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Worship Preview for 5.5.24: "Abiding Friendship"

Scriptures –  Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

 

Happy Easter!  What? That was a long time ago now, Pastor… almost a distant memory, washed away by rain and floods and the daily grind. But it is still Easter! We still gather in the name of the resurrected one. And I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to remember. Life is so full of distractions and distresses. We go from drought to flood all too quickly.

 

This 6th Sunday in the season of Easter marks a couple important transitions – the story of Peter and Cornelius concludes with baptism – a baptism made possible because Peter experiences these gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit. His understanding of the limits of God’s love are expanded. The other flashes back to Jesus last moments with his disciples in John’s telling. John 15-17 features a wonderful series of speeches and prayers of Jesus sharing his call with the disciples. He wants them to receive the spirit. He builds on the metaphor of the vine and branches that Marvé Ralston shared last week and calls on us to “abide” – and more than that, he calls us “friends.” No longer servants. Christ called the disciples, taught the disciples, chose them – as a master. But now he elevates them to the status of friends.

 

Our texts deal with commands – and I think that is important. Yet the text also contains these transitions - a movement of the Holy Spirit beyond our own boundaries and our Lord and Savior making a point of calling his disciples friends. God’s love is not coercive. God’s commands are not about shame, control, or obligation – rather they about making Christlike love possible. Like the Vine that provides the branches nourishment so that they can bear fruit, Christ is equipping us, not ordering us about. This is really the same point Matthew’s Gospel makes with the image of the shared yoke – that is easy and light.  Theologian Jeff Krantz, a “semi-retired Episcopal priest” who writes one of the commentaries I often refer to writes: “I say it this way, every commandment God gives us contains within it a kernel of power to accomplish the command. I don’t believe that God ever asks anything of us without also providing the means to accomplish it… It’s difficult to describe, but for me this is what it means to “abide” or “remain” in God’s love for us. We continue to stare into the glory of the love displayed on the Cross and we suddenly find growing in us the ability to love as we could not have loved before.”

 

Jesus is with us in this life. In the times of drought and the times of flood and in between as well. As one of our hymns proclaims, “What a friend we have in Jesus – all our sins and griefs to bear!” To abide is to remain focused on Christ’s presence even when the world tries to distract us.

 

Our reading from 1 John talks about “both water and the blood” When we baptized Charlotte a couple weeks ago, I talked about the lesson I learned of the water of Jordan and of Galilee – and that of Olathe and Fort Scott, really being the same water. We are connected. Jesus, nourished in the waters of the womb, born in water and blood. Jesus, fully human, present in this life just as we are – sacrificed on a cross, water and blood from his wounds. Jesus, risen in Easter glory, opening the possibility of eternal life to all who abide. All who take that connection made possible by grace and begin to bear fruit.

 

You are invited to come and explore this love and grace further on Sunday and explore the next steps on your journey. You don’t have to have it all figured out, bring your questions, doubts and hopes as we worship and seek to bear good fruit as we follow Christ together!

 

Upcoming Events: 

 

Wednesday, May 8 5:30–6:30pm: Feeding Families in His Name – this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. A “to-go” meal is distributed under the portico at 301 S. National. A reminder: Please do not block nearby driveways while waiting. Thank you. If you would like to support this ministry, you can make donations online at www.firstumcfortscott.org/onlinegiving

We also need groups to cook and help serve the meal – if you’d be interested in taking a week, please call the church office at 620-223-1950 and we will get you in touch with the coordinator. We are thankful for all the churches and local organizations that assist with this ministry!

 

Our Next Shepherd’s Center / Adventures in Learning will be Friday, May 24th this month we will feature an aviation and service theme. Ron Wood will share the story of his service and surviving a helicopter crash, Ralph Carlson will share about his time as an Air Force pilot and Lynette Emerson will share information on her love of skydiving! It will be a great time of fellowship and learning! No charge to attend and refreshments provided, Shepherd’s Center is aimed at retired adults but is open to anyone who would like to hear our speakers. Invite a friend! 1-4pm on the Forth Friday of each month through September!

 

June 17th – 21st We are hosting VBS this year. We continue to partner with our friends at First Presbyterian but will host Vacation Bible School in our building this time. Mark your calendar for June 17th – 21st in the evenings and watch for more information in the coming months. Plan to bring your kids or grandkids for a great week of faith and fun rooted in Scripture.

 

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