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Receiving God's Care 03.28.20

Welcome, Discovery family & friends, to digital church.

We meet again here online as we gather in our homes to worship God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

See last week’s service here | Listen to previously recorded talks here

If you are able to gather with others in your home or connect with your small group over the phone or video chat, you may wish to take turns reading aloud.

Call to Worship

Lift up your voice and call out to God.
We cry out, believing that God hears us.
Come together and wait for God.
We come together, trusting that God is still speaking.
Surely God’s presence is here with us now.
We wait in hope, for God’s steadfast love lifts our hearts.
Come, worship the Lord.
We celebrate the power of God that restores us.

Words of Encouragement

Have you heard the birds in the mornings and evenings, or watched the robins dig for worms and begin to form their nests to hatch their young?

Apparently no one has informed God’s little creatures that the world is on hold for a time.

Have you witnessed the early Spring bulbs poking their way through the brown earth?  

Apparently no one has informed God’s flowers they are not to come out and play.

I (Pastor Mary) can hear my father’s pastor voice so often reciting this little poem by Elizabeth Cheney (1859):

Said the Robin to the Sparrow, ‘I should really like to know, why these anxious human beings rush about and hurry so,

Said the Sparrow to the Robin, ‘Friend, I think that it must be, that they have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.’

Kids, 

Did you know that God wants us to be bird watchers? He says to us:

Look at the sparrows: they are not very important and yet I love them and know all about them. How much more must I love you?

Look at the ravens: they don’t sow or reap. They have no barns or pantries. Yet I feed them. How much more will I look after you?

Look at the robins: they go away but they always come home. Be always coming home to me!

Be like the little birds who know their Heavenly Father loves them and will take care of them.

Be like the birds who look to me for what they need at the proper time – look to me for EVERYTHING! //

(from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones).

As I’ve been walking outside and listening to the birds, I have these songs repeatedly coming to my mind. “His eye is on the Sparrow and I know He cares for me,” and “This is my Father’s World.” Listen to these lyrics:

This is my Father’s world and to my listening ears, all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is our Father’s world – O let us not forget that though the wrong is great and strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world – why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King, let heaven ring, God reigns, let the earth be glad.

In these uncertain times, one thing is certain: God Almighty is on His throne! The Lord is King! He never changes! He reigns in majesty!

The truth of the matter is that Coronavirus or COVID-19 does NOT rule our lives. Our lives are ruled by our Heavenly Father, the maker of Heaven and Earth.

Let’s declare together from “Our World Belongs to God” who is in control of our lives and this whole world:

As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world –
Which some seek to control,
But which others view with despair –
We declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!

From the beginning,
Through all the crises of our times,
Until his kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever.
Our world belongs to him!
God is King!  Let the earth be glad!
Christ is Victor; his rule has begun, Hallelujah!
The Spirit is at work, renewing the creation: Praise the Lord!

God holds this world in sovereign love,
He kept his promise,
Sending Jesus into the world.
He poured out his Spirit
And broadcast the news
That sinners who repent and believe in Jesus
Can live
And breathe
And move again
As members of the family of God.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Our world belongs to you.

A few months ago most of us had never heard the word “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, and suddenly it seems our lives are daily encountering change and a very different reality from what we once knew.

First, schools were let off for two weeks, now stretching to the end of the school year, with no hope or promise of much anticipated Spring break trips. Families are quarantined together. Singles are finding the days long and lonely with no hope of face-to-face social interaction for who knows how long. Grandpas and grandmas are isolated. Young moms are weary with constant childcare responsibilities. Some of us are sick with coughs and fevers and fear. Fathers and mothers are sent home from work. Will their jobs be there for them when all this passes? And when will all this pass?

Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a Stay Home Stay Safe order prohibiting any nonessential travel for three weeks. Some of us have cabin fever already with everybody doing life under one roof. Many are worried about what the future holds – for you, for your family, for our world. Some are lonely, missing loved ones far away and friends we used to see daily. What do we do with our anxiety, our fear, our frustration, our boredom, our anger, our sadness, our despair?  

What is God’s invitation to us to in these uncertain times?

Three indispensable resources God gives us are God himself, the Bible, and each other. Connection is vital during this time of social distancing. Are you staying connected? 

With God:

We have an opportunity through our unusual circumstances to pour into our relationship with God in fresh ways. Do you hear God’s invitation to “come away with [him] to a quiet place” (Mark 6:31)? Last week we meditated on Psalm 46 and the words, “Be still and know that I am God.” Just BE.

How is God inviting you to come away to a quiet place and to be still and know that He is God?

Are these uncertain times compelling you to pray? Even if they are breath prayers such as, “help me, Jesus!”

Through Scripture:

God’s Word is filled with reminders of how God is an expert at seeing his people through adversity. Are you receiving the daily encouragement he offers you through his Living Word? 

Try praying through a Psalm. Modern theologian N.T. Wright says this about the Psalms: “The Psalms are inexhaustible, and deserve to be read, said, sung, chanted, whispered, learned by heart, and even shouted from the rooftops. They express all the emotions we are ever likely to feel (including some we hope we may not), and they lay them, raw and open, in the Presence of God, like a golden retriever bringing to its master’s feet every strange object it finds in the field.”

To People:

We are hardwired to need each other. Who haven’t you connected with lately? Whose day might you brighten with a phone call, text, email, Zoom, Skype, Facetime call or a good old fashioned snail mail card or letter? How about asking someone to be your prayer partner and pray daily together using one of these forms of social media? Bring the family together with discussion, prayer and Bible reading at the dinner table. How about, during these three weeks, phone everyone in the church directory. 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-34 to “not worry:”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Let’s pray together this prayer written for these times by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

A Prayer to God in Anxious Times

Gracious God, Champion of the Universe, we so often fluff ourselves up. Aren’t we the only creatures who compose masterpieces of music and art? Don’t we govern ourselves, enrich ourselves, promote ourselves? Can’t we dunk basketballs, bat baseballs, spike volleyballs? Aren’t some of us masters of comic irony? Other creatures don’t practice rocket science. We do. 

And yet. Here we are, frightened by a thing so small it can’t be seen under most microscopes. It’s not even an animal or a plant. It’s a virus, a mere parasite, dependent on our own living cells to replicate. And yet it has shuttered our schools, cancelled our flights, and emptied our churches. It has consumed the attention of our leading scientists, wrenched our politics out of shape, dominated our conversations, and scared the daylights out of us. 

We don’t want to get sick. And we don’t want to die. 

We are afraid, O God. Afraid of a microorganism. Afraid of each other. 

Great and quiet source of peace, quiet our fears. We are wary, uncertain, strung tight. Quiet our fears. We have no idea what the future will bring, but we do know you will be in our future to hold us there. We cannot quiet ourselves, O God. We cannot comfort ourselves, cannot heal ourselves, cannot help ourselves. All we can do is wash our hands and keep our distance. Our rocket science is no good to us for this threat. 

O God, great and quiet source of peace, quiet us, your anxious ones, and let us cling for comfort to your suffering Son, Jesus Christ. Gather us under his wings. Remind us that he suffers with us, but he’s also the great physician. In him, let us not be afraid. Please, let us not be afraid. Amen. 

The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? . . .

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

He will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. . . . 

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. // 

Psalm 27:1, 5, 13-14

If you have a candle, please light it now while reading:

I light this Christ candle this morning to remember Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” We pray,

Jesus Christ, Light of the World, come and light the dark corners of our lives. Where we are blind, grant us sight. Where we stumble in darkness, illumine our path. Quiet us with your love, and enable us to hear your still, small voice. For you are our dear friend, Lord, and we long to be fully present to you.

Christians have practiced this ancient method of praying the Scriptures called Lectio Divina for over 1500 years. It uses both the head and heart to integrate God’s Word in us. The intention of Lectio Divina is to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).

Let us quiet ourselves so that we can hear God.  

(Prepare yourself by centering yourself in God’s presence. Sit in silence for a moment. Breathe deeply.)

During the first reading, listen for a word or phrase that invites your attention. Simply listen for something that speaks more loudly than the other words.

Hear the word of the Lord from Matthew 20:29-34.

First reading:

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

/// pause ///

Second reading:

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

/// pause ///

What did the Lord say to you during this meditation time?

Children of all ages: get creative!

1. Draw or paint a picture of what God has spoken to you in the meditation time.

2. On a piece of paper or in your journal, write a letter to yourself from Jesus beginning with, “What do you want me to do for you?”

3. Record a video retelling the story.

4. Later today, read Mark 4:35-41 as a family and then answer the following questions:
What do we learn about Jesus in this story?
What do we learn about the disciples?
What would you have done if you saw Jesus calm the storm?

Let us pray.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We Praise: Spontaneously lift your praises to God Almighty.

We Confess: Silently or with the person(s) you are with, confess your sins to God. 

We Give Thanks: Speak out loud things in the midst of this pandemic that you are grateful for, such as: 

  • For God who is our light, our salvation, and our stronghold 
  • For technology that enables us to stay connected while apart
  • For extra time with family  
  • For a forced slow down allowing for needed physical rest  
  • For the season of Lent, the invitation to spend time with Jesus in reflection, meditation, and prayer
  • For pets, furry friends who offer comfort  
  • For birds that sing and flowers that come up from the barren earth 
  • For signs of new life all around us
  • For mental health awareness – that these invisible, widespread struggles haven’t gone unnoticed
  • For random acts of kindness evidencing that we are in this together:
    • Groceries left on a front porch 
    • A child making breakfast for a parent now working from home 
    • An unexpected letter of appreciation in old-fashioned snail mail
    • An unexpected phone call from a church member
    • Financial help from a neighbor, no questions asked
    • ___________________(you fill in the blank)

We Intercede:

  • For those who’ve contracted COVID-19, that they will recover quickly and with no complications
  • For a vaccine to be developed, tested, and distributed ASAP
  • For those in higher risk categories: people who are immunocompromised, have autoimmune disease, are over 60, and/or have an underlying medical condition 
  • For healthcare providers who put their lives at risk by going to work
  • For childcare workers who continue to care for children of essential workers
  • For those living in care facilities, quarantined from their loved ones
  • For teachers, professors, and students navigating online education together
  • For international and exchange students far from home and family
  • For the homeless population and those whose homes are unsafe
  • For those who are lacking sufficient food or resources 
  • For the invisible, overlooked, ignored, and undervalued in our world
  • And for these people . . .
    • Pastor Paul and Renae
    • Val Gorter and son Jon and brother recovering at home
    • John McCormick’s friend Ellen who underwent emergency appendectomy on Tuesday
    • Russ Jansen who is awaiting heart surgery
    • Jane who is living at her daughter’s home during this time
    • the VanBeek family
    • Gill
    • Gayle
    • Jackie who has a bad cough
    • for Sharon Baker’s family grieving the loss of Sharon’s father
    • Others . . .

Lord have mercy on us, show us your compassion, and bring hope and healing.

We Lament: Speak out loud things you lament, grieve, regret, or are sad about.

We Hope: Speak out loud what you hope for and the things you are hopeful about.

God of all hope, our strength and refuge, we lift up these prayers. In Jesus’ all powerful name, Amen.

Gift Offering

Mailing an envelope just isn’t the same as bringing your tithe to the front of the sanctuary, but it’s what we can do right now. Take a few moments to offer your gifts to God.

For financial gifts, have someone address the envelope (a good opportunity for digital natives) and place the stamp on it. Checks can be mailed to:

Discovery Church
7245 Eastern Ave SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508

Please specify “general fund” or “missions fund” on the memo line.

For gifts of encouragement, write a note or draw a picture for someone who may need encouragement at this time. Have someone address the envelope and place a stamp on it. Or deliver it in person (keep that six foot social distance) to a neighbor or loved one.

For gifts of art, share a picture or video of your drawing or your video retelling with us on Instagram (@discoverycrc) (parents permitting).

Benediction

Go into the world with assurance, hope and promise:
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ rest upon you;
the love of God, creator and giver of life, embrace you;
and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit uphold you,
this day and all your days. Amen.

And all God’s people say together: Amen!

Digital Prayer Pad

Prayer requests will be sent to Sara, our administrator, who will compile and distribute them to the congregation via email throughout the week as usual.

13 + 1 =

Just for Fun

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. // James 4:8

We have been told to wash our hands frequently for at least 20 seconds to slow the spread of this pandemic. It will take about that long to sing the Doxology! Copy the lyrics onto an index card and place it by your bathroom sink. Sing it as you wash your hands.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.

Thank you for joining us today! And thanks to Pastor Mary, Kristi Stulp, Ahna Ziegler, and Heather Strooboscher for creating this week’s service. Watch our Facebook & Instagram feeds for ways to stay connected throughout this self-imposed quarantine, including ways to walk through Holy Week with your family. Social distancing does not mean social isolation!

Contact

Phone

(616) 554-1440

Email

discoverycrc@gmail.com

Address

7245 Eastern Avenue
Grand Rapids, MI 49508

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