ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: Praise the Source of Faith and Healing
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: Here I Am, Lord (UMH 593)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Awake, O You Sleepers – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Awake, O Sleepers (UMH 551)
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
NOTICE TO ON-DEMAND WORSHIPPERS
In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scripture readings and the message. The majority of the other content (minus the message) is available through our weekly digital/email bulletin (you can sign up on our Contact Us page). Union Grove UMC began celebrating Holy Communion weekly as part of our regular worship service on July 17, 2022. You are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.
Open the eyes of our understanding and prepare our hearts by the power of Your Spirit, that we may receive Your scriptures with much joy and rejoicing and may leave today having a deeper understanding of who You are and who You would have us to be.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*All passages this morning are from the New Revised Standard Version
Acts 5:27-32* – When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
John 20:19-31* – When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Romans 13:11-14* – Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Awake, O You Sleepers
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
A recent article written by Anne Michel and published by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership captures a lot of what I’ve been thinking and why I chose to speak about “Tomorrow” in last week’s Easter message.
Michel writes, “Easter is the most joyous occasion of the church year. We shout Halleluiah. We belt out the glorious hymns of the day. And then, humming a tune assuring us that “the strife is over, the battle won,” we happily head home to our ham suppers and look forward to doing it all again next year. Caught up in a celebratory mood, it’s easy to forget that in the biblical narrative, the resurrection isn’t the end of the story. In fact, the truly hard work was just beginning for those disciples thrust into the leadership of the nascent church movement. Their initial reaction to the empty tomb was not joy, but rather confusion and perplexity. And as they came to understand the true nature of Christ’s resurrection, their sincere joy came with tremendous uncertainty, responsibility, and risk.”[i]
Then, the next day, Easter Monday, we climbed out of bed and … newsflash … tomorrow was upon us. Because from Easter Monday on, every morning when we get up, the day we face is the “tomorrow” of Easter Sunday. And we need to be awake for it. We need to lean into it.
Stephen Paul Kliewer quoted some scriptures in one of his writings this past week: “Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36)
for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says (Ephesians 5:14)
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober
(1 Thessalonians 5:6}
I’m going to channel Rod Serling for just a moment here … imagine, if you will, ancient Jerusalem. It’s a weekday. The markets are open, people are going about their business. The tax collectors are tax collecting. The Roman guards are moving around the city acting tough. Kids are playing in the courtyards and streets. And yet, there’s a feeling in the air … a tension built of almost every conceivable emotion.
The temple priests and religious authorities want to believe they’ve solved that “Nazarene problem,” but there’s this new problem. The tomb they sealed has been supernaturally opened … there were witnesses they would later swear to secrecy … the Nazarene’s body is missing, and there’s that whole incident in the Temple that happened on Friday with the veil. At least two of them, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, are wondering how all of this is going to impact their ministries because while they never left their roles with the Temple and they weren’t necessarily his followers, both of them believed that Jesus of Nazareth had been exactly who he’d claimed to be.
The disciples … well … the male disciples, anyway, are probably trying hard to figure out how to rejoice in the resurrection since most of them have, by this time, seen the Risen Christ in person, and at the same time, they’re most likely going through some serious guilt issues. After all, Peter had denied Jesus three times on Friday, all of them … including Peter, but except John … had abandoned Jesus from the moment of his arrest, and now the person they called Master, Rabbi, Teacher and Friend could apparently appear out of no where at will. It’s not hard to imagine they may have been thinking there was going to be a price to pay for their actions the day of the crucifixion.
And then there were the women … those women who, with John, made that long walk with Jesus that fateful Friday, went out that Saturday evening after the Sabbath ended and bought the spices needed to anoint his body, kept vigil, raced to the tomb Sunday morning, and then … as soon as he’d made his appearance to them, raced back into the city to tell the men as Jesus had instructed them. Only to be disbelieved. You know what they were thinking, right? Yeah, this is church, so we won’t go there, but I imagine it included at least a wee bit of “I told you so.”
After the crucifixion and even after the resurrection even on top of all those emotions, the disciples including the women spent at least a week or so being fearful, looking over their shoulders, meeting behind closed and often locked doors, probably with any window coverings drawn, worried about being arrested by the temple police and/or Romans.
That is the condition they were in when Jesus came back to them following the resurrection. He would spend most of the next forty days with them, continuing to teach them all he could and bestowing on them his authority right up until he ascended into heaven.
By the time we reach today’s passage in Acts, a great deal has happened to the disciples. They chose Matthias, one of the other followers, to replace Judas. Pentecost and the arrival of the promised helper – the Holy Spirit – happened. Pentecost alone added around 3,000 new converts to their numbers … Acts 2:42-47 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
The apostles went about teaching those who would listen and healing in the name of Jesus. After Peter and John had a run-in with the high priest and other members of the temple leaders, the apostles prayed about it, felt the presence of the Spirit fill them again, and became even more bold.
Through all of this, they were building a community of believers … a beloved community. Acts 4:32-37 says: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
And so, their community continued to grow in both number and in reputation in such a way that even those who dared not join them had great respect for them. And that, of course, frustrated, worried, and angered the religious leaders who, of course, had the apostles arrested and put in the public prison. Which didn’t work out so well for the religious leaders because at some point during the night, an angle of the Lord arrived, opened the doors, and led the apostles out, instructing them to go to the temple and tell the people, “the whole message about this life.”
Meanwhile, the high priest and those that were with him called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and, intending to try the apostles, sent the temple police to the prison to fetch them. Except when they got to the prison and the guards unlocked the doors for them, they found the cells emptied. They reported this back to the high priest and all those he’d gathered, all of whom wondered what in the world was going on. About that time someone arrived and said, “Those fellas you’re looking for? They’re in the temple teaching the people.”
The captain of the temple police took some men and rounded up the apostles, but they did it carefully and without violence to avoid being stoned by the people.
That’s a cliff note version of what led up to today’s passage where, once again, Peter and the others tell them in no uncertain terms that the apostles are going to continue telling the people what they have witnessed. “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
You’ve got to know hearing that enraged the religious leaders to know end. Of all the nerve! The upstarts! The priests literally wanted to have them killed over it, but one priest, Gamaliel, convinced the council and the elders to let them live by telling them that, if what the apostles were saying was simply human invention, the movement would fade away and, if it was of God, well … nothing the priests and council did would end it and did they really want to get into a fight with God?
The priests and council ended up deciding to have the apostles flogged, ordering them to cease preaching and teaching about Jesus, and then releasing them … again … And the apostles went on spreading the Good News far and wide, building the beloved community and establishing churches as they went.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul, who came along later, wrote: “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Let us keep awake and be sober.
The difference between those who followed Christ and those who continued to oppose him was that the followers were awake. Wide awake. And that wide awake and sober … as in serious … state is where those who follow Christ today need to be as well. We need to wake up. We need to be alert to what is going on around us so we can see where we need to step up, step out, speak up, speak out, point up, and reach out. And we need to do so boldly, fearlessly, and faithfully.
Stephen Kliewer puts it like this:
I am proud to be awake (not to appropriate the term)
I believe I am called to be awake
to the ills of the world
not just to racism (but certainly that)
but to injustice
to climate change
to the danger of authoritarianism (right-wing authoritarianism is on the rise around the world)
to sexism (the demeaning and minimization of women)
to the hate showered on the LGBTQI+ community
the list is almost endless
and it is painful
and it is scary
what have we become?!
we human creatures?
we must be awake to these things
we must be alert to those things that are not Love
we must let the pain of the planet
and the pain of our brothers and sisters who are the targets of hate
we must be appalled by unjust laws
by all the ills of the world
we must be awake to the pain
yes, even the pain, of our conservative brothers and sisters
who have chosen a path we believe is wrong and dangerous
when we are awake we see
when we are awake we are aware
of right, and wrong
of what is love, and what is not
of what heals and what destroys
Yeah, I want to be awake
I don’t mind being a snowflake either if it means I feel the pain of others
Or a sheep, if it means I am following Jesus (and his way)
I don’t mind being a liberal if it means I am open to change, to God’s new thing
If it means I promote things like equality, service, compassion, and justice.
If we are not awake, if we shut down
and turn off our minds
close our hearts
if we are sleepwalking through this life
bad things happen
bad people take control, shape our thinking, lead us into the unthinkable
and because we are asleep
we don’t even know it
I am awake
It is not fun
I am awake
It is painful
I am awake
And I am willing to
Stand and speak
For the times are dark
And we must be awake
If we are to make things on earth as they are in heaven
I love the words of Desmond Tutu, who was certainly awake
I love his hope
“All over this magnificent world God calls us to extend [God’s] kingdom of shalom—peace and wholeness—of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, of sharing, of laughter, of joy, and of reconciliation. God is transfiguring the world right this very moment through us because God believes in us and because God loves us”
Rise from the dead
And lift the whole world up with you.
Acts 5: 27-32 NRSV – When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The Sunday after the Resurrection of Jesus, we remember the uncertainty, fear, and anxiety created by the Easter news: He is risen!
We remember how the religious authorities used threats and orders to try to convince the apostles that their glorious new truth was wrong. According to those religious authorities, Jesus was messing with established understandings of how the world works, how God works.
We know better now. Or do we? How often do we forget to follow in God’s grace and insist on leading in our own understanding or idea of justice, instead? The resurrection is a reminder that Jesus turns our world upside down. It is an invitation to let go of expectations and demands. It is an opportunity to look at the wounded and empty hands of Jesus and ask – what is really worth holding onto in this beautiful world that God has made?
Let us keep awake and be sober.
Let’s pray: Lord of life, help our hearts and minds to wake up and see the world through your eyes, through your heart, through your love. Open our hands to your hope and healing. Show us what truth and beauty you want us to see in this new day. Sober us from the drunken stupor of ego and self-righteousness. Guide us to build your kin-dom here on earth as it is in heaven … in your heaven, not our imagined one. Help us to keep awake and stay sober. Amen.[ii]
Unless otherwise cited below, all works cited above.
- [i] https://www.churchleadership.com/leading-ideas/resurrection-as-a-call-to-action
- [ii] Resist Harm, Facebook post, April 23, 2022, paraphrased.
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