Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.

     Know God will guide you in all you do.

     Go now in love, and show you believe.

     Reach out to others so all the world can see

     God will be there, watching from above.

     Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.

Postlude:  All Glory, Laud and Honor (Melchior Teschner, arr. Larry Shackley

[1] In 2017 abortions occurred at 1.35% of women of childbearing age, which is defined as between 15 and 44.  This is a decline of more than 50% from four decades earlier when abortions had just become legal.  The percentage is small and it is declining.  When women are given agency over their own bodies, look at how they made their choice. 

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May 1, 2022 — Second Sunday after Easter

Watch a video of this service here: 

Welcome & Announcements 

Prelude: Trusting Jesus (Stites & Sankey, arr. Marianne Kim)

*Opening Hymn and Candle Lighting: (Blue #299) That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright

Call to Worship:

Leader:  Sing praises to our God, O you saints of God.  Give thanks to God’s holy name, O you people of the living God.

People:  Praise God for the joyous gift of this new day.  Thank God for healing, and for His ever-present help in time of trial. 

Leader:  Extol the one who lifts us up from defeat.  Praise the one who upholds us when we are discouraged and confused.

People:  God sees and hears our distress and worry.  God lifts our souls from the weight of doubt so that our faith may rise.

Leader:  Give thanks to God who turns mourning into dancing.  Praise God who hears our cries and answers our prayers.

People:  We have cried out to you in our need, O God.  We

believe you are working to make us both whole and holy.

Unison Prayer:  Come to us as a light from heaven, almighty God.  Pierce the shadows of doubt and despair, anger and scorn, the emotional and spiritual burdens that we sometimes allow to rule our lives.  Turn us from ways that deny your loving presence among us.  Awaken us from dull routines to a worship that is alive with awe and wonder, spontaneity and joy.  Surprise us with a presence we cannot avoid, a summons we dare not evade, a mission we may not escape.  We are gathered as this worshiping congregation by the love of Christ so that we may be fed by Word, Communion and community, then we will be empowered to feed others as we have been fed.  Amen. 

*Gloria Patri (Red #513)

First Scripture Reading: Acts 9:1-20         

Message for the Children (and anyone who was once a child) 

Bell Anthem:  Hymn of Promise, Natalie Sleeth (arr. ML Thompson) 

Invitation to Prayer:

     Prayers for Others             

     Silent Prayer

     Pastoral Prayer

Lord’s Prayer (P.513) (“debts and debtors”)

     Organ Response 

The Gift of Giving

     Our Gifts to God

     *Doxology (Red 515)

     *Prayer of Dedication 

*Reflecting Hymn: (Blue #300) In the Garden 

Gospel Reading:  John 21:1-19 

Sermon: It looked like an Easter Egg

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)

          For Easter it is my job to dye the eggs.  I do this because it is a tradition I carry on from my grandmother.  She came over from Poland.  They didn’t have pink and yellow and blue food colours to dye their eggs.  They used whatever was handy, and for my grandmother it was red onion peels.

I buy brown eggs to start with and then boil them with red onion peels, and they turn out a beautiful deep maroon colour.  But I’m now wondering if that beautiful deep maroon is more in my sentimental eye than reality. 

          I say this because I came home one day this past week as my daughter was getting ready to head out to her job.  This is when she explained to me why the washer was running and asked if I could throw her clothes in the dryer when it was done.  I guess what happened is that she was trying to have a quick lunch before taking off for her shift.  She wanted to eat one of our Easter eggs.  When she went to crack open the Easter egg, she was quite surprised to find out instead that she had grabbed just a plain ol’ brown egg, a plain ol’ raw brown egg.  When she went to crack the shell, the raw egg exploded all over the place, including the nurse’s uniform she had on.  The raw egg looked like my onion-peel dyed Easter egg – on the outside at least.  The inside of the egg was a whole other story.

          Now let’s talk about the conversion of Paul, and let’s look beyond the well-known story Luke tells of Paul being knocked on his derriere by the heavenly Jesus on the Road to Damascus as Donna read for us.  When Paul tells the story autobiographically in his letter to the Galatians, he shares a dramatic account of conversion, but it is not as theatrical as the one Luke tells us in today’s first reading. 

          Autobiographically, Paul shares a story of literally years-long time in solitude rather than a moment’s encounter on the road to Damascus, a time where he must have struggled to overcome his earlier aversion to Jesus and all those Jesus-people.  Before his conversion, Paul was as certain as could be that he knew the will of God.  He writes in his letters that he could brag about how convinced he was about knowing what was right and righteous.  No one followed God’s Law better than Paul. 

It was Paul’s religious certainty that allowed him to justify to himself his participation in a lynching.  Only a couple of chapters before the Road to Damascus story, Luke tells us that Paul was there when Stephen was lynched by an angry, religious mob, unbothered by conscience and sure in their certainty. 

          I say lynched because it was an extrajudicial killing.  When the religious authorities wanted to kill Jesus, they needed the permission of the Roman governor, but when it came to Stephen, they were so infuriated by him and his words that they took him outside and killed him immediately on their own.  It wasn’t a lynching by hanging.  It was by throwing stones at Stephen until he died, but it was still a lynching.  And Paul was just fine with it because he was so certain in his faith, that is, until his faith knocked him on his derriere. 

          Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as Luke’s Road to Damascus story, but the end result is the same.  There is the reality of this unexpected and really unwanted conversion experience.  The reality of faith, maybe not literally but still quite powerfully, confronted and overwhelmed Paul, and maybe not literally but still powerfully, knocked him on his derriere.

          Once Paul had experienced this profound conversion, he would never again use the certainty of faith to harm someone else because of their own certainty of faith.  He realized that a person could feel certain and still be mistaken, be wrong. 

          Paul would work tirelessly to share with everyone his belief in Jesus, but he would never again harm in faith’s name.  After his conversion, Paul would suffer for Jesus, but Paul would never hunt down and hurt anyone ever again as a part of his faith in Jesus.

          After accepting Jesus, Paul is as fervent in his faith as ever, but his religious energy is used to bring others to Jesus, not to condemn and harm the ones who refuse.  He learned to be cautious of certainty. 

          Paul looked the same on the outside, but inside he was a completely new person, sort of like my Easter egg story, same on the outside, different on the inside.

          Or take today’s Gospel as another example.  Peter denied and cursed Jesus three times in the hours before His crucifixion.  Now Jesus is back, and He’s resurrection-powerful.  Peter was probably a bit more than scared by this.  Would Jesus come to even the score?  Would Jesus react with a justifiable anger? 

          Instead, three times Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?”  And three times Peter gets to answer, “Yes Lord, you know I do.”  Jesus is giving Peter three chances to erase the three previous denials.  Instead of seeking retribution against Peter, Jesus gives Peter the chance to make himself whole and holy again.  Instead of tearing Peter down, Jesus builds Peter up.  This is the resurrected Jesus’ example, and this Jesus who forgave Peter is the same Jesus who changed Paul’s life. 

          It disturbs me when faith in Jesus becomes angry, judgmental and even at times violent.  A strong even zealous faith is not one turned against other people.  It is a faith tuned into other people.  It is not a faith proved righteous by how closed off and superior it makes us feel from others.  It is a faith that pushes us to engage with other people. 

          The onion-peel coloured Easter egg may have looked like a regular brown egg, but boy did my daughter find out that they were not the same when she cracked the raw egg open.  Christians may carry the same symbols, read the same Bible, sing familiar hymns, but inside those same Christians can be all sorts of different. 

          Let’s try to follow the trustworthy example of Paul who once lynched in God’s name but who would never turn violent again in Jesus’ name.  Let’s follow the example of the resurrected Jesus who didn’t judge and condemn Peter, but forgave Peter and gave him three chances to say, “You know I love you.”   Let our faith prove its commitment by following these examples.

          In that same spirit, let us now prepare to gather at the shared table with Jesus and others as we stand against a faith that would try to inspire separation, and instead enter into Communion with Christ and others.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The Sacrament of Communion  —  All are welcome at the Communion Table

Leader:  The Gospel tells us that on the first day of the week Jesus was raised from death, appeared to Mary Magdalene, on that same day sat at the table with two disciples, and was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

People:  This is a joyful feast of the people of God.  Women and men, youth and children, whoever you are, gather round Christ’s table.

Leader:  For this table is for all people who wish to know the presence of Christ, and to share in the community of God’s people.  God be with you.

People:  And also with you.

Leader:  Lift up your hearts.

People:  We lift them to God.

Leader:  Let us give thanks to God Most High.

People:  It is good to give God thanks and praise.

Leader:  We give you thanks, God of majesty and mercy, for the beauty and the bounty of the earth, and for the vision of the day when sharing by all will mean scarcity for none.  We rejoice that you call the entire human family to this table of sacrifice and love.  We come in remembrance and celebration of the gift of Jesus Christ, whom you sent to be the Good News.  Born of Mary, our sister in faith, Christ lived among us to reveal the light and life of your grace, to suffer on the cross for us, to be raised from death, and then live in glory.  We bless you, gracious God, for the presence of your Holy Spirit in the church among us.  With your daughters and sons of faith in all times and places, we praise you with joy, saying:

People:  Holy, holy, holy God of love and majesty, the whole universe speaks of your glory, O God Most High.  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our God!  Hosanna in the highest!

—–   Sharing the Elements of Bread and Wine   —–

Prayer of Thanksgiving:  Almighty God, we give you thanks for the gift of our Savior’s presence in the simplicity and splendor of this holy meal.  Unite us with all who are fed by Christ’s body and blood, that we may faithfully proclaim the Good News of your love, and that your universal church may be a rainbow of hope in an uncertain world, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.  Amen.

Hymn of Closing: Shalom to You Now

Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.

May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends.

In all your living and through your loving,

Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom.

*Benediction

*Congregational Response:

     Go now in peace. Never be afraid.

     God will go with you each hour of ev’ry day

     Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.

     Know God will guide you in all you do.

     Go now in love, and show you believe.

     Reach out to others so all the world can see

     God will be there, watching from above.

     Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.

Postlude:   The Day of Resurrection (arr. Larry Shackley) 

*Please stand if you are able.

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