Service for the Lord’s Day
Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020
Prelude Thine is the Glory arr. Ryan Thomas
Hymn Jesus Christ is Risen Today (vs. 1 and 4) Easter Hymn
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia! Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia! Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!
Sing we to our God above, Alleluia! Praise eternal as God’s love, Alleluia!
Praise our God, ye heavenly host, Alleluia! Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Alleluia!
Confession and Pardon
Response Christ is Risen, Shout Hosanna Hymn to Joy
Christ is risen! Shout Hosanna! Celebrate this days of days.
Christ is risen! Hush in wonder. All creation is amazed.
In the desert all surrounding, see, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding bring a taste of love unknown.
Prayer for Illumination
Old Testament Lesson – Isaiah 25:6-9
New Testament Lesson – John 20:1-18
Sermon “Called by Name”
Hymn The Day of Resurrection (vs. 1 and 3) Lancashire
The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad.
The Passover of gladness, the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal, from this world to the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over with hymns of victory.
Now let the heavens be joyful, let earth the song begin.
Let the round world keep triumph and all that is therin.
Let all things seen and unseen their notes of gladness blend.
For Christ the Lord is risen, our joy that hath no end.
Offertory Alleluia, Christ is Risen! arr. James Kirby
Sarah Foess – solo
Response Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow Doxology
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession
Hymn Lift High the Cross (vs. 1 and 4) Crucifer
REFRAIN – Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore His sacred name.
Come, Christians, follow where our Savior trod.
The Lamb victorious, Christ the Son of God. (repeat refrain)
So shall our song of triumph ever be.
Praise to the Crucified for victory. (repeat refrain)
Blessing and Charge
Postlude Prelude in C Major J.S. Bach
Next Sunday, April 19, Dr. Lytch’s sermon is “Easter Rock n’ Roll.” The scripture text is Acts 5: 12-16.
Called By Name
That first Easter morning, in the twilight of dawn, Mary Magdalene stood before a tomb where she had come to mourn. Like so many who have been numbed by the death of one they love, she sought comfort in performing the rituals her society prescribed for those who have buried their dead. The other gospels tell us she had come to anoint Jesus’ body that had been laid to rest in haste before the Sabbath began on Friday evening. Nowadays we call it settling the estate or cleaning out the closets, but every age has found ways for those who are left behind to do something to deal with their grief, tasks that help ease the pain and begin to adjust to life without the one who gave purpose and meaning.
What a picture of how overwhelming grief is. When Mary looked into the tomb, she saw two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had lain. “Woman,” they asked her, “why are you weeping?” But those messengers from heaven did nothing for her. “Woman,” they called her. She didn’t need an impersonal revelation, even from angels. She needed the one who knew her, the one who understood her better than she understood herself, the one to whom she was not just “woman” but Mary, Mary of Magdala, Mary whose heart and soul longed for Jesus.
Then she saw the man standing there. He was not dressed in white like an angel from heaven. There was nothing celestial about his appearance. She thought he was the gardener, come early on the first day of the week to tend to his springtime chores. And then he said her name – “Mary.” That’s when she recognized him. The Lord said her name, and she believed.
What is it about a name? A name is the first gift we give a child. It’s the first thing we share about ourselves when we meet someone new. Our names carry with them our identity, our history, our heritage.
Things aren’t complete until they have a name. The first task God gave Adam was naming the animals. Giving names was part of the work of creation. When God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, God revealed the divine name. Before that the Hebrews knew God only as an impersonal force shrouded in mystery. But when God led God’s people out of slavery, God established an intimate relationship with them, and you can’t have a relationship unless you know someone’s name. God spoke the name – YHWH, which means, “I am who I am.”
Names have power. Just think of the power your name carries for you. When I was in the tenth grade, I tried out for the high school basketball team. I worked all summer and into the fall running, jumping rope, lifting weights, trying to master free throws and the lay ups. When it came time for tryouts, I made the first two cuts. Finally the day came when the coach posted the list of those who made the team. After school I crowded around the bulletin board in the locker room with the other boys, anxiously scanning the list for my name. I didn’t see it. I studied it a second time, and a third. I was devastated. My name wasn’t there.
Not many of us have heard Jesus call our names the way he called Mary that morning in the garden. But many of us have heard him calling to us in the depths of our hearts, calling us to a different way of life, calling us from the things that limit us and hold us back from the life he sets before us. With all the other things calling to us, with all our other commitments and temptations, sometimes it’s hard to recognize the voice of Jesus calling our name above all the other noise that clamors for our attention.
Sometimes it’s in our very longing that he is calling us. Sometimes Jesus calls to us by stirring up in us dissatisfaction with things the way they are. He draws us to him by making us long for something we’re not sure how to name.
A few years ago The Wall Street Journal did a profile of Marykay Powell. She stopped going to church when she left home. She got a job in the movie industry, and faith and matters of the spirit didn’t seem relevant. She made it to the top in Hollywood. She produced movies like Barbarians at the Gate and Harriet the Spy, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. On weekends she would be in a private jet headed for resorts in Mexico or Arizona. But along the way, unease set in, something she couldn’t put her finger on. Then it hit her. “I’m separated from God,” she realized. It was like a faint call. She tried a number of different paths to fill her emptiness. She went to New Age lectures. She studied the Dalai Lama. She took courses in Buddhism at UCLA. Then a religion professor convinced her to join a Bible study he was teaching at a local church. That was the beginning of her return to Christ. She didn’t hear Jesus speak her name like he spoke the name of Mary on Easter. But she felt he knew her, and it was like being recognized by an old friend. “I’m going to sound nuts,” she said, but it wasn’t until she asked God to forgive her for being away that she was comfortable going back to church again. “I had to say, ‘Please take me back. Please help me.’”
Some people think that Jesus would never call their name. They don’t fit the mold of what they think people Jesus calls are supposed to be like. Some think that because they haven’t called on the name of Jesus in years he has forgotten their name. Some think that because they don’t have all the answers to their questions about God or because they don’t know the Bible very well or because they have questions about faith, then Jesus wouldn’t call their name. Some haven’t lived the kind of life they’re proud for Jesus to see, and they think Jesus would never call the name of someone who has done some of the things they have done.
A few years ago I attended the Midwinter Lectures at Austin Theological Seminary in Texas. I had the privilege of meeting Hans-Richard Nevermann. He was at the seminary to be honored at the 50th reunion his graduating class. We spent several hours together over the course of three days, mostly at meal times. We talked about our churches – mine in the United States and his in Germany. We discussed world affairs. We told about our families and even discovered we had a mutual friend. He was missing one arm, but I never asked him how he lost it. I had to leave Austin before the closing banquet, so I didn’t know why he was being honored. A couple of months after I returned home I learned. I received the Austin Seminary quarterly magazine, and it told his story.
As a teenager Nevermann was a member of the Hitler Youth. In 1942 he joined the German army and was sent to the Russian front. “Traveling on the troop train from Berlin to Russia across the Polish frontier, he saw from the window a scene of human carnage; some alive but dying, reaching out their hands for aid. He was told by a sergeant that they were unimportant because they were Poles, probably Jews, and not to take notice.” In Russia he was injured. For two weeks he wandered in the barren Russian landscape with only snow to eat. Desperate and close to death, he was taken in by a peasant couple who tended his wounds and prayed for him. The experience of that grace, of hearing his name lifted to God in prayer, led to a profound change in his life. His arm was amputated, and after the war he spent time in a Russian prisoner of war camp. While he was in the camp, he became a Christian, and in 1950 he entered seminary in West Berlin. “A year later, as he was looking up at his reflection in the ceiling light fixture, he lifted up his arm and a repressed memory from the troop train assailed him. He remembered looking out the train window and seeing the wounded and dying with their arms outstretched for help. He turned to a seminary professor for counsel and received his life’s commission: ‘What you did not do at that time, do now.’”
At Austin Nevermann was being honored for his lifetime of ministry dedicated to reconciliation in countries hurt by that terrible war. One of his first projects was constructing a center for adults and children with disabilities. He organized the Action Reconciliation-Service for Peace with projects in thirteen countries, rebuilding what had been destroyed. One project of special importance to Nevermann was an international youth center in Auschwitz. In 2003 he and his wife Karin participated in the ceremony for the signing of the first ever accord between the government and the German Jewish community.
The name Jesus means “he saves.” That’s how we know him, through his name that saves us. When he rose from the grave on Easter morning, he overcame every power that can defile our names. When we call in faith on the name of the risen Lord, he gives us all the power he brought to humankind on Easter day. He gives us the power of that name that is above all names, the name of the one who spoke and the world was formed. In Jesus Christ our name isn’t a passing breath that is spoken for a brief time and then disappears like the morning mist. Our name is recorded in eternity with him.
Whatever your name is, listen. Listen for Jesus calling your name. You don’t always hear it with your ears. More often, you hear it in your heart, a sense of being recognized for who you are, of being loved and accepted and forgiven, of gladness that you are in the presence of someone who knows your name, knows you.
Hearing our name we turn to him, like Mary Magdalene. We call on his name, and that name lifts all our sorrows. It fills us with joy. In that name we have victory over death, over sin and suffering and everything that can harm us. God has raised him from the grave and he calls us to himself. Listen. He is calling, calling your name.
 Lisa Miller, “Can You Go Back?” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 1998, p. W1.
 “Former Nazi soldier, Hispanic leader honored with 2006 ASA Award,” Windows (Austin, Texas: Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Spring 2006), p. 24.
PRELUDE O Sacred Head Now Wounded arr. J.G. Walther
HYMN NO. 80 Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley Lonesome Valley
Jesus walked this lonesome valley. He had to walk it by Himself.
O, nobody else could walk it for Him. He had to walk it by Himself.
We must walk this lonesome valley. We have to walk it by ourselves.
O, nobody else can walk it for us. We have to walk it by ourselves.
You must go and stand your trial. You have to stand it by yourself.
O, nobody else can stand it for you. You have to stand it by yourself.
THE PASSION OF OUR LORD
HYMN NO. 97 Go to Dark Gethsemane (vs. 1 and 2) Redhead
Go to dark Gethsemane, all who feel the tempter’s power.
Your Redeemer’s conflict see. Watch with Him one bitter hour.
Turn not from His griefs away. Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.
Follow to the judgement hall. View the Lord of life arraigned.
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained.
Shun not suffering, shame or loss. Learn from Christ to bear the cross.
HYMN NO. 93 Ah, Holy Jesus (vs. 1 and 3) Herzliebster Jesu
Ah, holy Jesus, how have you offended, that mortal judgement on You descended?
By foes derided, by Your own rejected, O most afflicted!
For me, dear Jesus, was Your incarnation, Your mortal sorrow, and Your life’s oblation,
Your death of anguish and Your bitter passion, for my salvation.
SOLO Were You There? Spiritual
Tim Ruth – cello
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
The Lord’s Prayer
HYMN NO. 85 What Wondrous Love Is This? Wondrous Love
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul? What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the heavy cross for my soul,
for my soul, to bear the heavy cross for my soul?
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing. To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great I Am, while millions join the theme I will sing,
I will sing, while millions join the theme, I will sing!
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on. And when from death I’m free,
I’ll sing on. And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be. And through eternity,
I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on. And through eternity, I’ll sing on!
Service for the Lord’s Day
April 5, 2020
PRELUDE All Glory, Laud and Honor arr. Robert Hughes
HYMN Ride On! Ride On in Majesty! (vs. 1 and 4) St. Drostane
Ride on! Ride on in majesty! Hark, all the tribes hosanna cry.
Thy humble beast pursues its road with palms and scattered garments strowed
Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, thy power, and reign
CONFESSION AND PARDON
RESPONSE Behold What Manner of Love Patricia Van Stine
Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us.
That we should be called the children of God.
That we should be called the children of God.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Mark 11: 1-11
SERMON “TEMPLES OLD AND NEW”
HYMN Hosanna, Loud Hosanna (vs. 1 and 3) Ellacombe
Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang.
Through pillared court and temple the joyful anthem rang.
To Jesus who had blessed them, close folded to his breast,
The children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.
“Hosanna in the highest!”, that ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven, our King.
O may we ever praise him with heart and life and voice,
And in his blissful presence eternally rejoice.
OFFERTORY Let All Things Now Living arr. Ophelia Payne
RESPONSE We Are an Offering Liles
We lift our voices. We lift our hands. We lift our lives up to you. We are an offering.
Lord, use our voices. Lord, use our hands. Lord, use our lives, they are yours.
We are an offering. We are an offering.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
HYMN We Are One in the Spirit Peter Scholtes
We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord.
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
REFRAIN: And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
All praise to the Father, from whom all things come,
And all praise to Christ Jesus, God’s only Son,
And all praise to the Spirit, who makes us one. (repeat refrain)
BLESSING AND CHARGE
POSTLUDE Ride On, King Jesus arr. Larry Shackley
Temples Old and New
A number of years ago I had the privilege of representing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at a meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan. The meeting took place in a remote village that consisted of grass huts and had no electricity. We met under the shade of a huge spreading mango tree. The closing banquet was delayed because the bull that was to provide the main course had wandered off into the bush.
Toward the end of the five day long meeting, it dawned on me that we had not celebrated the Lord’s Supper. In the United States, it is customary for our General Assemblies to begin with communion, and I asked one of the church leaders if we were going to celebrate the sacrament before we left. “No,” he replied. “We do not have any communion cups. We tried to fashion them out of clay, but they disintegrated when we filled them with juice.”
What he was referring to were the small individual cups like we use when we celebrate communion at the 11:00 service – the ones that fit into those holes in the racks on the pews. Protestants started using them back in the 19th century when we became aware that illnesses are spread by germs. That was about the same time that our Presbyterian missionaries were establishing the church in Sudan. Those noble missionaries had shared the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the gift of his sacrament, but those who received it connected communion with the little cups in which it was served. And I have to admit, the first time I was ever asked to take communion by intinction, or dipping a piece of bread into a common cup, I came up with lots of reasons why, well, it just wasn’t right.
Since the earliest days of Christianity, we have wrestled with the question of how to distinguish the gifts God gives us from the ways in which they’re given. We’ve been having that conversation a lot in the last few weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to worship and be the church in new ways. We’re learning how to worship online, and we’re even having to do some radical rethinking about the way we celebrate the Lord’s Supper during these days of social distancing. We’re not ready to do it today, the first Sunday of the month when we would ordinarily celebrate communion, but we plan to be ready for online communion the first Sunday in May.
But it’s not just worship practices that we have to rethink from time to time. We’re constantly learning new things about how the world around us works. How do we hold fast to the truth we know through Christ without that new knowledge undermining our faith? The story of Palm Sunday can help us with that.
As soon as Jesus entered Jerusalem on that momentous day, he went to the temple. The temple was where God’s people Israel went to meet God. They knew that God wasn’t confined there, but it was the place where God’s presence was centered. Many of our most beloved psalms exalt the temple. Psalm 122 begins, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” Psalm 84 says, “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.” Shortly after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple to present him to the Lord and sacrificed two doves on his behalf. The temple was at the heart of Israel’s relationship with God.
Mark tells us that when Jesus entered the temple on Palm Sunday, “he looked around at everything.” He was like a property owner who had been away and had come back to take stock of what was his. The next day he returned to the temple and drove out the moneychangers and those who were selling doves for sacrifice. He acted as if it were his place to say who belonged there and who didn’t. Then over the next few days he taught in the temple, and the crowds were spellbound. He taught as if the temple were his classroom. One day later that week Jesus and his disciples were sitting on the Mount of Olives overlooking the temple, and Jesus told them that the time was coming when the temple would be destroyed. He went on to say that not only the temple, but all things in heaven and on earth that we rely on for security will be overturned. Then, he said, the Son of Man will return in power and glory. That return would make Sunday’s parade look like a picnic. Then he would not only reclaim the temple. He would gather all his people to himself. By Thursday of that week the temple leaders had enough. They arrested him and handed him over to Pilate so the Roman governor could put him to death. One of the accusations against Jesus was that he had said, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”
And it was true. No longer would God’s people come to the temple to encounter God. The time was soon coming when people would meet God in the risen Christ. He is the new temple, not confined to a mount in Jerusalem but present everywhere the Holy Spirit moves.
You can understand what a threat that was to those who had dedicated their lives to the temple. What they heard Jesus saying was that the scriptures were not true. But Jesus was clear that he was not contradicting anything that the scriptures taught about God. Everything he claimed was firmly grounded in the scriptures. The Palm Sunday story that we read is full of allusions and quotations from the Old Testament. God was not changing. What was changing was our understanding of how we meet God – no longer in a temple made of stone, but in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
That living Word remains the same no matter how things change around us and no matter how our perception of that Word changes. We see that throughout our lives. God does things we could never imagine. Both my wife and I knew when we entered seminary that God was calling us to a vocation of ministry. We each felt called to serve as pastors in a local church. But then we met in the seminary dining hall, fell in love, and heard God calling us to the covenant of marriage. In the late 1970s ministry and marriage seemed like conflicting calls. We had no idea how we could be faithful to both of them. But we trusted that God would not call us to conflicting covenants, so through prayer, faithful counsel from mentors, and being very intentional not to assume that we knew our future better than God knew it, we’re still growing in both of those covenants of ministry and marriage. When we decided on a beach in Clearwater, Florida, to get married we had no idea that 40 years later she would be a seminary president and I would be doing interim ministry, but we did know that God would be faithful through all life’s changes.
That confidence keeps those of us who trust in Christ from being disheartened as our knowledge of the world around us changes. When the Bible was written, before there were telescopes and our understanding of the universe was based solely on what the naked eye could see, we thought that the sun and the planets and the stars revolved around the earth. All the Bible’s descriptions of God’s handiwork in nature are based on that premise, that the earth is at the center of the universe. Over the centuries, using the intellect God gave us, we discovered that our understanding of how the universe is ordered had been wrong. The earth is not at the center. It took longer than seven days to create. But the Bible is not a science textbook. It’s about God who created everything in love. In fact, the more we learn about the expansiveness of the universe, the mysteries of the galaxies and the creation of life, the more we understand how majestic is God’s name in all the earth, how much more complex are God’s ways than our human minds can comprehend.
The same can be said for many of the laws that ordered how God’s people were to relate to one another. God gave those laws to protect the weak and oppressed. For instance, there are numerous places in the Bible that forbid lending to at interest. Those laws were given because of the damage that loans can do to a relationship, how lending money puts the lender in a position of power over the debtor. Any loans were to be an act of charity, not made for the benefit of the lender. As capitalism developed, people discovered how charging interest could be an incentive to loosen up large sums of money that could be used to advance progress. Although we’re still aware that debt is something that has to be handled carefully, we have set aside that prohibition against charging interest on a loan in light of a deeper understanding of economics.
Some laws that were presumed to be part of the natural order of things we’ve reconsidered as we’ve learned more about how God created us. There are places in the New Testament where it says that women should not be leaders in the church. But as society’s restrictions on women were loosened and women had the chance to exercise gifts of leadership, we began to reconsider those restrictions in light of the context in which they were given, and now we welcome women into leadership roles in the church because, as it says in Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Now, changes like that can be hard, and often they take generations to come about. And in one sense that is a good thing, because we are prone to twist our interpretations of God’s word to our advantage. Paul’s letters to Corinth were written in large part because the Corinthians had pushed things too far. They took liberties with the gospel that caused offense. They used their freedom in Christ to justify false beliefs, licentious behavior, and the segregation of the rich from the poor. 2 Timothy 4:3 warns against “itching ears” that will cause people to “turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”
But Jesus challenges many of the things we’re certain about. The morning after Palm Sunday he was walking back to Jerusalem with his disciples. He was hungry and saw a fig tree. It had no figs because it was not the season for the tree to bear fruit. But Jesus cursed it, and the next day as they were walking past it, they saw that the tree had withered to its roots. Peter was shocked. And we should be too. How could the tree be expected to bear fruit when it was not the right season? But Jesus explained that even the most deeply engrained laws of nature are subject to his command. Through him, with faith in God, even a mountain could be taken up and thrown into the sea.
The most deeply engrained law in nature is the law of death. There is nothing more certain in the universe. Every living thing, including you and me, will die. Yet a week after reclaiming the temple Jesus showed that he has command even over death. He submitted to death on the cross, dying as each of us will, and three days later God raised him from the tomb, so all who die in him share his victory. All who put their faith, not in the way things are, but in him, are not subject to the law of death. We belong to the Lord of life. And if Jesus has overcome death, we can trust him with everything in life. No illness, no disappointment, no setback, no betrayal is greater than the love we know in Jesus. He is the living temple where we meet the holy God. The earth under our feet may change, but he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!