Read-along Service for Sunday, May 1, 2022

Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
Third Sunday of Easter May 1, 2022

Prelude
Words of welcome, announcements 

Lighting the Christ Candle
We light this candle as a symbol of the light of Christ, which shines in each one of us, and the darkness cannot overcome it. May the light of resurrection fill our lives with hope.

Call To worship
We gather together to give boundless thanks to God who teaches all of creation to sing. We give boundless praise to Christ who invites us to walk in faith with him. And we Give boundless glory to the Spirit who makes us one in faith, hope and love.

Prayer of Approach
We rejoice in the wonder of your resurrection, O Christ, but then we tend to sink back into our old ways of thinking, behaving, responding to people’s needs. We can dance with the angels and all humankind on Easter Sunday, but the days following the Day of Resurrection often cause us to slip back into apathy or despair. Forgive us when we so easily become distracted by our own cares that we ignore the needs of others around us. Forgive us when we forget your power and love for us. Charge us up, O Lord! Set our hearts to dancing! Give us a spirit for rejoicing, willing hearts and hands for helping, voices for praising you forever! AMEN.

Hymn         The Head That Once Was Crowned                          VU 190

  1. The head that once was crowned with thorns
    is crowned with glory now;
    a royal diadem adorns
    the mighty victor’s brow.
  1. The joy of all who dwell above,
    the joy of all below,
    to whom he manifests his love
    and grants his name to know.
  1. To them the cross, with all its shame,
    with all its grace, is given,
    their name an everlasting name,
    their joy the joy of heaven.
  1. They suffer here with Christ below,
    they reign with him above,
    their profit and their joy to know
    the mystery of his love.
  1. the cross he bore is life and health,
    though shame and death to him,
    his people’s hope, his people’s wealth,
    their everlasting theme.

 

Scripture Reader: Margo Aubert
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

Special Music
Homily “When Heaven and Earth are Changed”
Musical Response

The offering
We give thanks for everyone who continues to support TSA during these challenging times. Your gifts of support and encouragement mean a lot to us.  You can get more information about making a donation by contacting the church office or by visiting our website. For all the gifts you share, for all the people you bless by your serving and giving as a disciple of Jesus, we give thanks.

Hymn         Now the Green Blade Rises                     VU 186

  1. Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
    wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
    love lives again, that with the dead has been;
    love is come again, like wheat arising green.
  1. In the grave they laid him, love by hatred slain,
    thinking that he would never wake again,
    laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen;
    love is come again, live wheat arising green.
  1. Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
    he that for three days in the grave had lain;
    raised from the dead, my living Lord is seen;
    love is come again, like wheat arising green.
  1. When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
    your touch can call us back to life again,
    fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been;
    love is come again, like wheat arising green.

Pastoral Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn        Your Hand, O God, Has Guided                      VU 274

  1. Your hand, O God, has guided
    your flock from age to age;
    the wondrous tale is written,
    full clear, on every page.
    Our forebears owned your goodness,
    and we their deeds record;
    and both of this bear witness:
    one church, one faith, one Lord.
  1. Your heralds brought glad tidings
    to greatest as to least;
    they bade them rise, and hasten
    to share the heavenly feast.
    And this was all their teaching,
    in every deed and word,
    to all alike proclaiming,
    one church, one faith, one Lord.
  1. Through many days of darkness,
    through many scenes of strife,
    the faithful few fought bravely
    to guard your people’s life.
    Their gospel of redemption,
    sin pardoned, earth restored,
    was all in this enfolded:
    one church, one faith, one Lord.
  1. And we, shall we be faithless?
    Shall hearts fail, hands hang down?
    Shall we evade the conflict
    and cast away our crown?
    Not so: in God’s deep counsels
    some better thing is stored;
    we will maintain, unflinching,
    one church, one faith, one Lord.
  1. Your mercy will not fail us,
    nor leave your work undone;
    with your right hand to help us,
    the victory shall be won:
    and then, by earth and heaven,
    your name shall be adored,
    and this shall be our anthem:
    one church, one faith, one Lord.

Benediction
You are people of the Resurrection! You know the powerful love of God! Go into God’s world proclaiming hope, peace, and joy, in the name of the Risen Lord. AMEN.

Choral Amen     “Amen, Amen, Hallelujah, Amen!”            VU 974

Postlude

Heaven and Earth are changed.  Texts: Revelation 5:11–14, John 21:1–19.
Preached by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, May 1 2022

Whenever I read through the scriptures, I am always amazed at how imperfect the people are, even when they are doing God’s work. It almost makes me question God’s judgement sometimes. In the book of Genesis we learn how Adam and Eve’s son Cain murders his brother Abel in a dispute about what kind of offering God likes best. When Noah gets off the ark after saving all the animals, his daughters get him drunk so they can have sex with him. Abraham passes his wife off as his sister several times. Before Moses is called by God to set his people free, Moses kills an Egyptian worker. When God calls Jonah to go preach in Ninevah, he gets on a boat headed in the opposite direction. He’d rather drown than do what God wants. Then there is King David who has an affair and kills the woman’s husband to cover it up. God seems to pick some real winners. And the crazy thing is, all these damning stories of these imperfect people are in the Bible.

And then there is Jesus’ top disciple. Peter messes up several times. The worst thing Peter does is deny Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ arrest. And for some crazy reason, that story is included in the Bible. And the only possible source for this story is from Peter himself. I’ve often wondered why Peter would have told the others about how he denied Jesus. No one else was there to see Peter stumble. He didn’t have to tell anyone of how he had failed Jesus that terrible night. Most of us like to keep our dark failures safely locked up in the shack of our regrets. Peter was so devastated by his failure that evening that even the news of the resurrection is not enough to redeem him. On Easter Sunday Peter stands face to face with the risen Christ, and he still gives up hope. This morning we hear how Peter has left Jerusalem and he has gone back home. Peter has gone back to being a simple fisherman. It’s like his opportunity to do something great has failed, and he’s gone back to his old job.  I guess the reason Peter did tell others about his denying Jesus is because Jesus confronts him on it when they meet on the lake shore. Peter is naked, and he can’t cover up his body, or his failure.

The amazing thing about this encounter is the way Jesus doesn’t condemn Peter for his cruel betrayal. Instead Jesus invites Peter to have brunch on the beach with him. There is no judgement. There is no retribution. There is only a compassionate act of forgiveness.  In spite of all of Peter’s mistakes, Jesus still trusts Peter with his life’s work. Peter is given a new commission, to care for the flock.  This loving grace which Jesus offers Peter changes his life forever.

As a result, Peter isn’t afraid to tell the others about all that happened on that terrible night in Jerusalem. The members of the early Christian community come to know how that cowardly, Jesus-denying Simon came to be known as Peter, and how Jesus raised his calling to a whole new level.  They get to see Peter become the rock on which their church is built. They see Peter eventually follow his teacher to his own death on a cross. And because of Peter’s faithfulness, they dare to believe Jesus will do the same for each of them. They know Christ will never give up on them, no matter how badly they mess up.

Time and time again these imperfect people overcome their failures. They learn from their mistakes and learn to do the right thing. God seems to believe even the worst of villains deserve second chances. And perhaps one of the worst villains in the New Testament is the man we call Saint Paul. It is amazing that in his letters Paul would be willing to share so openly what his life was like before his conversion. Back then he was known as Saul. Saul was a vicious and violent man. Saul went to Damascus to arrest and put to death the followers of Jesus. Saul was scheming his way to climb the ladder of success. Most of us prefer to whitewash over our worst character flaws. But Saul could never whitewash over his passion for God. His evangelistic fervour did not come out of nowhere. He could not deny who he had been, if he wanted to share what he had become since Christ came into his life.  How hard it must have been for the early Christians to look beyond the cold blooded persecutor who Saul was, before they could see who God thought Paul could become.

The great American preacher William Sloane Coffin once said “Christ is risen to convert us, not from this life to some other life, but to convert us from something less than life to the possibility of full life.” Coffin believes “Easter is a demand not for sympathy with the crucified Christ, rather it is a demand for loyalty to the resurrected Christ.”  For it is in the resurrected Christ that we are raised to the fullness of life.

This fullness of life is symbolized in the Book of Revelation by the cosmic Christ who is pictured as the Lamb.  It would be tempting to picture the risen Christ as an avenging angel who comes to cleanse the earth with a flaming sword. Instead, the purity of the lamb’s intentions are the same in heaven as they were on earth. For Christ came to heal, to reconcile, forgive and to set us free from bondage to sin and death.

Because we have been set from the dominion of the powers and principalities of this world, we know heaven and earth have been changed forever. A new heaven and a new earth are possible. All of life has been touched by this salvation.  As a result, “every creature in heaven and on earth, and under the earth and in the sea” sings praise to the Risen One.

We too can praise God because God has been revealed to us. We have seen the overwhelming generosity God has shown people who have made some really bad choices in their lives.  We have seen what a difference God’s grace has made in the lives of imperfect people Saint Peter and Saint Paul. We have seen what a difference this gift of grace can make in our own lives as well. For this reason we can offer our thanks and praise for God’s gift of salvation because it lifts us beyond the scarcity thinking which our broken world is so caught up. To praise God roots us in the divine abundance. In God’s world there is an abundance of hope. And an abundance of second chances when we are willing to learn from our mistakes. When we praise God, we articulate how God is working in our world. To praise God is to be consciously aware of God’s movements of grace that gives us all a second chance. To join with all of creation in praising God is to become God’s partner in creating a world full of beauty and wholeness and opportunities for all living things to thrive.

These verses from the Book of Revelation were written to be a source of hope for people living through difficult times. The Book of Revelation  is often shunned because of the gory way the battle between good and evil is often portrayed. It too is an imperfect witness. In the end, though, the grace shines through. John of Patmos offers us a hopeful vision of what the world can look like when we are all finally working together to share God’s gift of new life for the good of us all.

As John of Patmos says,

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing. Together they sang out  “The one seated on the throne and  the Lamb are the source of  life itself. You give us the abundance of life, for God is full of wisdom and goodness. The lamb shares with us the glory of life that lasts forever and ever!” And every living creature said, “Amen!”

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