FCUCC Home Worship (3/15/2020) “Good News amid the Shipwreck”

Prepare…

 

Settle into your seat, feet planted on the floor, spine stretched.  Concentrate on your breath. Breathe in God’s love… Breathe out God’s love…  Breathe in God’s love… Breathe out God’s love.

Hold Silence

Hymn of Praise Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee   HYMN TO JOY

Joyful, joyful, we adore you, God of glory, God of love;

Hearts unfold like flowers before you, opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the storms of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day.

 

All your works with joy surround you, Earth and heaven reflect your rays,

Stars and angels sing around you, center of unbroken praise,

Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,

Chanting bird and flowing fountain, teach us what our praise should be.

 

You are giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,

Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!

Loving Spirit, Father, Mother, all who love belong to you;

Teach us how to love each other, by that love our joy renew.

 

Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;

Boundless love is reigning o’er us, reconciling race and clan.

Ever singing, move we forward, faithful in the midst of strife.

Joyful music leads us onward in the triumph song of life.

 

Prayer of Confession

Take a moment to examine your heart and mind.  What do you find? What fears? What 

hopes?  What regrets?  What joys? Offer all these thoughts and feelings to God.

Silent Confession

Assurance of Grace

Say these words aloud:  One fact remains that does not change:  God has loved me, loves me now, and will always love me.  This is the good news that brings me new life. Thanks be to God!

Listen…

New Testament Lesson: ACTS 27:1 – 28:10

Once it was decided that we should sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were put into the custody of a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan cohort.   We embarked in a ship from Adramyttium, bound for ports along the province of Asia Minor. Accompanying us was Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica.  

The next day, we landed at Sidon, and Julius was considerate enough to allow Paul to go to his friends for provisions.  We embarked from there and sailed to the leeward side of Cyprus because of headwinds. Then we sailed in open water along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, and in two weeks arrived at Myra in Lycia.  There the centurion found a ship from Alexandria bound for Italy, and put us aboard.  

For the next several days we made little headway and arrived off  Cnidus only after much difficulty. The wind made it impossible to land there, so we sailed to the leeward side of Crete, off Cape Salmone.  We coasted along with difficulty until we reached a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

 All of this had consumed a huge amount of time, and sailing was now dangerous since it was so late in the year—even the Day of Atonement had come and gone. Paul warned everyone, “Friends, I perceive that this voyage now faces dangerous weather; we run the risk of losing our cargo, our ship and even our lives.”  

But the centurion gave more heed to the captain and the ship’s owner than to Paul.  

Because the harbor was unsuitable for wintering, the majority agreed to set sail with the hope of reaching Phoenix, a harbor in Crete facing both southwest and northwest, to spend the winter there.  A mild breeze out of the south came up and, sensing this as a good omen, they weighed anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete.  

Before long, a hurricane force wind called a “northeaster” struck down on them from across the island.  The ship was enveloped by the storm and couldn’t be turned into the wind, so we had to give way to the wind and allow ourselves to be driven along by its force.  

As we ran along the leeward side of an island known as Clauda, we managed with difficulty to gain control of the ship’s dinghy.  Next they passed cables under the ship itself. Then, for fear of running aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let themselves be driven along. We were being buffeted by the storm so violently that on the next day they tossed some of the cargo overboard.  Washington State!  On the third day, they tossed the ship’s gear overboard with their own hands.  For several days neither the sun nor the stars were visible, while the storm was assailing us.  At last we gave up all hope of surviving.

Then, when they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them. “Friends,” he said, “had you heeded my advice and not set out from Crete, you would not have suffered all this loss, all this damage.  But now I ask you to hold on to your courage. For none of you will be lost, only the ship. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You are to stand trial before Caesar, so God has granted you the safety of all who sail with you.’  So, take heart, friends, for I believe that events will take place just as I have been told. We are to run aground on an island.” 

After another two weeks—we were still drifting and in the Adriatic Sea by now—the crew sensed that we were near land. They took soundings and measured twenty fathoms. a  little later they measured fifteen fathoms. So, for fear of running aground on a reef, they let out four anchors from the stern and prayed for the sun to rise.  

The crew then tried to abandon ship.  They lowered the dinghy into the water with the pretext that they were going to lay out anchors from the bow.  But Paul said to the centurion and his soldiers, “If the crew doesn’t stay aboard, you won’t be saved.” So the soldiers scuttled the dinghy by cutting its ropes. A little before daybreak Paul urged them all to eat something. “For the last two weeks,” he said, “you have been under constant tension and have eaten nothing.  I urge you to have something to eat; there is no doubt about your safety. Not a hair of your head will be lost.” 

With this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God while standing before them all.  Then he broke the bread and began to eat. They were all encouraged by this and began to eat as well. In all, there were two hundred seventy-six aboard.  After they all had their fill, they lightened the load by tossing the wheat overboard. 

At daybreak, even though they didn’t recognize the land, they spied a bay with a beach.  Intending to run the ship aground at this point, they cut loose the anchors to abandon them to the sea, loosened the lines of the rudder, and hoisted the foresail to the wind and tried for the beach.  But the current carried the ship into a sandbar and grounded it. The bow was so wedged that it couldn’t be moved, and the pounding surf began to break up the stern. 

Initially, the soldiers intended to kill the prisoners to keep them from escaping by swimming away, but the centurion intervened and thwarted their plan, because he wanted to spare Paul’s life.  He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard and make for shore. He ordered the others to follow on planks or pieces of debris from the ship. All came ashore safe and sound.  

Once safely ashore, we learned that the island was Malta.  The inhabitants were especially friendly. They built a huge fire and bade us welcome, for it had started to rain and was cold. 

Paul had collected an armful of firewood and was putting it onto the fire when a snake, escaping from the heat, fastened itself onto his hand.  When the locals saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “He must be a murderer. For divine justice would not let him live, even though he escaped the sea.” 

Paul, meanwhile, shook the snake into the fire with no ill effects.  They waited, expecting him to swell up and suddenly drop dead. After a long wait, and unable to detect anything unusual happening, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.  

Nearby there were estates belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island.  He welcomed us with open arms and entertained us cordially for three days. It so happened that Publius’ father was ill, suffering from dysentery and a fever. Paul went in to see him, and after praying, healed him by the laying on of hands.  Once this happened, others suffering from illnesses came and were healed. They honored us with many gifts. When it came time to sail, they supplied the provisions.

 

Questions for Reflection

–What strikes you about this story?

–In particular, what strikes you about what happens on the island of Malta after the shipwreck? 

–What parts of this story resonate with your experience thus far of the coronavirus pandemic?

 

Sermon                            Good News amid the Shipwreck                      Kim Buchanan

 

I woke up yesterday morning thinking about Paul’s shipwreck at the end of the book of Acts.  I’m not sure why. Maybe because, like Paul and his companions on the ship in the Mediterranean, everything was going along fine…until it wasn’t.  After calling in at a couple of ports and changing ships once, they were hit by a ‘northeaster.’ Hurricane force winds pummeled the ship. Everyone on board was prepared to die.

Of course, maybe this story came to mind because the ship was taking Paul to Rome.  Yeah. Not a good idea right now. Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem for defying Roman law.  Because he was a Roman citizen, they were transporting him to Rome for trial. 

The description of Paul’s journey in Acts 27 is riveting.  It’s like you’re on the boat, feeling the impact of every wave.  When the ship eventually goes down, you go down with it.  

Reading through Acts 27, I’ve been trying to figure out where we are in the narrative related to our coronavirus journey.  We’re definitely beyond the smooth sailing part. The empty toilet paper aisles in the grocery stores attest to that. And, as surreal as this new social distancing lifestyle is, I don’t think this ship is wrecked yet.  Thanks be to God!

But the going has gotten tougher, hasn’t it?  We’re definitely sailing into headwinds. It’s difficult to tell whether the dark clouds gathering on the horizon are the kind that simply pass over, or the kind that bring waves that wreak havoc and destruction.  We’re in that disconcerting in-between time when we aren’t sure what’s going to happen, but we know that wherever the story takes us, things will be very different by the end of it.

Friday night on the PBS Newshour, David Brooks shared some of what he’s been reading about pandemics in the past.  “They’re not good for social trust,” he began. “People go into them thinking ‘I’m going to be a good citizen for the people around me.’  But when the fear gets going, they stop seeing each other, they stop caring about each other, they stop volunteering.  

“I’ve always wondered,” Brooks said, “why the 1918 Spanish Flu–that killed 675,000 Americans–left no trace on the national culture.  Reading about what it was like, people were ashamed of how they behaved, because they just looked after themselves. That’s understandable, because fear is just a terrible thing.  We haven’t really been hit yet by the raw, gut-wrenching fear of seeing hospitals overwhelmed and stuff like that, but we will. We need to take moral steps and social steps as well as we take health steps to mitigate that.”

That’s one of the wisest statements I’ve heard since this pandemic began…well, besides “wash your hands.”  “We need to take moral and social steps as well as health steps” during this pandemic.

So, what happens when Paul’s ship goes down?  What happens when everything changes for them?  What happens after the crew and passengers float on debris to the shore of the nearest island?  This is one of the best stories in the Bible. Listen.

Once safely ashore, we learned that the island was Malta.  The inhabitants were especially friendly. They built a huge fire and bade us welcome, for it had started to rain and was cold. 

Paul had collected an armful of firewood and was putting it onto the fire when a snake, escaping from the heat, fastened itself onto his hand.  (As if being arrested and shipwrecked weren’t enough.) When the locals saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “He must be a murderer.  For divine justice would not let him live, even though he escaped the sea.” 

Paul, meanwhile, shook the snake into the fire with no ill effects.  They waited, expecting him to swell up and suddenly drop dead. After a long wait, and unable to detect anything unusual happening, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.  

Nearby there were estates belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island.  He welcomed us with open arms and entertained us cordially for three days. It so happened that Publius’ father was ill, suffering from dysentery and a fever. Paul went in to see him, and after praying, healed him by the laying on of hands.  Once this happened, others suffering from illnesses came and were healed. They honored us with many gifts. When it came time to sail, they supplied the provisions.  

This is just the best story ever.  Prisoners and guards, people from vastly different cultures…everyone just meeting each other where they were.  Meeting each other as human beings. Doing whatever they could to help each other.  

After three months, Paul and the others left on a new ship.  Eventually, after his trial, Paul was executed…so the larger story doesn’t have a happy ending.  But for a brief time on the island of Malta, people cared for each other. Despite the fact that they all had significant struggles, they helped each other.  They offered each other their unique gifts and, for a season, eased each others’ journeys.

The times we’re in are fraught.  The economic toll the pandemic is taking already is being felt.  Social distancing certainly will bring challenges of its own. Yet, even in fraught times, there is hope.  Even in fraught times on the island of Malta, Paul, his companions, and the islanders lived in hope.

Julian of Norwich lived through fraught times.  Several of them. When she was 6 years old–in 1342–the first wave of the plague known as the Black Death tore through her town of 10,000.  Julian survived, but within a year, three quarters of the town’s population had died. Thirteen years later, the plague came again…then again in 1368.

In 1372, Julian herself became ill with a fatal disease.  As the disease ran its course, Julian had several visions.  After experiencing one of those visions, she began to get better.

After recovering, Julian chose the life of an Anchoress.  She lived in a cell attached to St. Julian’s Church in Norwich.  Through a small window, she would dispense wisdom to all who came to see her.  She eventually wrote a book about her visions, Showings. By many accounts, it’s one of the first books written in English.  That it was composed by a woman is even more remarkable.

Why am I telling the story of Julian?  To set the context for the one line she’s most known for, even 600+ years later.  That line? “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”  The words by themselves are remarkable. When you consider the context in which they were written, they’re even more remarkable.  Even with all she had experienced–both personally and in her city–Julian could say, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”

In these fraught times in which we’re living, we’ll do well to make Julian’s words our mantra:  “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”

Wherever you are right now, whatever is causing you unease, whatever your hopes, your fears, your concerns…wherever you are, whatever you’re experiencing, know this:  All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well. 

 

In the name of our God, who creates us redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  © 2020

 

Respond…

 

Hold Silence

Prayer

Suggestions for prayer….

–for those who have contracted the coronavirus

–for healthcare workers

–for those who are losing work or pay

–for children

–for families

–for all who are frightened right now, or simply out of sorts

–for a lessening of the effects of social distancing

–for a sense of unity to descend across the globe

–for our own FCUCC community

 

Holy One, our heads are spinning from all that has happened in the last week…all the precautions we’re having to take…all the plans that have been canceled…the need to engage more intentionally with technology…wondering where this is all going to end….wondering WHEN this is all going to end…and, of course, wondering when we’re going to run out of toilet paper…

The times we’re in are unprecedented for most of us.  As unsettling as the times are, though, we remember all the things that are staying the same…Your love for us…our love for each other…our call to act each other into wellbeing…our responsibility to care for the least of these.  Keep our minds and hearts focused on the work that never changes–our work of making your dreams for the world come true.

We ask your presence with us, Holy One.  And we ask for an extra dose of imagination as we seek to be present with others in the days and weeks to come.

 

PRAYER OF JESUS  Our Mother and Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kindom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kindom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. 

 

Offering:  A Note from Our Treasurer

Dear Congregants of FCUCC,

We ask that during this time of social distancing and suspension of church activities that you NOT forget to continue your faithful financial support of our church.  The operating costs of our facility and the staff salaries need your continued support. Your gifts can be given in any of the following ways:

 

  • Mail checks to: FCUCC, PO Box 3211, Asheville, NC 28802

 

 

  • Go to the church website: uccasheville.org  Scroll to the bottom of the home page where there is a yellow DONATE button.  Press that button to go to a page where payments can be made using PayPal or a credit card

 

 

  • If you have not elected to start automatic withdrawals from your checking account for regular giving we would be happy to provide the form needed to get that started.

 

For further information concerning finances please contact Joanne Roudebush, Treasurer at 785-221-0390 or jroudebush5@gmail.com.

Doxology

                  Praise God from whom all blessings flow   

                  Praise Christ all creatures here below   

                  Praise Holy Spirit, Comforter   

                  One God, Triune, whom we adore. 

 

Prayer of Dedication  (by Phil Adams)

O God, our creator and provider, you see to our needs, provide us with spiritual gifts, and offer an unending stream of love for our souls, yet our human nature somehow causes us to be stingy with our abundance of these resources.  As you have given so much to us, we now return these gifts to you and to all the world, sharing in the eternal flow of giving and receiving grace. May our lives become fountains of your love for the world as we worship you in spirit and truth, reaping and sowing as one earthly community, and working together for the reconciliation of humankind with each other, all creation, and with you our maker.  In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

 

Closing Hymn            Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer                            CWM RHONDDA

Guide me, O my great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land; 

I am weak, but you are mighty, hold me with your powerful hand.

Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more, 

Feed me till I want no more.

 

Open now the crystal fountain, where the healing waters flow.

Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.

Strong deliverer, strong deliverer, ever be my strength and shield,

Ever be my strength and shield.

 

When I reach the River Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside.

Death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on heaven’s side.

Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever sing to you,

I will ever sing to you.

 

Benediction

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet, 

walk with you on the road;

May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, 

stretch out your hands to serve;

May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart, 

open your heart to love;

May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet, 

and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you.  Amen.

 

Postlude

 

About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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