(NOTE: This home worship service is brought to you because the congregation I serve decided, in an abundance of caution due to an unpredictable and capricious winter storm, to cancel worship tomorrow, January 19. You will also note that I am using the lessons for the Third Sunday after Epiphany because of a sermon series on our Guiding Principles and so that Deacon David Hope-Tringali can deliver the sermon he had already prepared next Sunday.)
Welcome to Snowy Sunday Armchair Worship brought to you by St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Cumberland, PA, and Pastor Sharron Blezard. We’re glad you’re here! We’ll be using YouTube videos of some worship music with which you may (or may not) be familiar. My prayer is that you will find the music and words meaningful.
Grab yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa, settle into a comfortable position and take some time to breath. You might begin by silently saying “Receive” when you inhale and “Release” when you exhale.
Please pray with me: Lord of the snow, sleet, rain, and wind. We give you thanks for your gifts, particularly the gift of scripture to guide our hearts and minds and to nourish and equip your beloved people. Help us to hear, read, learn, and cherish them. Comfort us with the promises they contain, especially that of eternal life with You, your Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hear Audrey Assad singing “How Can I Keep from Singing” (ELW 763), and sing along if you wish.
A reading from Nehemiah, the 8th Chapter:
Word of God; word of life. Thanks be to God.
Hear Jess Ray’s version of Psalm 19 (from her album Pull the Stars from the Sky)
You can read Psalm 19 by clicking here.
A reading from 1 Corinthians, the 12th Chapter:
Word of God; word of life. Thanks be to God.
The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the fourth chapter. (Please consider reading the gospel aloud.)
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Our fourth guiding principle is We will nurture and support others, both within and beyond our community, with special concern for children and youth.
The lesson from 1 Corinthians and the passage from Luke’s gospel help us understand what it means to be the church, Christ’s Body, the Beloved Community, in the world, and how as that Body we strive to live out this fourth principle in all that we say and do.
We exist to love God and to love our neighbors, and we do that best together.
We do that best when we use the many gifts God has given to each one of us.
Paul writes to the struggling church at Corinth, a group of ordinary people like you and me who are having trouble understanding how much more their talents and gifts can be and do when brought together for the common good.
You may not feel particularly gifted to nurture and support others, but you possess unique gifts that are essential to making that happen as part of the Beloved Community here at St. Paul (or wherever you are). You are needed. You are wanted. Above all, you are dearly loved. But your gifts are not meant to be hoarded, ignored, or used in isolation. They find their highest expression and fulfillment in combination with the gifts of others shared for the common good.
As Paul says, “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:14). We need toes, eyes, hands, feet, hearts, elbows, and even a brain. Yet all of these parts work together, in unity, to be more than any one part could be alone. We find our unity in Christ, who is the head of the body, the church.
Paul also reminds this community of believers that “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free…” (1 Cor. 12:13). Diversity gathered in unity. Unity expressed through a diversity of gifts. All for the purpose of loving God and one another.
It’s a tall order, but that’s the beauty of the church when we’re truly focused on Jesus, on what we’re here to do and on who we are called to be. And what is this? Just what is our calling as the hands and feet and heart of Christ in this world?
We get a glimpse of our co-work and calling in the lesson from Luke’s gospel. Jesus returns from his temptation in the wilderness. He’s “filled with the power of the Spirit” and people begin to take notice. Jesus is teaching in the synagogues and generating a whole lot of buzz and praise. He goes to Nazareth, his hometown, and begins to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah a passage that describes his mission, his purpose:
Anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, he comes to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to restore sight to the blind to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Together, throughout the year, as we move through Luke’s gospel, we’ll explore what Jesus means, how this reality plays out in his ministry and in the equipping of his disciples, and what it means for us today.
Yes, it’s one tall order, but we do not do this hard thing alone. We do it together in the Body of Christ, interweaving our gifts to form a strong web of nurture and support to cast into the world for the common good. We do it one casserole at a time, one quilt at a time, one bag of groceries at a time, one visit to the nursing home a time. We do it by coming together in worship to learn, to prepare, to gather around Christ’s table, and to celebrate the in-breaking of a new way of living and being as those baptized into one body.
And, yes, as our guiding principle reminds us, we do have a special concern for children and youth because Jesus has that concern. He calls the children to him and gathers them in. It’s our sacred trust to make sure that the church is a safe and nurturing place where the natural faith and trust of children can be cherished and where all of God’s children can gather to worship, serve, and love God. Every child is loved by God and deserves to know that and rest securely in God’s love.
Yes, we are gifted for ministry and mission, but we are not meant to live and use our gifts in isolation. We need the church, Christ’s beloved, imperfect Body here on earth. We need each other to build one another up and strengthen each other. Gifts are meant to be used. Gifts are meant to be given. And, of course, gifts are meant to be joyously received. Amen.
Questions to consider this week…
What gifts has God given to me?
How am I using those gifts?
What fears might be holding me back?
How am I integrated into Christ’s Beloved Community so that my gifts may be built up, shared with others, and shared for the common good?
What do I hear/sense God saying to me about using my gifts?
Ponder the words to this Rend Collective song, “Build Your Kingdom Here”:
United as one body in Christ, let us pray for the church, the world and all those in need. This song by The Brilliance, “Prayers of the People,” is a beautiful form of prayer. (This recording is a few years old, so please update with current names and situations you hold in your heart.
Receive our prayers and fill us with the radiance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.
Beloved, know that you are enough. Know that God loves you. You no longer need to be a slave to fear. Go out into the world this week to love God and your neighbor. See Jesus’ face in everyone you meet. Use your God-given gifts: Be lavish with smiles, prodigal with kind words, and generous with time, talent, and resources.
Be blessed to be a blessing for YOU are a child of God! In the name of the Father, the Son+, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!
Our final song is “No Longer Slaves” by Zach Williams:
Go in peace to refill your coffee cup, prepare for the week, and to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God! We will!