April 5, 2020
(This service was presented in a Zoom internet worship meeting April 5, 2020).
Start with a story for the children. About the time I was the age of the children among, Margaret Mead was becoming well known for her study of human societies. She may have been some controversial. But a student asked her what she considered to be first sign that an ancient culture became civilized. The student thought she would answer about some sort of thing -- pottery, fishhooks, grinding stones, or some other tool that made life better.
But she answered that the first sign was a person’s broken leg that had been mended and healed. Because in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you can’t run, you can’t eat, you can’t drink because you can’t move easily. You quickly become a meal for a predator. None ever survive long enough for a broken bone to heal.
That a bone has healed means that someone has taken the time to stay with the person who is hurt, carried them to safety, bound up their wound, and cared for them until they recovered. And it is that sign of caring for others that makes a culture civilized.
This is Palm Sunday, a day Jesus came into Jerusalem to crowds who cheered him on, hoping he would make their world a very different, very better place. And he did, just not how they expected. Jesus knew that by week’s end he would lovingly give himself for us to care for and heal our lives from sin -- and as that healing spreads, will ultimately will bring about that world where people will follow Jesus’s example, and with his help, be at their best by caring and serving others.
So children’s prayer is this: Lord we thank you for showing us how to care for each other, we thank you that you live with and in us and help us all do our best for each other… Amen.
Opening Song Savior Forever
One of the things the Palm Sunday crowd called out to Jesus as he entered was Hosanna -- Oh Save, or Save we pray, and for them on that day it was a victory song. So with that in mind, and on the other side of the resurrection, listen along to this special song called Savior Forever…
If you don’t have internet access to the internet, here are some of the lyrics…
Mercy came for me
found me in darkness and brought me to light
I am overwhelmed
a love unrelenting to cover my soul
You have won me You have won me
Oh victory in Jesus my Savior forever
Our only hope is Jesus our Savior forevermore.
The cross for me is life
death is defeated
I’m risen with Christ, I’m risen with Christ
He sought me He bought me
I’m purchased by his blood
He saved me, he raised me
his victory is mine
Message All We Need
Of course, many of us, like those in the Palm Sunday crowd, want and even expect a universal saving victory forever -- that God would simply force into existence what we envision as the heavenly culture -- eliminating division and wars, anxieties and temptations, and right now, especially, to dissolve disorder and disease. But we cannot isolate ourselves or our loved ones from the problems of this world -- we struggle to enact a world where good gets rewarded and unfairness is always found out and dealt with; where oppressors are put in their place, while the oppressed find freedom, where peace rules and love flows; and all people are respected. We wish, we hope, and we pray. Psalm 16 expresses the prayer. (I’m reading primarily a blend of the NIV and CEV but there are some other paraphrases thrown in (in brackets) to help us understand some phrases.
- Keep me safe, my God. Protect me. I run to you for safety, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “Only you are my Lord; every good thing I have is a gift from you -- apart from you I have no good thing.”
- Your holy people who are in the land are wonderful. “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” But those who run after other gods will have much sorrow. I will not [give offerings] to such gods or worship in their names.
- You alone Lord, are all I [need or] want. [You take care of me and make future] secure. I will praise you Lord for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my heart and mind.
- I will always keep my eyes on the Lord. As you stand beside me, I will not be shaken in fear. Therefore, with all my heart I rejoice and safely rest; because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You have shown me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
At first glance, this Psalm seems to say that if we have faith in God, we will have well-being, security; dwell in pleasant places, and inherit a good future forevermore...
But David’s prayer is not because he is currently experiencing this bliss, just the opposite. He is feeling threatened and insecure and death is a very real possibility. He finds nothing good in the land outside of God and the people who are bravely serving God in the face of dire circumstances. Yet David writes this song to stir up within himself and within God’s people a determined attitude of hope that has been tested and refined in times of darkness. He teaches us:
God is our refuge
First, that God is our refuge, our protection and provision. When life begins, we are completely dependent, and have the potential to trust completely. When my oldest son was very young, I put him to bed in the top bunk. I turned to walk out of the room, and he leaped toward me – totally confident I would catch him, even though my back was to him. Luckily, he landed high enough up that with some quick bending and twisting I was able to keep him on me until I could get him safely to the ground and then back into the bed.
We wish that our children could experience that kind of confident hope all their lives. But we are sending them out into a fallen world that isn’t always humane, and as much as we may want to, we can’t always catch them from every miscalculated leap or accidental fall or prevent the consequences from calculated choices that lead to missteps or even from unintentional or planned attacks that come their way. We can’t even do it for ourselves, for we cannot control everything we experience in life. On the other hand, we can be aware, and instill in our children, as David instills in us -- that life is a gift of God in whom we can trust through and even beyond this earthly existence, therefore we can live each day with proactive confidence. God is our refuge.
Second, build friendships. The Psalmist delights in his faith friends. We live in a culture that teaches (especially men) to be lone rangers --- independent, self-sufficient, tough, invulnerable, and in need of no one. Reaching out in compassion to others can make us vulnerable to hurt. Jesus certainly knew the risk that faced him but pushed into Jerusalem anyway. The Gaithers sing, “I am loved, I am loved, I can risk loving you, for the One who knows me best, loves me most.”
Take a hint from the young boy who wrote down all his Internet passwords on a piece of paper so he could remember them. His father noticed his password for the Walt Disney website was: DonaldGoofyPlutoDaisy. When the father asked him why he chose such a long password, the boy said, "They said it had to be at least four characters long." How many characters do we have in our life? Build friendships.
God is our first and only priority
Third, David declares God as his first and only priority. While others go after other things, goals, and gods, David teaches us to refuse those pursuits as primary to our life. Instead, he insists that God is all he wants and needs, and that God will provide for his present and his future. When we believe that he can bring peace to our world and to our hearts even in the midst of the storms that rage all around us -- who wouldn’t make God their priority?
One night a father was scrambling to meet a work deadline but was also needing to take care of his 5-year-old. He packed up toys and other amusements and his son and hauled them down to his office. His son soon tired of everything brought and began pestering his dad for something to do. The father grabbed a magazine that had a large fold out map of the world, took some scissors, and cut it all up in pieces. He spread it out on a table. “Put this together, and by the time you are finished, it will be time to go home,” he said, figuring it would take at least a half hour. But it was only minutes before the boy was back wanting something else to do. The father looked at the completed puzzle and was amazed, “How did you put the world together so fast?” "It was simple," the boy answered, "On the back of the world was a picture of a man. When I put the man together, the whole world fell into place!" Jesus came to earth to bring us back to God, and to each other, putting broken humanity back together. And when he does, the whole world will fall into place.
Experience joy in his presence
Finally, the Psalmist, knowing our destiny is secure, supported by faith friends, and re-declaring his commitment to God, looks forward to the joy we have in his presence now – and in the life to come…
When Pastor John Ortberg had three young children, the only place they ever wanted to go to eat was at the shrine of the golden arches, where they always wanted the same thing. It's a combination of the food (they didn’t care much about that) and some cheap little plastic prize – (also didn’t care much about that) But in a moment of marketing genius, the folks at McDonald's called it the Happy Meal. It is the meal of great joy. You aren’t just buying chicken and a cheap ring, you are buying happiness. And who wouldn’t want that? The problem is, the happiness only lasts for half a minute, then it wears off. No adult child has ever gone back to their parents saying, “Remember that Happy Meal you gave me? That's where I found lasting contentment and lifelong joy.”
I’ll just throw in this side story by comedian John Mulaney. He said as a child that the family was on a trip and they saw the golden arches, and so all the kids started chanting, “McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds.” And when their father pulled into the drive-through they all cheered. And then he ordered one black coffee for himself and kept driving. He got the one thing at McDonalds that no child could enjoy. Mulaney said, As mad as that made him as a little kid, in retrospect, it is the funniest thing he has ever seen in his entire life.
But now back to the point... You’d think only a child could think that contentment can be acquired and maintained through some kind of external purchase or a change in external circumstances. But we adults are tempted to simply graduate from inexpensive cheap meals and toys to other more expensive things that promise to secure our happiness.
But joy goes deeper and originates in the soul. That doesn’t mean it is more elusive or complex or serious. When we have the joy of Christ in our hearts, when we feel the happiness of his presence in our souls -- then joy and happiness can be found even in the small things of life – even in a happy meal, the smell of flowers, or the enjoyment of good company -- even when it is at a distance and through technology, because ultimately, the joy we find all around us is recognized because we have discovered the true joy of God’s presence within us.
We can have this joy because through it all, God holds on to us, and we can confidently hold on to him… Let’s listen to the song Lifeline.
Closing Song Lifeline
https://open.life.church/items/202078-lyric-video-mp4 If you don’t have internet access to the song, here are some of the lyrics
When I’m drowning
oceans raging all around me
through the thunder and the waves
you’re constant, you’re my lifeline in the storm
See the waters
rushing through this broken vessel
you’re the calm within the current
hope rising through the storm
You’ll never leave me
it doesn’t matter what I’m facing (nooo)
And when I’m failing
you’re holding on to me
and I’m holding on to you (last line repeated)
you had every right to leave me
all my sin had left me stranded
but your love has brought me home
Please help us keep both of our prayer lists accurate and up to date. If you see any updates, corrections, additions, or removals, please leave a message on the Grace office phone 906 482-2780 or email churchoffice@houghtongraceumc
Grace Prayer List
New Requests: F/F Ray Wiegert (Fred Gaff’s daughter’s father-in-law), F/F of Jim Olson’s cousin Bill Tonkin, All health care and essential workers, Freida - pregnancy, F/F Florence Burich, Debbie’s nieces Danielle and Monica
Ongoing Requests: Grace UMC, Albert Paine Memorial UMC, Community, Country, World, Military & Veterans, Missionaries Mark & Rebecca Smallwood, Un(der)employed, Alice, David Desparse, Jill Nissila, Pat Lanier, Jan Lubinski, Tim Wakeham, Sara & Don Peterlin, John and Marcelaine Lewis, Ashley Booth, Scott Seaman, Viola Hedin, Cara Lee Johnson, Brock, Ann Newman, Jim Winsor, Lavinia, Jerry & Nancy Smith, Sierra Jarvi & her mother Jen Palesari, Peyton (young child), Penny, Greg Van Heartesvelt Family, Marion, Lorraine Michaels, Boyne, Baily, Gary Hanson, Paula Ross, Dale Neimi, mom, Russ Alger, Jen’s aunt, John & Gayle Maloney, John Botto, Mike, John Bowen’s wife, Ron Winsor’s uncle Jack, Danny Wakeham, Pam, Rowan, Stella-Jay Calloway, Fred’s friend Mark L., Jordan Roe’s father, Andrea Johnson, June Jenkins, Jean Burich’s friend Karen, Amira Rauvala, Ron Winsor, Jano Chappell Johnson, Mike, (Kerr’s) Clyde Huntoon, Mark Eschenburg, Barb Horton, Roger Samaro, Joshua Johnson family, Adam Plichta, Fred Gaff’s aunt Bonnie, Michael McParlan, Jim Manderfield, Uncle Mike, Kelley Dutcher, Child Rylan Gibson, Barb Koski, Sara’s co-worker Janice, Baby Charlie Goke, Melissa Curtis and family, Jan Hinkle, Approaching Emmaus Walks, Peachie’s niece and family, Alexandra’s cousin Grace, All travelers, Melanie Walls, Kathy Duncan, All of us who are impacted by or needing to deal with the Coronavirus in some way, F/F Jan Lubinski’s father Glenn Utt, Sally Santeford’s daughter Jody’s friend Dave, Mark & Carol Plichta, Peru Missionaries Bob and Becky Boss, Anita Quinn’s sister, F/F Mark Wilcox’s cousin Ron Salmi, Relative of Lynn Watson,
Painesdale Prayer List
Our nation and its leaders, all those who are traveling, Sara Sipola, Dale Niemi, Diana Johnson, Jackie Niemi, Dan Coponen, Jim and Violet Medhurst, Veronica Stevens, John Semler, Bob Verran, Jon Marshall, Nick Shalim, Tracy Clock, Garry Hoekstra, Jim & Elaine, Bob Neumann, Doug Hayrynen, Jack and Bertha Rossberg, Josie Klemett, Sandy Aittama, Barbara Mattila, Don Moore (and family), Rylan Gibson, Ozzie and Barb Koski, Alice Gerzetich, John MacKrain, Monica, Sandy Rein-smith, Mary Thayer, Neil Lowney, Robbyn Lucier, Kathy Johnson, Mary Ann Jarvi, & Joy Minnich.
All who are incarcerated, in hospitals or in nursing homes, including these nursing home residents: Jimmy Harry, Pat Mattila, Pearl Savela, Betty Sajdak, Eleanor Bertolli, Mary Lou Mattila
F/F = family and friends of * = praise
Almighty God, on this day that your Son, knowing it was only days before he would suffer on the cross, still intentionally entered Jerusalem in peace and in love for the human race. We give you thanks today because you are our salvation and answer our prayers. Though those responsible for building religion rejected you, you became the cornerstone of those building their life on faith. Your love endures forever. We rejoice that Jesus became the bridge through which God’s light shines on us and we are granted spiritual life. We place our time in your hands – we lift to you our joys and sorrows, our successes and our setbacks, our conquests and our challenges. As Jesus prayed in the garden before his holy week of passion, so we lift our prayers to you.
You know our faults, yet you promise to forgive. Keep us in your presence and under your wisdom. Restore within us the joy of your salvation. Holy week reminds us that you emptied yourself, dashed your doubts, faced your fears, and broke yourself for us so that as we trust in your word, we may find hope, peace, freedom, and life. Help us to recognize your hand working in our world and transforming our hearts by the new things you are doing, that we may experience and proclaim your love in Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray LORD’s PRAYER.
Passing of the Peace
Now go to live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ., who deserves all the glory, both now and forever! Amen.