CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 66: 8-20 Liturgist: Bob Reisdorf
ONE: Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, ALL: Who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip. ONE: For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. ALL: You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; ONE: You let people ride over our heads; ALL: We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place. ONE: I will come into your house with burnt-offerings; ALL: I will pay you my vows, those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. ONE: I will offer to you burnt-offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; ALL: I will make an offering of bulls and goats. ONE: Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. ALL: I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue. ONE: If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. ALL: 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.
Sing praise to God Who reigns above, the God of all creation, The God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation. With healing balm my soul is filled and every faithless murmur stilled: To God all praise and glory.
What God’s almighty power hath made His gracious mercy keepeth, By morning glow or evening shade His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth; Within the kingdom of His might, Lo! all is just and all is right: To God all praise and glory.
The Lord is never far away, but through all grief distressing, An ever present help and stay, our peace and joy and blessing. As with a mother’s tender hand, God gently leads the chosen band: To God all praise and glory.
Thus, all my toilsome way along, I sing aloud Thy praises, That earth may hear the grateful song my voice unwearied raises. Be joyful in the Lord, my heart, both soul and body bear your part: To God all praise and glory. INVITATION TO CONFESSION Hebrews 4: 16 Pastor Terrence Alspaugh Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you In thought, word, and deed, By what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy, forgive what we have been, Help us amend what we are, And direct what we shall be, So that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, To the glory of your holy name. Amen.
DECLARATION OF PARDON I Peter 2: 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven!
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 defence to anyone who demands from you an account of 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 the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, 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. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ONE: The Word of the Lord.
GOSPEL LESSON: John 14: 15-21 Pastor Terrence Alspaugh
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 for ever. 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.’ --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ONE: The Gospel of the Lord.
ALL: Praise to you, O Christ!
SERMON: "Spirit of Truth"
SPIRIT OF TRUTH Text: John 14: 15-21 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Two thousand years ago, our Lord and Savior issued executive orders, spiritual executive orders, that would take effect after His crucifixion and resurrection. Following them results in significant blessings – a profound quality of life here and now and the promise of eternal life. These spiritual orders have never been lifted – not with the passage of time over the centuries, nor during natural disasters, famines, and wars, not during pandemics and other causes of mass deaths and destruction. What God ordered and the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed is still in place – the divine order has not been lifted – and we are still governed by it whether or not we believe in it, or support it, or choose foolishly to rebel against God’s rule – for as we know, fools have been around since the beginning of time. Even the Lord Jesus called them out for being what they were – fools – but enough said about fools for now. I doubt that I need to provide examples of fools in this world – you can probably think of quite a few – and identifying them does not result in any real change. From the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has learned some very painful lessons, not the least of which is that we are not as in control in this life as we like to believe. Many people have suffered devastating consequences and continue to suffer terribly and chronically. Stay-at-home orders are being lifted and people are living into a “new abnormal” –as the days of what we once called “normal” are moving farther and farther behind us - and these developing new ways of living can hardly be called “normal.” For this reason, I choose to call these emerging times “the new abnormal.” What does history have to teach us? We know that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. As for our spiritual history, our spiritual heritage, God sent Jesus Christ into this world to set us on a new path, to teach us again – through a different voice – through the voice of his only begotten Son - in words that had already been delivered centuries before by prophets like Moses and many others. What God teaches the world this time comes with additional truth: with a promise. Jesus promises His disciples that God will send God’s Spirit of truth and love to govern our lives – if, and only if, and these are very, very big ifs – if we submit willingly to God’s authority – if we recognize and strive to live as faithful and loyal subjects under God’s jurisdiction – if we choose to follow and comply with God’s law, the executive spiritual orders of Jesus Christ, and the truth of the Holy Spirit – insofar as we can. We do not even have to worry about following these spiritual orders perfectly all the time, – for the Lord God Almighty is well aware that we will sin, make mistakes, and fail – over and over – time and again – and still – still – God offers us a way to be restored. If and when we ask for forgiveness – God does indeed forgive us – and sets us back on the right path – and equips us with what we need – not just to survive in this world – but even to thrive – to thrive spiritually – despite all the odds against us – despite the principalities and powers of evil and darkness in this broken world that work very hard to snuff out God’s love and truth in our lives. Despite our personal failings – despite our ignorance, vulnerability, and weakness that get us into big, big trouble – despite huge problems and unwanted consequences that we could have anticipated and prevented far more than we care to own – for after all, personal accountability is so often resisted - and isn’t it human nature to blame someone – something – anyone or anything other than blaming ourselves for the messes we get into? On that subject of blame, let us never forget that the Lord God already knows that we will sin and blow up our lives in serious and dangerous ways. And yet – yes – despite all these things – still God welcomes us back – arms wide open – eyes full of joy – God’s heart bursting with eternal love big enough to encompass anyone and everyone. God offers us a way out of eternal punishment for our sin and a way out of suffering through a miserable future without hope of things getting any better. That way is Jesus Christ – which is to state the obvious – nevertheless – it bears repeating because the obvious is not always so obvious – as we know. In writing this sermon, there were times when I wondered if I was going on a spiritual rant – and maybe so – yet if I am on a spiritual rant – what could be better than ranting on about the truth of God’s love for us, the truth that God provides a way for us to live with God’s love, peace, and joy – forever and ever – the truth that God blesses us with the gift of the Holy Spirit – here and now - who abides with us and in us – if only – if only – we accept who we are: broken people vulnerable to sin, and whose we are: children of God – who live under the authority of God’s law and the spiritual orders of Jesus Christ – who abide – who live and dwell and have our being in the jurisdiction of God’s kingdom on this earth as it is in the heavens above – people who are blessed, empowered, and equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order that we might bear, produce, and share the fruits of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. So – as I reflect on it, I think that I have just rationalized going on a spiritual rant – and as long as it serves God’s purposes and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, I will rant on! For the glory of God! End of rant. Here are five essential truths that Jesus shared with His disciples in today’s Gospel reading – in a text and interpretation sequence: Jesus said: “I will ask the Father, and he [God] will give you another Advocate [that is: the Holy Spirit] to be with you forever.” [John 14: 16] The interpretation: the Holy Spirit will be with us forever. The Holy Spirit never leaves us. “I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus said [John 14: 18] There are no spiritual orphans in God’s kingdom. Our heavenly Father will never abandon us or forsake us or deprive us of His providential care, love, and guidance. We are always God’s children. Jesus said: “This [The Holy Spirit] is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.” [John 14: 17a] The world often does not recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, among us, and within us. Indeed, there are many in the world who deny that God exists and deny God’s truths revealed through the Holy Spirit: they neither see the Lord nor know Him. Nevertheless, denial of spiritual reality does not mean that it does not exist. By way of illustration, believe it or not, there is a group of people who deny that the earth is round; they believe that the earth is flat. All the evidence in the world does not convince them of a truth that most consider inarguable. People can believe whatever they want to believe. Jesus said, “You know Him [the Holy Spirit], because He abides with you, and He will be in you.” [John 14: 17b] The Holy Spirit lives with us – all the time – and within us when we invite Him into our hearts – hence one of the earliest prayers of the Church: “Come, Holy Spirit, come.” The Holy Spirit will abide with us – and will be in us if invited, unless we shut Him out and close the doors of our hearts to His truth and love. Jesus said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” [John 14: 26] The Holy Spirit teaches us a great many things: God’s truth instead of human lies, what is right from what is wrong, and wisdom versus foolishness. The Holy Spirit is a master teacher of truth and love. Like a teacher of the most rebellious and oppositional student, a student over whom the teacher has the authority to teach because the student is in the teacher’s classroom, yet said student denies, ignores, and rejects what the teacher teaches, this teacher cannot force the defiant student to learn. There will be consequences for the student for not learning what the teacher teaches – that is, failing the course. In the school of life, we are likely to experience failures, setbacks, and significant consequences for rebelling against God’s truth and love. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit does not force us to learn. Otherwise, we would have no free will. We always have the free will to deny, ignore, and reject God’s truth and love revealed through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “ “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” [John 14: 26] The Holy Spirit reminds us of what Jesus taught – of the truth and love of Jesus Christ – of what we need to be reminded when we need to be reminded of such things like truth and love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” [John 14: 15] When we invite the Lord into our hearts and into our lives, when we profess that we are under the authority of God’s law, the spiritual orders of Jesus Christ, and the truth of the Holy Spirit – insofar as we can – in the words of the Christian folksong: “they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes – they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Come, Holy Spirit, come. Abide with us, be present in our hearts and minds, and reveal your truth and love – even through us – for the glory of God. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
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 sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
From all that dwell below the skies, let the Creator's praise arise! Alleluia! alleluia! Let the Redeemer's Name be sung through every land, by every tongue! Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia! Alleluia! alleluia!
In every land begin the song, To every land the strains belong: Alleluia! alleluia! In cheerful sound all voices raise And fill the world with joyful praise, Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia! Alleluia! alleluia!
Eternal are thy mercies, Lord, and truth eternal is thy word: Alleluia! alleluia! Thy praise shall sound from shore to shore till suns shall rise and set no more. Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia! Alleluia! alleluia!
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