This worship service will premiere on YouTube at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, April 26, 2020. A transcript of the service will be provided here following the premier. YouTube inserts a two-minute countdown at the beginning of the video. If the video does not begin on time, please refresh your page.
Today is also Native American Ministries Sunday, a day when we honor and hold space for our indigenous brothers and sisters. You can learn more about UMC’s Native American Ministries at http://www.umcgiving.org/NAMS.
Call to Worship
One: Come, let us worship the Creator with hearts open to all peoples, where pride and prejudice once dwelt;
Let us worship Creator with minds open to the wisdom of Native peoples, where listening and respect once had no place.
Let us honor the One who freely gives by showing honor to those who were once and still remain oppressed.
Let us worship the God of diversity, who made the world in colors, in seasons, in endless variety; who created the diversity of the earth’s peoples in His image.
ALL: We were created to honor one another and in so doing we honor the Creator. Let us honor Him today by reflecting in our worship and in life His image — love.
Creator, we come to you today in praise, in worship, and in awe of the majesty of your creation.
We see You in the earth, water, sun, air — everywhere!
The heavens are telling Your glory, and their expanse declares the work of Your hands.
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
How much more we could learn about You if we would listen — if we were open to the knowledge that pours into us every minute!
You are in all You have made. What beauty there is in the opportunity to interact with You in everything we do.
Such a life indeed becomes a living prayer. We say our prayers in unspoken language and respect whenever we harvest, plant, work, or play.
When we see You in all things we live in reverence with everything around us.
We enter now into Your worship in reverence and in praise!
Prayers of the People
Our Lord Jesus spoke to the storm, saying “Peace, be still.”
As we gather in prayer, Jesus speaks to our hearts and spirits now, saying “Peace, be still.”
As we rest in your presence, Lord, may all our storms grow quiet within us.
Bring rest to our hearts, O Lord; may we feel like a leaf after a storm, when the wind is still.
ALL: May we know both your presence and your peace; May you receive both our praise and our thanksgiving.
Creator, this time that we find ourselves in has opened our eyes to so many ways we have been failing you. Because this virus has forced us to cease our busyness and be still, we see clearer skies, breathe fresher air and hear more clearly the calls of our winged cousins.
Our four-legged cousins are less afraid to show themselves, and the waters are beginning to run clear again.
Creator, we two-leggeds have walked far too heavily upon your earth for far too long. We confess our sin in this, ask for your mercy, and ask that you strengthen the earth and strengthen us to walk more softly upon it.
When joy fills us … Help us to walk softly.
When our hearts are rejoicing … Help us to walk softly.
When we recognize that Jesus sits, walks, and stands beside us … Help us to walk softly.
When we hear of pain and suffering of others … Help us to walk softly.
When hearts are stricken by grief … Help us to walk softly.
When all around us is attacking our faith … Help us to walk softly.
When doubt fills our days … Help us to walk softly.
When others are watching … Help us to walk softly.
As we lead others into the path of righteousness for His name’s sake … Help us to walk softly.
We pray to you in the words your son Jesus taught us to pray …
All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
1 PETER 1:17-33
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.
He was destined before the foundation of the world … but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.
Through him, you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, … love one another deeply … from the heart.
You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So, I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophecy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Message – Dry Bones, Resurrection & Revival
This is the third Sunday of Easter, emphasis on the word “of”; not the third Sunday in Easter or after Easter, but of Easter. Just as spring is a time of rebirth, of renewal, of the reawakening of the earth, so is Eastertide … the period from Easter to Pentecost, a period of revival and resurrection for God’s people, which is why we say of Easter.
And yet, we seem to have grown into a habit of packing the celebration and joy of Easter away until next year.
I imagine most of you are thinking this, of all years, is a good year to do just that; to pack our memories of this Easter as far away as possible and hope that things are back to normal next year, right?
I’m thinking this year … of all the 63 years I can personally recall … we need to do just the opposite. We need to cling to Easter. We need to refuse to pack it away. We need to draw on the reason we celebrate Easter every morning, noon, and night.
Why? Like the disciples and very first followers of Christ on the first day after Christ’s resurrection, the normal they knew was gone.
Sure, some of the things from the day before Christ’s crucifixion were still there … Rome and the religious authorities of the Temple were still a threat, still a danger. They were still having to live in fear for their lives. They were still having to worship in near secrecy … but in them was a new hope, a new knowledge, a reason for waking up each day with a grateful heart and praise on their lips.
Today, we face a similar reawakening. COVID-19 is still as great and serious a threat to us as the Romans and religious authorities were to those first Christians, but the powers and principalities of our world are beginning to look forward, to make plans to “rescue our economy” as they like to say, so we can return to “business as usual.”
I’m not sure, though, that we can or, more importantly, that we should go back to business as usual.
In the weeks most of the world has been under lockdown, the air over cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Beijing is clear and clean … almost no trace of pollution. Highly trafficked waterways like the canals of Venice are clear.
Wildlife that was pushed out of its habitat, first by development and then by human traffic and presence, is reappearing. The noise we hear now is not so much the near or distant sound of vehicles and airplanes, but the wind, the rain, the birds. Even the frogs were so loud the other night, they woke me up from a deep sleep.
Our forced isolation has allowed God’s earth, God’s creation, to be reborn, to begin healing itself. That says something to me about how we were carrying out business as usual before all this started and what truly poor stewards of God’s kingdom we have been.
I wonder if, when this is all over, we’ll be able to say we, too, have been healed. I wonder if, as Peter said, our souls will have been purified through obedience to what Jesus taught us about how we should act toward one another that we will have a genuine mutual love for one another.
See, that, to me, is what the new normal should be … what we should all strive for as we come through the other side of this. No more hoarding of groceries or toilet paper or industries or wealth. Just share and share-alike … help one another in genuine mutual love for one another.
Right now, we … God’s children … are like those dry bones that Ezekiel saw and prophesied over. We are stripped of our former selves. God didn’t bring us COVID-19, but He’s definitely in the midst of it and us, working to give us new tendons and flesh, new skin, new breath.
God is working to rattle our dry bones, to resurrect His children from the tomb we made for ourselves, and to revive us again. He’s waiting for us to remove the planks from our eyes and see what changes we need to make as we come into the new normal. He’s waiting for us to say, “Not my will, not our will, but Your will, Lord.”
The question is, will we bring ourselves to say it?
Let’s pray …
Show me the suffering of the most miserable so I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life so that I can be free at last.
Grant me the courage to serve others, for in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration, so that the spirit will be alive among us.
Let the spirit flourish and grow, so we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
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Additional Credits & Thank Yous:
Hymns in today’s video are Public Domain. Performances are courtesy of Clyde McLennan through Smallchurchmusic.com and Nathan Drake of Reawakenhymns.com and used by permission. The Call to Worship and Opening Prayer were written by Rev. Jeff Ramsland, Cherokee UMC, Cherokee NC. The Prayers of the People was adapted from a prayer by Rev. Ramsland and Walk Softly, a poem by Hazel June Horsechief Marshall. Closing prayer (end of message) by Cesar Chavez. Rev. Ohle’s words are her own.