Fifth Sunday of Easter
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
Call to Worship:
L: Come and sit with me; we shall study the Word.
P: Together we shall read and understand.
L: Come and kneel with me; we shall break the bread.
P: Together we shall eat and be satisfied.
L: Come and walk with me; we shall part the waters.
A: Together we shall risk, and, behold, we shall be changed.
O Lord of the broken chain, the peoples of your earth seek their freedom. We kneel in the night, breathless runaways, breathing the silent prayer of the preyed upon.
O God of the North Star, we shall not be able to find our way unless someone guides us. Bend to us and lift our chins, and point our eyes to the brilliant light in the sky, that we may have a beacon upon which to fix our hopes. We have dared to stumble away from slave row, but unless you lead us, Lord, we can go no farther.
L: The world arrested Christ our brother. It betrayed and bound him, it tested and mocked him, it tortured and killed him.
P: But he stood silent against the madness, and in that silence of his humiliation, justice was denied. It was betrayed and bound, it was tested and mocked, it was tortured and killed.
L: Who can describe the generation that took his life from the earth? Who can cleanse the hands that slaughtered the lamb?
P: O God, make of us another generation,
L: And let our hands be those not of murderers but midwives.
P: Let us not mock justice, but embrace it. Let us not take life, but deliver it.
L: Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and whoever loves is born of God.
P: When our brothers are silenced by false accusers, let us be their voice. When our sisters appear before unjust judges, let us be their defender.
L: Let us bring our world to its knees before the Lord, that guilt may be declared.
P: And let us stand when God bids the world rise, that mercy may be granted.
L: For the Christ who was mortified at our hands has been glorified by the hand of God. His freedom has been restored and his life has been renewed,
A: That our world's captives might find their liberation and our world's dead, their resurrection.
Prayer for One Voice:
O God, in the beginning you created heaven and earth. And, one day, as you walked upon the land, you came upon a very fertile hill and imagined there a vineyard purple with grapes. So with your own hands you dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; long you tended it and looked for it to yield its fruit, but it yielded only wild grapes.
No more could you have done for your vineyard, Lord. Your pleasant planting turned bitter and rebelled against you. You looked for justice, but, behold, we bore bloodshed; you looked for righteousness, but, behold, we produced a cry!
You could have become angry, Lord. You could have removed the hedge that protected the yard, that we might be devoured by the beasts. You could have broken down its wall, that we might be trampled. You could have laid it waste, and let our briers and thorns grow up; you could have commanded the clouds to withhold their rains, so that nothing would grow.
But even as you are our Creator and Sustainer, O God, you are our Redeemer. And you planted again in our midst. You set out at the center of the vineyard the true vine. And the vine has grown; it cannot be destroyed, it cannot bear bad fruit. Its good fruit hangs heavy on the branches, bearing witness to your care.
Christ is the vine, Lord; make us the branches. Whatever you ask us to be, we shall be; whatever you ask us to do, shall be done.
This truth amazes us, that you sent the true vine to save us not because we first loved you, but because you first and last loved us. By this we are humbled, Lord, for you are Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, Love that began the beginning and knows no end. Yours is the love that birthed the world and makes it grow. It is the love that grasped Philip as he preached and drove him to carry the news of his new faith beyond the bounds of Judaism—even to places his old faith had considered unclean. It is the love that grasped the mighty Ethiopian as he sat in his chariot and drove him with a new faith into the waters of his baptism—to a new life his old life had never imagined.
Yours is the love, Lord, that changes the world, inside and out. The ones unclean in the world's eyes, your love makes clean. The ones mighty in the world's eyes, your love makes humble. The ones guilty in the world's eyes, your love ushers into paradise.
Lord, for this we praise you, that you first and last love us. Now what remains is for you to teach us how better to love one another. Teach us, Lord, the truth of life, before the hour is late; lead us, Lord, in the way we should go, before the gate is closed.
Bring us now into your vineyard, Lord. Prune us and tend us, that we may bear good fruit. We offer you all that we are; press us into the wine of the new covenant, that the cup of the new kingdom may be filled to overflowing.
No one has ever seen God. But, if an angel appears and tells you to rise and go down a desert road, do not be afraid. Though barren, the desert is the place of revelation. As you pass through, someone will draw near. It may be the risen Christ, disguised as a weary stranger. Behold the face of your God, and offer the stranger your water.
From Litanies and Other Prayers Copyright © 1989, 1992 by Abingdon Press.
Call to Worship
Leader: From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
People: my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
Leader: The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD.
People: May your hearts live forever!
Leader: All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD;
People: and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
Leader: For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
People: To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
Leader: before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
People: Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the LORD.
Leader: and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
ALL: saying that he has done it.
Almighty God, whose love is beyond understanding, whose mercy is beyond comprehension—we lift up our hearts to you in prayer. Though we were captives of our sinful and rebellious ways, your love has released us. You have freed us to experience divine love in our own lives. Your atoning love has freed us from the penalty of sin, which was rightfully ours to pay. How can we express our thanksgiving, except to praise your name and to allow your love to be seen in us. Grant to us a determined faith and a fervent love, that we might be reflections of your divine grace. Hear our prayer, O Lord, as we offer our petitions in the name of the One who is love, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From The Abingdon Preaching Annual Series 2, Copyright © by Abingdon Press.