Sermon: Not Alone (Pentecost)

…We are not alone, [and] we are called to live that reality out in meaningful ways. We are to bring the Good News to all. No one is alone: no matter who they are, what God they worship, what color their skin is, their politics, the size of their bank account, what language the speak, where they were born, how able their bodies or minds may be, what gender they identify with, and no matter whom they love. God loves us all unconditionally: no prerequisites, no expectations, no limits, and no end.

So, how do we live out the reality of this infinite Love of God when we can’t gather together in the ways that have been essential to the life of our church for so long?

Let us pray…  …   Lord God, may your peace and Holy Spirit fill us this morning.  Open your scriptures to us, and may I clearly communicate what you intend us to receive.  May your Word take root and flourish within each and every one of us, and through it may we be strengthened and transformed by your unconditional, living, and limitless love for each and every one of your children.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

As I read this morning’s scripture (Acts 2:1-19), I imagine the disciples huddled in that Upper Room.  They are no longer afraid, but Jesus’ last command is to remain there, to “shelter in place,” until they receive the promise of the Creator.  So they wait, separate from those who resumed their normal lives after the turmoil and death of that first Easter week.

I’m sure they mourned.  I’m sure they prayed and planned.  They must have wondered about Jesus’ promise and his commission to be witnesses there in Jerusalem, then in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of all the earth.  How would this Great Commission be fulfilled?  They waited.

And there our church sits.  All of us are gone.  We’re waiting.  Only Pastor Tom is there this morning, all alone.  We have quarantined ourselves from our neighbors and friends.  But like the disciples, we know we must soon move on to something new.  

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Re-Opening the Economy: Loving Thy Neighbor

If the government dictates that we must close down the economy, then it is incumbent upon that same government to ensure that the people – ALL the people – can survive that shutdown, and have a reasonable hope of returning to fruitful and stable lives afterwards.

When I hear and read of these protests to end the COVID-19 Lockdown and re-open the Economy, what I mostly hear is fear: particularly the (well-founded) fear of losing one’s home and livelihood in the current economic shutdown.

I hear a desperate cry to return things back to the way they were, even though that is not possible. I hear the fear of people who do not have the resources they need to survive this plague for an indefinite period of time. I hear the fear of people who are grasping for hope. These protestors are yelling for “Freedom.” To me, it is clear what they mean is “Freedom From Fear”. But, they can only imagine that Freedom on their own terms: not within the context of being a member-of, and dependent upon, the society around them. They believe that Freedom from responsibility to their neighbor is the only way to survive.

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An Easter Pastoral Prayer

As Mary stood weeping in the dawning light, she looked into that dark and empty tomb one last time. And there she found new hope for herself – and for us – that no matter how hopeless the world may seem, that tomb is God’s promise that in each ending there is a new beginning, and new life.

Please join me in prayer.

O God on this Easter morning we are grieving our darkness and our losses before the Tomb of Jesus, as Mary did long ago.  Like her, all we see before us is emptiness.  We have run out of places where hope can be found for ourselves and for those whom we love.  We feel vulnerable and afraid in the darkness.

As Mary stood weeping in the dawning light, she looked into that dark and empty tomb one last time.  And there she found new hope for herself – and for us – that no matter how hopeless the world may seem, that tomb is God’s promise that in each ending there is a new beginning, and new life.  A promise that God will never forget us.  A promise that God’s hope is, and always will be, living within us, and will never die.

O God, you are with us in the midst of every one of the fears and tribulations we face in the present: job loss, illness, isolation, hunger, abuse, uncertainty, and the loss of loved ones.  You are The Answer.  Help us O God to live as you desire us to live, with hope, and proclaiming this knowledge, this certainty that you are here: working in and through us, and that not even death can stop your Word, or prevent us from finding new life, joy and peace through your Grace.  

Lord, we lift up the many challenges that we, those close to us, and all of our fellow human beings face right now: pandemic and disease, recession, wars of many types and in many places; bigotry; injustice; natural and manmade disasters; poverty; the corruptive effects of concentrated wealth and power; and our own failure to care for this world and our neighbors as you intend us to do. 

We lift up our congregation.  Together may we, united in Christ, prayerfully and faithfully meet the needs that you have shown to us.  May we clearly hear and respond to your Word and your call for us as a whole, and for each of us individually.  Help us to always minister to others, to live, and to walk, in your love and grace.

Let us take a moment to lift up those who need our support through prayer this morning, and to lift up those needs that we ourselves have not shared, have left unspoken; or perhaps of which we cannot yet speak…

And now Lord, we join together to recite the prayer you taught us so long ago, saying…  (trespasses)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 


Delivered at Memorial Congregational Church UCC in Sudbury MA, April 12, 2020 (Easter Sunday).

Source scripture, John 20:1-18.

Copyright (c) 2020, Allen Vander Meulen III.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.