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A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

THANKSGIVING FOR BAPTISM

Gathering Song            “Spirit of Gentleness”           red book # 396

GREETING

KYRIE                red book page 98 (set 1)

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ACTS 2:1-21

PSALM 104:24-34, 35b

ROMANS 8:22-27

GALATIANS 5:13-23

SERMON                     Pastor Chris Halverson

Do you not know that your mere presence here gives a testimony
—that you are a Christian at all, points to the Holy Spirit, for it is by the Spirit alone that you have heard the Gospel in such a way that it has brought you to faith.

Many a Christian has described their own faith life, and relationship to worship as,

“Some days I don’t know if I go to church because I believe, or so that I can believe.”

After all it is here that we are again confronted by the Word of God:
The Word of God that works as a Mirror, showing us our sins; as a Window, allowing us to see our society more clearly; and as a Love Letter, wooing us with words of passion, truth, and love…

Yet, this Word of God must be accompanied by the Holy Spirit

—for it must be heard with ears of faith, otherwise it can sound like an idle tale, like finger nails on a blackboard, like a tale told by drunks—as Peter and his crew are accused of at Pentecost.

Truly, when the Word of God and the Spirit of God come together something powerful happens,

we are killed and made alive,
Sin’s reign in our hearts and in the machinations of all humanity, are exposed to the healing light of God’s love! Death itself dies that resurrection can occur. That is the power of the Spirit—she allows us to trust the love of God found in Christ Jesus.

 

Did any of you take a moment and watch the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church preach at the Royal Wedding yesterday?

It was one of those events where the whole world stops to watch,

one of those times when a message can cut through the daily grind of this world and cut through the various bubbles we encase ourselves in,

the walls we erect to silo ourselves off from others, in moments like those cross sections of communities can still come together for a common purpose.

And, in such a moment as that, Bishop Curry preached about the Love of Jesus—we could argue he focused more on love than on Jesus, maybe even that he confused Law and Gospel, but compared to what many preachers would choose to do at such a moment of import, either showboating, or focusing on the bride’s beauty or the groom’s bravery,
he used that moment as an opportunity to tell folk about Jesus and his love.

And friends, we are in a similar position to the good Bishop… Have you looked around your neighborhood? We live in both a time and place that is a great crossroad

—globalization and travel has put us in a spot, here in central Jersey, where representatives of the whole world have gathered to live
—it is perhaps not too unlike Jerusalem where Africa, Asia, and Europe meet together in the middle, where on a few special holy days—Pentecost being one of them—it seemed the whole world gathers together… and we too are in just such a time—how can we not tell them all the Truth we have been given about God?

 

Yes, in these days, where our voices may be amplified by every gadget imaginable, we must lift every voice! Each of us is called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, you heard me—this isn’t a calling for Bishops only, or Pastors only and Deacons only, we are all called to preach the Gospel.

One of the things I worried about when I started dating my girlfriend Lisa, was that she is a Quaker, and they don’t have clergy, and I thought that might be kinda weird, being that I’m clergy, right… But when we got talking about it, her description of this choice really struck me. It is not that they eliminated the clergy, but instead that they eliminated the laity. We Lutherans talk about this way of being Christian! The Priesthood of All Believers—well the Quakers just worked that idea out differently than we did.

We are all called to preach the Gospel, not just Pastors or Bishops or any other official, but all of us, in a myriad of ways, as compelled by the Spirit!

 

The Gospel, that God’s love has come into the world, that God has acted for us before we ourselves could act.

That God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, lived, died, and rose, that we might trust in him and live eternally… that is the Gospel we are compelled to preach!

 

Have you ever looked around and noticed the state of the church, or looked inside yourself and seen your soul, or listened for the soundless groanings of the world—all of it, all of us, yearning for the love of God found in Christ Jesus.

All of it confronted by the Gospel, confronted by the rightness of creation—and confronted too by the world as it is… from Texas to Gaza to an overturned school bus north of us on 80…

ought and is swirling past one another in stirring acrobatic form and never catching, and all the earth wonders, “Can we get there from here? Can we get from Is to Ought?”

 

Have you not noticed as well the tension in all those things, what Paul describes as the tension between Flesh and Spirit…

That we find ourselves to be justified sinners, Flesh and Spirit

That we find in this group gathered together a mixed body, Flesh and Spirit

That we find the goodness of the world promised to us to be already complete and whole… and at the same time not yet finished, Flesh and Spirit

 

We answer the question again and again, “No… we can’t get there from here… we can’t get there from here save through the Spirit!

Daily the Spirit drags us to the Jordon River to be with Christ, reminds us of the gap between ought and is, helps us to pray when we have no words, cultivates her fruits within us, calls us to be little Christs in the world even as the Spirit calls us to point to the one and only Jesus Christ and renews our trust in him daily.

 

 

 

Siblings in Christ, after I send you out of worship today, we will be eating fruity desserts, as we consider the Fruits of the Spirit. I ask you to consider the following questions as you eat and talk—after all the Spirit doesn’t just preach the Gospel out of my mouth, right?:

  1. How did the Spirit allow me to first believe, how does it continue to do the same in my life?
  2. Who might the Spirit be calling me to tell about Jesus and his love?
  3. Where do I see a tension between what ought to be and what is? In myself or in the wider world?
  4. Where does the world especially need the good new of Jesus Christ?
  5. What fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are most needed today? Why?

HYMN of the DAY           “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine”          red book # 398

NICENE Creed

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS

Also, red book # 800, red book # 574

Sending

Blessing

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG           “God of Tempest, God of Whirlwind”           red book # 400

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

 

A BRIEF LITANY OF GOD’S ACTS

Gathering Song        “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation”       red book # 645

GREETING

KYRIE                       red book page 98 (set 1)

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ACTS 1:15-17, 21-26

PSALM 1

1 JOHN 5:9-13

JOHN 17:6-19

SERMON                                Pastor Chris Halverson

But Pastor Peter!

 

Scripture describes God’s relationship to God’s people…

people…

messy people like you and like me.

Sometimes we forget that, we forget that the Bible reports fallible people being loved by a persistent God. We so easily miss the humanness of things.

These people working out God’s desire that we might be one as Father and Son are one,

working out the Spirit’s holy calling to love one another,

working out the strange reality of belonging to God and being in the World.

I imagine many of the experiences of the early church, feel more like the experiences of the present church, than we would like to allow.

Prayer

I imagine we separate out and sacralize the experiences of the early church—distancing them from our own lives, because doing so is easier than hearing how those experiences might hit home.

Might tickle our ears—echo and mirror our own realities today.

 

Imagine what Peter is going through here in the first chapter of Acts.

Imagine what those 120 people are saying to him:

“Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! We feel so betrayed by Judas—we thought he was one of us… we thought he would lead us with the 11.

“Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! Jesus has ascended and has promised the Spirit. What now? How will we know when the Spirit is acting? Is it already active? Why do we keep WAITING and PRAYING… we need to DO something!

“Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! Judas is dead! I mean, we didn’t particularly like ‘em, but he’s dead. Look at his empty seat, there is a hole where he used to be, we’re not whole anymore! Do something!

“Pastor Peter! Pastor Peter! That empty spot is killing us! It feels like everything is unraveling… how can we continue? Will there even be a church in a few years?”

 

Poor Peter. He does what he can, everyone prays together, scour the scriptures until they shine. And then, in his coffee induced delirium he lifts up a chunk of psalm 69 and another chunk from psalm 108, the first is about the guilty being disinherited, the second is about appointing a new person to take the position of the guilty…

“AHAH!” Poor Peter says, “We need to replace Judas, so that there will be 12 again.”

So, he recommends this to the 120 people gathered together—and they go for it… what do they got to lose?

Despite there being both men and women who followed Jesus, who witnessed the resurrection

—the first witness to the resurrection, in fact,

Jesus’ own mother, in fact,

Both present there

—Peter grabs two men, and says, “Let’s choose one of these to replace Judas. Let’s cast lots.”

And they do.

And we never hear from either Justus or Matthias again.

They fade away.

 

Instead the Spirit comes and shakes everything up: Greeks, Eunuchs, Sorcerers, and Women all are moved into this community, to preach the Gospel, to become like the 12.

More amazing still, a great persecutor of the Church, one as bad and dishonorable as Judas—Paul—fills that space left empty by Judas’ betrayal and death.

Paul is grafted into this league of Apostles… like a wild branch grafted onto a tame tree

—he weighs so heavy that he splits open the tree, creating a branch so wide and green that no one knows what to do with it—not least Paul himself… (that’s why he writes so much, right!)

 

I imagine Peter, in those quiet moments, at night unable to get to sleep, would ask himself, “How did we get here? What’s God up to? How have we got through all this, despite God acting in places, and ways, and with people, who the 12 apostles found impossible?”

And I imagine too, he might, on one of those tired, questioning, contemplative nights, have an AHAH moment, find the answer that he should already have known:

“Did I not eat with Jesus, and after supper, did Jesus not pray for us pray, that:

The invisible God, the Great I AM, be made known in him, and him in us.

That Jesus protected us with a fierce motherly love despite being opposed by the world.

That we would testify to God’s goodness found in Christ Jesus.

That some would be set aside and sent to be little Christs in the world, for the sake of the world.”

“I suppose,” he would finish, “Jesus prayed for us, and Jesus’ prayers for his people are continually answered—not as his people might wish or expect, but as the Holy Spirit wills.”

 

And here today, as you say, “Pastor, look at that empty seat where my friend once sat” and “My own grandchild has abandoned the church, it is a betrayal!”

Where our Bishop sees the present church as being in the midst of a great unraveling, where the yarn is lovingly preserved, that it might be re-used and made into something new and grand, the nature of which we have not yet seen!

Where our neighbors, and closest partner in ministry, Cross of Life, has voted to close their doors.

Where the ELCA, in a two-day period, has made history by electing our first and second female African-descent Bishops, first in Philly then in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

Here today, with peril and promise balanced upon a needle point

—like Peter and his crew, like the early church

—we act,
we pray
we dive into scripture,
and do the work of the Church as we most faithfully know how…

 

—but we also trust that Jesus prayed for us—we know not how or where the Spirit shall move, but she shall

Jesus prayed for us and surely his prayers shall not fall upon deaf ears.

Jesus prayed for us—Unity, Witness, Sanctity, the great revealing of the I AM’s love for us and our participation in it…

Jesus prayed for us!

Amen and Alleluia.

HYMN of the DAY              “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus”              red book # 392

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM             “Holy, Holy”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS

Also, red book # 638, red book # 854

Sending

Blessing

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG          “Go, My Children, with My Blessing”        red book # 543

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

A BRIEF LITANY OF GOD’S ACTS

 

Gathering Song           “We Are Called”          red book # 720

GREETING

Canticle of Praise           red book page 101(set 1)

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ACTS 10:44-48

PSALM 98

1 JOHN 5:1-6

JOHN 15:9-17

SERMON               Dale Newton

HYMN of the DAY          “We Know That Christ Is Raised”          red book # 449

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM             “Jesus Is The Friend Who’s Always There”

 

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS

Also, red book # 742, red book # 496

Sending

Blessing

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG         “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”         red book # 631

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE          “June” (Barcarolle) by Tschaikowsky          Keith Yao

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

A BRIEF LITANY OF GOD’S ACTS

Gathering Song             “When Morning Gilds the Skies”          red book # 853

GREETING

KYRIE              red book page 98 (set 1)

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ACTS 8:26-40

PSALM 22:25-31

1 JOHN 4:7-21

JOHN 15:1-8

SERMON                      Pastor Chris Halverson

Invisible, Love, Courage

It feels like there has to be a way to consolidate the letters of John…

the amount of repetition, adding a little chunk to the previous statement,

and then a little more,

then saying it all in a slightly different way,

then saying that the reverse it true also…

it feels like these words could be turned into a Venn diagram

—you know, those two circles that have overlapping characteristics…

One circle is God, one circle is Love and not connected to the two is fear…

or alternatively God, Love, and Courage all are intertwined somehow, right!

Or maybe it al could be put into an equation God=Love, Love>Fear, therefore God, who is perfect love, casts out all fears…

All I’m entirely sure of is that God is Loveand that Perfect Love casts out fear, and so there is a connection, a relationships between God, Love, and Courage.

Let us pray

 

The invisible God is revealed in our lives, when we love one another.

The unseen God, “The invisible God, made visible in Jesus Christ” as we sometimes say during Holy Communion.

It would be easy to equate invisibility, unseen things, with unreal, or at least unimportant, things…

But that would be foolish… have you ever seen someone look at their debt payment

—debts, all money really, is an unseen thing, an agreement we all make as a society in order to barter for a wide variety of goods…

If we think about the ancients at all, we often do so by make fun of the them for being afraid of invisible spiritual forces

—but I can only imagine how silly wewould all look to any pre-modern people,

with all our anxieties surrounding invisible, unseen, monetary forces…

 

For that matter, have you ever thought about unseenintentions?

Often people try to achieve one result, but end up with another

—to put it simply they fail at their goal.

My intention is to make my loved one happy… the seen result… less than….

Have you ever failed?I know I have.

I wonder what people think of when they see my failures? Do they assume I tried to do things that way? Do they assume my intention was to fail, to fall short? I’m guessing some people do…

a misplayed note,

a poorly spoken word,

failing to make a scheduled appointment,

failing to live up to a promise.

None of these intentional. Yet, how are we to know this, after all an intention is an unseen thing. At the end of the day we hope to be judged by what’s inside, while so often we judge others by their outsides.

Or… Have you thought about unseen practice?

Have you seen an experienced artist draw a portrait in under ten minutes?

An excellent butcher make precise cuts in mere seconds?

While part of what they do is natural talent, much of it comes from hours and hours, days, weeks, months of practice.

They say it takes 10,000 hours (416 days… by the way) of practice before you can be an expert.

They advise writers to produce 1,000 pages before they even think of trying to write something worth publishing.

All these unseen hours invested to do something well!

 

The invisible God is made visible in Love—and not just any love—but the love practiced by Jesus when he washed his disciples feet

—the love we celebrate every Maundy Thursday

—Love, one Another!

Love in a concrete, blood, sweat, and tears, way…

love each other like Christ loved his disciples and he hoped and prayed they loved each other

… that’s the kind of love that makes God known,

that perfects love in us,

that affirms the profound truth that God dwells in us.

 

Love… love casts out fear… love… creates courage…

Let me tell you about the courage of Philip?

The disciples have been hold up in Jerusalem, but Philip—Philip is courageous, he leaves that place of relative safety and goes to Gaza!

This Ethiopian Eunuch was way above Philip’s station of life—of high estate, high up as well upon a chariot, towering over Philip—but Philip—Philip is courageous, he approaches this man and joins this man on his journey, you’ve heard of carjacking, right, well he practically Chariot-jacks this Eunuch.

How to interpret this portion of Isaiah, about the suffering servant, was not worked out at the time, and poor Philip, he was a Deacon, not a Disciple, he was called to serve widows, not preach the word, but Philip—Philip is courageous, he reads Isaiah with the Eunuch and is able to tell him about Jesus!

Then this man asks that pointed question, “What would prevent me from being baptized” and the answer could have been:

“a lot, actually.”

Leviticus says Eunuchs may not come near God, and Deuteronomy says they may not be among God’s people… but Philip—Philip is courageous, he trusts in the wildness of God’s love and that the Spirit led him there for a reason and baptizes him right there!

Yes, the Love of God was at work in Philip’s encounter with this Ethiopian Eunuch, he was of good courage, and for that we too may rejoice!

 

Think of it, Philip did not look at the Ethiopian Eunuch’s outsideand his own inside, but instead looked with love!

Philip practiced this compassion, this looking with love, many times, perhaps he even got those 10,000 hours in

—latter he preaches to and baptizes sorcerers,

he is allowed to live long enough to see his daughters become preachers of God’s word!

 

I pray that we too might practice courage and love, seeing the face of God beyond any visible barrier that might separate us

—God dwells in us, let us love one another, that we might know God.

HYMN of the DAY             “Thine the Amen”             red book # 826

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY           “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J. S. Bach            Kenneth Yao

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS

Also, red book # 708, red book # 697

Sending

Blessing

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG           “There in God’s Garden”           red book # 342

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

A BRIEF LITANY OF GOD’S ACTS

Gathering Song            “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”          red book # 836

GREETING

Canticle of Praise              red book page 101(set 1)

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

ACTS 4:5-12

PSALM 23

1 JOHN 3:16-24

JOHN 10:11-18

SERMON                               Pastor Chris Halverson

Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd”
         Have you ever thought for a bit about what the Gospel writer is claiming about Jesus today
—have you thought about what it means that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd!”
What does it mean that Jesus says “I AM”?
What does it mean that he is Good?
What does it mean that he’s a shepherd?
And of course, we’re not just throwing up an abstract concept on a blackboard here, what does it mean for each of us, for me and (deacon) and for little Luchiano, who we are about to baptize?
         What does it mean that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd”?
Prayer
What does it mean that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd”?
         When Jesus says “I Am”which happens frequently in John’s Gospel—he’s saying a lot more than those two tiny words would indicate
—he’s pointing back in scripture to the answer God gave to Moses when Moses asked, “Who should I say is sending me?” Essentially, “What’s your name?”
To which God responds, “I AM that I AM!”
         God is the only being who can say “I am” and type a period at the end of that sentence.
I need to say, “I am … because of my mom and dad, and my doctors and teachers and pastors and coaches and professors and parishioners and… so on.” Right, there is a whole line of contingency and connection that has led me to be who I am…
But this God of ours, the one who answered Moses, “I AM that I AM” is
the start from which everything springs,
the center of which all that is, seen and unseen, swirls around on account of God’s gravitational pull.
         The Great I AM is the one from whom all good comes.
The Great I AM gives this universe both dynamism and stability
—we can change, and yet there are universal standards upon which change can occur
—we can evolve, and our subatomic particles or quarks or strings or whatever word we want to use to describe the smallest part of a thing
—they don’t randomly part ways or wink out of existence
—because the Great I AM, holds it all in solid but open hands.
And here we have, throughout John’s Gospel—Jesus Identified as the Great I AM.
As we were talking about in Bible Study on Thursday, there is a whole school of thought in the Old Testament that believe observing the world can help us get a glimpse of God’s nature
—creation itself a canvas that says something about the creator…
well, John is saying something even more miraculous
—seeing Jesus, we can see the Great I AM.
What does it mean that Jesus is said to be “Good”?
Jesus is neither hired hand nor wolf.
A hired hand does not own the sheep
—there isn’t that intimate connection between sheep and shepherd
… when things go bad the hired hand won’t claim their beloved sheep
—no the hired hand will abandon, will act the coward, ultimately will not care…
Will not care when wolves come—grizzly maw wiped with blood—terrifying presence—sent to scatter and devour the sheep…
What’s that even mean?What does it mean to be scattered…
scattered people, scattered churches, scattered souls…
Have you ever been scattered?You were so distracted you entered a room… only to have no clue why you were there?
Or in the car thinking so far into the future you don’t notice you don’t have the right of way…
Have you ever been scattered?So often seemingly small things can scatter a congregation or a Church, distrust can be sewn over stupid simple stuff.
Have you ever been scattered?Sometimes it feels like our society is training us not to be a society—but instead an anti-social bunch, tribal, suspicious, and skeptical of everyone all the time.
What does it mean to be scattered—well, I think that’s an appropriate description of Sin—That which separates us from God or neighbor
—that which breaks relationship
—that is Sin, and I fear if we trust hired hands we will be consumed by sin.
But friends, we can trust Jesus Christ… he loves us! He loves us so much that he will lay down his life for us
—as we see in John’s Gospel not one disciples is taken when he hands himself over to the police at the garden of gethsemane…
He sees Sin, that wolf, coming and does not allow his sheep to be consumed by it, but instead he is consumed by the cross on our behalf.
Not only that, we can trust him to take up again that life of his. He rises from the dead, that we may follow.
He is taken up again and ascends to the I AM, that we all have access to the I AM as a loving parent… he takes up his life again that we might have life with him on account of being baptized in him.
What does it mean that Jesus is the “Shepherd”?
The Shepherd of the sheep
—critters that from the most ancient of times have been used to describe the subjects of a king
…living among smelly critters that head butt
… critters that from a distance you can’t distinguish from Goats
… critters that seem to be most in their element in a group, not alone, for when they are alone they are lost…
Well—if we share characteristics with sheep… then, I suppose, we’re ambiguous to our core—saint and sinner simultaneously…
we have a propensity to wound, even our shepherd…
we are not meant to go through this all alone, without community…
It also means our shepherd lays claim to us in a fundamental way.
         He gathers us from far and wide. His voice calls us in, from every corner of the earth
… continually calling us, this Shepherd, who knows us and we know him
—who is connected to us like blood to a vein,
love letter to the beloved,
sun to heat.
One flock, one Shepherd.
         And Luchiano, you’ve been in need of both stability and change…
I’m sure you will face that scattering that wolves bring and hired hands cannot handle…
I’m sure you will yearn for community in times of isolation…
In baptism you will be gathered into the community of Christ,
gathered in from Sin despite all scattering,
weaved into the fabric of the Weaver, the Great I Am, whose face we find in Jesus.
         Luchiano, know that Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” That Jesus is the I Am, Jesus is Good, Jesus is our Shepherd, your Shepherd.

 

HYMN of the DAY            “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”           red book # 502

BAPTISM

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM             “The Lord Will Be My Shepherd”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS

Also, red book # 484, red book # 778

Sending

Blessing

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG           “God Be with You Till We Meet Again”            red book # 536

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

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