Welcome to worship with Harvard Avenue! Please use this ‘virtual Connection Card’ email : let us know you were here, and any prayer concerns, celebrations, news and information so that your pastors, elders, and prayer teams can be in prayer with you and for you in the days and weeks ahead. (These are emailed directly to our Connections Pastor, and you can note ‘pastors only’ if you choose.)
(Our online giving button should be ready on Monday. Programmers are doing lots of overhauls too!)
You can also follow this link to find a 15-minute video of this week’s Children Worship & Wonder, focused on the parable of the treasure.
Come, family of faith, wherever you are,
let us worship God together!
+ Welcome & Call to Worship :: Rev. Kevin Howe
Friends of Harvard Avenue Christian Church, welcome to this week’s worship cast. We hope that this recording will be for you a sacred moment wherever and whenever you are listening.
We would invite you to fill out the virtual connection card when you engage this recording by clicking the link which can be found beside play button for this worship cast.
If you happen to be in a place where you could light a candle, we invite you to do so as a tangible reminder of Christ’s light, present to each of us as we worship. We would also invite you to grab a bible and read along with today’s scripture, as it is offered later in worship. Feel free to pause this recording now, if you would like to gather these things.
Now, let us go before our God with eager hearts and minds to worship the One on whom abundant life is built. Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
+ Pastoral Prayer :: Rev. Darlene Martinez
borrowing the ‘Prayer for the Pandemic’, from Cameron Bellm
God of all creation, we come to you today from many locations, but with one heart, joined together to commune with you.
Our prayer for today is that
we who are merely inconvenienced,
that we might remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Hear us now as we join in prayer the way that Jesus taught us to pray …
+ The Lord’s Prayer
+ Scripture :: Isaiah 58: 1 – 11 :: Rev. Richards
Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
+ Reflection :: prepare: rebuilding :: Rev. Howe
After first hearing about the original Seven Wonders of the World, I recall the disappointment I had upon also learning that only one of these structures remains intact. Here are these amazing works of art and architecture that serve as a testament to the ingenuity, imagination, and sheer hard work of which human beings are capable. But they also serve as reminders of the impermanence of even the most impressive of our efforts.
For all the great things we humans have built, each one has met the same end. I think about the story in the Gospel of Matthew, when one of Jesus’ disciples calls his attention to the splendor of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple, like other magnificent structures, was a site to behold. It would have likely impressed just about anyone who laid eyes on it. Well, except you-know-who. Jesus tells his disciples, “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matt 24:1-2)
As a reader strolling through the Gospels, you may have noticed that Jesus is not impressed with things that are big and shiny. This is perhaps part of the reason Jesus becomes weary of the crowds that gather around him in his ministry and their increasing affirmation of him. Jesus was no less impressed with his star-struck fans or the pursuit of a book deals, for that matter. He recognizes the same things in the eyes of those who marvel over his works as those who marvel over the temple and other edifices of humanity. Jesus is keen to steer clear of the seduction of greatness.
Throughout history, rulers and empires have often poured extravagant resources into the construction of buildings and monuments to highlight their greatness. But at one time or another, we have ALL been lured by the temptation to build structures of greatness in our own lives—outward signs that result from inward projects about self-importance.
Unfortunately, there are any number of these projects of greatness that one can pursue in life. They can involve proving our financial success, or building a professional career that sends us to the hall-of-fame, or achieving an optimal level of health and fitness. Even our religious beliefs and practices, if left unchecked, can be used in effort to build our lives up as things of self-importance and greatness. We hear of this in today’s scripture reading from Isaiah 58, as those seeking the Lord’s favor are met with God’s critique of superficial rituals and practices of fasting, that they were performed as signs of outward piety, rather than the acts of self-denial which they were intended to be. The Lord then reminds the people that a fast pleasing in God’s sight is one where practitioners seek to diminish themselves for the sake of acting with compassion and justice for others.
Perhaps the most unsettling about Isaiah 58 is that its indictment of lives and communities built upon projects of self-importance and greatness could easily have been written for our day and age. Many of us have fallen victim to the seduction of greatness and the hardships that come with its pursuit. We are lured in by promises of constructing our lives on such things that will either make us complete or offer us security or bring us fame and fortune. But while these projects seem enticing, building our lives upon them often keeps us penned down with anxiety and working toward things which never quite pan out to be what was pledged. There’s always just one more favor to do, one more promotion to get, one more enemy to defeat, before you can rest secure.
And adding insult to injury, we eventually find ourselves in a real-world version of the childhood story about the Three Little Pigs, when life’s Big Bad Wolves come huffing and puffing at the proverbial structures we have built in our lives. Perhaps it’s a crisis, a trauma, a disease, an illness that blows with such force that our lives are razed to their very foundations.
There’s perhaps nothing more unsettling than having to rebuild or remodel the project that is our lives. It’s uncomfortable work, to relocate the foundational assumptions of our thinking and doing. But the good news of our faith is that each time we undergo the process of rebuilding and remodeling our lives, we have this precious opportunity to leave behind those things which were merely projects for greatness, and pursue the construction of something more enduring.
We hear that the Lord promises to the people of Israel that, if they adhere to a fast comprised of humility and the care and love of neighbor through acts of compassion and justice, their ancient ruins will be rebuilt and they will raise up the foundations of many generations.
And herein lies the paradox of God’s ways: when we give up our plans for greatness and self-importance, God uses us to build something that cannot be lost, or destroyed or eroded by the years. It is by letting go our own wants and desires, that God takes people like you and me and builds something that is far greater than any of the Seven Wonders, including the Pyramid of Giza, which is the only one that stands right now…but will also fall victim to the sands of time.
Consider the example of Jesus as we follow his ministry in the gospels. We come to see how he constructs something beautiful for God by denouncing greatness and taking on a servant’s heart. He never constructed a temple, or even built a chapel for prayer. Instead, through humbling himself he built the Kingdom of the Holy, whose architecture remains faithful people who are ready to live their lives in accordance to God’s will. Its pillars are service, prayer, worship, peacemaking. The carved stones of this timeless temple are faith, hope, and love.
In the 2nd chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle calls us forth to build our lives not on greatness but on the cornerstone of Christ and his way of humility:
“Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’.” (1 Pet 2:4-6)
As people of faith, God asks us to rebuild our lives on a fast that is pleasing to the Lord. To all other projects, Jesus offers this sobering advice: Do not be led astray. One day, not one stone of these things will be sitting on another. Do not put your faith in that which is destined to crumble. Do not build the foundations of your life and communities on such things. Instead, find your hope in something that cannot be broken with a hammer, or destroyed in a war, or eroded by time. Put your hope in the kingdom.
As we move closer to Holy Week, my prayer is that we would seek to build more of our lives on the sure foundation that is the Lord: our rock, a solid place to lay the foundations of our living, especially in these unsettling times. And may we always strive to follow Christ’s path of humility and service, so that the glory of the Kingdom of God is that which we seek to build.
The glory of God’s Kingdom—where God’s love reigns supreme—is not the glory of the Taj Mahal, or London Bridge (which isn’t falling down yet, but it will). You might not be able to buy souvenirs of it like you would at the Eiffel Tower, or to purchase tickets for a guided tour like you could at the Louvre. But you can place a human life in the Kingdom of God. And all the edifices of humanity will crumble around it, and the home of your spirit will not even shake, and you will proclaim, “It is well with my soul.”
+ ‘It Is Well With My Soul’ :: Kelly Ford & Mark DeLuca
+ Reflection :: spiritual foundations in covid times :: Rev. Richards
How do we set our souls right? It’s the question of the season of Lent. How do we remove distractions, how do we step away from the things that interrupt us? What is it in our life that consumes our focus, and blurs our vision for who God is and who God calls us to be? What do we need to set aside in life as it is, to focus on life as it could be?
That is the question of every Lenten season. The weeks leading up to the celebration of the resurrection are supposed to be such a time of fasting – of paring down what only serves us, and guiding our hearts more completely toward what serves God.
Well. I supposed there’s nothing like a global pandemic to make you really hone in on things like trust and faithfulness, compassion and responsibility, community and mercy and love.
Here we sit, worshipping all in our own places. Finding sanctuary in different rooms. Seeing love take shape in ways we never could have imagined just a few weeks ago.
So how can you nourish your spirit? How are you establishing spiritual foundations in these shifting-sand days of COVID-19?
Being here in worship with us is a great start. Even though it looks and feels and sounds different in this moment, I hope it also looks and feels and sounds familiar, and remains a holy grounding and connecting moment for each of you, and for us together. Use the connection card link right below where you clicked play on this morning’s worship service; let us know you were here, and how we can be in prayer with you and for you in these days and weeks ahead.
While you’re naming how we can pray for you, consider how you might pray for others. Turning our gaze outward keeps us in tune with God’s will for our lives – that the whole body of Christ might be strengthened and carry on. Make a list of people you know, and maybe people you don’t know, who might be in need of God’s grace. Pray for someone each day. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal, it doesn’t have to be out loud or written down. It doesn’t even have to be anything anyone else knows about. Simply thinking of and praying for others grounds us in community, in what matters most.
Listen to what your body is telling you about what’s going on in the world. We are the body of Christ, and right now that body is aching (more than usual). There is tension in the air and in our muscles. There is anxiety in our words, and our hearts race a little when we hear and repeat those words. Listen to your body, and answer its needs.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Get away from that work-at-home desk once in a while.
Stand up and stretch.
Walk around the block.
Wave to a neighbor.
Listen to music.
Phone a friend. Use a video call if you can.
For now, caring for each other means not being together. It’s weird and we don’t like it and some of us may even think it’s overreacting, but it’s the best and healthiest and most critical and most compassionate choice we can make. For now, love looks like an empty sanctuary. And yet here we are to worship. Slowing down. Saying God is still God.
Worship. Pray. Listen.
Even in the darkness, we’ll find the light.
+ ‘Find the Light’ :: The Rising Band; Isaac Herbert, leader
+ Benediction :: Rev. Howe
We’re glad that you could engage in this worship cast with us. And as we go forth from this moment, may we do so with the aim of anchoring our lives on the sure foundation of the Lord; the One who is our rock and our salvation. May we seek to establish ourselves as part of the timeless structure that is God’s kingdom — with Christ as our cornerstone, and the enduring materials of faith, hope, and love. Amen.