Guide for Worship
June 14, 2020
Welcome to worship! Today we are reminded of the gift that is God’s grace to us through Jesus Christ. God chooses to meet us where we are—imperfections and all—with love.
Let grace become the place where we dwell and where we receive love. Then we can step out with boldness to share that grace and love with those around us.
Song of Grace
Your Grace Is Enough – Mackenzie Smith
Click on this text to view the lyrics of the hymn and sing along.
Great is Your faithfulness, O God
You wrestle with the sinner’s restless heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart
So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise O God
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me
Great is Your love and justice God of Jacob
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along
Yeah Your grace is enough
Heaven reaches out to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I sing Your grace is enough
I’m covered in Your love
Your grace is enough for me for me
Scripture – Romans 5:1-8
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Listen to 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.
Access. What comes to mind when I say that word, “access?” Maybe it’s the passcodes that are required for you to do any banking online or at the ATM so that you can have access to your money. Maybe it’s the series of passwords you need to shop at your favorite store online to get just the right clothes or products or discount. Maybe it’s the code to help you get into your house or into your workspace.
Maybe you’re thinking bigger picture. Maybe you’re thinking about our neighborhood or our community, the questions that press us even now. Does each and every person here in our neighborhood, in our community, in our nation, in our space – do they have access to the national promise of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Whether it’s in large ways or small ways, access defines a lot of what we confront each and every day. We want it!
I was reminded of that again this week in a very small way. In my house, for the last two years or so, an old computer has been gathering dust in a corner. It’s a good computer. It served our family very well for almost a decade, but it was time for an upgrade. So when we bought that new family computer, in my eagerness to get it set up and to get the boys established on it for their schoolwork, that other computer just sort of fell by the wayside. There were files on there that I definitely wanted to transfer: picture files and video files when the boys were small; times Jeanell and I spent on vacation or elsewhere that I didn’t want to lose and hadn’t yet transferred or saved anywhere else. “But I can get to it.”
You know how that goes. You get busy. You get distracted and the next thing you know something that had such a sense of urgency all of a sudden just sort of melts into the background and then day after day we just walked by that computer, back and forth.
Well, the time had come for me to do that. And certainly there’s time and space in this time of stay-at-home, in this season of pandemic precaution. And so I pulled out that old computer, ready to transfer the files. I plugged it in. I booted it up and wouldn’t you know it? (This is a prototypical Christopher problem!) I forgot the password. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I secured it. I didn’t write it down and none of the usual suspects work, so I’ve spent the last week doing some research figuring out how to hack into my own computer so that I can access those files that I really, really want!
Paul is writing to a world that’s also seeking access. He’s speaking to a world that has all sorts of theories about how to find access to God. So there are some in Paul’s world who believed it was keeping the law of Moses perfectly and completely. That would be the key to their access to a relationship in good standing with God. There are others who thought that access would be found somewhere in the breadth of all of their philosophical knowledge and learning. There were still others who thought if they lived an exemplary civic life that they would have access to God’s provision, God’s promise, God’s pleasure .
Paul speaks into all of that telling them, and telling us, there is only one password that’s required to have access to God. It is Jesus Christ. Because in Jesus Christ, even though we have been rebellious and unruly and resistant to God’s leadership, God has declared peace on us. That should come as good news, but sometimes it’s hard for us to give up that fight.
I was reflecting this week in preparation for this on the story of Horoo Onoda. He was a young 2nd Lieutenant in the Japanese army who had been sent to the Philippines on Lubang Island to help defend it during the Second World war. Even after the conclusion of the war, Onoda became famous because he did not give up the fight. He refused to believe the conflict was over and that peace had been won. And he maintained that defensive position for almost three decades after the conclusion of the war. World governments, his own brother issued a plea to him, yet he would not hear it.
It was 1974 when Lieutenant Onoda, much older, emerged from the jungle with his .25 caliber rifle, about 500 rounds of ammunition, several grenades and a personal knife his mother had given to him in order to take his own life if he were ever taken captive. Peace had been claimed for him but he wasn’t ready to give up his corner of the fight. Today we hear good news: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” You are also free to let down your defenses, to open your life up completely to God and what God wants to do with you and in you and for you.
Somewhere along the line, I think many of us learned that faith is about our striving to reach God. But today, we’re reminded that faith and the grace that faith brings is about God’s striving to reach us. Jesus is not some human means to attain God’s mercy. No, we’re reminded today that God sends Jesus to enact mercy, mercy that God intended to bring from the beginning of time.
So grace is our dwelling place. Grace is the place “in which we now stand.” God’s goodness to us surrounds us. It upholds us. It defines who we are, and our lives are shaped by the gift that we can never achieve – a gift that we can only receive.
Of course there’s no assurance that a life that’s grounded in grace is going to be marked by earthly success. It’s certainly not guaranteed to be known by any sort of material or earthly prosperity. Paul tells us that a grace-grounded life is more often marked by suffering. because a life lived in grace is shaped like Christ’s own life.
But grace bears its own fruit, even in suffering. The fruit that is named marks that spiritual and moral development that’s grounded in grace. You start with suffering and it cultivates endurance. And from endurance comes character, and from character, hope. And hope will not put us to shame. It does not disappoint us.
Where does that sort of mature Christian hope come from? Well, it comes from love – God’s love that’s poured out into us by the Holy Spirit. That love isn’t just a human sort of love. It’s God’s love that’s shown in Jesus Christ. Christ died, Paul reminds us, not for the righteous, not for the good, but for the ungodly. This is good news for us, because I think most of us know perfectly well that we are counted among the ungodly. That includes us.
In recent days I have been turning back to an image, an image that for me was made unforgettable because it came to me at the end of my college career as I was turning the corner to go to seminary. In 1996, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at a Klux Klan rally, there was a gathering – not only of the Klan and its supporters, but a larger group of counter-protesters. At one point among the counter-protesters, one person with a megaphone pointed out someone else in the crowd and said, “There’s a Klansman in the crowd!” And the crowd all turned to see a white man wearing a Confederate flag T shirt, SS tattooed on his arm. Someone shouted, “Kill the Nazi!” The man turned to flee, but he tripped and he fell. Many in the crowd began to gather around him, beating him, kicking him using the sticks of their protest signs to assail him.
In the midst of the chaos, in the midst of the violence, Keshia Thomas, an 18 year old African-American student from the town, broke through the crowd and she threw herself on top of him, shielding him from the blows and taking them on herself. The picture of that experience was permanently edged into my own mind my own heart. It convicts me even to this day photographer who captured that memorable image talked about it afterward. He said, “She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her.” And then he asked very searchingly, “Who does that in this world?”
Back to our opening word, “access.” Remember that when we talk about access, it’s not telling us first about how we reach longingly toward heaven. When we talk about access, it is a way to describe heaven and all that God wants reaching longingly to us. It is not that we are good enough or wise enough or obedient enough to gain God. It is that God has gained us for God’s own self through the sacrificial and unfathomable love of Jesus Christ.
We know the lives that we lead. We know our imperfections. We know we don’t always get it right. But don’t let that mature and humble awareness overshadow your hope. Take a step back today. Take a step back and rest in the promise of peace that God offers by trusting in Jesus Christ. Then may your next step be a step out – with him – and trust him to strengthen you in every way to follow, wherever he may lead. Amen.
Response Through Giving
They’ll Know We Are Christians with Blest Be the Tie – Nyssa Collins
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.
Hymn of Redemption
What Wondrous Love Is This – Eric Glenn, Caroline LeGrand, Charles Quick, Caleb Smith, Mackenzie Smith, Danny Steis
Click on this text to view the lyrics of the hymn and sing along.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this,
That caused the Lord of bliss,
To bear the dreadful curse,
For my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
beneath Gods righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown
for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on,
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
And thro’ eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And thro’ eternity, I’ll sing on.
Prayers of Intercession
We conclude with a prayer for ourselves, our neighbors, and our world. We are grateful for the love of God that meets us where we are through the intercession of Christ. Let us pray together now.
Click here to follow along as Jess leads us in prayer.
Loving God, you have made peace with us
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
And poured your love into our hearts by
Your Holy Spirit.
We pray for those who are suffering
In mind, body and spirit and all who are in need.
Receive these petitions of your people
On behalf of the needs of the church and the world:
God of peace,
Whose son Jesus Christ died for us while we were still weak,
Please intercede for us in our weakness
That we might worthily love you, our neighbors and all your creation.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.