Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Acts 17:22-31 Paul in Athens
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is to be served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him–though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, and image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man who he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Psalm 66:8-20: Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel
Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats.
Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.
1Peter 3:13-22:Suffering for Doing Right
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
John 14:15-22: The Promise of the Holy Spirit
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Sermon: I will not leave you orphaned
There are many times when I can have a good time all by myself. When I can get away from everything and everybody; I enjoy the peace and quiet that only being alone can bring. At this time I can meditate, read Scripture, watch the birds, listen to music, or read a good book. For me it’s a time of recharging and renewal as I relax and enjoy God’s presence in the stillness and the quiet of the day. There is a difference, however, between being alone and being lonely.
A few months ago the nightly news had a story about children seeking adoption. One child said that he would like to find a home because he was tired of telling people that the other kids he lived with were only my “foster brothers and sisters.” Having been in the foster care system practically all his life, he knew that any foster family’s relationship could end at any time. He wanted to be with a family, to feel as if he was a part of something. He was around people all the time, but he was lonely–and he was tired of it.
We want the same things this boy did. We want to be part of something. We want to be in relationship with people we know will be there for us. We want to be around people who love us. Like the little boy, we don’t want to be lonely. We want to be loved, cared for, and strengthened. No one truly wants to be alone.
In last week’s reading Jesus has told his disciples that he must leave them and go to prepare a place for them. He knows that this will upset them. He knows that they will be hurting and wrestling with feelings of abandonment. He knows that this won’t be easy for them. So, Jesus gives them a promise. He says that he will ask God to give them an Advocate–another person to stand up and speak on their behalf. Another person to care for them and watch out for them. Another person who will speak the truth–and one whom they will know because the Advocate will abide in them.
Jesus is telling them–I am not leaving you alone. I am not leaving you to fend for yourselves. I am asking God to send the Advocate–the counselor, the helper–to be with you and to guide you. To move in you and to work in you, to sustain you and to free you to be all that God has called you to be.
This passage reminds us that we are not alone. The Spirit is with us. The Spirit is moving us, abiding in us. We are being led and guided by the Spirit, and we are not alone. Yet sometimes we may feel like we are all alone; especially during these days of social distancing and self-quarantine. Sometimes, like that little boy on the news, we may believe that there is no one out there for us, that nobody seems to care.
There have been times when I, and maybe you do too, wonder about this. But we don’t need to wonder about it too long, because that’s when we need to hear the Lord saying, “You are not alone. I have left the Advocate to defend you, to help you and to strengthen you.”
We are quickly reminded that the Spirit is working. And when the Spirit is working, God will have us doing things that we thought we would never do–worshiping in places we never thought we would worship in, saying things we never thought we would say, go places we never thought we would go. When we allow the Spirit to work, loneliness and despair disappear. Relationships are renewed, and hearts become healthy. When we allow the Spirit to work, we are assured and blessed; faith is found and love is lifted.
We can then say with the psalmist, “but truly God has listened; he has given heed to my prayer. Blessed be God because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.” God works through us. God goes before us and with us. We will never be alone because we will be with Jesus, and Jesus will be with us. Amen.
Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
Abiding God, you have revealed yourself to us in the form of your Son, Jesus Christ. Embolden your church, as your followers, to reveal your love to everyone in our speaking and in our living. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
You call all people of the world your children. Watch over those in harm’s way as they work to save us during this pandemic. We also ask that you watch over the saints at Red Oak Grove especially Crystal and Tanner Anderson; Kenneth, Sue and Jessica Anderson; Christine Bultman; Andrew, Jackie, Alex, and Natalie Hingeveld; Darlene Nichols; David Sheedy; Ronald and Marilee Steele; Wayne and Peggy Thompson; Katie Zipse, Anna and Lacey Haberman. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
You come near to us when we are lost, and you hear our distress. We pray for those who suffer in any way especially Kim, Audrey, Arlene, Loren, Karen, Harlan, Nathan and those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
You remain with us always, O God, and your kingdom has no end. We remember the saints who have gone before us especially Madelon. Unite us forever in your final victory over death. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray. 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 the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Blessing: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor + grant you peace. Amen.
Go in peace and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!