Worship for Sunday, April 25, 2021

Acts 4:5-12

The next day [the] rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders: it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
You restore my soul, O Lord,
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall 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, and my cup is running over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

The view of one of my favorite valleys on a dark, snowy Christmas morning.

1 John 3:16-24

We know love by this, that [Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 10:11-18

[Jesus said:] “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 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 Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What a strange – color coded journey we have all been on for the past 14 months or so. It has in no way resembled the fun of those color coded trips we took as kids through Candyland or around the Monopoly board.

The colors that have marked our journey through this past year have been warnings to stay alert and to remain cautious. To care for ourselves and our neighbors.

Red – orange – then far – far too much RED – before finally making our way back to orange. We briefly encountered yellow but then we were sadly right back to orange again.   Hopefully our journey will be taking us quickly back to yellow very soon. And then on to GREEN – glorious – blessed – beautiful – hope-filled – healthy GREEN!

This has been a journey of divisions. Passionate and sometimes painful divisions have arisen in our communities and our families and our country.

To mask or not to mask.

To socially distance or not to socially distance. Three feet – six feet or no feet? Who is right? How can we know?

Is our governor a public health advocate or a tyrant? Is he simply keeping us safe or is he simply a menace to our most basic rights and freedoms?

To get immunized or perhaps – not?

To gather together or not?

To travel or to stay home for a while longer?

To hug or not?

Is it just another flu or not?

Whose advice should we follow? When will it be safe? What is safe? Is it already safe?

What is right? Who is right? How should we proceed?   When we hold different opinions what should we do?

Names are called. Ultimatums are issued. Lines are drawn not just in the sand but in the setting concrete. Divisions are made. Relationships are changed.

This isn’t UK verses U of L silliness. This isn’t coffee verses tea. This isn’t morning lark verses night owl. This is huge and hard and painful. These divisions matter to us. And these divisions run deep.

This journey has been difficult and it continues to be difficult.

And this doesn’t even touch on the loss and the grief and the sorrow. So many precious lives have been lost to this dreadful disease.

So much pain and hurt. So much loss and grief. This has been a truly difficult journey.

We are exhausted and frustrated and sad. It hurts. We feel burdened. This journey is too long.   We are tired. Our hearts are heavy and weary.

Enough of the orange and the red and the yellow. Enough illness. Enough of the grief and the sorrow and the fear. Enough of anger. Enough of the pain and the suffering.

Enough of these horrible divisions that drive us apart when we could be (when we SHOULD be) drawing together to work for the greater good.

Our very souls cry out – enough is enough already!

It is at times like these when we need to hear Good News. When we need to be encouraged and lifted up.   When we need to be reminded we are not on this journey alone. And this is exactly what we hear from our Psalm for this week.

Our Psalm for this week is Psalm 23 which is familiar to most of us.   We have heard it many – many times.   Many of us have even kinda – sorta – almost memorized Psalm 23. We may have absolutely no idea what the 23rd chapter of the Gospel of Mark says (Hint – Mark ends after 16 chapters.) – but we are pretty sure we have the 23rd Psalm covered.

We are pretty sure we know exactly what the 23rd Psalm says. But I would encourage you to listen Psalm 23 with new ears. With your listening ears – like we tell our little ones when we really want their attention.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
You restore my soul, O Lord,
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall 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, and my cup is running over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

The words of the 23rd Psalm can be balm for our souls during times like these.

Yes – life in this world can be exhausting and painful and stressful and hard. Yes – the journey we are on has been long and it is far from over. Yes these days – it feels like we are in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death.

But the Good News is we are not in this alone.   Our Lord boldly declares to us that he is with us. And not only that – our Lord is leading us through these dark times to better times.   Think of how wonderful the word “through” is. God is leading us through this dark valley. We aren’t staying here. This isn’t permanent. We aren’t going to be here forever. This is just part of our journey. A difficult part – most definitely. But this is just part of the journey.

And we journey through this difficult time following our Lord who leads us through to the other side. We walk with our God who loves us. And promises to love us always.

You are not alone. Your Lord is with you. In fact – God promises to be with you each and every step of the way.   Your traveling companion is your Lord.

God is with you now. And God promises he will be with you for all eternity. You are never alone. The Lord loves you and is with you always. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *