Enjoy this opening music, “Revive Us Again,” by the Prestonwood Choir and Orchestra.
Call to Worship
Praise to God, who raises the dead!
Death has been defeated!
Bringing Jesus back to life,
Death has been defeated!
Praise our God, the Lord of life!
Death has been defeated!
You have indeed, been raised from the dead. Therefore, let us live as though death no longer holds us hostage, putting our hope in the one who goes before us, both in death and in eternal life, our Savior, Christ, amen.
First Reading John 10: 7-11
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8, 12–26 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
I’ve been thinking this week about how very important it is for us to remember God’s love for us during times like this. In the Lunch Bunch study group we’re reading a book called “Tattoos on the Heart”, by Father Gregory Boyle, and he shares the story of his friend Bill, who was caring for his elderly father as he was dying of cancer. Bill’s dad was physically frail but mentally sharp. They had come to be in that position that some of us know where the parent has become the child and the child has become the parent, and one of the things that that included for Bill and his father was that every night he would get his father ready for bed, and Bill would sit in a chair next to his bed and read him to sleep. His father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling. Just like a parent, Bill would plead with his dad to just close his eyes and try to go to sleep, and his dad would apologize and close his eyes, but it never failed that after a couple more sentences he would open them again and smile at his son. It would go on and on like this. And after his father died, Boyle writes, “Bill knew that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid.”
Friends, this is how God is looking at you right now—whoever you are, wherever you are— with pure delight. God gazes at you not with judgment or criticism, but with love. With adoration. Another writer said of God, “Behold the one beholding you, and smiling.” And how important it is for us to remember this, in the midst of the anxiety.
When Paul talks to the people in Corinth about Jesus’ resurrection, I think he’s trying to remind them of this— that God’s love is so immense that they have nothing to worry about. Paul uses a lot of words to say this, but what it comes down to is this— not only did Christ die for us, but in his resurrection, Christ has conquered death itself, so that it no longer has power over us. He has taken away that fear— the fear of the unknown, the fear of separation from loved ones, the fear of the shadowy place of nothingness. Yes, Christ has even taken away the fear of death itself. Because not only was Christ raised, but we also will be raised into the realm of God at the right time.
Paul says this is what we know— Jesus died, he rose again, he appeared to Peter and the disciples and hundreds more of you and then finally to me, Paul. We have seen him. He is risen. This is how we know who he is. And this resurrection, more than anything else, is what we remember in times of fear. This is what we hold on to— That God loves us SO MUCH that she has destroyed death.
At times during the last few months I’ve been pretty sure that I’m not doing quarantine right. A friend built like four victory gardens, and my nurse cousin is displaying her hard-earned “battle scars”— the marks on her face from the tight mask that she wears for thirteen hour shifts. I, on the other hand, have gone for a full week without wearing shoes. What must God think of that?
So maybe you’ve gone along, business as usual, for the last few months. Or maybe you’ve gained ten pounds from sitting in front of the tv and stress-eating. Maybe you’ve started and completed the four home improvement projects that you’ve been wanting to do, or maybe you’ve huddled under a blanket the whole time. Whatever you’ve done, whatever you’re doing, God can’t stop looking at you and smiling right now.
When you forget this— because we all do— think about the gospel that has been passed down from the disciples to Paul to the Corinthians to the Roman Empire to Christians in the middle ages, to the Reformers, to the pilgrims and pioneers and to us. Think about the cross, and our shepherd laying down his life for us, that we might have life in abundance. And most of all think about that risen Christ and the unsurpassable power that he has— he has conquered even death, and he loves us. Thanks be to God, the father, son and holy spirit, for this unfathomable love. Amen.
Music and Offering
During this time, or after our prayers, you may make an offering to John Knox by going to our homepage and scrolling to the bottom where you will see a link to online giving. When you give this way, consider giving a little extra to defray the cost of this service. If you prefer, you may mail you offerings to the church directly. Even though we are far apart, the church's expenses remain the same. We give out of pure gratitude for what God has done.
Consider the great love and power of God as you listen to “Rock of Ages,” sung by Chris Rice.
Prayers of the People*
We pray for the church, the world, and all those in need.
(A brief silence.)
It seems too good to be true, but you have conquered death, O Lord, and removed its sting. May this truth give us hope, courage, and freedom to live bold lives as your disciples. God of abundant life, hear our prayer.
As one thing dies, another is born; the cycle of death and rebirth is imprinted into your creation. Teach us to let go of what wants to pass on, so that we might embrace what is waiting to emerge. God of abundant love, hear our prayer.
Our suffering in this life is but the blink of an eye compared with the eternal joy which awaits us. When trials overshadow us, give us perspective and hope for wholeness perfected in you. Today we offer prayers especially for all who provide health care for us, whether in times of crisis or times of questions. We pray for those who near the end of their lives in this realm, that they may know the good news of life in Christ that never ends. God of love, God of life, hear our prayer.
Risen Lord, you give us hope in all things, and we entrust our prayers to your grace, knowing that you have heard us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
And now with confidence as the children of God, let us pray as Jesus taught his disciples: 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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.
Benediction: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, and bring you peace. Amen.
A special assignment for this week: Next Sunday is Pentecost, and it is the tradition at John Knox to wear red clothes on Pentecost Sunday. Because we won’t be together on Sunday, put on some red clothes this week and take a picture of yourself— send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or share it to the church’s facebook page, and we’ll post a mosaic of all our pictures together.
Today’s prayers are from Clergy Stuff Worship Resources, Bloomington, Minnesota, 2016-2019.
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, by Gregory Boyle, New York, NY, Free Press, 2010.
“Behold the one beholding you, and smiling,” is a quote from Anthony De Mello, as found in Tattoos on the Heart, p. 20.