Welcome to worship with Harvard Avenue! Please use this link to send a ‘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.)
Your tithes and offerings can be offered through online giving
, or mailed to the church address. (Mail is collected daily.)
You can also find a 15-minute video of this week’s Children Worship & Wonder, this week exploring the story of Zaccheus.
+ Welcome & Call to Worship :: Rev. Courtney Richards
guitar : Isaac Herbert
Here we are again … together, apart. Not distanced, but in solidarity: Here we are to worship. We’re so glad to have this podcast, a few moments to breathe, sing, pray, sit, listen, be. We hope you’ll use the virtual Connection Card email. Let us know you came to worship today, and share any prayer concerns, joy and needs and news that you might have, so our pastors and staff, elders and prayer groups, can care for you in this season.
Perhaps you want to pause already before we go further. Find a candle and bring it to where you’re listening. Get your Bible so that you can read the scripture with us in a few minutes. Find the right place to sit and listen with your heart. Close all the other apps, put down all the other devices. Take that pause now, if you’d like. We’ll wait.
And now here we are to worship. Here we are to say that God is still God. Here we are, beloved of God, beloved to one another, in our homes, creating sacred spaces, finding sacred moments … together, apart. Here we are. To worship.
+ Pastoral Prayer :: Rev. Kevin Howe
Let us pray together.
Holy God, Giver and Author of Life, Maker of all Creation, we gather our minds and hearts together today in your Spirit, to seek refuge from the storms of life. In you we find strength for our living, joy and energy for new tomorrows. Lord, grant us your peace. Fortify our faith.
We name this day that there have been many times when the tragedies in our lives and on the news overwhelm us. And Lord we confess that our hope can begin to falter in your good news. We see troubles many and bitter, and yet Lord, you restore life.
You have been our refuge and strength, our rock in times of need, and we ask Lord that you continue to make your presence known among our lives and in our world, especially for all those who suffer this day. There are many who need your healing touch, God, and we ask that you would enfold them and all of us in your never-failing care.
Lord use us to be instruments of your hope and love with the world, and may we continue to adhere to the ways of Jesus Christ your son, who taught us to pray saying…
+ The Lord’s Prayer
piano : Susie Monger Daugherty
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
+ Reflection :: shifting toward delight :: Rev. Howe
In the 58th chapter of Isaiah, the prophet pleads with the people of Israel to delight in the Sabbath and to delight in the ways of the Lord. And so my wondering today is this: How does one make a shift to delight?
You know, often we tend to view delight as something we have no control over; we either find something to be delightful or we don’t. And it’s far easier to view things this way, because if enjoyment is something for which we have no control over, then we need not entertain the idea of trying something again that we did not like the first time. If we have no control over that in which we find delight, we can simply double down on our expressions of displeasure and disinterest in activities or circumstances that we did not previously find to be delightful.
I came into this season of social distancing and quarantines with a strong predetermination that these practices would be ones in which I would find no delight. And that was destined to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I was bound and determined to find everything unpleasant about these circumstances for which none of us have control over.
Then about a week back I came across an article on the internet that invited me to see my circumstances in a different way. The article was entitled “QuaranTraining,” and it spoke of the creative ways that people from within the mountaineering and rock-climbing community were choosing to fully embrace their time at home. Here is a community of people who much prefer travel and the outdoors to the confines of home. And yet the article contains images from climbers all over the world who are finding that there are in fact many ways to train for their sport of passion in their homes and apartments. Parents beware! The images show people scaling bookshelves, hanging from the underside of their stairs, setting protective gear between cabinets—and not for the sake of security but rather for a light-hearted laugh. One man suited up in the attire he would use for scaling the highest peaks in the world, so that he could climb his six-foot ladder and cleaning dust-bunnies from the crown moulding!
Rather than stew in resentment about not being able to participate in their outdoor pursuits, the community is finding ways to lean into the discomfort of these new circumstances, and is even finding some delight in it. Where there was once the mundaneness of home, there was new adventure. Where there was once lemons, now lemonade.
A great deal of suffering in our lives is bound up in our struggle to preserve our predetermined ways of thinking, feeling, and acting in the world. Because it is rare that the circumstances of our days align with our notion of what we would have for ourselves, it can be a continual struggle not to sit our own self-imposed quarantine of resentment toward how things are unfolding. But our faith calls us to continually refresh the way we see our circumstances, particularly about how we see adversity in our living.
I think about the Apostle Paul’s words in the 12th chapter of Romans, where he says
“Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
It takes a real measure of faith to renew one’s mind – to free ourselves of our preconceived notions about how things should go, in this world in which we have very little control. But our faith offers us this beautiful invitation: To choose a new way of seeing our circumstances, to take up Christ’s invitation to lean into adversity with the confidences of God’s care and God’s presence. And when God is in the picture, there is always the audacious possibility that we will find delight.
This is my hope: That we will lean into God during this season, to find comfort and security in God’s presence, so that we may see our lives and circumstances anew, open to the radical possibility of delight.
+ ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’ :: Avenue; Barry Epperley, director
+ Scripture :: Isaiah 58: 1 – 14
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[a] 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.
13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
+ Reflection : Prepare: delight :: Rev. Richards
We do not like being told what to do. We just don’t. The pioneering spirit of American lore is ingrained in us. (We ignore the parts of that history that are problematic.) We’ve spent our lives, and certainly our adult years, with incredible benefits and privileges. (Even the times that we’ve been down and out, or left behind, or gone without, we were still so far ahead of the curve …) We’ve also been told, and come to believe, that in this country, in this society, in this church, in this family, we can be and do anything we want.
And right now? In this moment in world, national, state, city, neighborhood, family life? It’s just not true. We cannot do and be everything we want to … right now. We cannot see all of the people we want to see – at least not the way we’re used to seeing them. We cannot do all of the things we want to do – at least not the way we’re used to doing them. We cannot go all of the places we want to go – and even the places we can go are fraught with restriction and limits.
We don’t like limits. We do not like being told what to do. It’s cramping our style, and changing our plans. It’s having a financial impact, and an emotional one. This has disrupted our schedule, our work, our school, our homes, our love, our grief, our health, and our spirits.
It is making us sit still. And listen. Carefully.
We are getting a right-in-our-face lesson about caring for our neighbors. And learning that our definition of neighbor has always needed a little expanding.
It is making us think about our choices.
We are being forced to consider what is important, and what is not, and why we’ve always thought it was.
It is making us make things.
Phone calls to people we would usually just see. Appointments with coworkers we would ordinarily just go talk to. Meals with ingredients we didn’t even realize were in our house, let alone could go together!
This season has sparked some of the most creative communications – from drivewalk chalk, to posters in the window, to combined technologies across miles and time zones.
We’re expanding our understanding of education, what it is and how it happens and who’s involved. (And when we said over and over that we HAVE to figure out how to pay our teachers the money they deserve, we were absolutely not kidding.)
More of us are finding ways to move our bodies, even when our social movement is restricted. From breathing exercises, to living room yoga, to backyard catch, to neighborhood walks with dogs that are wondering why they’re suddenly not the ones who have to ask to go outside!
We’re picking up food from local businesses, and writing actual letters and using actual stamps. We’re cleaning out closets and dropping off donations. We’re paying attention to how we interact, and we’re being intentional with our words and with our movements. And we are remembering that everything we do can be done with someone else in mind.
And we’re finding – at least we’re trying to find – ways to reset our spirits. We’re digging out music we haven’t listened to in a while. That stack of books we’ve been staring at is actually getting read. We’ve rediscovered our love for crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles, and coloring books. And we are gathering with our church friends: listening to worship, reading prayers, doing video call bible studies, and calling and texting and emailing just to say hello.
Is not this the fast God chooses? That the oppressed would be released, that the lost would be found, that the discarded would be regathered, that the sabbath would be honored and the rhythm of life would be that which honors the best of who we are and who God intends us to be?
As you read and heard our Isaiah text today, adding verses as we have each week, and completing the chapter this time, we may at first think ‘Delight?! Where on earth can we find that right now?’
But it’s right there, in the text, and in us:
When we actively choose not to go our own way, but to honor the sabbath, to remember God’s holiness. When we feed on the heritage of our ancestors and delight in the keeping of God’s intentions for us … not for us as individuals, but recognizing that God’s desire and delight is for all of us, for everyone of us, all together.
So this week, while we are still sheltering, still safe, still healthy, still at home … where will you find your delight? Where will God’s delight be revealed to you?
Will you find a word here in Isaiah, or in the Psalms, or in a Gospel, and pray that word over your family? Will you write it on a post-it note … or sit it at your desk … or tuck it in as a bookmark … see it and repeat it and hold it close as strength and guide?
Will you remember, in the moments when anxiety kicks in, when fear comes too close, when case reports and patient counts become too real – will you remember that everything you feel is fine to feel, and normal, and part of this whole wild process. And will you remember that God is still, at the same time, right there with you?
Will you sit at an ordinary meal, and see it as communion – a sharing in the body of Christ? Whether by yourself, or with whoever else is sheltered with you, can you see that bread, that cup, that plate, those gifts, as the peace of Christ given to you, the salvation of Christ for your and for all? Can you even say those words, to yourself and to each other, calling each other by name … These are the gifts of Christ, for you
These are my prayers for us today, in this season that is not at all what we thought it would be. On this last Sunday of March, Kevin and I planned to lead worship out of this interim season the way we led into it: sitting side by side. But we are in spirit. And we are in spirit with each of you, rejoicing to welcome our new Lead Pastor, Rev David Emery, and know that you are praying with us for him as he leads us through this next moment and he joins us in worship next week.
So these are the gifts of Christ, given for you. These are the things I’m praying:
That we would delight in the Lord.
That we would take nourishment from all that has gone before us.
That we would honor God’s intent for us by living and loving with intention and compassion.
That we would trust, and not be moved.
+ ‘Those Who Trust’ :: The Rising Band; Isaac Herbert, leader
+ Benediction :: Rev. Richards
guitar: Isaac Herbert
Our words of benediction today, from Quaker singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer. We’ll link to this full piece in the transcript; she is well worth your attention.
Now I don’t know and never will
What rises in the evening still.
How empty cups keep getting filled
How healing comes and hope rebuilds
Today I sense that all is near
Evermore and soon to be
Within us and between us is
Is everything we need.
(Carrie Newcomer, Everything We Need)
Go in peace, beloved of God. Go and stay : stay at home, stay in health, stay with God. Amen.