Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio
A congregation of the Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sunday, May 29, 2022
Seventh Sunday Easter
Introduction & Welcome
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
It is possible to hear in Jesus’ high priestly prayer, a prayer he offered shortly before his death, the petitions of the ascended Christ for his own throughout history—to our day—and beyond. Jesus prays for us. In holy baptism we become believers in God, have our robes washed in the flood of Christ’s forgiveness, and receive the gift of life forever with all the saints.
Thanksgiving for Baptism
In the waters of baptism,
we have passed over from death to life with Jesus Christ,
and we are a new creation.
For this saving mystery, and for this water, let us bless God,
who was, who is, and who is to come.
We thank you, God, for your river of life,
flowing freely from your throne:
through the earth,
through the city,
through every living thing.
You rescued Noah and his family from the flood;
You opened wide the sea for the Israelites.
Now in these waters you flood us with mercy,
and our sin is drowned forever.
You open the gate of righteousness
and we pass safely through.
In Jesus Christ, you calm and trouble the waters.
You nourish us and enclose us in safety.
You call us forth and send us out.
In lush and barren places, you are with us.
You have become our salvation.
Now breathe upon this water
and awaken your church once more.
Claim us again as your beloved and holy people.
Quench our thirst; cleanse our hearts; wipe away every tear.
To you, our Beginning and our End,
our Shepherd and Lamb,
be honor, glory, praise, and thanksgiving,
now and forever.
Prayer of the Day
O God, form the minds of your faithful people into your one will. Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that, amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
First Reading: Acts 16:16-34
Those who had enslaved a girl and used her powers to tell fortunes threw Paul and Silas into jail for ordering the spirit to come out of her and consequently ruining their business. In prison, Paul and Silas bring the good news of the gospel to the jailer and his family.
16One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
Psalm: Psalm 97
Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous. (Ps. 97:12)
1The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice;
let the multitude of the isles be glad.
2Clouds and darkness surround the Lord,
righteousness and justice are the foundations of God’s throne.
3Fire goes before the Lord,
burning up enemies on every side.
4Lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5The mountains melt like wax
before the Lord of all the earth.
6The heavens declare your righteousness, O Lord,
and all the peoples see your glory.
7Confounded be all who worship carved images and delight in false gods!
Bow down before the Lord, all you gods.
8Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O Lord.
9For you are the Lord, most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10You who love the Lord, hate evil!
God guards the lives of the saints and rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the honest of heart.
12Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous,
and give thanks to God’s holy name.
Second Reading: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
The ascended Christ, hidden from our sight, promises to come again. We eagerly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” with all who respond to this invitation.
12“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
16“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
20The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
Alleluia. I will not leave you orphaned, says the Lord. I am coming to you. Alleluia. (John 14:18)
Gospel: John 17:20-26
Jesus prays that the life of his followers will be characterized by an intimate unity of identity with God. To be so identified with God means also to share in God’s mission: to proclaim the word that will bring others into this same unity.
[Jesus prayed:] 20“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Meditation by Vicar Dave
I am always amazed at how God comes to folks in some odd places and strange ways. In our reading from Acts today, we have two examples of this happening. First there’s the poor slave girl, who is possessed by a spirit. It seemed to me that the spirit might have wanted to leave the girl but couldn’t do so of its own volition. So instead, it made sure that it was making a pest of itself through the girl by following Paul around and annoying him. Even if it didn’t want out, it made the girl follow them and tell all who could hear about the mission of salvation that they had received from God. Strange behavior for a demon if you ask me. None the less, Paul eventually had enough of this spirit and in frustration ordered it out of the body of the girl in the name of Jesus Christ. This made the slave girl less valuable to her owners because they were using her and the spirit to sell fortunes. They became angry with Paul and found a way to have him put in prison. That’s where we have our second example of God choosing an odd place to come to someone.
While in prison, Paul and Silas had a chance to escape, along with the other prisoners, thanks to an earthquake that was strong enough to break their cell doors opens and to unfasten their chains. But instead of leaving, they stayed. The guard, seeing that the cell doors were all open, feared that he’d lost all of his charges and, in fear of what his boss would do to him, prepared to kill himself. That’s when Paul let him know that they hadn’t left. The guard was so touched by this that he listened to the message of salvation that Paul brought to him in that dark place, was baptized and became a believer in God.
I’ve seen some examples of God working in some very dark places. At one time, I was the prison guard and I found myself ministering to some of the prisoners. I remember an incident where a Muslim inmate was worried about something and without thinking, I told him to trust that God wouldn’t give him more than he could handle. I’m confident that those words weren’t mine but came from God through me. I have also seen where some of the people I’ve worked with have found God with them there and, through his grace, have been able to turn their life around to the point that they began ministering to their fellow inmates.
When I think about it, this really isn’t anything new at all. After all, we worship a God that has always loved us and has always come down to us, on our level, to show that love. That’s always been necessary because we are unable to reach God on our own. We spend our lives, mired in the concerns of this world. We’re always trying to acquire the things that we think we need. So much food that it spoils in our refrigerators waiting for us to eat it. Houses so big that we hardly use portions of them. Cars that drive faster than we are allowed to by law. Our feet are so stuck in this world that, unless God came to us, we would never even glimpse the divine. He came down to Abram and made the covenant with him that he would be the father of many nations. When Israel was being held as slaves in Egypt, came down to rescue them. The people of Israel had been slaves for generations and didn’t know the first thing about building a community, let alone living together as one. So once again, God came down to His people and gave them the law, to help them learn to live together as free people. God also came down to us in the form of Jesus Christ, lived among us and tried to teach us His way. Jesus also came down to Saul and Ananias, as we read about a few weeks earlier. God’s still coming down to us today by the Holy Spirit, just as God did for the Disciples. God always comes down to His people.
When I think about how God showed us His divine love by coming down to us and becoming one of us, it strikes me as one of the oddest things God could do. Why would God need to humble Himself for our sake? Why would God need to suffer and die on the cross for us? God didn’t need to do these things for Himself. God did them because God loves us, not because of who we are, but because of who God is. God loves us enough to come down off His throne to save us. Thanks be to God.
Prayers of Intercession
Set free from captivity to sin and death, we pray to the God of resurrection for the church, people in need, and all of creation.
A brief silence.
Holy God, make your people one as you and your Son are one. Extend the gifts that you have given to Elizabeth and Daniel, our bishops, and Brenda, our pastor, and that all we have been given by your Spirit to all people, especially those experiencing division or questioning your love. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Make worthy the work of scientists who look to the stars and planets, as well as scientists who look to atoms and molecules. Bring innovation and well-being to humanity through their discoveries. Inspire scientists to the knowledge that as they are exposing the intricacies of this universe, they are showing the world the glory of the one who made it all work together to fit into your plan. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Keep in our minds those who have died in war, both military and civilians, especially those in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Yemen, and all other areas torn apart by war that don’t make the headlines in this nation. May we honor them by seeking peaceful solutions to the conflicts that arise among nations and peoples. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Grant freedom to all who are overwhelmed by chronic illness, depression, or constant worry especially those on our prayer list and prayer board, and those we bring before you now, either out loud, or in the stillness of our hearts. Open them to receive health and salvation in Christ Jesus through the Spirit’s gift of faith. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Stir imagination and understanding throughout the church in the work of poets, theologians, hymn writers and musicians. Lead us into new visions and fresh expressions of your presence. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Unite us with the saints who have died and been raised in Jesus. Train us to wait with eager longing for Christ to come again, even as we sense his presence with us now. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
In your mercy, O God, respond to these prayers, and renew us by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly 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. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
God, the Author of life,
Christ, the living Cornerstone,
and the life-giving Spirit of adoption,
☩ bless you now and forever.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Go in peace. Tell what God has done.
Thanks be to God.