Photo by Lawrence OP on flickr.com of stained glass
window by Christopher Rahere Webb (1886-1966).
Let Us Worship Together!
Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, May 7 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, May 8 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!
Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to email@example.com.) Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.
Saturday 4:00 pm — High School Youth Group
Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for All Ages (including adults)
Readings and Psalms:
4th Sunday of Easter, Year C
“Who are these people, robed in white?” That’s the question an old man asks St. John the Revelator, in our reading from Revelation. They are standing together before the Lamb’s throne, in what is clearly a poetic vision of Heaven. They see a multitude from every nation, wearing white robes and carrying palm branches – symbols of new life and victory.
“Who are they,” the old man asks, and then answers his own question: “These are the ones who have come out of the Great Ordeal, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Revelation is not an easy book to understand, which may be why we so seldom read from it. To make a long story short, though, it is an allegory, warning the early Christians that their complete and utter obedience to God would inevitably bring them into conflict with the mighty Roman Empire, which demanded complete and utter obedience to Caesar.
The confrontation between Church and Empire would be brutal and bloody, the book warned; it would be an ordeal, a tribulation. But those who held on to their faith, those who did not give up, would find that God was with them, and that God would bring them to safety.
The Caesars are gone, but the ordeal is not over. “On Easter Sunday, 2019, Rebekah woke up, excited to go to church and sing the song she had practiced with her sister. She was standing in the bookstore of Sri Lanka’s Zion Church, when a bomber (as part of a coordinated attack on churches that day) detonated the bomb in his backpack, killing 30 people and injuring hundreds of others.
“Rebekah’s young nephew was killed; and her niece was blinded in the blast. Third-degree burns completely cover the left side of Rebekah’s body and parts of her right side. She spent 60 days in the hospital.”
This was Easter of 2019. So while we in America were beginning a years-long bickering match over masks and vaccines, with each side claiming to be oppressed by the other, Rebekah and her family were being burned alive for their faith. I point that out because Christians in America have developed an unfortunate habit of crying persecution every time they lose a lawsuit or don’t like a bill in Congress. This, I fear, demeans the suffering of Rebekah and her nephew and her niece, of the nearly five thousand Christians murdered for their faith last year. It trivializes the fear that Christians live with in those countries where their churches are infiltrated, their homes surveilled, their families threatened. Pretending that our inconvenience is of a kind with their suffering – with their ordeal – is an insulting fraud.
But. But. But we do, beloved, have our own ordeal, our own tribulations. We have great freedom, but that does not protect us from suffering, and the temptation to surrender our faith. I sat on Friday beside the bed of a dying man – yet another – and prayed with him, and with the people who love him. I’ve looked into the hollow eyes of widows lately, as they labor to keep their composure, or let it go at last and weep quietly in their pew — just like the widows of Joppa mourning for their sister Tabitha. To see God’s people strong and faithful in the face of suffering and loss makes my heart warm.
Our suffering may be different, but our faith is one with Rebekah, the woman mutilated by a bomb in Sri Lanka, who recently talked about its effect on her family and her community of faith, saying, “By the blood that Jesus shed for us, He made us priceless treasures to prepare us for things like this.” We are – you are, my best-beloved, when you hold fast to God – just such a priceless treasure.
But I have also seen people for whom their own sickness, or the death of a loved one, does not drive them to their knees, but rather out the door of the church, never to return, because – they argue – a loving God would not permit sickness or death or injustice, and ergo there must be no God at all. They exercise freedom of religion by giving religion up altogether.
Yet the command of God is strong – do not give up! – and the promise of God is beautiful – for I am your Shepherd. I will bring you through the valley of death and give you peace beside still waters. It will be my hand that guides you, my arm that protects you. You too will wear the robe of new life, you will carry palm of victory; and all I ask is that you hold on tight to me.
The Lord is my shepherd, and yours. We hear his voice, and he knows us – that is what Jesus said. And as he was raised from the dead by the power of the Father, so that same power is here in the Church. Remember how, in the Gospels, Peter was a goofy, impulsive guy who gave the wrong answer to the Lord’s questions, who tried to walk on water and failed, who made mistake after mistake until at last, and tragically, he betrayed the Lord three times in a single night? That was Peter then.
But after the Resurrection, after Easter, Peter changes. He is a bold preacher, a mighty healer. He sees the woman dead and commands her to rise; she rises, not because Peter is great but because God is mighty, and because it is God’s power that now surges through the community of faith. It is not Peter, really, but God who gives her new life, as it is God who gives new life to us, as it is God who accompanies us through our tribulation, who will gather us together on the other side.
It is God, the Father, Son and Spirit; it is God, made known to us supremely in Jesus Christ, our brother and friend, our Lord and Saviour. This God, this Lord, is our Shepherd, who walks with us when we are in trouble, who lifts us when we fall, and who will never, ever abandon us. Amen.
 From Open Doors, retrieved 6 May 22: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/all-i-could-see-was-fire-sri-lankan-bomb-survivors-face-glows-with-the-joy-of-christ/
Altar Flowers for this weekend’s services were donated by Rod & Nancy Kastrup in celebration of their wedding anniversary. Congratulations to the loving couple of 42 years!
If you would like to donate flowers in memory, honor or celebration of a loved one or special date, please sign up on the chart in the church office hallway or call the church office at (540) 347-3224 with your information.
Liturgical material © 2017 Augsburg Fortress, used by permission of Augsburg Fortress/Sundays and Seasons #SAS009239. Copyright Acknowledgments for print & broadcast: CCLI - Copyright License #2800659 and Streaming License #20585472 (including SongSelect Advanced); and One License #710443-A.