Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
This Sunday’s image of how the risen Christ shares his life with us is the image of the vine. Christ the vine and we the branches are alive in each other, in the mystery of mutual abiding described in the gospel and the first letter of John. Baptism makes us a part of Christ’s living and life-giving self and makes us alive with Christ’s life. As the vine brings food to the branches, Christ feeds us at his table. We are sent out to bear fruit for the life of the world.
Thanksgiving for Baptism
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Refreshed by the resurrection life we share in Christ,
let us give thanks for the gift of baptism.
We thank you, risen Christ,
for the waters where you make us new,
leading us from death to life, from tears to joy.
We bless you, risen Christ, that your Spirit comes to us
in the grace-filled waters of rebirth,
like rains to our thirsting earth,
like streams that revive our souls,
like cups of cool water shared with strangers.
Breathe your peace on your church when we hide in fear.
Clothe us with your mercy and forgiveness.
Send us companions on our journey as we share your life.
Make us one, risen Christ.
Cleanse our hearts.
Shower us with life.
To you be given all praise,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God,
now and forever.
Confession and Forgiveness
All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
the keeper of the covenant,
the source of steadfast love,
our rock and our redeemer.
God hears us when we cry, and draws us close in Jesus Christ. Let us return to the one who is full of compassion.
Silence is kept for reflection.
Fountain of living water,
pour out your mercy over us.
Our sin is heavy, and we long to be free.
Rebuild what we have ruined and mend what we have torn.
Wash us in your cleansing flood.
Make us alive in the Spirit to follow in the way of Jesus,
as healers and restorers of the world you so love.
Beloved, God’s word never fails.
The promise rests on grace:
by the saving love of Jesus Christ,
the wisdom and power of God,
your sins are ☩ forgiven, and God remembers them no more.
Journey in the way of Jesus.
Prayer of the Day
O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live. Nourish our life in his resurrection, that we may bear the fruit of love and know the fullness of your joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 8:26-40
Led by the Spirit, Philip encounters an Ethiopian official who is returning to his African home after having been to Jerusalem to worship. Philip uses their encounter to proclaim the gospel to him. Upon coming to faith in Jesus, he is baptized by Philip.
26An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
33In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Psalm: Psalm 22:25-31
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord. (Ps. 22:27)
25From you comes my praise in the great assembly;
I will perform my vows in the sight of those who fear the Lord.
26The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
Let those who seek the Lord give praise! May your hearts live forever!
27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord;
all the families of nations shall bow before God.
28For dominion belongs to the Lord,
who rules over the nations.
29Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow down in worship;
all who go down to the dust, though they be dead, shall kneel before the Lord.
30Their descendants shall serve the Lord,
whom they shall proclaim to generations to come.
31They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying to them, “The Lord has acted!”
Second Reading: 1 John 4:7-21
We love God and others because God first loved us. We cannot say we love God, whom we have not seen, while hating fellow Christians, whom we regularly see. Love toward God is to be matched by love toward others because the essence of God is love.
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Alleluia. I am the vine, you are the branches.* Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit. Alleluia. (John 15:5)
Gospel: John 15:1-8
On the night of his arrest, Jesus taught his disciples about the relationship they would have with him. Those who abide in his word and love bear fruit, for apart from him, they can do nothing.
[Jesus said:] 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your site, and give Glory to Your Name, Oh Lord. Amen
Have you ever felt as though you were at just the right place at just the right time and not by your own design? That’s probably what the Ethiopian experienced in our first reading today. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was on his way home, reading a passage from Isaiah. (Isaiah 53:7) As he was pondering this passage, Philip, who was also at the right place at the right time and not by his own design, approached and asked him if he understood the passage. The unnamed Ethiopian was open to being taught about what he was reading and was eager to know of whom the prophet spoke. This gave Philip the opportunity to share with him the good news of Jesus Christ. And thus through the divine intervention of an angel of the Lord and of the Holy Spirit, the Ethiopian became the first of the Gentiles to be saved. He even asked Philip to baptize him in a body of water that they happened across. After that baptism, we are told that the Spirit snatched Philip away and plopped him down in Azotus to continue to proclaim Christ Resurrected to anyone he came across as he journeyed to Caesarea.
There’s a lot of interesting little things in here that I’d like to point out. This passage refers to an angel of the Lord as the messenger that sent Philip south, where he meets the Ethiopian and the Holy Spirit that directs him to join the Ethiopian. In the Old Testament, God’s messengers are most often referred to as an angel of the Lord. In the New Testament, it’s the Holy Spirit that is given that charge. The use of both of these agents in this reading, directing Philip as to where to go, demonstrates, at least in my mind, how the Old and New Testaments are in harmony with each other. Another thing I found interesting is that the first of the Gentiles to be saved was from Africa. Sometimes, those of us in the West tend to think of “the Gentiles” as being the Europeans, and the Europeans were certainly part of that group. But the Gentiles refers to a much wider group of people. The Africans, The Asians, The Indians and even those people living in the as yet to be discovered, at least by the Europeans, Americas. I think we sometimes forget that Jerusalem is situated at the intersection of three major continents. I also thought it was interesting how they happened across a body of water and, although it wasn’t the River Jordan nor was it Holy Water from a sacred font, it was acceptable and even pleasing to God that this man be baptized then and there. To me, that’s an illustration of how God is everywhere, not just in a Church or in some particular area deemed to be holy.
I can think of a few times when I’ve felt as though the Holy Spirit was guiding me to the right place at the right time. One instance, when I was in high school more than forty years ago, still stands out in my mind. I was part of a non-denominational singing group associated with Youth for Christ. We would go to different churches, sing some songs that we had prepared, and introduce those songs with a witness. When it was my turn to speak, I am convinced that the words I spoke were given to me by the Holy Spirit, because I didn’t really have much thought out in my mind ahead of time. I spoke of some of my friends who try to cover their troubles with alcohol and/or drugs and how that may help for a time but their problems just come back later and sometimes bigger. I also encouraged anyone who felt that way to hand their problems over to Jesus, who has the ability to help them solve them for good. I don’t know who needed to hear that on that evening, but I’m convinced that I was given those words by the Holy Spirit for someone’s benefit.
My calling to a prison/reentry ministry is in my mind another example of how I’m currently being led to the place where God wants me to be. As I’ve been discerning this calling, I’ve encountered another man who is also working toward this type of ministry in this area. We were put together through the efforts of some fine people in the Synod office in Findlay as well as some other folks out on the West Coast who are already doing this type of work out there. We hope to have something up and running soon so that we can do God’s work of bringing the good news to some of the people who most desperately need to hear it. As we progress, I’ll be sure to keep the congregation updated and involved whenever I can. Perhaps some of you will be in the right place at the right time to assist with this work.
Prayers of Intercession
Alive in the risen Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we bring our prayers before God who promises to hear us and answer in steadfast love.
A brief silence.
God of all fruitfulness, you abide in your church and your church abides in you. Cleanse us by your word and give yourself to the whole church on earth so that it bears fruit and witnesses to your love. Bless Elizabeth and Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, our Church Council and our call committee, and all who strive here to do your work with our hands. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You have created the heavens and the earth. As we wonder at the beauty of creation, may we seek vital connections among all that depends on the earth for life. Bless the work of those seeking to establish a community garden on the Church’s grounds. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You rule the nations with justice and love. Give the leaders of the earth assurance of your abiding presence, that they lead not by fear but with love for those they are called to serve. Help us and all our leaders that we may discover that, while we have differences, there is more we share in common, so that we can be united as one people. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You have loved us so that we can love others. We pray for all in need of your love: those who are poor, lowly, outcast, weak, or fearful. For those who suffer separation from their families, be it by service to our nation, hospitalization and institutionalization, or by incarceration. Provide for the needs of all, especially those on our prayer list. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You gather us with all the saints by the power of your Spirit especially with Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria and those we name before you and those whose names we hold in our hearts. With them, may our hearts live forever in your keeping. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
In the hope of new life in Christ, we raise our prayers to you, trusting in your never-ending goodness and mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God of love,
you call us beloved children and welcome us to your table.
Receive our lives and the gifts we offer.
Abide with us and send us in service to a suffering world;
for the sake of your beloved Child, Jesus Christ.
May our glorious God grant you a spirit of wisdom
to know and to love the risen Lord Jesus.
The God of life,
Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless you now and forever.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Go in peace. Share the good news. Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!