ORDER OF WORSHIP
* The Order of Worship is changing for the Afterfaith series. We appreciate your indulgence of this change to the routine.
- Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Father, Forgive Them – Rev. Val
- Service of Holy Communion
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! I hope this finds you well and warm on this cold morning. I want to thank you for joining me here online today. Don’t worry. We’ll be back in the Sanctuary next week. The upside is, online worship tends to be shorter and there won’t be any hymns today. You can thank me for that later.
Call to Worship
World Council of Churches, https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/prayer-litany-of-unity
L: God of grace, send upon us today your Holy Spirit as you poured out the Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. May your Holy Spirit ignite in us a passionate desire for unity.
P: We wish to be one, so that the world may believe.
L: When your church unites people with Christ, in the power of the Spirit and manifests communion in prayer and action; when your church affirms the sanctity of life and proclaims unity, just peace and reconciliation, when your church provides healing and overcomes divisions of race, gender, age and culture, We give thanks and praise, O God.
P: As we draw closer to Christ, we draw closer to each other.
L: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.
P: In Him all nations shall be blessed.
L: Many people will come from East and West, from North and South, and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven
P: The nations will walk by in the light of the Lamb.
L: Because God’s purpose is to gather the whole creation under the Lordship of Jesus Christ; because the church is to unite people with Christ in the power of the Spirit, to promote life, justice and peace; because the church is a foretaste of the koinonia (community), which God wills.
P: We give thanks and praise, O God.
L: Let us worship the God who gathers us! Let us pray in his name together:
Thou who art over us,
Thou who are one of us,
Thou who art:
Give us a pure heart, that we may see thee;
A humble heart, that we may hear thee;
A heart of love, that we may serve thee;
A heart of faith, that we may abide in thee.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Lord, hear us today, each from where we are in the world, in our lives, and in our walk with you. Thank you for the blessings you’ve given us, especially those we’ve failed to realize. We thank you for giving us ways to come together and worship when we’re inconvenienced by weather. Forgive us for seeming ungrateful when we complain about higher prices and minor inconveniences while living in the safety of a free and democratic country.
God who holds all things and makes all things new, we come to you tired – bodies weary, minds flooded, hearts overwhelmed. We wonder where you are in these turbulent times that overload our bodies, minds, and souls.
God who illuminates the darkness, help us smash the heavy idols we hold, so that we may live freely and lightly in Jesus Christ our Lord. Help us be gentle with ourselves and with others as we walk through the day. As we go, help us discern what to enter into and what we must step away from.
God, whose largeness cares for every sparrow and every single hair on our heads, help us cling to You in the unknowing and lead us to rest in You when our inner and outer lives are overwhelmed. When we have rested, may we enter into the work of creating a more just, more peaceful, more equitable world.
Faithful Creator, we cry out to you now as we continue to lift up our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, all those on the front lines, all those in the bunkers, basements and subways, all those whose lives have already been taken, all those who wonder and wait in fear and in grief, all those who’ve been forced to flee their homes or are caught and unable to flee, and all those on the other side of the borders welcoming those who have been able to make the journey to safety. Place a hedge of protection around the innocent, change the hearts of the aggressors, and let justice rain down upon and wash away the evil that is driving this war.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……
Dearest Lord, whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us, Your children. We ask it Jesus’ name who taught us to pray:
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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
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.
Luke 23:32-43 (NRSV) – Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [Jesus] replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise
Parts of this message are adapted or cited directly from “Seven Words: Listening to Chirst from the Cross,” by Susan Robb (Abingdon Press, ISBN: 978-1 7910-0781-2). All other citations are included in the transcript.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
Last week, I recalled for you that after Jesus had been baptized the Holy Spirit descended on him and then took him to the wilderness where he spent forty days, and that during those forty days, he was confronted by “Satan” or “the devil”, depending on whose version you read. Mark uses “Satan” which literally translates to “the adversary,” and Luke calls the tempter “the devil” or “slanderer.” In Luke’s version, the devil uses the word, if: If you’re the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread (Luke 4:3). For someone fasting and hungry, the temptation to alleviate his physical suffering is obvious. Luke’s “tempter” does just that … looks for a need and then tempts his prey with something that meets the need. Jesus doesn’t buy it, though, and resists that temptation.
In Mark’s version, “the adversary,” uses a different tack. First he tries a trade. “If you will worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms of the world.” (4:6-7). When that doesn’t work, the adversary tries giving Jesus a way to give himself instant notoriety, backing up his suggestion with a passage from the Torah. He takes Jesus to the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem and says, “throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels to protect you!”
Imagine if Jesus would have accepted that temptation! It would have been hard to miss an army of angels swooping in to catch Jesus as he plummeted toward the ground below. People all over Jerusalem would have either seen it or soon heard about it and worshipped Jesus as the Messiah. In today’s society, most people would jump on that one (pun intended).
But Jesus resisted them all. To the temptation to turn stones to bread, he said, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Instead, he put his whole trust in God. To the second temptation, he responded, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Jesus’ full allegiance is to God, not to any earthly power.
The third temptation … that near instant notoriety he would have gained had he allowed himself to be tempted … that foreshadowing of the temptation he will experience from the cross … to that temptation, he tells the Adversary, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test’.”
Luke tells us that after that third rejection of his temptations, “the devil departed from Jesus until an opportune time.”
The Adversary’s next opportunity would come by way of Jesus’s crucifixion, and this time the devil doesn’t come in the flesh like he had in the wilderness. He doesn’t have to. Remember that Jesus rebuked Peter as Satan when Peter said, “God forbid” that Jesus be arrested and crucified in Matthew 16:21-23). Peter is clearly not the Adversary Jesus encountered in the wilderness, but in that moment, Peter is a stumbling block, an impediment to carrying out Jesus’ ultimate mission, a needless temptation to turn away from the path that would take him to the cross. Peter’s faux pas was a significant enough that Jesus immediately turns to the disciples and says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
That fateful Friday at the actual cross, there is no lone Adversary or Tempter. Instead, the religious leaders, passersby, soldiers, and even one of the thieves hanging on either side of Jesus have become the tempters. The thief sounds eerily like the Adversary as he joins in the taunts of the other tempters: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
Their taunts and jeers are ironic in that Jesus is who they declare he is and that, in order to show his true identity as the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus has to choose not to save himself, but to stay true to his mission, carrying his cross to the very end. He has to refuse to save himself in order to save all of us.
Jesus’ mother and John were there in the crowd near the cross. They would not have joined in those taunts and jeers, nor would any of the other women who followed Jesus and had accompanied John and Mary. The rest of the crowd would have been loud, though, laughing and mocking him. Except for one other.
There was one other who didn’t join in those taunts and jeers. One who listened in dismay. The second thief. We don’t know if he had seen Jesus as crowds gathered around him there in Jerusalem, teaching every day in the Temple or healing the sick. We don’t know if he’d been in the excited crowd that welcomed Jesus the Sunday before as he made that triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Somehow, though, this man knew … recognized … had at least heard of Jesus and his reputation. He may have been privy to the whispers and hopes that Jesus might be the Messiah, the one sent to rescue Israel. He was definitely close enough to see the inscription on the sign they’d nailed above Jesus’ head on the cross … the one that read “King of the Jews.” He may have heard Jesus say the kingdom of God had drawn near and was among them.
He most definitely heard Jesus’ prayer of “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Regardless of how he recognized Jesus, there is something about Jesus’s demeanor that drives into this man’s heart. Despite the cacophony of those jeering voices, the Second Thief has heard Jesus’s words and understands what the others do not: that Jesus is innocent. That the hopes that had been placed in him weren’t blasphemous, treasonous, or misplaced. And, more importantly, the Second Thief understands what Pilate, the religious leaders, the crowd and soldiers and the First Thief could not grasp: That Jesus really is a king, and that his death on a cross will neither end his kingship nor keep his kingdom from coming.
And the moment the Second Thief realizes this, he speaks up and out, telling the First Thief, “Do you not fear God, since you and I are under the same life sentence as this man? We’re getting what we deserved because we are guilty of our crimes, but this man has done nothing wrong!”
Hanging there on that cross, the Second thief … a criminal … a wrong doer not only accepts that he is getting the punishment he deserves for his crimes, but his heart has also been forever changed by Jesus. And in his rebuke of the First Thief, he enacts Jesus’s earlier imperative to the disciples: “If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender.” His very actions exhibit the attributes of a true disciple and hanging there on is cross next to the cross of Jesus, the Second Thief becomes a follower of the Messiah.
He has no time to repent of his earlier deeds, but in following Jesus he has lived out the literal meaning of the term, repentance: He has turned around and pointed himself in a different direction.
He didn’t say the sinner’s prayer … which, by the way, isn’t even in the Bible. He most likely has not been baptized by water. He has simply recognized Jesus for who he is and that leads him to do something that no one else in Luke’s gospel does. He reverently and intimately calls the man hanging next to him by name.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is called rabbi, teacher, Son of David, and even Lord. But no one else in all of Luke’s gospel has ever called him Jesus. But the Second Thief does.
Jesus … in first-century Galilee, Jesus is a common name, but a name that holds great promise … an important biblical name. In Greek, Jesus’s name is e-ay-soos. Iesous is a transliteration of a name passed down from Hebrew … the name Yeshua … or in English, Joshua. Yeshua, Iesous, Joshua, and Jesus all have the same meaning: He Saves.
Joshua was Moses’ right hand man who Moses, at the end of his life, gives responsibility for getting the Israelites the rest of the way to the Promised Land. Indeed, Joshua delivers the Israelites to their new home. So it was common in Jesus’s day for Jewish parents to express their hopes for the future by naming their sons Yeshua after Joshua, the one God chose to deliver Israel from its oppressors.
So when the Second Thief … a criminal on a cross … addresses Jesus by name, he is not simply being familiar with him; He is expressing his faith in Jesus the Rescuer, the Deliver. And the Second Thief says to him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Why? Why does he ask to be remembered instead of asking to be saved? Asking to be remembered by God in itself is a request for deliverance or salvation, and also an appeal to God’s promise. It’s a prayer and promise that’s found throughout the Old Testament.
God “remembers” Noah and his family and all the animals on the ark and delivers them from the flood in Genesis 8:1.
God “remembers” childless Rachel, and she conceives and gives birth to Joseph.
God hears the cries of the Israelites in Egypt, “remembers” the covenant made with Abraham, and delivers them from slavery. In Psalm 25:6-7, the psalmist writes, “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love … Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!”
The Second Thief’s request that Jesus remember him is more than just a request. It is a remarkable profession of faith … faith that Jesus is a king and that those who are responsible for crucifying Jesus have no power of Jesus’s kingdom. That his, the Second Thief’s hope is in Jesus’ name, and that he hopes Jesus will set aside his transgressions and remember him, not for his past actions, but according to the new condition of his heart and the same mercy Jesus prays for God to show those ignoring the consequences of their heinous behaviors.
When he says, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom (23:42), the captive who will never again be free in this life is declaring his faith in a place where the poor receive good news that they are honored as God’s beloved children, a place where hopeless prisoners find release, a place where God comes to rescue those who are lost. It is only fitting that some of Jesus’s last words are to a soul in need of rescue – and that Jesus is faithful to his mission even as he hangs from the cross.
Today I will be with you in paradise. The kingdom, this rescue, this Paradise, this experience of life lived in God’s presence begins today for those who place their trust in Jesus. Over and over, Jesus makes it clear that the good news of salvation is not just for the “sweet by and by,” not just some form of “fire insurance for life after death,” not a golden ticket to heaven, but that the kingdom is here and now.
We are very often our worst adversaries and even more often are prone to find as someone else’s adversary or tempter. Just as last week, when we do that … when we give in or give up because something is hard or inconvenient, we join those in the crowd who shouted, “Crucify him!” or jeered and taunted him there on the cross.
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Today you will be with me in Paradise.
That’s the message that Jesus offered to the criminal hanging alongside him, and t you, to me, to the whole world. He calls us, as his disciples, to spread the word, not just verbally but in our actions toward others.
Especially now, during Lent, we are invited to lean in and remember what he said: I came to bring good news to the poor and proclaim release to the captives … and then go and do likewise.
Lord, we long for your kingdom. Even though we know that you always remember us, we still yearn for that peace that comes from the assurance that you are right beside us. And just as we forgive others because you have forgiven us, teach us to remember others as you remember us.
Since we are not in-person this morning, I want to encourage you to make your offerings through our Tithely link.
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Generous God, as we travel this Lenten journey, allow us to walk beside Jesus as he makes his journey into Jerusalem. As we offer our gifts this morning, may it be our way of saying we won’t turn away from the problems and conflicts of this world; but like Jesus, we will walk toward them. All we take for the journey is the compassion, mercy, and sacrifice that he carried—moving toward what waited in the Holy City. We journey in Christ’s steps and pray in Christ’s holy name.
D. Simone as posted by Ravenous Butterflies on Facebook
Now hear this benediction:
“May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire.
Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.
- All works cited within the text above.
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Union Grove UMC
1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737
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