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.
A Communion Sunday May 3, 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.
*Everyone will be muted for the worship service and I will unmute you for the Lord’s prayer!
*You will find a “chat” function on your screen –- we will use it for the time of prayer concerns.
*get the bulletin from the website and music suggestion – play on your own device.
*Darryl – search committee update
*Join committee to discuss the transition to gathering together again – email Lucia
*Tuesday 9:00 – 11:00 “Drive Through” Church Office Hours! I will be sitting outside at church – unless it is raining torrentially –
and YOU are invited to Drive through for a visit –
staying at a safe physical distance OF COURSE!
Any prayer shawl knitters who need yarn? I can get some ready for you from our stockpile!
Or are you in need of a good book – there are several that we have at church to lend out!
Or are you Finding Zoom frustrating and want a face to face chat or need a prayer?
Or just interested in a visit?
Lets try “Drive Through” Office hours and see how it goes!
*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 Appalachian Spring – Musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
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
Let us create new songs of praise to our God.
Let us discover new ways of proclaiming God’s greatness and glory.
Wherever one turns, God’s power is manifested, God’s presence is made apparent.
Let us celebrate God’s presence in our world today.
Prayer of Confession and Words of Assurance
Creator God, when we have neglected our neighbors in their times of need.
Lord in your mercy, Forgive us.
For all of the ways that we have greedily enjoyed profits and selfishly enjoyed pleasures
that harm your land and pollute your waters.
Lord in your mercy, Forgive us.
When we have squandered much of what you have made and called “good.”
Lord in your mercy, Forgive us.
Have mercy on us. Help us change our ways
and make us new, that all may know the joy of abundant life. Amen.
A Hymn “Be Thou My Vision” sung by Celtic Worship
Listening for and Responding to the Word
A Scripture Reading from the Book of Acts 2:42-47
I’d like to review a few things about the book of Acts. Toward the end of the first century of this common era, the author of the Gospel of Luke wrote the book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is the second half, or Book Two, of Gospel writer Luke’s proclamation of the remarkable “things that had happened” – the good news of God’s saving acts in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the continuation of Jesus’ ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the early church.
Through the book of Acts, Luke recounts the apostles – formerly the original disciples, now known as the Apostles – getting themselves together and organized and then setting out on their mission to preach the good news that they had encountered in the person of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of the working of the Holy Spirit through the apostles, the community thrived, the church flourished, counting more and more people as members. The book of Acts, you see, is the origin story of the church. And by the way, it is actually pretty readable and interesting – so I encourage you to read more of the book of Acts!
The very first Jesus followers – or Christians – studied the Scripture they had, what we today call the “Old Testament,” or Hebrew Scriptures. You see, in the first century, it took some time for the Gospels and then the book of Acts to be shaped and written down, so the earliest followers only had the stories that the Apostles told, and their witness to Jesus as Messiah as well as the Hebrew Scriptures. (ucc weekly seeds)
When Luke wrote the book of the Acts of the Apostles, he was reassuring his audience that the teaching that had been handed down to them from the apostles–what they had heard–was reliable. Luke’s purpose was to confirm the faith of Christian believers a generation or two after the apostles, helping them to see the link between the power of the Holy Spirit and the tremendous growth and vitality of the early church.
Listen now for a description of that community life, of the earliest Jesus followers as they gathered and tried to figure out how to be Jesus followers – church – together.
Listen to the word as inspired by God:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Here ends the reading, Thanks Be to God.
Musical Reflection “All That Joy” The Bluegrass Gospel Project
A Reflection “Being Church Today”
Those first Jesus followers, in the early years after Jesus had died and been resurrected and then ascended to heaven, those earliest Jesus followers were figuring out how to Do and Be a worshipping community. They were figuring out how to be and to do what ultimately became ‘the church’. But they had to figure it out, there were no church traditions to follow, no “institutional memory”. The earliest converts were Jewish, so they used their Jewish traditions as a base. But, they also set themselves apart from traditional Judaism because they believed that Jesus was indeed the long anticipated Messiah.
And right now, I feel a deep kinship to those earliest Jesus followers, 2000 years ago. Because we are trying to figure out how to be church now in a completely different way. We have our traditions as a base, but we are having to figure out what it means to BE and DO church when we can’t do it the way we’ve done it before. Does that make sense?
So, as Luke told the story in the Book of Acts, he held up for his audience a wonderful picture of the earliest church, describing in somewhat idealistic terms a community absorbed in religious teachings and exploring what the good news of Jesus Christ meant in their daily lives.
It was a community that had several important characteristics.
They continued steadfastly in prayer, which nurtured their spirit of unity, and they showed a proper sense of awe before God, witnessing the power of the Spirit in the many wonders and signs that continued in the life of the community. Is it any surprise, then, that they grew and flourished? Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
They were in fellowship in both social and religious settings. Fellowship – the experience of sharing their life was central to their faith life – and not the kind of fellowship that is all about a good time. The greek word used here is “koinonia”. The book of Acts was originally written in Greek and has been translated for us –thus the word translated as “fellowship” is the Greek word “Koinonia”. What these words describe is an intentional, radical caring for one another. This is how the author of The Acts of the Apostles names the earliest gathering of the Christian people – they saw each other often in worship and at home and in eating “the sacred meal,” and they shared their possessions with those in need. Before they were known as churches, they were seen as circles of men, women, individuals, youth and children who dedicated themselves to caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of one another. No one went hungry. No one grieved alone. No one suffered isolation. Everyone thrived because Koinonia, fellowship, was elevated as the highest value. [ sourced from a sermon by the Rev. Dick Allen, Congregation Church of South Glastonbury]
How did they sustain such a community? How did they nurture their faith? How did they learn and grow and be together?
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
The Koinonia – the fellowship of those first communities was intentional, radical caring for one another. And they constantly were welcoming others to join them in their fellowship.
We are in the midst of a very challenging time – socially, culturally, economically, individually. And I believe that we are only going to get through this by being people who radically care for one another.
Dr. Ira Byock, hospice and palliative care physician tells this story.
Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”
We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.
Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.” We are at our best when we serve others.
We are in the midst of a very challenging time – socially, culturally, economically, individually and as a civilization. And I believe that we are only going to get through this by being people who radically care for one another. Caring for the most vulnerable – the ones who have fallen – characterizes our cultural civilization. We have to figure out how to do that radical caring in whole new ways because the old ways of visiting and touching and hugging and physically gathering are not possible right now.
We don’t have much control over this pandemic, or so it seems. We do have a choice in how we choose to respond to it – we can respond with fear and ignorance and anger and greed or we can respond with generosity and care and selfless sacrifice and love. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said. We are at our best when we serve others.
What if we asked ourselves, before making any decision or any purchase – how will this affect the most vulnerable? How will this affect the climate? How will this affect the community? Wouldn’t that radically change how we are living our lives everyday? Interestingly, this pandemic is forcing us to confront the struggle that exists between individual rights, freedoms and interests – which too often veer into fear, ignorance, anger and greed – versus communal rights, freedoms and interests which lead us into generosity, care, selfless sacrifice and love. It is indeed a delicate balance and requires thought, community connection, prayer and faith.
Those first Christian communities were figuring it out as they went along, and they laid a pretty amazing foundation upon which we still build today as we figure out how to Be and Do church in our time. It is an ideal, to hold everything in common, to make sure that no one has any need, but it is an ideal which challenges us to be our best selves – caring for our neighbors and serving others, and making sure that the most vulnerable – the ones who have fallen – are carried to safety and made whole again.
In the greatest of Hope, thanks be to God. Amen.
The Prayers of the People
Sharing our Joys and Concerns (please share via the “Chat” Feature on Zoom)
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.
Celebration of Communion
(Pause to invite those who have not already prepared elements quickly to do so. Assure them that even an English muffin can become a sacrament, even a cup of water or tea a remembrance of God’s redeeming love. Jesus used the most common things at hand. And so too, Communion does not need elements. They can “taste and see that God is good,” Psalm 34:8, even if they do not partake.)
Communion Hymn: “As We Gather at Your Table”
Invitation & Prayer of Consecration
For Holy Communion this morning,
we sanctify our time and many tables
for a sacrament never confined
to sanctuaries or precious surfaces —
carved with “Do this in Remembrance of Me,”
but always following
wherever one of God precious children,
like a sheep astray,
is lost or needs a guiding.
Christ is our shepherd.
In the loneliest lockdown,
we do not want for companionship.
In crowded families —
distance-learning and never catching breath,
we find an inner source of still waters.
In the soul-stretching days
of health care and emergency professionals,
decision-makers for others,
and essential workers with daily risk,
we meet a restorer of souls.
In the paths of tight-eousness —
assisted living, correctional facility, shelter,
immigration detention, nursing home,
housing for those who are simply poor —
we find a leader, a staff to lean on,
a rod that points a new way.
Christ leads us not around it,
but through the valley of the shadow —
and turns to us, as Jesus did when he came through
the walls of a locked room
We have bread and cup and heart. Our church community is dispersed in distance
but we are one in Christ. In your many kitchens, and living rooms, rest your hands lightly upon these elements which we set aside today to be a sacrament.
Let us ask God’s blessing upon them and upon us and upon those
who are in our prayers this morning.
Gentle Host, you prepare a table before us in the threatening presence of virus.
You anoint our hearts, bless our bread and our cups overflow.
Surely as we shelter in place we find both the goodness of community and mercy to those most vulnerable. Now and all the days of our lives we claim that this house — these many houses where we dwell and also our precious church building,
are, indeed, the house of God.
Send your Spirit of life and love, power and blessing upon your children who are staying at home so that this Bread may be broken and gathered in love and this Cup poured out to give hope to all. Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you. Breathe in us, that we may breathe in you. Amen.
Words of Remembering
We remember the sharing of bread in many places — wilderness manna, tents and caves of shepherds, Abigail’s saddle bags, the lunch of a small boy, the fish of the disciples and the loaf of Emmaus. And we remember that Paul the apostle wrote letters to congregations throughout places we now call Greece, Turkey and Macedonia, and they were the first “remote” worship resources, including these Communion words sent to the church at Corinth:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Sharing of Elements
Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
We are one in Christ in the bread we share.
Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
We are one in Christ in the cup we share.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace, rejoicing that,
in the holy dispersion of virtual worship, we claim the risen Christ’s love is not limited by buildings made with human hands, nor contained in human ceremonies,
and celebrating the God’s shepherding that carries us into the unknown,
to listen and follow, to lead and be led, to feed and be fed.
Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need your tender care.
In your pleasant pastures feed us for our use your folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, hear your children when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, hear your children when we pray.
Closing Hymn: “Blest Be The Tie that Binds” sung by Fountainview Academy
Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like that to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear;
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.
When we are sunder part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.
A Franciscan Benediction:
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
To turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
to all our children and the poor. 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!
*Communion Service Prayers written by Rev. Maren Tirabassi
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