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May 15, 2022--Fifth Sunday of Easter
Tobi White
Tobi White
Sunday, May 15, 2022
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Sabbatical Sending for Pastor Tobi
May 15, 2022, 9am


L:    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
All:    And also with you

Intro to church
Online bulletin–going paperless
Intro to Nature & the purpose of her worship practice for us (kick-off to a sabbatical of rest and creativity)
Info about creative worship options
Masks recommended but not required

*GATHERING HYMN— “Soon and Very Soon,” ELW #439

L:    Christ is risen.
All:    Christ is risen, indeed.
L:    God is alive.
All:    New birth is given.
L:    Hope is alive…
All:    A new age is dawning.
L:    Joy is alive…
All:    Redemption is here.
L:    Love is alive
All:    Death cannot harm us.
L:    We are alive…
All:    New life is within us.
L:    The church is alive…
All:    God’s spirit is within us.
L:    God of life, we worship you.
All:    God of creation, we praise you.
L:    God of revelation, we learn from you.
All:    God of resurrection, we come to celebrate you.

*HYMN OF PRAISE        “Now the Feast and Celebration,” ELW #167


PRAYER OF THE DAY—“Sabbath” from The Work of the People
God of holy rest,
on the seventh day you paused,
laying down the work of creation
and entered into sacred stillness.
Let us remember we were freed from slavery
in Egypt and you called us to be people of liberation.
Kindle in us the strength to say no
to a world of perpetual busyness.
Inspire us to set aside all of our plans
and goals to receive the lavish gift
of rest for ourselves.
Let the Sabbath be a time of profound renewal,
of intimate connection with You,
and a rekindling of our holy desires to be of service.
Sustain in us the desire to simply be
and not succumb to the demands
of productivity and an endless string of achievements.
Let our lives be a loving witness to a world
of restoration and refreshment,
of the profound goodness of joy and delight,
taking pleasure in the generous gift of pausing.

Congregational Meeting
Justice Scripture Study–alternative date

Acts 11:1-18
Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Word of God, Word of Life.
Thanks be to God.


*Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE—Pastor Tobi White
The early church had a problem to solve. For centuries, they struggled to identify themselves over against the other cultures and faiths around them. It was hard enough as they arrived in the Promised Land, establishing not only their faith practices but their nation. It got much more difficult as their nation was pulled apart—through civil war, exile, and oppression. Through loss of their temple and loss of their land. Who were they if they didn’t have this? Their identity as God’s chosen people, a light to the world, set apart from all the others was all they had left.
Set apart. Different. One marker of that difference was circumcision—a physical distinction that identified them. But after the Messiah came among them, the waters got a lot muddier. The book of Acts tells of their struggle to find their identity in the midst of a new landscape—an expanded faith.
It tells of Philip encountering a man along the road, returning to Ethiopia after worshiping at the temple—though, he couldn’t worship in the temple, proper. He was a eunuch. His physical body was defiled without the possibility of return. (This means, folks, that he was neutered, in case you weren’t sure—his testacies removed for the safety of the queen to whom he was in service.) And yet, as Philip explained to him how Jesus fulfilled the prophet Isaiah’s words of hope, the Ethiopian turned and asked him, “So, then what can stand in the way of my baptism?”
What can stand in the way of him being fully recognized as a complete human being, a disciple in God’s holy temple? Philip had to do some quick thinking—theology on the fly, as it were. And he baptized the man right there along the roadside where there was a bit of standing water.
Not long after, Saul—the great persecutor of Christians—was met by Jesus along the way to Damascus, where he had hoped to gather more of those faithless and wayward Jews to bring to court. After being struck blind, God sent a Christian man in Damascus to go to Saul and heal him. Again, theology on the fly. Faith in practice. Former identity being questioned in order to make room for something even bigger.
And today, as Peter tells the other Jews around him of his experience, he makes it clear that he didn’t enter into things lightly. He was faced with a choice: he could obey God’s word recorded for the Hebrew people from the time of the Babylonian Exile, a time when the Jewish identity was most at risk; OR he could obey God’s new command of welcome and grace.
You see, the laws written and collected in the Hebrew Bible reflected a way of life that set the Hebrews apart from the rest of the world. One God versus many gods. Foods that were considered clean—and those that were unclean. Practices of washing and praying and giving and worshiping that had specific purposes at specific times. And a very dim view of fraternizing with the outside world. The most faithful Jews didn’t talk to Gentiles…they didn’t share meals with Samaritans…they didn’t enter the cities of outsiders. They stuck to themselves in order to maintain their purity.
And Peter was a faithful Jew. Even as God brought him unclean animals to eat in his vision, he continued to push back. He had never eaten unclean food, per God’s instructions, and he wouldn’t start now. But God had a different plan. God told him 3 times (numbers are important) to eat. Peter denied the invitation 3 times. And God said 3 times that what God has called clean (good, acceptable), no one has the right to profane. No one has the right to deny. No one has the right to exclude.
God doesn’t say the written laws were wrong. God goes back to the beginning—when God created everything and called it all good. God has lifted the restrictions that identify the faithful based on purity and extended grace to everyone. Everyone. But I imagine this was a challenge for Philip as he baptized the man from Ethiopia. And it challenged Ananias who was sent to heal this murderous Paul. And it clearly challenged Peter who was then sent into the home of a Gentile, who baptized the whole household of people, who sat at the table with them and ate. It challenges us. If we can’t stand on our faith, what is left?
The gospel passage today reminded me of a song by Caedmon’s Call—“Shifting Sand.”
Sometimes I believe all the lies
So I can do the things I despise
And everyday I am swayed
By whatever is on my mind
I hear it all depends on my faith
So I’m feeling precarious
The only problem I have with the mysteries
Is they’re so mysterious
And like a consumer I’ve been thinking
If I could just get a bit more
More than my fifteen minutes of faith
Then I’d be secure
My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace.
Stand on grace.
Today’s gospel reading comes at the end of Jesus’ sermon on the plain. Prior to this part, he had told the crowd that the kingdom of God belongs to those for whom nothing else has ever belonged—the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the hated. He told them they were to love their enemies and to pray for those who mistreat them. He said that they were to treat others the way they would want to be treated. He told them to show mercy. Live mercy.
He challenged them not to judge because they would be judged by the same standards. He said that one who does not see—who does not understand grace—has no business teaching others and spreading their ignorance. He urged them to bear good fruit from a good heart. And he said that those who do not listen and practice these teachings are like those who build their houses of faith on shifting sand—sand that changes with every wave. Because our faith waxes and wanes like the tide. Our understanding is like one who looks into a mirror and only sees dimly, as through a fog, what God is up to.
Instead, we are to build our houses of faith on the rock of grace. Grace is not demanding but inviting. Grace is not judgmental but forgiving. Grace is not hurtful but merciful. And because of that, grace feels precarious. Because we can’t rely on our own strength or merit any longer. God’s grace opens wide the doors of faith, and it leaves us feeling vulnerable. It’s a paradox—that building faith upon our rules and understandings feels solid but is quite unstable; and that building faith upon God’s grace feels vulnerable but is the only lasting foundation that can survive the storms of our fragile identities.
My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave.
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace.
Stand on grace.

HYMN OF THE DAY    “Beautiful Things,” ACS #925

L:    Let us affirm our faith together:
All:    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. Amen.


L:    The peace of Christ be with you always.
All:    And also with you.

L:    Living God, you welcome us all at your table. Reach out to us through this meal, and show us your wounded and risen body, that we may be nourished and believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord
All:    Amen.

In the night in which he was betrayed,
our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
and gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Lord, remember us in your kin-dom and teach us to 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,
forever and ever. Amen.

    Hymns    “Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me,” ELW #767
            “In Heaven Above,” ELW #630

L:    The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you in his grace.
All:    Amen.

L:    God, the Author of life, Christ, the living Cornerstone, and the life-giving Spirit of adoption, bless you now and forever.
All:    Amen.


Council Member:     We bring before you Holy One, our sister in Christ, our Pastor and friend, Tobi White. We send her on sabbatical with our earnest prayers, asking your blessing upon her, and upon this congregation that she serves. 
All:     May this sabbatical be for Tobi a time of adventure and discovery. May her experiences introduce her to creative expressions new to her but known to you.
CM:     Guide her steps, O God. May she know your accompanying presence in each moment and find you waiting for her, welcoming her, through every encounter. 
All:     May Tobi enjoy, in these weeks away: a release from responsibilities, a child-like curiosity, and a thorough refreshment of body, mind and spirit.
CM:     Grant to her, Gracious God, times of reading, times of play, times of deep contemplation, of rich conversation, of both leisurely dreaming and focused reflection. And enable her to gaze in wonder at the beauty of your creation.
Tobi:     Beloved, hear these words from the Apostle Paul, to Christ’s people in Corinth. Let them be my word to you as well as God’s: “Finally brothers and sisters, goodbye. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure. The amazing grace of the Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” (1 Corinthians 13: 11&14, The Message).
All:     “You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” (Isaiah 55: 12a). God below you, God before you and behind you, God everywhere you turn and within you. Amen.
*SENDING HYMN        “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” ELW #631, vs. 1-2, 4

L:    Christ is risen. Alleluia!
All:    Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
L:    Go in peace. Serve the Lord!
All:    Thanks be to God.