North Congregational UCC New Harford CT
WORSHIP: 5th Sunday in Lent
March 21, 2021
“We know the truth, not only by reason, but also by the heart.”
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) mathematician, physicist, religious philosopher
INVITATION TO WORSHIP:
Each day is a gift from God. Each moment is an opportunity to reach out in service to all creation. Each day is a reminder of the covenant that God has made. This covenant is not written on stone tablets which can easily be shattered. This covenant is written every time our heart pumps blood throughout our body bringing with it hope and joy.
HYMN OF GATHERING
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore his sacred name.
Come, Christians follow this triumphant sign. The hosts of God in unity combine.
Each newborn servant of the Crucified bears on the brow the seal of him who died.
O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee.
So shall our song of triumph ever be: Praise to the Crucified for victory!
O God, whose love is over all the children of your grace and whose judgement lifts up rather than destroys, hear our prayer. Meet us now, for we would see Jesus and through Jesus’ obedient life, know your promise and love. Restore us to a covenant relationship in which we can find the fullness of life you intend, and offer it to a world in need. Amen.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
May God bless this reading and add to our understanding what God is asking of us this day. Amen.
“The Magnetism of Jesus” Rev. Art Yost
The image above reminds me of the magnetic dogs I enjoyed playing with as a child. The way they are positioned above, any closer and they will jump together. Which means the magnets on the bottom are reversed so that one dog has a north pole facing front while the other has a south pole facing front. The same attraction would occur if they were facing tail to tail. If two south poles were facing they would pull away not come together or cause one to spin around and then connect with opposite poles attracting. I still have a set. You can still get them packaged in a little box called Tricky Dogs with some suggestions on the back.
When it comes to real dogs there seems to be a connection. A June 2020 study from the Czech Republic conducted over a three year period researchers equipped 27 dogs of 10 different breeds with GPS tracking devices and released them in the woods. The dogs consistently found their way back home. After controlling for factors such as sun positioning, visual landmarks they discovered in every case the dogs began their journey in a north-south run that the researchers believed was a way of resetting their internal compass according to the Earth’s magnetic axis. The dogs made the same initial north-south compass run regardless of the direction in which their destination was located.
In this season of Lent, as a community of faith, you have been given a daily dose of fast and feast activities (happy to send you a list if you’re a guest-contact me) and you have been encouraged to come up with a simple statement about “the purpose of your life.” These spiritual exercises are meant to reset your internal compass (created in the image of God) to guide you in your earthly journey. There are many distractions along the way that would prevent us from truly living a life of purpose and abundance as God intended. In today’s scriptures we come upon two familiar “J’s” –the prophet Jeremiah and Jesus the Christ.
Jeremiah’s call identifies him as a youth, a boy. He is reluctant to take on the role because of his youthful age but God assures him that he’s up to the task. It is too much here to describe the entire prophetic message that comes through oracles to the people of Judah. Suffice it to say that their ears were burning as the long list of the peoples’ disobedience is placed before them. On more than one occasion Jeremiah finds himself in hot water. However the passage today is very different from most of Jeremiah’s prophetic voice. Here he speaks of a new covenant with the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. They won’t have to lug this covenant on heavy stones like the commandments carved on Mt. Sinai. This law will be written within them, on their hearts. The telling of this oracle from God through Jeremiah is like a loving husband embracing the entire family. This “father image” of a tender caring God is also seen in Psalm 139. It is the loving father that Jesus prays to when the word he used for “father” (more appropriately translated “daddy”), when he teaches the disciples how to pray-such is the intimacy Jesus experienced. Along with the promise on an internal covenant to guide Israel and Judah is the promise of forgiveness.
When we, as Christians, read about this internal new covenant, we see the fulfillment of God’s promise in Jesus Christ. This is reasonable. Jesus, in his own journey, referenced the Hebrew Scriptures when he was discerning what his purpose was to be. The season of Lent often relates the temptations Jesus encountered in the desert after being baptized by John. Having set his destination by the magnetic force created by God, he knew his final destination would be Jerusalem and the Cross.
In today’s reading, Jesus has already entered Jerusalem. The crowds have met him with palm branches and shouts of “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord-the king of Israel.” They were there for the festival of the Passover. They were there, as were some Greeks, because they were attracted by the magnetism of this itinerant preacher, physician, and teacher. Often, in John’s gospel, people are drawn to Jesus. Time and time again, Jesus would seek a moment of solitude, away from the beckoning crowds. He uses this opportunity to speak about his coming suffering and death. Having renounced the desire for him to be a military leader rescuing the people from Pax Romana , he took on the role of the suffering servant. Using the analogy of a single grain that dies to come forth bearing much, he compares those who would save their lives versus the ones who willingly lose their lives.
It is sayings like this that repelled many from following him, like the magnets turned north to north or south to south which repel rather than attract. What has to die are the thoughts and beliefs that God takes sides in the conflicts that divide people and nations into warring camps. What has to die in our lives are behaviors that are self-defeating. The death of selfish motives makes room for something else to be born in us. Such a rebirth makes each of us more attractive. The closer we get to Jesus, the more his magnetism rubs off on us and that force attracts others. If we are attracted by the magnetism of Jesus, we need to let it rub off on each of us so that the attractiveness of our actions bring to others a rebirth.
Creator God, you have made us to be in your image and have placed your life-sustaining Spirit in each of us. In this Lenten season we have been attentive to the way we had been living with the desire to make changes in our thinking and doing. We haven’t always been successful yet we know that you never turn your back on us. Every day, as we approach the Scriptures the Cross continues to loom larger in our hearts and minds. We ask of you to continue to nurture us as the mustard seed of faith, that we have, will continue to grow in such a way that any pain, rejection, danger we have will truly lead to a transformation of our very selves into a life that will glorify and reveal your presence in the world. In this time of pandemic, it is easy for us to lose focus on the needs, physical and spiritual, of the faith family at North Congregational UCC in New Harford. Bless the leaders of this congregation who continuously reach out to those who are in pain, those recovering from surgery, those seeking a place to call home, those whose lives have been affected to the virus, those waiting to reunite with loved ones and to those who desire to return to worship in a physical community. Be with our national and local leaders to guide them, protect them and encourage them to take action that would benefit everyone. The task of trying to share the blessings of creation with billions of others around the world just seems impossible. We hold on our faith expressed simply, “with God, all things are possible.” We pray now the prayer Jesus gave to strengthen us. Our Father…..
HYMN for Journeying
O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
Be thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend.
I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway if thou will be my guide.
O let me feel thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me, around me and within;
but Jesus, draw me nearer, and shield my soul from sin.
O let me hear thee speaking in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will.
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, thou hast promised to all who follow thee
That where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be.
And Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend
We are people of the covenant, in touch with the Eternal in our midst. God has acted in Christ to show us the way to truly live faithfully as God’s children. Go forth as followers and servants, among all who are being drawn to Christ. Amen
On March 28th. (Palm/Passion Sunday) there will be a full service available.
On April 1st there will be a Last Supper Service followed by a Tenebrae (Descent Into Darkness) Ceremony. We encourage you to worship the evening of the first to more closely experience the impact of the service.
Easter Sunday, April 4th we again will have a full service available with Rev. Art Yost.