Home Worship Guide
April 19, 2020

Welcome

Welcome to worship! In this first week after Easter, many of us are left feeling a little unsettled. Without our usual celebrations and in the midst of difficult circumstances, we might be feeling anxious or scared rather than joyful. And that’s okay! Even the women in our scripture passage today were afraid.

While we may wish for God to take away our fears and struggles, that doesn’t always happen. Instead, God promises something even richer—God’s presence with us. Today we remember that God suffers with us and remains present in our difficulties. And in God’s presence, we find peace.

Hymn of Presence – Abide With Me

This timeless hymn, written in 1847, reminds us to seek God’s presence “through cloud and sunshine.” One of God’s best gifts to us is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of our difficult circumstances. God promises to remain with us through the struggles and joys of this life and in death.

Click here if you would like to view the text of the song as you listen.

 

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me
.

Scripture Reading – Mark 16:1-8

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Meditation

Watch the sermon using the player above, or click this summary to read the complete text. An archive of this and other sermons is found on the Yates sermon page.

Well good evening or good morning, or good afternoon. I don’t know what time it is that you’re watching this, but I do hope that you’re severely depressed. No, I don’t really feel that way but I do hope that in our time together today we can talk about difficult feelings and these difficult things we’re all experiencing in this really odd time.

Our church just celebrated Easter, and Easter certainly is a celebration and a high point in the church calendar. And in our celebrations, we often hear a phrase that goes something like this— “Jesus defeated death” or “Jesus conquered the grave.” While I think these are theologically accurate statements, if they are misunderstood, or more likely, overemphasized, this can have bad results. If we view that Jesus suffered and died but he resurrected so everything ended up being fine in the end. Things were bad, but then God made them better, that’s the way life is. If we have that view and overemphasize it, it can have some bad results for our faith.

One being, if we think that God eventually makes things great, makes everything okay, fixes all our problems that can make us less likely to serve our neighbor, to help those in need, to do justice in the world. If God’s going to make things great eventually, why do any of those things?

But even more prevalent, if God is going to make things great one day then sometimes we can dismiss thoughts of doubt, anxiety, or fear as simply sinful thoughts. We have no reason to fear, we have no reason to be afraid, we have no reason to be scared because God’s going to make everything great one day.

In light of that, I want to share a story from church history. It’s not a story that has a happy ending or a perfect ending, but nonetheless it’s one that is a beautiful story of what life is like in the kingdom of God. This story is readily available, it’s found lots of places but I want to read the simple, streamlined version that I have here of a person named Dirk Willems. It goes like this:

“The sixteenth-century Anabaptists of Europe were pacifists who led the way for today’s Mennonites and Amish. At least fifteen hundred were tortured and killed for their faith. Men were usually burned alive and women were usually drowned—often on the grounds of not believing in infant baptism, but let’s be honest, it was because Anabaptists also opposed the highly profitable state use of lending money, military service, and control of the church.

Dirk Willems was arrested in his hometown of Asperen one winter day and was tried as an Anabaptist by the Duke of Alva during a time when Spain inexplicably controlled the Netherlands.

His property was confiscated and he was locked in a makeshift prison until execution day. Knowing what fate awaited him, our hero escaped from the palace through a window, down a rope of knotted rags. Guards gave chase. Willems dropped to the ice that covered the castle moat and started to run.

The moat led to a large pond which was upwards of thirty feet deep. It was covered with a thin sheet of ice, barely a frost. Having survived on prison rations, Willems was thin and light enough to skitter across the pond, but one of the guards fell through in pursuit. He struggled for shore and cried out for help, but the ice kept breaking and he started to drown.

Dirk Willems stopped. His response was reflexive. His conscience compelled him to turn. His faith compelled him to love at all costs. Willems helped the guard escape from his icy fate.

In gratitude for saving his life, the guard was about to let Willems go when the chief magistrate arrived at the other side of the pond. He reminded the soldier of his duty and ordered him to arrest the escapee. The guard reluctantly seized the prisoner and dragged him back to a more secure prison cell above the bell in a church tower.

Four days later, on May 16, 1569, Willems was burned at the stake outside of town. A strong wind blew from the east and prevented the smoke from causing Willems to faint from inhalation. His death was excruciating and his cries of anguish were heard for miles. The neighboring town heard him scream seventy times, “My Lord; my God!” The judge was filled with sorrow and demanded the executioner end it quickly.”

Certainly not a perfect or happy ending but a beautiful picture of the work of Christ in Willems’ life. Now the Gospel of Mark certainly ends on an uncertain note. The Gospel of Mark was the first gospel written and the only gospel that Christians had for a long time. The note it ends on is odd—the first visitors to the resurrected Christ, the women, leave being afraid and that’s the last note of the gospel of Mark.

It ends with these visitors being afraid. It doesn’t end with five tips for a deeper faith, it doesn’t end with a simple way to interpret the gospel, it ends on a note of uncertainty, it ends with fear. The message that Mark, and the other gospels in their own way, the message that it gives us is not that God takes away our suffering, that God takes away fear, anxiety, and doubt and any of those things.

The message is that God suffers with us. That God is present in our difficult times. We can be honest in our struggles and doubt and bring them to God because he suffers with us. Amen.

Response Through Giving

We encourage you to give your offerings online through Pushpay here, through the Yates app, or by mail (2819 Chapel Hill Road, Durham, NC, 27707). We are growing into new ways to be the church together and your giving allows us to keep being the church, even in the absence of our physical presence.

Response In Prayer

Take some time to reflect on how you can be honest with God about your struggles right now. Have you been minimizing your feelings because you don’t have it as bad as others? God desires us to bring our whole selves in worship—disappointments and struggles, too. Allow the presence of God to be with you in your difficulties, without guilt. One of the gifts of Easter is that Jesus chose to suffer as a human. God still chooses to enter our suffering alongside us. Allow God into your suffering and allow the realization of that to bring you peace today.

Benediction- God With Us

Click here if you would like to view the text of the song as you listen.

 

You are matchless in grace and mercy
There is nowhere we can hide from Your love
You are steadfast never-failing
You are faithful
All creation is in awe of who You are

You’re the healer of the sick and the broken
You are comfort for every heart that mourns
Our King and our Savior forever
For eternity we sing of all You’ve done
For eternity we sing of all You’ve done

We sing, God with us, God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us
God with us, God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us

Your heart- it moves with compassion
There is life there is healing in Your love
You’re the Father the Son the Holy Spirit
For eternity we sing of all You’ve done

We sing, God with us, God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us
God with us, God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us

Where there was death
You brought life Lord
Where there was fear You brought courage
When I was afraid You were with me
And You’re lifting me up
And You’re lifting me up

We sing, God with us, God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us
God with us God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us

 

Blessings to you on this day of worship!

Click here to visit the worship experience from March 15, 2020.

Click here to visit the worship experience from March 22, 2020.

Click here to visit the worship experience from March 29, 2020.

Click here to visit the worship experience from April 5, 2020.

Click here to visit the worship experience from last week, April 12, 2020.