This is the first of seven audio services; as you will see, I'm still getting used to the software and the microphone, but I hope it's a blessing for you. (Onward and upward, right?) The full text follows, and low bandwidth users might want to download and unzip the lower-quality audio file.
Download: Lower-quality audio file (MP3) (1.3 Mb)
Greetings. This is a service of worship for May 10, 2020, the Fourth Sunday after Easter
Sentence and Votum (Psalm 124:8)
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Collect for the Day
Let us pray:
Almighty God, who unites the minds of all the faithful: grant your people love for what you command, and desire for what you promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely be pointed to where true joys are to be found, the kingdom and promises of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray, as Jesus taught, saying:
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 glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Let us praise God with words from Psalm 34 (1-7, NRSV)
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
A reading from the first chapter of the letter of James (1:17-21, NRSV)
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
Here ends the reading.
Our passage from the letter of James ends on a hopeful note: “welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” The same power which saves us, and all persons, in the span of creation comes to help us in the trials of our daily life. As in fact it must. We don’t profess a faith that only has benefits in an unseen future state. God implants a desire to hope, not just for a string of “perhaps tomorrow, perhaps tomorrow” but also that we might live fully today. Spiritually deep living proves the value of faith more than any turn of logic or theological dispute. From it comes the gift of God “from above” granting us power to be generous givers ourselves, to enjoy good times and to bear up with hard times.
While the virus sickens and kills many people, threatens livelihoods and inconveniences everyone, it is not correct to say that the days before the outbreak were good and today is bad. For many people, perhaps most people on Earth, life was hard before and is harder now. There was death, loss, hunger, sickness and violence then and now. But the burden is lighter on those with more resources. Typically, we speak of these resources as financial or material: money to not worry about lost work or medical bills, a bigger house to shelter in or the means to have food and resources delivered to you. There are other, intangible resources, say, taking comfort in the company of family and friends, but these too are limited, and the pandemic is a special burden for those who live alone. And we also have spiritual resources that give us a context and response to that crisis. Spiritual resources, unlike material resources, can be re-charged by their use. How often do we feel refreshed by being kind, and see that kindness returned, but weary from demanding indulgences from others. Don’t think it comes automatically, or that’s it’s a fraud to put yourselves in an attitude valuing goodness, service and care over, as James puts it, sordidness and wickedness.
This particular pandemic will some day pass, but other challenges will come instead. Prepare yourself — not just with canned food and toilet paper — but with an approach to life that values goodness, and “has the power to save your souls.”
Let us profess our faith:
We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest and final destination of mankind.
We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men.
Let us pray for peace:
O God, who is the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom stands our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Grant us, your servants, we humbly ask you, that peace which the world can neither give nor take away; that we, who in all our dangers rely on your goodness, may under your parental protection be defended against all adversities, and rejoice evermore in your blessed service, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray for grace:
O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day; Defend us with your mighty power; and grant that we fall into no sin, nor run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by your governance, to do always that which is righteous in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For healers and caretakers
Let us pray for healers and caretakers
Almighty God, who inspires the hearts of all who would serve you, we ask you to give your special blessing to all healers and caretakers who attend to the sick and afflicted. Give faithfulness and skill to their work, efficiency to the means they employ, and guide them to the understanding that in their best service, they also serve you. In the name of the Divine Physician, Christ our Lord. Amen.
For all conditions of humankind
Let us pray for all people
O God, the Creator and Preserver of all humankind, we humbly ask that you would make your ways known unto the breath and width of the human family, your saving health to all nations. More especially we pray for the good estate of the Church Universal; that it may be so guided and governed by your Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to your tender goodness all those who are any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate (particularly sick people and those close to death); that you would comfort and relieve them according to their various needs, giving them patience under their condition, and a happy result from all their afflictions. And this we ask for your mercy’s sake in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen. (attributed to St. John Chrysostom)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.
For more information about these services, visit revscottwells.com. The portions of scripture are from the New Revised Common Version.
This is Scott Wells. God bless.