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At Home Worship for Sunday March 29th, 2020
(Take a moment to center yourself knowing that this time is a worship time and that God is present with you)
 
Call to Worship
 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love.
 
Song:          “Sanctuary”
 
Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for you.
 
Call to Confession
 
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  Trusting in the Spirit of God, let us confess our sin.
 
Prayer of Confession
 
O Lord, if you held our sin against us, who could live, who could stand?  We seem to have more faith in death than hope in your promise of life.  We seek peace through war and find security in weapons.  We abandon the hungry, sick, and dying, and pursue wealth by making others poor.  And even so, you love us; still there is forgiveness with you!  Therefore we worship you; for you alone, O Lord, can save us from death and redeem us from our sin.  Amen.
 
Assurance of Pardon
 
Friends, if Jesus Christ dwells in you, the Spirit of God will be your life and the grace of God will be your righteousness.  The good news of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven.  Know in your heart today that you are forgiven and be at peace.
 
Scripture Reading: Mark 13:1-8, 24-37
 
As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”  Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings?  Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
 
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”  Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.  When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines.  This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
 
“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.  Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
 
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
 
Reflection with Pastor Heather
 
We are continuing our readings in the narrative lectionary and I have to admit when I first saw our reading for this week I was dismayed.  Come on Jesus!  Where am I supposed to find hope in this passage?  Like with some of the readings in our Lenten devotional for this year, I am struggling to connect.
 
It is hard to think about the end times when we are in the midst of our own global crisis.  Or maybe, it is all too easy to think about the end times which is extremely unsettling.  I want God to return and make everything OK, but I certainly don’t want this global pandemic to be the way the world ends.  Ugh!
 
In my studies this week I happened upon something I hadn’t noticed before.  One commentator pointed out that this passage might be more about the Crucifixion of Christ which was about to happen in the gospel of Mark, instead of the end times which we are still waiting for.  Notice that when Jesus tells the parable about the master who has gone on a journey, he says the master will return “in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.”  These times connect with the Last Supper, the arrest in the garden, the betrayal by Peter, and the Crucifixion itself.  This wouldn’t be the first time Jesus is said to be “coming into his glory” at the moment of his death.
 
All this to say, doesn’t it make sense that the disciples would be terrified at the time of Christ’s death?  And doesn’t it make sense that that would feel like the end of the world to them?  The unrest the disciples felt in this situation is much easier for us to imagine in today’s setting then it would have been just a few weeks ago.  In some ways right now feels like a kind of end of the world for us.  It is certainly the end of our way of life, even if just temporarily.
 
Jesus says that all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.  That is where I find hope.  The birth pangs are painful for sure, but they are also the sign of new life.  As we feel the pain and fear of this pandemic sweeping the globe, we also notice the signs of new life and renewal in our midst.  Just this week I have noticed and been thankful for the blessings of more family time, more rest and relaxation, more sharing with neighbors and friends, more care in our community for strangers and others, more respect for those who are often paid less like nurses, teachers, and those who work in the grocery store, and a more global sense of community.  All these are new joys being born in the midst of the birth pangs of this painful change.  And I am hopeful that these blessings will continue in the days when this crisis is over.
 
Jesus tells his disciples to keep awake and to watch for the master’s coming.  We know that they will sleep in the garden and that they will flee from his death.  So too, we might miss the signs of God in our world this day.  This is a time to be wise to the world.  When there are multiple voices out there, we need to be very discerning about where we get our information.  We need to listen to doctors and scientists and do what is best for everyone.  We need to seek out the truth.  We need to stay awake so we can save lives. 
 
Unfortunately, while this crisis has brought out the best in many people, it has also revealed the ugliness in people’s hearts.  I am sure you have seen those who would hoard food, or take advantage of neighbors.  I even read today that some doctors are hoarding potential coronavirus treatments for themselves and their own families instead of those under their care.  Or some Pastors who continue to host large worship services of 1000 people despite the risks this causes to parishioners and the greater community all so they can still pass that offering plate.  Shameful!  Now is a time of unrest, just as Jesus describes, and so now is a time to keep awake and be watchful.  We need to discern truth from falsehood in our world today.  We need to stay awake and look for God.
 
There is always hope in our scripture readings, even in frightening readings like our lesson for today.  Often, we see God in the place we least expect, like the suffering and death of the cross.  It is in the dark hopeless places that God is most fully revealed.  I don’t know if God is coming now and if this is the end times but I do know that we certainly see God more in our world as together we face this challenge.
 
My friends, the world has always been a scary place.  But some times are more frightening, and painful than others.  Thankfully these times often give birth to new hope in our world.  Like people coming together after World War 2 and like the disciples forming the new church community after the death of Jesus, I am certain there will be blessings following this time of struggle.  Our job as believers is to keep awake in this present hour.  Listen to those who speak and seek out hard truths over pleasant falsehoods.  Let us look for God in our world in the care and love of strangers and neighbors alike.
 
From the fig tree learn this lesson, spring is coming!  There is always new life.  There is always hope!  Keep awake, and look for God’s blessings.  I promise they are out there.  Amen.
 
 
Prayers
 
Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord.  Lord, hear our voices and be attentive to our prayers.  We pray for those whose hope is lost, who feel dried up and cut off from you.  We pray for those who are oppressed, held captive by the power of death.  We pray for those who weep, lost and lifeless in fear and regret.  We pray for those who are dying, the light of life fading in their eyes. 
 
We pray today for our world in isolation.  We pray for doctors and nurses on the front lines.  We pray for all those at home this day, especially for those whose health is vulnerable due to age or illness.  We pray for scientists at work today to develop better testing kits, medicine for treatments, and a new vaccine.
 
God, we know that you are with us in love.  When the world seems to be falling apart help us to trust in you.  Help us to feel confidence in your presence this day.  Like those who wait for the morning, we look with hope for a new day of healing and peace.
 
We ask all this in the name of Jesus the Christ, the one who taught us to pray, saying, 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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.
 
Song: “Christ Be Beside Me” (tune of morning has broken)
 
Christ be beside me; Christ be before me;
Christ be behind me, King of my heart.
Christ be within me; Christ be below me;
Christ be above me, never to part.
 
Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in my strife.
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising, Light of my life.
 
Christ be in all hearts thinking about me;
Christ be in on all tongues telling of me.
Christ be the vision in eyes that see me;
In ears that hear me Christ ever be.
 
Blessing
 
Know today that you are blessed and loved!
By the love of God,
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
now and forever!  Amen.
 
What’s missing . . .
 
Passing the Peace: Please phone a friend and check on them.  Can you help out one of our more vulnerable members by running errands?  Call or text Pastor Heather if you need more info or if you need help.  
 
Offering: Please don’t forget your offering.  We still have bills to pay at the church.  If you want to make an offering to our continued mission and ministry you can mail a check to the church at PO Drawer E Warrensburg, MO 64093.