Good morning, everyone! Welcome to our second online worship service! We are worshiping at home this morning because our church is closed as a protective measure against the coronavirus. But remember ~ the church is not a building! We hope this service is a blessing to you. If you’d like to say hi to everyone, you can do so through the comment section at the bottom of the page. All comments are screened before being posted, so no need to worry if you don’t see it pop up right away.
GREETING AND OPENING PRAYER
All church events and activities are currently on hiatus. The office remains open Monday-Friday from 10-12, except for Sharing a Meal days, when it is open from 2-4. Pastor Rich is the cook for Sharing a Meal this Thursday; the meal will be prepared in the kitchen of the Sayville Congregational Church for takeout only.
Tanae is updating our Facebook page, while Rebecca has taken the reins of our Instagram page. Every day we add a new post right here on the website. This week we’ve shared guest messages from Fred and Carol; simply scroll down to see them!
Next week’s service will also be online as we await word on Palm Sunday and Holy Week services. Our Church Council voted to hold these services in person whenever we return, whenever that may be.
OPENING HYMN: Shine, Jesus, Shine
“Shine, Jesus, Shine” is a prayer for our churches, our nations and our world: “Shine, Jesus, shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory … flood the nations with grace and mercy.” This is the original version by Graham Kendrick (Kent, U.K.), who was astonished at how the Lord used his humble song. It’s been sung at Billy Graham crusades and national memorials, and seems particularly relevant in our current crisis. It’s one of our church’s Sweet Sixteen hymns! Read the full story here.
CALL TO WORSHIP: Philippians 4:8-9
(If you are worshipping with two or more people,
choose one to lead.)
Whatever is true and noble,
WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE AND RIGHT,
Whatever is pure and lovely,
WHATEVER IS EXCELLENT AND PRAISEWORTHY,
Think about these things,
AND THE GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU.
DEAR LORD, IN THIS TIME OF GLOBAL UNCERTAINTY, MANY OF US FEEL ANXIOUS OR DEPRESSED, AFRAID OF WHAT THE NEXT DAY MAY BRING. NOW MORE THAN EVER, WE NEED YOUR PEACE AND PRESENCE. BE NEAR US, LORD; HELP US TO FIND OUR CENTER IN YOU. REASSURE US WITH YOUR CALM AND GENTLE LOVE. AMEN.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE: Matthew 6:32-34, TEV abbreviated
Do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings. Your Father in heaven knows your needs, and will provide.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
But wait, there’s more! Tammy has also prepared an entire Sunday School lesson which you can find here on our Sunday School page, including activities for parents and kids that can be done anytime throughout the week!
Way to go, Tammy!
(Note: Add your own prayers at the beginning or end)
Thank you for being our God!
We know that you hold our future,
And that because You live, we can face tomorrow.
Thank you for every act of kindness:
For those who write cards and make calls;
For the gifts of groceries and flowers dropped at our doors;
For those who work despite the danger, as an act of outreach and love.
We thank you for the healing taking place in Mark’s life following surgery.
We thank you that Miki and Larry’s granddaughter Kirsten is now back at work, and we ask you to watch over her during radiation treatments. We pray for recovery for Larry who is now sick.
We pray for Diane’s great-grandson, who was born at 1 pound, 9 ounces, for health and growth; for his parents, who are so worried and anxious; and for all members of the extended family, that you will visit them with peace.
We pray for those in our church family who are going through times of need:
For Margaret, Louise, Amy, Pat, Jim, Dolores, Janet, Sue, Joe & Joan, Lois, Brian & Dannie, Kathleen & Marilyn, Ken, Bunny & Marty, Harriet, Diane, Laurie & Steve, Deborah (who is quarantined, but showing no symptoms, that she continues to stay healthy), Paul, and Ruth; for your healing grace to be visited upon Debbie, a friend of a congregation member, who is suffering from a kidney infection; for all others in need; for the members of our extended family who are suffering; for this nation and for the world.
Keep us safe from fear; fill us with a spirit of hope;
Surround us with your Holy Spirit as a halo of protection and grace.
We come to you now in silent prayer …
Lord, as you know what is written in our hearts,
Attend now to our spirits, we pray in your name, Amen.
SCRIPTURE LESSON: 1 John 4:6 & 8 abbreviated, read by Rebecca
So we know and believe the love God has for us, God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.
HYMN: “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”
Another of our church’s Sweet Sixteen hymns, “What a Friend We Have In Jesus” is one of history’s most encouraging hymns, but it bears one of the most heartbreaking stories. Joseph Scriven was engaged to be married, but the night before the wedding, his bride-to-be drowned. He channeled his despair into helping the poor, moving to Canada where he pursued his humble craft of woodworking. Eventually he fell in love again, but his second fiancee died of pneumonia before they were married. Around this time he also learned that his mother was very ill, but he couldn’t afford the trip home to Ireland to see her, so he wrote this song as a prayer for her. It was found in his effects after his death. The power of the song resides in his faith, which was what kept him going through his deepest despair. Like Jesus, Scriven was a man of many sorrows, but he writes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.” Read the full story here, and enjoy the heartfelt version from Alan Jackson below.
INTERACTIVE SUNDAY SERMON
(With discussion questions if you are reading with others)
I spoke with an officer on the street yesterday, thanking him for what he and his fellow officers have been doing to keep us safe. Then I asked how he was coping.
The officer told me that he was doing okay, but that he had been doing a lot of thinking. He said that he felt the crisis was changing the way we feel about everything. For example, now we are realizing that much of what we have is not essential, but that the essential things are often at home in the form of our loved ones. He said we’re all learning to appreciate each other a little more.
Have you noticed anything that’s changed for the better?
Are you remembering anything good that you had forgotten or overlooked?
For those who have more time on their hands: what are you looking forward to doing in the weeks ahead?
I admire this outlook. He’s not the only one to see it. As of tonight, our “enforced Lent” will deepen as we are asked to stay at home except for food and exercise. Ironically, only a few weeks ago our Sunday Scripture was “Religion does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us” (1 Timothy 6:6 and 8, Good News Bible).
We do have food ~ most of us have stocked up, and I’ve gone around to see if certain things will be staying open. Wendy’s, Hot Bagels, Stop & Shop, Cornucopia, Dunkin’ Donuts and more will remain open for takeout, pickup and/or drive-through. We won’t starve; in fact, most of our favorite foods will still be available. (I did have a “first world problem” this week at Stop & Shop as I said to myself, “Now I know it’s serious, because they are out of my favorite flavor yogurt!” There were hundreds of other flavors.) And I trust that everyone has clothes!
If anything, we are currently seeing an abundance of people who want to help and not as many people who need help. This may change, but for now it’s an amazing blessing ~ hearing from so many people who are saying, “Just tell me what you need.” In our own church, this has included everything from grocery drop-offs to backyard cleanups. The same stories are unfolding around the nation. Over and over we hear the refrain, we’re all in this together.
I know many people are watching way too much news, and reading too little of the Good News. But the Good News is so much larger, and so much stronger.
Rebecca shared that the Scripture on her mind this week was “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.” Fear is a virus more contagious than any disease. In the words of Zach Williams, “fear is a liar ~ he will take your breath, stop you in your steps, rob your nest, steal your happiness.”
What are your greatest fears in this crisis?
When you are afraid, what gives you the most calm?
(Examples: prayer, Scripture, music, chocolate, calling a friend.)
But Jesus offers us perfect love. Almost every appearance of an angel or the resurrected Christ in Scripture begins with the words, “Don’t be afraid.” We tend to grow fearful whenever we take our eyes off Jesus, as Peter did when he was walking on water. His mistake: he looked down! But remember, just before this he was walking on water.
If you’ve driven past our church this week, you’ll likely seen our new sign: “COVID: Christ Over Virus, Infection and Death ~ Heal Our Land.” Leeland offers a spontaneous monologue toward the end of their version of the song “Way Maker:” “His name is above depression. His name is above loneliness. His name is above disease. His name is above cancer. His name is above any other name ~ listen, listen.”
If you have a piece of paper and crayon/pencil/pen/Sharpie/marker handy, write Jesus on the top half of the paper, and anything ailing you at the bottom. His name is above all of our problems, all of our worries, all of our fears.
We can’t be scared right now. Jesus tells us that it doesn’t “add a cubit” to our lives. (Time out as I Google “cubit.”) Okay, I’m back! A cubit is the length of a forearm, but the Scripture is a metaphor: “Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?”
Last week one of our parishioners shared the statistics of Sunday’s sermon with a co-worker, who accused me of “spreading false calm!” Statistically, as of Saturday night, there are 493 cases of the virus in Suffolk County out of 1,493,000 people. I’ll let you do the math this week! The measures our government are taking are for our protection, and they are meant to keep the virus from spreading. But there’s no need for panic or fear.
Is optimism still possible today?
Can a person be a pragmatist and an optimist?
What story or event, no matter how small, has given you hope this week?
With Jesus, there is no such thing as “false calm.” Calm is an inner peace, “not as the world gives … but the peace that passes understanding.” Calm is not the absence of fear, but the acknowledgement and the conquering of fear. We recognize that times are tough, and they may be about to get tougher. We also know, adding two words to the popular phrase, that “we’re all in this together … with Jesus.” We’re in the desert with Jesus. We’re walking on water with Jesus. We’re crucified and raised with Jesus. We are part of his story; He is part of ours. This is my story, this is my song.
Let’s all take a deep, collective breath. Now let’s ask ourselves, “What can I do today to spread calm, to ease fears, to comfort and encourage?” Perfect love casts out all fear, and Jesus loves us perfectly. The more we feel loved, the less we feel fear, but also the more we love, the less we fear. May the One who conquered sin and death conquer our fears as well, and replace them with serenity.
Please use this time to make out a check to the church. As you prepare your offering, we invite you to play the song below ~ a modern version of “More Precious Than Silver” from Paul McClure of Bethel Church. Sing along if you’d like!
This week’s tender version of the Doxology comes from Elevation Worship;
Stay tuned for the harmonies at the end!
Lord, you are more precious than silver;
Lord, you are most costly than gold.
Lord, you are most beautiful than diamonds,
And nothing I desire compares with you. Amen.
HYMN: “Because He Lives”
This hymn is also in our church’s Sweet Sixteen! Gloria and William Gaither wrote “Because He Lives” to offer reassurance “in a time of national uncertainty,” and the words are just as applicable now as they were back in 1971. Read the full story here. We invite you to sing along!
God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives!
BENEDICTION: The Blessing
Here is an absolute treat. This song appeared on iTunes this past Friday and went straight to #1, not only on the Christian music chart, but on the overall chart; it’s also trending on YouTube with 4 million views in two days. (For those of you who are older, imagine Casey Kasem saying, “Debuting at #1, “The Blessing!” It may be THE defining song of our time, and it comes straight from Scripture. Keri Jobe writes, “In a season of such fear, unknowns, loss, disappointments… I’m so thankful we can sing Scripture and feel a shift in the atmosphere of our hearts and over our lives. This is THE BLESSING from God over us. I pray for massive breakthrough and peace over you and your family and your children and their children. He is for you. Cody Carnes and I had the honor of writing this with our friends from Elevation Worship only a few weeks ago and just felt it needed to be released into the hearts of people right now as soon as possible.” Note: this version is 12 minutes long, so we’ll understand if you want to get right to Tanae playing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds;” in that case, read the lyrics below, then scroll down a bit and we hope you’ll come back to this amazing song and video later!
Lyrics to The Blessing
The Lord bless you and keep you,
Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.
May His favor be upon you and a thousand generations
And your family, and their children, and their children.
May His presence go before you, and behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you; He is with you, He is with you.
In the morning, in the evening, in your coming and your going
In your weeping and rejoicing, He is for you, He is for you.
Amen, Amen, Amen.
And now here’s Tanae with
“Blest Be the Tie That Binds!”
Thank you for worshipping with us! We wish for you God’s healing and hope!