"Answer to Anxiety"
May 24, 2020
Dear Partners in Ministry:
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Risen indeed!
As the new Phase 1 guidelines of sheltering-in-place and social distancing begin, many of us are still anxious, as well as cautious, about reopening businesses and restaurants. Many of us will have to admit that dealing with anxiety, cabin fever, and feelings of isolation from our friends and parish family at Grace hasn’t been easy. All of us long for the day when being physically isolated from one another will be over. Yet we are never alone or separated from our Lord. We have his promise that is with us always in good times and the worst of times. It is that promise which sustains us as we cast all our cares upon him, knowing that he cares for us.
In these days between The Ascension of our Lord (observed this past Thursday) and Pentecost, we gather with the disciples in the Upper Room, waiting for the Spirit to transform The Church around the world. In today’s gospel Jesus prays for his followers and for their mission in his Name. Amid religious, social, and economic divisions and stress brought on by the pandemic, we seek the unity that Jesus had with his Father. Made one in the waters of baptism, we go forth to live out the unity of our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all … eager for the unity that God intends for the whole human family.
My continued thoughts and prayers for all of you.
Easter blessings, peace, and joy be with you all.
+ Pr. Jim
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Risen indeed! Alleluia!
+ THE SEVENTH SUNDAY of EASTER +
24 May 2020
Celebrating The 50 Days of Easter as God’s People
PRELUDE O Perfect Love—Joseph Barnby
Tatsiana Asheichyk, Piano
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
We are risen to a new life!
In Christ, we are risen indeed!
We were baptized in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In whose Name we worship. Amen.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Almighty and eternal God, your Son our Savior is with you in eternal glory. Give us faith to see that, true to his promise, he is among us still, and will be with us to the end of time; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Acts 1:6-14
[Today’s reading is part of the introduction to the narrative of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. These verses tell of the risen Lord’s conversation with his disciples on the eve of his ascension, in which he promises that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit.]
When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, the went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
SECOND LESSON 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
[Our faith in Christ does not make us immune from the scorn of others. Nevertheless, we are to resist the designs of evil when we experience disparagement from others because we trust God’s grace will strengthen and guide us.]
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. Humble yourselves therefor under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for some to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
HOLY GOSPEL John 17:1-11
[On the night of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, asking that those who continue his work in this world will live in unity.]
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know the truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am asking on their behalf, I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
GRACE CHOIR Shout Glory! —Byron Smith
HOMILY Answer to Anxiety Text: The Second Lesson Pr. Jim
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
Do you remember what happens when you shake a can of something carbonated before popping the tab? The pressure builds up so that when you pop the tab you have a mess. Just ask Jan or me and we’ll tell you the morning-after-story of a sticky kitchen ceiling and cabinets after a babysitter’s efforts to clean up a mess our oldest son caused by opening a can of Coke that he had shaken up just for fun.
Watching the nightly news and reading USA Today, we’re seeing the results of the pressure built up after weeks of quarantine, social distancing, and unemployment We’ve longed to see each other … be out-and-about … and yet have a deep concern for safety – not only our own but the safety of others from the threat of the coronavirus. The presence of these two perspectives have increased the anxiety levels within our society as well as The Church … its members and its clergy.
British-American poet, Wystan H. Auden, once noted that anxiety is one word defines our time in history.
To be sure … it’s an overworked word. It’s almost become cliché in describing the condition of life for so many of us. Anxiety describes that strong undertow of self-preoccupied worry that often immobilizes one’s self and life. Anxiety seems to be evident everywhere.
Anxiety … however … isn’t anything new. We’re certainly not the first … nor will we be the last … to be well-acquainted with anxiety. To the Early Christians who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire, twenty centuries ago, the blessed Apostle Peter wrote the words we heard in today’s Second Lesson.
Cast all your anxieties upon him, for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Anxiety is as universal as breathing. It meets us at so many points in life. It shouts at us in newscasts … laughs nervously at parties … nags at us in advertisements … and whispers at us each morning in the reflection we see in the mirror. Do you need any more reminders? I don’t think so. On this 7th Sunday of Easter, we are better served by understanding what anxiety is and where it comes from. And above all, you and I are better served by our Risen and Ascended Lord who tells us what to do with our anxiety and anxious moments.
Anxiety sets in, in the first case, because of things or persons we fear and feel helpless about. It begins early in life. What child hasn’t felt his or her heart sink when the first … second … and third choices are made for a playground ball team? OR … when the opposing team trots out to warm-up before the game? Which adult doesn’t feel anxious when trapped in circumstances that look unalterable?
That was the situation in which the Early Christians found themselves in. They were hanging on for dear life at the end of the First Century. Rome had decreed religious allegiance and obedience to the emperor as god incarnate, with the punishment of death for disobedience. Anxiety spread like wildfire among the recently baptized who had come to call Jesus Lord and recognized the choice before them and the consequences of either choice. The causes of their anxiety were as blatant as they were brutal.
But there’s another source of anxiety … one that’s deep down inside of us and harder to take. It’s the gnawing feeling that life has no direction or purpose. Psychiatrists call it neurosis … the mystifying force that seems to cloak one’s life and being with depression and fear … real or imagined. The hard thing is … its source remains hidden inside. The author of Psalm 43 expressed it this way:
Why are you cast down, o my soul,
And why are you disquieted within me?
The psalmist’s words take us to the heart of the problem. While psychology and behavioral science can teach us much about our mind and feelings, the root is in our sin. That may sound oversimplified, but the best diagnosis comes in seeing the break in our relationship with God. And there is no One better to diagnose what ails us and causes our brokenness and anxiousness than our Lord Jesus himself. “Be not anxious for tomorrow,” he said in the Sermon on the Mount. The reason he said that was because he knows our hearts need to turn to him in our brokenness. We need the gift of grace and forgiveness … the gift of “casting all our cares upon him” … trusting that he cares for us deeply and walks alongside of us. And, often times carries us.
Today’s text offers us one more insight … the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour life. His stock in trade is deception … making us anxious about being in control of life’s circumstances. Anxiety … you see … begets anxiety as the little saying goes:
I’ve joined the new “Don’t Worry Club”
And now I hold my breath;
I’m so afraid I’ll worry
That I’m worried most to death.
Deception is the hallmark of anxiety.
The boldness with which we are to stare down anxiety comes from this truth about our God …
He cares for you [1 Peter 5:7b] and me.
In his love, God sent his only Son to be born in a manger in Bethlehem. For us, our Lord faced and fought the master of anxiety in the wilderness after his baptism by John. He suffered death on the Tree of the Cross for our sins so that we might be judged righteous in God’s sight. He now lives as our Risen and Victorious Lord who is seated at the right hand of the Father … ascended there to rule our hearts and minds by the power of the Gospel.
“Come to me all that labor and are heavy laden,” he says, “and I will give you rest [Mt. 11:28].
As Lord of lords and King of kings, he calls us to set our hearts and minds on him … his kingdom … his righteousness. “Do not be anxious about what you will eat or drink or wear,” Jesus tells us. Life is more than food and clothing … worry and being anxious. “I have come,” he says, “that you might have life and have it abundantly.” Life filled to the brim and overflowing.
And so, on this Lord’s Day, we deal with the problem of our anxieties by not focusing on them Instead, we honor him by trusting him … casting all our anxiety on him … assured that he truly cares for us and walks alongside us … and often carries us. Natalie Grant’s In Christ Alone is one of my favorite contemporary songs. Verse one reads:
In Christ alone my hope is found.He is my light, my strength, my song.This Cornerstone, this solid groundFirm through the fiercest drought and storm.What heights of love, what depths of peaceWhen fears are stilled, when strivings cease,My Comforter, my All in AllHere in the love of Christ I stand.
Cast all your anxieties on him, Peter counsels, for he cares for you. Yes … here in the love of Christ I stand.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
Rejoicing in Christ’s victory over death and His glorious resurrection, let us pray for The Church, the world, and all who are in need.
A Brief Silence
O God, call your people to be one, even as you are one. Unite your Church in the truth of your gospel, the love of our neighbor, and the call to proclaim your reign to all people. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Breathe life into your creation, O God. Guide your people as we explore and care for the mysteries of the universe. Breathe on fields and forests, lakes and oceans, and all living things so that they thrive as you intend. Make our stewardship of all that you have entrusted to us a blessing for all people and the generations yet to come. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Come to the aid of your children. We pray for all scientists and physicians who continue to work toward the development of a vaccine to curb the spread of COVID-19. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Make your justice known among the nations of the earth. Reveal your truth to all governing officials, so that they may lead with integrity and honestly, govern justly, show mercy to the oppressed, and guide all to live in peace and harmony with one another. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Abide with those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit, O God, especially your servants who are under doctor’s care: Shari, John, Lucinda; together with those who are homebound:: Sharon, Joyce, Richard, Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, Elma, and those we name in our hearts … A brief pause …. Empower us to minister to them through our prayers and caring acts of love. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Be with this family of faith, O God, as we worship in different times and ways during these days of social distancing and sheltering-in-place. Bless all those who draw near to this community through the varied media efforts of our parish ministry and outreach. And, as we continue the call process, we pray that you would lead and guide us by your Spirit to identify the one you have chosen to be our new pastor. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Bless the students at SOU, O God, who are reached and served through our Campus Ministry. Be with them as they pursue their chosen fields amidst the challenges of on-line learning. Walk with those who worship with us as we share your grace and mercy and support each another in our witness of all that you have done. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer
Give courage, O God, to all who embark on new ventures. We especially remember this day those who risked their lives to serve in our armed forces. Grant safety to those serving at home, abroad, or in hostile areas, and assure them of your never-failing strength. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
You remain with us always, O God, and your kingdom has no end. We remember with thanksgiving the saints who have gone before us with the sign of faith. Assure us of your life-giving Spirit until that day when we will abide with you forever. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Raise all your saints to eternal life, O God. Until that day, we give you thanks for all the faithful examples of those who listened to your voice and now rest in you. Make us one with them, trusting the one hope to which we are called. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
With heaven and earth and all creation, we offer our prayers in the Name of the One who conquered death to give us eternal life and joy, Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray …
Our Father who art in heaven;
hallowed by 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 and ever. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.
POSTLUDE Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus —George Webb
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