In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scriptures used and the message. Holy Communion is offered every Sunday. If you are worshipping with us online whether during the live-cast or through on-demand viewing, 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.



God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*Scriptures this morning are from the NRSV.

1 Peter 3:13-22

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?

But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

John 14:15-21

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

L:  The scriptures of God for the people of God.

A: Thanks be to God.       

Message – Holding On to Hope?*

Rev. Val

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Peter asks the question, “Now who will harm you if you are doing good?”

Really, Peter? Let me list them for you.

People are hurt trying to do good all the time. Think of aid workers in times of war, or those trying to help the hurting in totalitarian regimes, or those attempting to stand up against injustice even in representative democracies who suffer persecution and misrepresentation on a regular basis.

Think of the parents of transgender youth trying to love, support, and do the best for their child who suddenly have their parental rights over-ridden by state legislators who refuse to accept the findings of years of scientific research and medical professionals or the statistics that show the reduction in self-harm for those youth who receive such care.

Think of parents who now live in fear of having their children kidnapped by a state government if anyone in the family is accused of being transgender – whether or not they are.

Think of the teachers whose only goals are to educate the students in their care, provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the world with not fear, dread, and contempt, but imagination, curiosity, and tolerance for the rich diversity of this nation and world, only to be demonized, restricted, and threatened, told what they can teach and forced to follow policies they know are harmful to their students.

Think of the entire medical staff of a children’s hospital in Austin, Texas, who was fired under false pretenses for providing critical hormone replacement therapy to a young cancer patient.

Think of drag performers taking their own time to sit and read to children in libraries around the country who are now falsely accused of grooming and indoctrinating those children.

Think of the Tennessee 3, Zooey Zephyr, and Mauree Turner, standing up for and working to protect their constituents, only to be expelled, silenced, and or sanctioned.

Think of the authors and documentarians who poured their souls into telling the stories of their people, themselves, only to have narrow-minded lawmakers and governors declare bans on those very creations because it might make some privileged white person feel icky.

Think of the churches that make the decision to include everyone regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, gender-identity, or sexuality as part of their beloved communities, only to be called cults or accused of practicing witchcraft, and ostracized by large portions of the communities where they’re located.

Think of the organizations trying to open shelters and services for the homeless only to be met with resistance in the form of “not-in-my-backyard” attitudes and ridiculous ordinances.

Yes, Peter, I have a list and that’s just a small portion of it.

 But then maybe Peter is aware of all of that, which is why he moves on from verse 13 and immediately says, “but even if you do suffer for doing what is right” in the very next verse. Maybe he is more aware of the world in which we live than it seems at first. And of course, he is. If this is Peter, or represents something of Peter’s thinking and example, then, yes, he does understand a complicated world.

He goes on to say, “Don’t live in fear; don’t hesitate to do good; don’t let the threats cause you to not do what you know your faith calls you to do and to be.” “Always be ready to make your defense” is a powerful statement about the need to be overt Christians in a world that has become cynical, let alone, dangerous.

What a challenge given to us, to the church, to be prepared to speak, to give account for the hope within us. It is a call to not be quiet, to not keep things under our hats, but to live out loud in a way that draws attention to what we are doing and who we are and most importantly to why we do what we do. This is a call to evangelism, to knocking on doors and telling our story. True, it says, “give a defense to anyone who demands an account.” Some see that as an out. As long as no one asks me, I don’t have to say a word. Well, we could also argue that the world is demanding an account all the time. Certainly, the brokenness of the world demands an account; the emptiness of the world demands an account. The hunger of the world demands an account. We believe that we have what the world needs. How dare we keep it to ourselves?

Now, Peter is quick to tell us how we go about doing this. We don’t do it with anger; we don’t do it with force and annoyance, with tricks and sleight of hand. No, do it with gentleness and reverence, he writes. And tell the honest truth, as you know it. Don’t make up stuff or you will get caught out, says Peter. Maybe that’s because he has some personal experience with that. Don’t say you’re brave when you aren’t. Don’t say you won’t run when you will. Don’t say you are perfect when you and probably everyone else knows you are the chief of sinners. Sorry, that was Paul. But you get the point.

Peter says we speak with integrity. We speak as those who did not deserve the grace by which we live, but who were baptized into a new life, a new way of living. We speak as those who are being made into disciples of Jesus Christ, not as those who have finished our labors. We were under the condemnation of death, Peter writes, and Jesus came and set us free. That is the context from which we speak, from which we give an account of the hope within us. Not by our own merits or our own goodness, but by the grace of God in Christ.

Psalm 66:8-20 says, “Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.

I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

The psalmist in Psalm 66 tells a story similar to Peter’s. But instead of suffering, the psalm speaks of being tested as silver is tested. Indeed, the psalm speaks of all sorts of difficulties and struggles as having a divine origin. Yet, the attitude of the writer is not one of frustration or anger but understanding and a willingness to praise.

Rather than casting blame, the psalm suggests that there is no human experience that is outside of the will of God. There is nothing that can or does happen to us that is a sign that God has abandoned us.

In the end, we could argue that the witness here is that God is present even in difficult times. Our understanding of the activity of God in our lives is different from that of the writers of Hebrew scriptures, which is why it sounds odd or even uncomfortable to us. For the psalmist to say that God laid the burdens and God let the people ride over their heads is the good news of God’s presence in the midst of pain and suffering.

The result of this understanding is that the writer will speak of God’s goodness. The psalmist will “tell what God has done for me.” Like Peter’s call, Psalm 66 says we must be always ready to make a defense for the hope that lies within. And given the difficulties faced, there is no doubt that there will be those who will ask, “How can you still have hope?” So, “come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what God has done for me.”

But notice one more thing about this telling. Nowhere does it ask us to count the numbers who believe us. Nowhere is there supposed to be a measuring of the response to the words that are spoken. Psalm 66 tells us that God has listened. In the end, that is the audience for whom we speak. That is the measure of our faithfulness. Not how many “souls we have saved.” Not the crowds we drew or the attention we gathered.

In fact, it may seem like no one at all is responding, is turning their lives around, is making any change based on our words. That doesn’t matter in the least. Yes, of course, we hope to make a difference in the world around us; we hope to bring influence for the cause of Christ and to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. But in the end, our audience is God. Our measuring rod is faithfulness to the call of God. God will take care of the response. Our task is to always be ready to give a defense to anyone who sees the hope within us.

Brothers and Sisters, Jesus gave us only two commandments – to love God with all our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength; and the second is like it – to love one another as we are loved by God, by Christ, by the Spirit, and even as we love ourselves. All the laws and prophets hang on these two commandments. By obeying these two commandments, we obey all others.

By obeying these two commandments, it is impossible to recreate or imagine God in our own images. We can only imagine ourselves in God’s image.

By obeying these two commandments, we are given the best possible defense for doing good. Love of neighbor, loving one another, even loving our enemies – there is no better defense.

By trusting that small voice urging, nudging, pulling us toward doing the good in the world that needs to be done, we are trusting in the Advocate, the Spirit to lead us to go where we need to go, do what we need to do, and serve those we need to serve – the least, the lost, the lonely, the abandoned, the hurting, the outcasts.

The choice is ours to make. We heed the call, or we turn away. We trust the voice of the Spirit, or we plug our ears and cover our eyes. We tie a towel around our waist and wash feet, or we wash our hands of the responsibility as Pilate did. The choice is ours to make. May we choose wisely.

Let’s pray:

As God’s beloved children, we are invited to come to our God with the fullness of our lives, to admit our love and our hate, to admit our faith and our fear. Trusting in God’s mercy, let us make our confession, first in silent prayer.

Holy and gracious God,

At times we feel so frail and fragile, getting blown about by the latest crisis, by bad news, by our own short tempers and failings. You call us to hold fast to what is good, but so often we flounder, unable to find that solid thing that will center us again. Help us, we pray. Help us to see you as our center, and to cling to the good that you create in the world. Help us to set aside all our jealousies and prejudices, all of our betrayals and lies, all that adds to the world’s hurt. Help us to grow even more into Christ’s likeness, that we will bear his love and truth to the world. We pray in his name.



  • Unless listed below, all works cited within the text above.
  • *Adapted in full or part from Preaching Notes, Discipleship Ministries Worship Planning Series, May 21, 2023.

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