Guide for Worship
May 17, 2020
Welcome to worship! Today we focus on what it means to suffer for doing good. How do we distinguish between suffering for doing good and suffering doing evil? We begin with a song that reminds us to call on the Holy Spirit for guidance. She will help us discern what is right and how we can join in the work of the Lord.
Especially during these days, we seek hope in the middle of hardship. God provides inexplicable hope in our suffering. When we look to the Lord, we find strength and hope to endure this day and whatever it may bring.
Hymn of Invitation
Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Click on this text to view the lyrics of the hymn and sing along.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew, That I may love what Thou dost love, And do what Thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, Breath of God, Until my heart is pure, Until with Thee I will one will, To do and to endure. Breathe on me, Breath of God, Till I am wholly Thine, Until this earthly part of me Glows with Thy fire divine. Breathe on me, Breath of God, So shall I never die, But live with Thee the perfect life Of Thine eternity.
Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:13-22
Bridger Cothran, Seonmi Choi, Deuce Nunnally, Katie Muckenfuss, Will Shelton
Click on this text to follow today’s Scripture reading.
13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
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.
It’s that feeling you get when the end of a hard season is in sight and there are good things on the horizon – summer break, graduation, vacation, retirement, the end of a sermon – whatever it may be. It’s the feeling that carries us through the remaining hardship and keeps you going because you can see the end and the end is good. One of the reasons I grieve for an entire class of students this year is that they can’t really know it in the same way many of us have – the rush of that feeling they’ve been anticipating for so long – the rush that comes with the countdown to the end of things. In their case, graduation. I’m talking about hope. Hope! It’s a powerful force in our lives. It’s hope that Peter says is possible for us today because of Jesus – hope even in the midst of hardship. We can live hopeful lives because we have been given a vision of the end: Jesus is victorious, and we are victorious in him. Of course, this is the proclamation of Easter, and since every Sunday is a little Easter of sorts, today’s a great day to share that again. Victory in Christ is sometimes misunderstood or misused. Some see it as an excuse to run away from society and any responsibility to it. Others view his victory as an indication that everything is okay now. Others view Christ’s victory skeptically because the hard realities of our world, even in our day and time, suggest proclaiming the victorious Christ all a sort of lie. The early church could easily have found itself in that place. Early Christians’ circumstances may often have felt like real defeat more than salvation. They were powerless against a powerful culture, abused and sometimes suffered greatly because they bore the name “Christian.” When we suffer it’s hard to imagine any good ending. We can suffer when we try to live sacrificial lives of love and forgiveness at home and in the workplace. We can suffer when we speak unpopular words of conscience in our world and experience indifference or even disdain. We can suffer when we endure the waves of powerful temptation in our own hearts. When we are suffering – as Christians – we also struggle to trust the proclamation of a victorious Savior in our circumstances. That struggle, is the place that we are invited to remain, remaining there long enough for God to lead us back to see Jesus, and to see him as our good ending. We are invited today to see him as our hope because Jesus has passed through suffering into victory. And we have that because we have been united to Christ by faith so that all that belongs to him is ours. This means his death, his life and his victory. This is where the entire reading today points. It is a vision of the risen Christ in heaven at the right hand of God, ruling over all things. That is what the New Testament wants us to see on every horizon. It’s what we see in Revelation when God says “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5). Listen to how verse 22 reads: “…Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” Jesus’ reign is a present reality for us, in our day and time. Now is the time to remember how he arrived there. We often think of the resurrection as the point of Christ’s victory. But that victory was won by way of Jesus’ quiet entry into history and dying in what seemed like a lost cause on the cross. Peter tells it in verse 18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” Jesus’ victory came through suffering for our sake. In a sense, his dying was the beginning of his victory and suffering was the way he would move to rule over all things. He did not endure this for his own benefit. His victory is for those who hear the Good News and rest in it as the only lasting and true hope. In victory, Jesus claims the object of his deepest desire– you. Hope tells us that Jesus died to win us for himself. We belong to him no matter what our circumstances would have us believe. Peter retells the story of Noah and the flood and some old Jewish traditions about it to tell how, though Jesus was in the midst of his own humiliation, lying alone in a tomb, Jesus was alive in the Spirit proclaiming his victory. The Savior descended into the place of old enemies, telling them that the new thing had come and was here to stay, and the rescue had come. Peter remembers how the waters of Noah’s flood came as judgment against rebellion and simultaneously lifted Noah and his family to safety. It is a pattern for salvation. Jesus’ death was judgment against the enemies of God, his victory over them and their rescue. The baptism that Christian sisters and brothers share holds that same symbolic power. Our baptism isn’t just about getting wet or clean. It’s about uniting with Christ by faith and sharing in his victory. This isn’t some cliché meant to distract us from our present troubles with “pie in the sky by and by” platitudes. The victory of Jesus is a powerful, present reality meant to transform the way you and I live. It is the hope that speaks over the fears and troubles of life because Jesus is the one, sure constant in an uncertain world. Christ’s victory is the foundation supporting the call to action that begins our passage today. Remember how Peter begins: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” He’s following up on Chapter 2, which insists that those who set their hope in Christ are called to follow him by enduring suffering while doing good to others, including those who cause the suffering. If evil is met with good, then the evil may end. But, Peter isn’t naïve. Suffering may also follow when we do the right thing. He understands that suffering produces fear in us. But the antidote to our fear, he insists, is Jesus. Quoting Isaiah, he declares “’Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened,’” and continues, “but in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:14) To “revere Christ as Lord in our hearts” means we reckon his authority over all things as more powerful than the fearful things we face and keep him in the proper place in our hearts – on the throne. When we keep returning to this hope and endure, especially in times like these when circumstances press us, there may be some who ask about it. You might answer at considerable length, but let your first word be “Jesus.” His name is not a weapon, of course, nor is the good news a hammer. The Scripture counsels that you offer your hopeful answer “with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.” (1 Peter 3:15-16) These are the kinds of words that neutralize the accusations that come so often against modern Christians – that we are proud, entitled or self-righteous. If we are those things (and sometimes we are), then turn around and run quickly back to Jesus. We answer with gentleness and respect because this hope is not something we deserve or have earned. It is a gift. Christ came and suffered for sinners to bring us to God. He is gentle with us. Be gentle with others, too. We walk a difficult road these days, incredibly difficult for some of you. We are at the mercy of an unmerciful virus, unmerciful people in an unmerciful world. Some of you face fears that others cannot know. When the fears and frustrations are upon you, may they provoke you to look up at the promise that the end is in sight. Don’t ask me when. Don’t ask me exactly how. Look to the horizon and you won’t see a finish line. You will see a person – Jesus. And seeing him in his victory is our strength and hope to endure this day. And that is enough.
Response Through Giving
To God Be the Glory – 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.
Spring Mission Offerings
Springtime is a time when the Yates community collects special offerings for local and North American Missions. We encourage you to support this work by sharing among one of these three directions:
- The CBF Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund supporting refugee and immigrants in the U.S. who have been hit especially hard by the economic and social impact of Coronavirus precautions. Please note your designation on a check you leave with the church office or give directly on the CERF webpage.
- Our local partner, Families Moving Forward, which supports homeless families on their journey to safe and sustainable living, has been forced to address many unplanned expenses in the Coronavirus pandemic. Again, please note your designation on a check you leave with the church office or give directly on the FMF webpage.
Response Through Prayer
Prayer of Confession written by Rev. Mindi
Almighty God, You have set before us the path but we have wandered on our own to try to find our way. Sometimes we are like toddlers and we hear Your call and come back. Other times, we are children testing boundaries, ignoring Your call until fear finally makes us look back. And still other times we are full of youthful rebellion, demanding to be cut loose and set free, not knowing how much we still need to seek Your wisdom and guidance. But most of all, too often we think we are adults and have figured it all out and know our own way, only to stumble and stray so far. Remind us, parental God, that we are always Your children, that we are never fully grown up in Your sight, that we always have much to learn. Help us to seek You every day, to acknowledge that we need Your wisdom and guidance, and help us to return to the path and walk with You. In the name of Christ, who is our companion on this journey of faith, we pray. Amen.
Song of Calling
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
May Your joy be seen in all I do—
Love enough to cover ev’ry sin
In each thought and deed and attitude,
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my striving into works of grace.
Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show Your power once again on earth;
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ
Will be clear for all the world to see.
Blessings as you go into this hopeful day!