Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 7, 2021
WELCOME: This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Black History Month Call to Worship
Sundays of February, 2021
Ase (or às̩e̩ or ashe; pronounced ah-shay) is a West African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change.
In a beginning before humans were formed and nature knew God’s great presence, the Spirit moved over the universe.
People of God:
Ashe! The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for God has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. Psalm 24:1-2
In quiet peace God created humans, women and men, colorful, balanced and creatively diverse and the beauty of God’s love filled the earth.
People of God:
Ashe! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22: 37-39
In honor of Black History Month we remember names because of the ancestors who made a way out of no way with God before them, beside them, and lovingly guiding succeeding generations:
*Nana Yaa Asantewa of Ashanti, Taharqa, ruler of Napatan Kush, Queen Nzingha,
*West African military ruler, Mansa Musa I, Emperor of the West Africa Islamic Empire
People of God:
These and more represent the great cloud of witnesses. Their spirits linger with us creating new generations of warriors, preachers, prophets, teachers, activists, organizers, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters of the African Diaspora.
People of God:
Ashe! After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed with palm branches in their hands. Rev. 7:9
Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!
People of God:
Ashe and Amen.
Call to Worship for Black History Month was written by Rev. Dr. Velda Love, Minister for Racial Justice UCC. Copyright 2020, Justice and Local Church Ministries, Faith INFO Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.
Eternal God, Creator of the universe…and then some. We call on you, you who greet us here. We give you thanks for making it possible to gather, and to ponder your eternal mysteries.
Make us, creatures of this time and space, ready collaborators with your endless grace. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 147:1-11
SERMON: Source of Strength
Our lectionary readings are about our source of strength. In whom do we trust and whom do we cling to for strength? In this age of a Covid-19 pandemic, these are prominent questions.
Those who are ill ask, “Where can I find the strength to heal?” Those who can’t be with their loved ones who are critically ill in the hospital ask “Where can I find the strength to cope with being unable to be with my loved one?” Those who have lost their jobs ask, “Where can I get the strength to keep a roof over my family’s head and feed them too?” Health care workers ask, “Where can I find the strength to provide care when I am so exhausted?”
Those who are trying to make appointments for their vaccination ask, “Where can I find the strength to navigate a system that is overloaded and unfamiliar?” Many ask, “Where can I find the strength to be positive in the midst of isolation?” In whom do we trust and whom do we cling to for strength? For those of us gathered here this morning and those who are unable to join us the answer to questions such as these seems simple. We trust in God and are held in God’s love. God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. God is our Rock!
Our lectionary readings this morning are great ones to bookmark. The Israelites are asking where they will find the strength to navigate their darkness of exile, weariness, and powerlessness.
We ask where do we go to find hope, healing, comfort, light, and strength.
We, like the Israelites, sometimes feel God has abandoned us. Here is the good news of Isaiah. God is the everlasting God. God is great in strength, mighty in power. This not only speaks to God’s power and strength but also of one of God’s most amazing creatures, the lofty flight of the eagle. God promises to lift us up with wings like eagles.
Here are some fun facts about eagles wings:
-wingspan of 6 1/2 to 71/2 feet
-tips are splayed to reduce air turbulence
-7,000 feathers lightweight but strong and hollow
-feathers flex in order to catch wind currents
-cruising altitude of 10,000 ft.
-speed of 35 mph.
Their flight pattern appears effortless; no wasted movement of their wings as they soar. Imagine what it would feel like, being lifted up with eagles wings. The strength of the wings lifting you; the weightlessness of soaring high above the ground; no longer being burdened with stress.
For those of you who have a fear of heights, you might imagine standing on firm ground looking to the night sky and beholding the breathtaking light of the stars. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?” God who brings out their host and numbers them calling each by name; because God is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).
Even our reading of Psalm 147 is healing. “(God) heals the broken hearted, and binds up their wounds. (God) determines the number of stars; and gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; (God’s) understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden…” (Psalm 147:3-6).
It is God who renews our strength! It is God who walks with us and does not let us faint. It is God who lifts us up with wings like eagles. God will grant us strength, if we Wait for the Lord, Hope in God, and Trust in God. We are not alone on our life’s journey. There will be times when we forget what we have known; what we have heard; but scripture reminds us.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
God does not faint or grow weary; God’s understanding is unsearchable. God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
On Eagle’s Wings
And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand (On Eagle’s Wings, Michael Joncas 1979, in The United Methodist Hymnal pg. 143).
This is one of my favorite scriptures and hymn. I offer it to you in the hope that you find strength for your journey. In the greatest of hope may it be so in all our lives.
PASTORAL PRAYER/SILENT PRAYERS
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
What do we hold and treasure most? Is it the promises of God? What captivates our attention? Is it the grace of God? God of mercy and grace: We are broken people who don’t always pay attention to the world’s brokenness. Heal us, O God, to make us better healers. Mend our rifts, that we might be better builders. Cleanse our hearts, so we can clear out the damage of hurt and oppression. We are yours, loving God. Help us to live and to know this better.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Have you known? Have you heard? Our God lifts us up on eagle’s wings Strengthening us so that we won’t be weary.
The burden of sin is but a far and distant memory For, through Christ, our sins – all of them – are forgiven. God is great in strength, mighty in power, and full of endless love for us all.
Holy are you, Eternal One.
You sit above, through, within the circle of the earth
Setting light into being
Casting the stars in the sky
Founding the evolving earth
And all that dwell within it.
Limitless is your power,
And great is your wisdom.
You look upon the lowly
As your most cherished creatures.
You visit upon the downtrodden
With presence, grace, and the promise of eternal justice.
You sent to us your own child, Jesus,
Who reached into unexpected places,
Calling women beyond the limits of their times
Equipping men for nurturing love
Welcoming children into your holy embrace.
And so we recall that on the night of betrayal and desertion,
The light of the world took bread, broke and gave it to the disciples, saying:
“This is my body, given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.”
And, in like manner, after supper,
Jesus took the cup and after giving thanks gave it to them saying,
“This is the cup of the new covenant [in my blood]
poured out for you and for all people
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink of it,
for the remembrance of me.”
Dear God, you transform.
You transform all that is before you
So that at the touch of your grace
We are never the same.
Dear God, you illumine.
You bring light to all peoples
Light to the nations
Light into our hearts
Light on your Way.
Dear God, we pray for your Spirit.
Transform, illumine, bless.
Make these ordinary gifts of bread and cup
Into the extraordinary presence of Christ with us.
In so doing,
Hold us as your own
Renew us as your people
For the sake of the world you love.
SHARING THE ELEMENTS
POST COMMUNION PRAYER
Let us pray:
We have been fed, Holy One, by your presence.
We have been led, Eternal One, by your light.
May we bask in this glow
Now and forevermore. Amen.
HYMN # In the Midst of New Dimensions (see insert)
May God bless and keep you
May God’s face shine through yours.
And may the glorious, + Triune God
Protect and keep you
All the days long. Amen.