Worship May 2, 2021
Salvation belongs to God and God alone!
God saves through Jesus Christ reflected in all people.
God saves through every people, land, and language.
God saves through every tribe and nation, every race and culture.
God has made each of us to reflect Jesus Christ – salvation for all humanity.
Salvation belongs to God and God alone. Praise the Lord!
God of vision, you ask us in community to see beauty and possibility in our difference. You invite us to celebrate the many ways so we can see you more fully. Continue to transform our hearts, our minds, and our eyes to witness you in all places. Continue to expand the ways we worship and witness and gather. May this community continue to reflect you better in what we do with our hands, our words, and our hearts. Amen.
Hymn UMH #451 Be Thou My Vision
Scripture Revelation 7:9-17 The Multitude from Every Nation
9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Meditation Diverse People, One Vision
Week 4 Preaching Resources: Diverse People, One Vision Scripture Passage: Revelation 7:9-17
Whenever I talk about the book of Revelation, I most often hear it identified as the book about end-times, the apocalypse, the rapture, the extinction of humanity, a collapse of civilization, or the destruction of the planet. Out of curiosity I did some Wikipedia research. I wanted to know how many times the end of the world as we know it was predicted. Here is what I found, eleven times in the first millennium it was going to be all over for us. From there the predictions increased and the 17th century the end was predicted 15 times and by the 20th century there were 60 predictions. As time marches on so do the predictions with another expected in 2021 but with no specific date. When we leave 2021 we don’t have to worry again until 2026. Fortunately for us we don’t have to worry about end time predictions because Jesus tells us not one knows but God.
A Sermon preached on April 17, 2016 by the Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery shares these thoughts.
Each week we pray, “on earth as it is in heaven” because our present doesn’t yet match God’s promise so we keep striving, praying, moving, pressing, working, going to church, attending bible studies, singing hymns, giving offerings, serving in the community, and taking communion. These are some signs that we desire
“on earth as it is in heaven.”
We want God’s future now, God’s future present. So many have yearned and dreamed for this moment that there we have had all kinds of end of the world predictions throughout history.
Well before the end time imaginary predictions of the Left Behind book series, there was the year 1806. In that year, a domesticated hen in Leeds, England, appeared to lay eggs inscribed with the message “Christ is coming.” Great numbers of people reportedly went to see this hen and began to despair of the coming Judgment Day. It was soon discovered, however, that the eggs were not in fact visionary messages of the future but the work of their owner, who had been writing on the eggs in ink and reinserting them into the poor hen’s body.
If it was the end of anything, it was the end of that poor hen! But well before a visionary hens or Harold, or the Left Behind series of books there is the revelation of John, literally the ‘apocalypse’ of John. Do not get nervous, I’m not making any predictions today. And John’s vision anyway is much more hopeful and joyful than the usual doomsday predictions we hear. It is much more expansive than the way we usually live or how we think.
We cannot truly listen to, act, or love all of God’s children if we do not also affirm how God sees all of us. And without affirming one another in all our fullness, God cannot be fully revealed and known to us.
Three years ago in January I worshiped with a full house of folks in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The church was small but well loved. People of all ages packed into this little dirt walled chapel to worship God our creator. The smiles were genuine and the laugher abundant. Not everyone fit into the building so little bodies stretched their necks to see in the windowing openings.
The voices were in good singing form and the accompaniment loud. Chairs with backs were used by leaders, guests, and speakers only. Everyone else stood or sat on rough wooden planks. The only air moving was that which we could make with our little hand-held fans, and that was not much.
No one seemed to care about time and the service lasted maybe two hours. Immersed in the joy all around me I had no need nor desire to watch the time. The holy spirit was at work in this service.
It is easy to get comfortable with our own way of worshipping, experiences of God, and knowing God in a narrow way. This only gives us a limited view of who God is. Three years ago the Mora UMC Christmas program was different than any that been done previously. In addition to a great presentation by the children and youth of the church that concluded with “wait aren’t we forgetting something” and then the nativity scene was created before our eyes. The angels, the shepherds, the wisemen, Mary and Joseph all came forward a created a scene unlike any we had seen before. You see our nativity actors were all folks with unique special needs. There they were standing before us as God’s precious dearly beloved children.
Our church community affirmed something different and in doing so revealed a fuller picture of God. A picture of humanity at its best. It didn’t matter where people lived, their education, their communication skills, who they are. What mattered was that God’s children of all ages and abilities were presenting the true meaning of Christmas and it was beautiful.
Rev.7:9-10 specifically highlights that a multitude pf people, a great crowd so large that no one could count, with representation from every nation, every tribe, every people, and every language were standing before the throne of God proclaiming the same message,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
We read in verses 11-12 that this diversity was praised and affirmed by the angels and elders. Verses 13 and 14 identify those in the multitude as persons who have gone through the great ordeal, a great tribulation. The tribulation is defined as the end times in which God judges Israel and the world for their unrighteousness and prepares to establish Jesus as the King of the world.
The common experience that binds all these different people together is one of both salvation and of suffering. They have all been through “the ordeal” – persecuted for the sake of God. They are not identified/identifiable by being blessed over or against others. However, they are all recipients of God’s promise of liberation for the future.
So, they waved palm branches, a sign of their victory in Christ. Furthermore, verse 14 we read,
“These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”
This is not a physical or literal whiteness (they have been washed in blood, after all), but rather represents the oneness and purity of all. White robes signify the one baptism that incorporates all into the community of Christ. True and ultimate redemption in Jesus gathers all people from everywhere, every language. It is inclusive, rather than exclusive. This is foretold by the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 10:8). This passage also points to Acts 2 and the beginning of the church when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all the people and they began to
“speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4).
It was an inclusive community of all God’s children. Salvation does not belong to any particular group or what they do to maintain their group identity. Salvation belongs to God and God alone, and all are recipients of God’s grace – All. Because of this, we are also all givers of God’s grace. Our sameness does not unite the community of God, but unity is based on the love of God in Christ alone. For this reason, our differences do not need to be erased, but can be celebrated.
What are the things that stop you from taking the steps towards embracing the new and unknown? How can you support others in their desire to do so? Remember that salvation is not a destination but a journey with God and others. Even John, when asked the question by the elder (verses 13-14), said,
“Sir, you are the one that knows.”
God gives us grace as we journey – especially to say, “I don’t know,” or “Let’s see,” as we embrace the new and unknown.
How do we as a church community celebrate our unity in Christ by honoring the differences
- different people,
- different skin color
- different languages,
- different ways of doing ministry.
How do we honor differences not only in our church but also in our communities? If we could honor and embrace the differences in others, we would reveal a fuller picture of God, as well seeing as God in each other.
It is hard to change, isn’t it? Maybe you have a favorite pew, and it would be hard to move to another area of the church but if you did you might make a new friend or become reacquainted with someone you hadn’t talked to in a while.
It is hard to learn new customs and practices but maybe God wants us to try new things, maybe there is some lesson in trying something new that we cannot imagine today.
When we are with the multitude before the throne it is doubtful that we will not be sitting in our favorite pew nor will everyone look like us or sound like us.
Uniformity, never changing may help us to feel like a community but does nothing to open our hearts and minds to others.
In the apostle John’s vision he saw a multitude that was so great that they could not be counted. The multitude represents all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues. They are standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes. Palm branches are in their hands as they worship God and the Lamb with loud voices.
God does not discriminate. He is served and worshipped by people from all nations, all tribes, all peoples, and all languages. To God be the glory we all are His children.
Pastoral Prayer and The Lord’s Prayer
Gracious God, we to worship you, to prepare for the coming week, to reorient our minds and hearts in a world full of distraction. This world pulls us apart and makes us focus on individuality at the expense of the community and the other you call us to unceasingly care for. We come to this place to remember that we are one people in one mission in this place and across the whole world. We realize this as we lift up our prayers to your, Gracious God, who hears all the joys, sorrows, and supplications of our hearts. We lift up all those prayers spoken and unspoken in this space, and we know you hear them. Walk with us in our strength and our weakness to be your hands and feet. God, we recognize this world objectifies your beloved creation in seeing them more as a means to an end rather as ends in themselves. We are seen as consumers, as objects, not as those whom God has lovingly created and walks with through all the days of their lives, whether they recognize it or not. Guide us to witness to your work and appreciate that you move in ways that we often cannot realize until much later. We pray all these things in the name of our example and guide in faithful relationship, Jesus the Christ, who taught us to pray as one community
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.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Praise Team I Just Feel Like Something Good is About to Happen Music by William J. Gaither
Arranged by Russell Mauldin
` Bentwood Benson
Communion and Prayer of Thanksgiving
On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
“Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said:
“Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.
By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church, all honor and glory are yours, almighty Father,
now and forever. Amen.
The body of Christ, given for you. Amen.
The blood of Christ, given for you. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We are invited to be a community united — not united out of sameness but united because we make space to celebrate the difference and diversity held by each of us. Let’s give generously today with hearts ready to create that space for difference in community and to extend our community even farther.
Prayer of Dedication
Gracious and holy God, thank you for the unmerited grace you give each of your children. Thank you for the love you give us that knows no bounds. Thank you that nothing we do can separate us from your love. As children of God, who long to serve you, your children, and your creation, we ask that you accept our offering, multiplying it as we use it according to your will here in this place and beyond. May our service to you be far reaching and all-encompassing to all your children now and always. In Jesus’ holy name, amen.
Hymn UMH #130 God Will Take Care of You
Let us go forth thankful that we have come.
Let us go forth renewed in God’s abiding love.
And let us go forth rejoicing in the Good News,
of Jesus Christ, whose love will never let us go. Amen.