First Congregational Church of Hartland, United Church of Christ
An Open and Affirming Congregation in Hartland, Vermont
Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
Welcome! We are glad that you chose to worship with us today.
Communion Sunday August 2nd, 2020
Welcome and Announcements & Lighting our Candles
Let us light our candles together to remind ourselves that there is light in the darkness and that we can share that light with one another in our own times of darkness and we can share that light of love with the world. Please light your candles as we enter into our time of worship.
Let us pray: We come to this place to be fed by God’s word, to be nurtured by God’s grace, and to be strengthened by the power of God’s Spirit. Speak to us in this time of Worship, O God, that we might recognize the abundance of your goodness, and find in your presence things that sustain us. Amen.
Call to Worship Psalm 66 (portions)
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of God’s name; give to God glorious praise. Say to God,
“How awesome are your deeds!
“All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”
Come and see what God has done:
God is awesome in deeds among mortals.
Let us now enter worship with praise and in gratitude to our God.
Prayer of Confession & Assurance of Pardon
Redeeming God, with you there is always more life, more hope, more joy.
When doubt assails us, and we fail to recognize you at work in our lives,
Lord, have mercy!
When fear impairs our faith, and our eyes and ears and hearts do not know you,
Christ, have mercy!
When anger and sorrow stop us from doing the risky work of love,
Lord, have mercy!
Words of Assurance
Within every kernel of doubt, there is a tree of life and hope.
In those times when our faith falters,
when we cannot bring ourselves to see the presence of the Holy among us,
God takes our faith and transforms it,
patiently showing us the many ways Christ walks among us.
Look around you: as close as your own beating heart,
and in the eyes of your nearest neighbor, grace abounds at the heart of all life.
You are all God’s children, loved without condition, go in that peace. Amen.
A Hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”
Listening for and Responding to the Word
A Scripture Reading from the Gospel of Luke 6
I chose today’s scripture reading with the outdoor service in mind! I am reading today from Luke chapter 6 – this is a portion of what is called “The Sermon on the Plain”. It is a parallel reading to the more familiar “Sermon on the Mount” from the Gospel of Matthew. As I pictured our Outdoor Service with all of us spread over the lawn, the image of the people gathered to hear Jesus for the Sermon on the Plain came to mind. Note that today’s reading is early in Jesus’ ministry. People have heard of his miracles and healing, they are gathering in a large crowd to learn more about this great teacher, Jesus. They want healing and they want to be in the presence of his power.
Then Jesus does some teaching and as is often the case, his teaching is both comforting and challenging. Listen for the word as inspired by God:
LUKE 6 17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. . . . . .46 [Jesus said] “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built 49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”
Here ends the reading, thanks be to God.
A Reflection “Sure Foundations”
If you were to witness the way that I spend most of my money and free time . . . you would think that I have the most faith in: friendships, NPR, family, the PBS Newshour, knitting, walking, laughter, nature, board games. And I do believe that most of those things are good for me and of course, I believe that NPR and the PBS NewsHour are good for the world! The problem is, that given the way I spend my free time and my resources, one could assume that I have more faith in my family, friends and NPR than I do in, say, God?
In the scripture reading, Jesus challenges the crowd to think about how they are acting “46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? “ Jesus is challenging them – and us – to think about the actions, attitudes, choices that guide our daily living. Do those actions, attitudes and choices reflect faith in God? Being a follower of Jesus? Or in my case, given how often I quote NPR and PBS – far more often than I quote, say scripture – one would think that I place my faith in . . . .well . . . “All Things Considered” and “On Point”. I want to be able to say that faith in God is the primary shaper of my days, of my checkbook, of my energy and focus. How about you? Who and what shapes your days? It is important to keep things in perspective because the world is filled with good things that can distract us from the foundational love of God.
Jesus uses the wonderfully accessible teaching of the two houses and two foundations to illustrate the two ways to respond to his words. One way is building a life on Jesus’ words by putting his words into practice and that life is like the person building a house on the rock – the foundation is strong and secure and can withstand the winds and storms of life. The other, not so much – a foundation built on sand is weak and unstable and will eventually be destroyed by the storms of life. Discipleship is in the everyday decisions that we make in life and it takes practice. None of us is perfect, we will all choose the sparkly distracting things in life sometimes. However, to pause and think, about who or what shapes your days helps to get you back on your firm foundation.
If ever there was a storm shaking our faith homes – it is now. Unable to engage in the traditional rituals in our shared sacred space, unable to physically gather to draw on the strength of the community, being assaulted by bad news over and over again, threatened by a virus in our everyday lives – yes, it all adds up to a flood surging against the foundation of faith in our lives.
Here’s the thing – we are well into the 5th month of worshipping this way and we are still here. We are shaken, our foundation is being tested, weak points are being found. Now is the time to recognize the strength found in the faith community – though not physically gathered. Now is the time to find the firmness of faith that holds you in the midst of the storm surge.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built .
We are a church community well built, we are a people of deeply dug faith, the floods of life are bursting against the foundation and we are standing firm. We need to hold each other up in these flood waters of life. We need to remember the foundation and build on that together.
Sometimes, my faith in the foundation is shaken as I focus on all of those things that I mentioned. In this Sermon, Jesus is challenging those very first listeners and Jesus is challenging us – to think about the actions, attitudes, choices that guide our daily living. Do those actions, attitudes and choices reflect faith in God? Being a follower of Jesus?
But, not only is he challenging, Jesus is comforting with these words. He is offering a way of living, of practicing, of acting, of being in the world that is like the house with the firm foundation. And isn’t that what we all want? To feel our feet firmly planted on the ground. To know at our core the peace of confidence that God is in charge? These words are not a call to complacency, rather a call to faithful actions in the world – actions based in love and compassion and healing and justice. And we can be comforted knowing that our foundation is firm.
When you start to feel shaken by the news and by life, when the floods are overwhelming, ask yourself who or what shapes my days? Am I focusing my time, my energies, my resources on Jesus? Am I being a source of love and compassion and healing and justice in this broken world? Am I standing, or sitting, or clinging to the foundation built on the power of God? I hope those questions and your honest answers will bring you home to this place and this house and this love and this foundation.
In the greatest of hope, thanks be to God. Amen.
Special Music “The Silver Rain”
The Prayers of the People Sharing our Joys and Concerns
Pastoral Prayer & The Lord’s Prayer
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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and power and glory forever and ever Amen.
A Celebration of Communion Communion Service Prayers written by Rev. Maren Tirabassi
As we enter our communion service, let us remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 –
From the Gospel of Matthew 14:
“When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.”
Christ’s invitation is simple —
sit down where you are.
You don’t need to run off somewhere else —
not a nearby village market or a familiar sanctuary,
communion is where you are — sit down.
The disciples complained —
it is a deserted place and the hour is late.
Jesus said, “They need not go away.”
No one needs to go away.
No one is deserted and no one is late —
not you who are alone,
because you are vulnerable to virus
or you who would feel alone
even in a not-distancing crowd
has made your life a wilderness.
Jesus has compassion on every crowd,
healing them, even the hungers,
one by one by one.
Here is green grass,
someone to help you sit down,
someone to help you stand up again,
someone to bless Communion,
so it will be enough,
and break it into pieces you can handle.
Sit down where you are.
Prayer of Consecration
In the story about feeding a multitude,
Jesus asked that people bring to him what they had.
You have done that today. In your many kitchens and living rooms, rest your hands lightly upon these elements which we set aside today to be a sacrament. We ask God’s blessing on them to make them enough and also to make them abundant for us and for all those who are in our prayers this morning.
God of compassion, you bless and break everything we are and everything we bring to you. Our deep scarcity becomes enough to sustain us, and then our “enough” becomes an abundance we could never imagine. We pray that your Spirit of life and love, of tenderness and power, rest upon every bread and every cup, that they may feed the inmost need of each child of God and pour forth a grace that can change the world.
Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you. Amen.
Words of Remembering
Leader: We remember the Creator
fed the aurora borealis and ocean depths,
pterodactyls and diatoms,
all we see now that grows and breathes,
all that swims, swarms, slithers,
all that runs, flies, leaps and loves.
We remember Jesus Christ
played vintner at a wedding feast,
rubbed elbows with Zacchaeus’ friends,
taught the disciples they should not substitute
anything like stone or snake
for really important menus
like reduced lunch, 68 hours, soup kitchen
food pantry or meals on wheels,
and, in the midst of profound grief
for cousin John’s death,
expanded the disciples’ understanding
of the hope recipe in
bread crust and fish scraps,
and then, when they forgot … did it again.
We always remember a Passover in Jerusalem
when Jesus borrowed an upper room,
soaked and scrubbed the tired feet of others,
and explained that there is
a God-shaped hole in everyone’s belly
and Jesus would fill it with love.
Remembering is beautiful,
but there is not much taste in it.
Let us stop running to nearby villages
with our hunger and thirst,
and sit down here and now,
to eat and drink, be blessed and broken.
Sharing of the Elements
The bread on your table is blessed and broken like the picnic of grace.
Sharing love, we will never be hungry.
The cup on your table is blessed and shared like the overflowing of tears and joy
Drinking deeply, we will never thirst.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
In thanksgiving for the meal that heals yesterday and the unexpected grace that empowers tomorrow, we pray for the wisdom to recognize our abundance and live with open hands and open hearts.
O Holy One, as we received this sacrament in the holy dispersion of virtual worship, we thought we “ordered” from a select gourmet menu, and never expected to become the curbside pickup of your love and justice, of your compassion and courage, of your hope and healing for all of your children who need a meal in a deserted place. Help us gather from the abundant miracles in our lives and give them away. Amen.
May God bless you and keep you, may Gods face shine upon and be gracious unto you. May God look upon you with kindness and grant you peace. Amen. Let us go forth in joy to serve the Living Lord
Pastor: The Rev. Lucia Anne Jackson Telephone: 802-436-2224 (church)
website: www.hartlandcongregationalchurch.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Church Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HartlandCongregationalChurch
Organist: Virginia Dow Director of Christian Education: MaryJo Ramsey
Choir Director: Rebecca Wood Church Members: Ministers to the World