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.
First Sunday after Easter April 19, 2020
Gathering time – You are welcome to start gathering at 9:30 to talk and check in.
At 10:00 we will mute for worship.
Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to worship this morning!
Thank you for joining us, we serve a God of resurrection and we claim that promise of resurrection even now, especially now.
I have a few announcements.
*Ask everyone to mute themselves for the worship service.
*You will find a “chat” function on your screen –- we will use it for the time of prayer concerns.
* Do you see the daffodils from Emeline Lane? Thank you to the Cones!
*get the bulletin from the website and music suggestion – play on your own device.
*We are having Bible Study via zoom on Monday nights at 7:00 and a “check in” meeting for anyone interested on Wednesday nights at 7:00. On the church website – you will see a “meeting id”, to access, you go to zoom.us and then simply type in the meeting id and you can join. You will need the password which will be sent via Mail chimp. If you don’t get it, please email me for the password.
Gathering Music “I’ll Fly Away” performed by Ransomed Bluegrass
Lighting our Candles
If you have a candle, 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 if you have one 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
The day before us is uncertain. We know not what we will encounter on our way.
[Linda] While we rejoice with those who rejoice,
we shall also weep with those who suffer.
While we may be surprised by ecstasy,
we may also pass through corridors of darkness.
[Linda] Wherever we are, we are children of the living God.
And let us touch the lives of all people with God’s healing love.
[Linda] Let us rejoice as we worship God together.
Litany Prayer of Invocation
A Responsive reading of Psalm 23 in a time of COVID19 written by Rev. Sally May
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
[Betty] With God all things are possible;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
[Harriet] Let us honor the sabbath so that we may find healing rest
in the midst of the chaos of these times.
He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
[Nancy] There is no better time to trust in God who knows
we need quiet and stillness to restore our anxious souls.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
[Caroline] Faith in a compassionate God leads us to do the right thing.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
[Martha] Even though we are in some of the scariest days of our lives,
I fear no evil;
[Betty] let us not be afraid.
for thou art with me;
[Harriet] Life can be scary and dangerous, is scary and dangerous in these days,
but we are not alone.
thy rod and thy staff,
[Nancy] God’s tools offer direction, safety, and protection
they comfort me.
Knowing God cares about me and you, cares for me and you;
ahhh what comfort that offers, especially now.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
[Caroline] Life can be scary and dangerous yet God is in the midst of our current conflict and tensions seeking, calling us to create beloved community.
my cup overflows.
[Martha] The power of love, of connection, of community offers great joy,
faith and love that extends beyond any borders or boundaries of geography, thinking or understanding we impose on ourselves and one another.
thou anointest my head with oil,
[Betty] You are a beloved child of God – royalty – rest in that knowledge.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
[Harriet] Faith in a God who is with us, leading us protecting us, supporting us,
loving us unconditionally offers life-sustaining, life-giving grace
and unconditional love our whole lives through.
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
[Nancy] In all times of our lives we are given opportunities for beautiful, loving, right relationship with one another and with God;
beloved community in the various ways we can connect in 2020 and beyond….
forever. Amen Amen [Caroline]
A Hymn “In the Bulb There is a Flower”
Listening for and Responding to the Word
A Reading from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians 4
Scripture intro: Our reading comes from Paul’s Second letter to the church at Corinth. You see, the Apostle Paul along with some other Jesus followers, traveled around the Mediterranean Sea preaching the good news and telling the story of Jesus Christ. In many places in the ancient world – Ephesus, Galatia, Colossus, Corinth to name a few – Paul established Churches where the new Jesus followers would worship, study scripture, celebrate communion and tell the stories of Jesus. Once the church was established, Paul would move on to another place. These early converts often had questions, so what we have in this part of the New Testament are the letters that Paul and others wrote to these new churches – letters clarifying theological questions, letters correcting interpretations, letters both admonishing and encouraging the newly faithful.
Here Paul is writing to the church at Corinth reminding them that even as Jesus followers, life will have its trials and tribulations and they must remain faithful and constant. He is encouraging them to find strength in their new faith and to know that the resurrected Christ is present in and amongst them.
Listen for the word as inspired by God.
2 Corinthians 4:5-12New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
Here ends the reading, thanks be to God.
Can you think of a really challenging time in your life? Think of the hardest thing that you have ever done or lived through.
And as you think of that hard time in your life, can you think about how you got to the other side of that time? What resources did you use?
What are some of the tools that help you in hard times?
I’m going to name a few and see if any of these make sense to you:
Community and connection; an ability to problem solve; family; therapy; confidence – and giving yourself a personal pep talk; humility and being willing to say “maybe I don’t know what I am doing”; the wisdom of experience; a healthful positive attitude of survival; forgiveness; desire and determination; (my star word) – flexibility! And of course, the life of faith.
How does your faith help to see you through hard times? Faith changes your perspective giving you a bigger picture which leads to hope. Faith reminds you that your story is part of a much larger story which gives you comfort. Faith gives you a foundation in the world which provides you with strength. Faith, as Christians, is practiced together which connects us to community.
Our faith, our spirituality is a tremendous resource for our resilience. And resilience is exactly what we need right now as individuals, as a community, as a country and as a world. All of the resources – Community and connection; family; confidence; humility; wisdom; forgiveness; desire and determination; flexibility – that I just mentioned are tools of resilience. According to Psychology Today “Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties, traumatic events, or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, highly resilient people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals. Any crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic can test resilience.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience
Perhaps in answer to my first question of thinking of a really challenging time in your life, you thought “right now!” Life is hard with the social isolation or teaching my children at home while trying to work or the terrifying economic pressure of lost jobs or watching the news and feeling full of apprehension and anxiety or being overwhelmed by grief and loss. Certainly, the coronavirus pandemic is testing our resilience as individuals, as a community and as a nation and as a world.
Part of learning resilience is to hear the stories of people who came before you, who faced a hard time and survived, not only survived, but eventually thrived. I’m thinking of the stories from 9/11 in New York City and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the stories of surviving through Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Tsunami in Indonesia. And of course, there are many stories of survival and then thriving from WW2, I think that is why there are so many compelling movies and books set in WW2. I have heard stories from you about loss and grief and survival. None of these stories deny the very real grief and suffering of the time. There is wisdom to be learned about resilience in hearing the stories of survival. Our biblical ancestors have stories to tell us as well – the slavery in Egypt and the Exodus come to mind. And of course the ultimate story of resilience in the crucifixion and resurrection and in the disciples going forth as witnesses to tell the miracles of Jesus.
So you see, we aren’t the first ones to feel challenged, though it certainly feels that way when you are in the midst of the storm. Did you hear those words written by the Apostle Paul 2000 years ago? “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. . . . . “ (In a StillSpeakingDailyDevotional) UCC preacher Tony Robinson writes: “I picked this passage, or maybe it picked me, for a recent memorial service. I did this even though I’m not sure I had ever really “gotten” these words of Paul. What did he mean, “Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies?” The service was for Dolores, a woman with whom I had worked more than thirty years ago. She was a bright, energetic person except when she wasn’t. Her life had been punctuated by four shattering psychotic episodes. Dolores lived with bi-polar illness.
Dolores knew whereof Paul spoke. She knew affliction, perplexity, persecution, and being laid low. Which also meant she had every reason to give up on faith, even life. She never did.
Reading this passage in the service, [Robinson writes] through the lens of Dolores’ life, I got it. It is the ringing note of defiance in Paul’s words. “Afflicted, but not crushed . . . perplexed, but not driven to despair . . . persecuted, but not forsaken . . . struck down, but not destroyed.“ Down, but not out! Each phrase a kind of holy “dammit!” A shout of resurrection defiance in the face of harsh reality. In one way or another, at one time or another, we too are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down. But (the Apostle) Paul and Dolores tell us these realities aren’t the last word. Even more, our very tribulations can bring the life of Christ in us into sharper resolution. I finally got the Apostle Paul’s words that day when Dolores interpreted them for me as we gave thanks to God for her life. There is in the Christian life, as there was in Dolores’s life, a note of resurrection defiance.” (repeat)
Resilience is made up of particular personal attributes, which we can always strengthen and improve. When we work on them, these attributes prepare us for tough times and help us through. We can come out the other side changed for the better. And you know what? When I researched the “tips for improving resilience” it sounded an awful lot like the life of faith in community . . . . with a note of resurrection defiance!
Tips to improve your resilience from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311
If you’d like to become more resilient, consider these tips:
- Get connected.Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with needed support and acceptance in both good times and bad. Establish other important connections by volunteering or joining a faith or spiritual community.
- Make every day meaningful.Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
- Learn from experience.Think of how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times. You might even write about past experiences in a journal to help you identify positive and negative behavior patterns — and guide your future behavior.
- Remain hopeful.You can’t change the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
- Take care of yourself.Tend to your own needs and feelings. Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer.
- Be proactive.Don’t ignore your problems. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan, and take action. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you work at it.
Am I right? Don’t those tips sound a lot like the life of faith and community? The traditions and rituals of the community life of faith have an inherent resilience – gathering on this Sunday morning despite social distance to recognize the depth of connection and need for community, saying the Lord’s Prayer together and allowing those ancient words to touch us deep inside, sharing our joys and concerns in prayer and knowing that each one will be honored and cherished. Listening to the ancient words of scripture and hearing wisdom for our day, so that we can find meaning in our lives now. The language of hope which permeates our music, our prayers, our time together and the reminders of gratitude, the gifts of grace and the words of forgiveness. And of course, Practicing resurrection – defiantly and confidently. Resilience is resurrection defiance in the face of harsh reality!
You can improve your personal resilience by reaching out to others and supporting the connections of community – who do you usually sit next to in the pews? Give them a call! Have you made a nice loaf of bread or a pot of soup? Share some with your neighbor. The Hartland Food Shelf is working hard to make sure that no one in our community is hungry and the Hartland Christmas Project to make sure that basic needs are met – think about making a donation if you are able. Do you need help? Don’t be afraid to ask. Is there someone from whom you are estranged? Now would be a good time to practice forgiveness and reach out – to offer and ask for forgiveness. Do you feel gratitude for anything or anyone? Write a letter expressing that gratitude.
The life of faith has an inherent resilience. Thus, you can cultivate resilience by tapping into your faith, by looking both inward for strength and outward to a world in need. So that with resurrection defiance you can say today right along with the Apostle Paul
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
I’d like to close with a quote from Choctaw Elder and Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston: “We hear a lot these days about the need to shelter in place. I would like to offer a little variation on that theme by encouraging us all to shelter in faith. History has shown that the most powerful and effective tool any community has in confronting crisis is its spiritual resilience. I know this is true because I come from a culture that has only survived because of the depth of its spirituality. Let our message to others be an invitation to join us in prayer, hope and determination. If you know of others who are alone or anxious please welcome them to join us here where we shelter in faith. There is room for everyone beneath the wings of the Spirit.”
In the greatest of Hope, thanks be to God. Amen.
[Sources as noted and sermon inspiration from Rev. Amy Lignitz Harken sermon on March 22, 2020, Mattapoisett Congregational Church]
Special Music “Stand” sung by BeBe Winans
The Prayers of the People
Sharing our Joys and Concerns (please share via the “Chat” Feature on Zoom)
The Lord’s Prayer – all together
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.
Closing Hymn: “Lord of the Dance”
“Let our message to others be an invitation to join us in prayer, hope and determination. If you know of others who are alone or anxious please welcome them to join us here where we shelter in faith. There is room for everyone beneath the wings of the Spirit.”
Go in peace, journey with God,
know that wherever you go,
wherever you are taken,
whatever befalls you,
whenever you find yourself lost,
simply turn and know that God – Creator, Redeemer, Companion – stands arms outstretched to welcome you home.
Let us go forth in Joy to serve the Living Lord Amen.
Pastor: The Rev. Lucia Anne Jackson Telephone: 802-436-2224 (church)
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