St. Andrew has suspending on-site worship services as a preventative measure during the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, we are connected through love and friendship with you and people all over the world who are in the same boat with us.
Welcome to this “virtual” worship service for Sunday, March 22, 2020.
Many thanks to Ron Moser and John Schiller (technical expertise), Amy Cox (formatting/posting) Caryn Prince (song selections), Tracy Walthard and Dawne Carver (teachings for children and youth).
Sing Praise to God:
Lent is the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays). It is a time that we look to connect to Jesus and understand His great love for us. This Lenten season we have provided children with an object lesson each week to take home as a family to reflect together.
Today, we continue to look at the story of Jesus. Last week we learned that Jesus had grown to be a man and had begun preaching to the people in the region. Jesus had just been baptised and headed into the desert for 40 days. During these 40 days Jesus was tempted to move away from His relationship with God. In this week’s reading you will learn about how Jesus opens people’s hearts, like He did with Zaccheaus, to new opportunities and choices.
Our weekly family devotion will require a rock. We ask that your family reflect on how we can change our hearts of stone to hearts open to Jesus!
Dear Loving God,
We come before you with distracted hearts and minds. We grieve for the loss of life across the world. We are frightened for those who are susceptible to this virus. We are filled with uncertainty and worry about what the future holds. Our minds spin and get caught up in all the what-ifs of life.
So we come before you with raw honesty. We come before you with all these thoughts and emotions and lay them before you. We come before you because you are our Father, our Abba. We come before you because you are our Jehovah, our Provider. We come before you because you are our Redeemer.
We pray for the vulnerable, that you will protect them. We pray you will raise us up, and help us know how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Though we don’t know what will happen in the future, we know you work in mysterious ways, and we trust that new life will come out of suffering. You are not asleep or removed from us, but are actively involved with us in every time and place.
We pray in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray in this way,
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.
Joys and Concerns
Please let us know how we can support you in prayer this week. We will share requests for prayer with Deacons and staff, and with the congregation as appropriate. Click below if you have a prayer request.
Music for Prayer and Reflection
A Moment for Youth
What a wild time we are in right now. I’ve been in a “hurry up and wait” state of mind for the past week. My mind has been spinning with all the changes. It seems like I, as well as those around me, cannot keep up! That causes me to feel unsettled, concerned, even fearful of what’s happening next. A little like a roller coaster ride (Not my favorite thing!). The events that are being canceled are hard and so disappointing. Birthdays, life celebrations, conferences, get togethers, vacations and so many things that make up our lives. What a wild time.
So how am I going to respond? How are you going to respond? I want to respond with hope and a sense of adventure. How do I do that? I look to God’s word. To His promises. I try to live as one with hope. I start counting all the good things in my life. And I rely on scripture- His words and promises to us- to see life with hope, with adventure. To go with the flow and flow with the go. God loves us so much. God knows that we are going to struggle and have major problems. His words are to guide us through the wild times in life. And that’s what is helping me.
Today God is saying that I’m loved and that I do not need to worry. The verses I’m holding on to are Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life…” ( it goes on to say a lot more – you should read it!), Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” and Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
So as you go about your week, remember that this wild life is an adventure and in the midst of all the changes and the uncertainty, you are loved by God. So live with hope! Blessings
Please continue your giving during this time – there are several options available:
- Click here to give electronically to the St. Andrew General Fund
- Set up your donation to St. Andrew to be paid through your bill paying service at your personal bank.
- Mail a check to St. Andrew, or drop your envelope into our mail box: 16290 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476
Scripture – Mark 2:1-12
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?
But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” -he said to the paralytic- “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
The Wisdom in Not Knowing:
Get Up and Walk
Rev. Jan Reynolds
Click here to listen or read below
A man is paralyzed, perhaps even unable to move off his sleeping mat. He’s pretty much stuck. And we are told his town thinks he must be a sinner if he is paralyzed – that was the way it was back then. If you had an affliction you must have deserved it somehow. Sounds like his whole life is stuck.
So how does this man who was stuck on his mat, paralyzed, come to be healed by Jesus? Does he beg by the side of the road to get food each day? Does he cry loudly and publicly about his condition? Does he beg passersby who were strangers on the street to take him to Jesus? Maybe his neighbors figure, “we have to do something to shut up this guy!” and then they impatiently grab him and his mat, and bring him to Jesus who had a reputation for healing. Or were these dear friends and family who daily saw the sadness and resignation of their companion, and they long to see him healed?
Whatever the relationship of these people to the man on the mat, they were certainly his friends that day.
Paralysis can reflect the complete loss of muscle function. Paralysis can cause loss of feeling in our extremities, loss of ability to talk or eat well, or communicate, as well as the loss of mobility.
People in our age suffer from Lou Gehrig’s disease – ALS – a terminal illness where muscles lose their strength over time, until the person has a total lack of muscle use and dies. However, someone with ALS, even at an advanced stage, can still see, hear, smell, and feel touch. The parts of the brain that allow us to think, remember, and learn are also not affected by the disease. The person is captive in an unmovable body.
And there is a type of paralysis caused by deep suffering. A woman I know suffers greatly every day due the childhood abuse she experienced. She’s had to cope with severe symptoms of PTSD which has been socially paralyzing all her life.
Today, we are all in a situation where we could feel paralyzed by our social distancing and fear of getting sick, or our fear of losing someone we love who is vulnerable. Most of us today are feeling anxious, frozen, stuck in place as individuals and as a society. No wonder we’re are stressed out and anxious. Like the paralyzed man, we’re stuck on our “sleeping mats,” not able to move as we wait for news each day.
In Mark’s story, word had gone around Capernaum that Jesus was home. The local people crowded around a house – perhaps even Jesus’ own home – to hear him speak. the fame of Jesus has been spreading and he is attracting larger and larger crowds. “He is teaching like one with authority – and not like the scribes.” And back in Capernaum again, for the first time some scribes are even in the crowd.
In Mark we’re told that a group of people brought the completely paralyzed man to where Jesus was speaking to the crowd, and we can imagine them crowded into this house and spilling out onto the street. Seeing that the doorway to the house was blocked, the four men who carried the man on his sleeping mat climbed to the roof!
They intend to go to any length possible to get this man to Jesus! They cut a hole in the roof of the house and lower the paralyzed man on this mat down to Jesus who is teaching inside. Imagine their audacity! Cutting a hole in the roof of the house that may have been the very house that Jesus called home!
Jesus didn’t immediately heal the man’s physical paralysis. Jesus saw the faith of the man’s friends – it was due to the faith of the man’s friends, not the paralyzed man’s faith, that caused Jesus to say, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” As a child of God, this man was already clean of sin.
David Ewart writes, “When Jesus calls the man, ‘Son,’ he breaks the social barriers that normally isolate disabled people. This is the real miracle in this story. While the man is still paralyzed, while he is outcast from society, Jesus draws the man back into a full, honored, place in the village social circle. Jesus does this by saying ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say, ‘I forgive you.’ Passive-voice statements in Greek, such as, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ imply that God is the doer. It is God who forgives.”
Jesus healed the man’s broken heart before he healed his broken legs. Jesus removed every impediment to his chained, immobile life. Jesus publicly proclaimed that this man was not a sinner due to his paralysis; this child of God was already without sin. But it was those people, friends to him that day, through their own faith, they literally closed the distance between the paralyzed man and God.
The Rev. Brian Stoffregen, a Lutheran minister writes, “And I look out and I see paralyzed men and women, paralyzed congregations, paralyzed ministries and I want to cry: ‘Your sins are forgiven! Rise, take up your bed and walk!’ And I treasure those moments of intrusion, when the heavens are torn apart and the Spirit descends, and I rise from the water and I know there is hope.”
In what ways do you feel paralyzed now? What is the mat you feel stuck on? What are the ways you perhaps feel comfortable in your stuckness? What would it take for you get off your mat and walk away?
What would it take for you to know and believe that the power and authority of God is already with you to free you from your paralysis?
It’s been suggested by interpreters, that Mark’s passage echoes aspects of Jesus’ resurrection that is to come. Just as the Tomb is blocked by a large stone, so the door is blocked by a large crowd. The paralytic resembles a cadaver, while the digging out of the roof resembles the removal of rock from the opening of the Tomb. The rising of the paralyzed man is connected to God’s love for the entire world. Resurrection from the dead. Resurrection from sin and paralysis. (William Loader on 2Mark 22-1-12, Textweek).
Oh, if that isn’t God’s love!
Many of the people in the San Francisco Bay area who suffer from ALS are buoyed up by Dr. Bob Miller, a good friend of my family and a member of Westminster Presbyterian in Tiburon. Currently, a cure eludes people suffering from ALS. It is a terminal disease. For ALS patients the best healing is holistic, for the body and for the soul. When Bob began his medical career, he never pictured himself as working with the terminally ill. “What I’ve noticed,” he said in an interview, “is that patients who participate in ALS research trials get a lot of hope and inspiration, and I do too… I’ve really learned that it’s enormously rewarding to lock arms with people who are facing such terrible diseases and to be there for them, to be part of their courage and part of their team”.
Oh, if that isn’t God’s love!
The woman I know who has suffered from PTSD since she was abused as a little girl– she has been buoyed up by a caring team of therapists who have re-parented her for over twenty years, and friends that are there for her whenever she calls for emotional support.
Oh, if that isn’t God’s love!
Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man and these contemporary stories show us without a doubt that the faith of a community was, for a time, greater than the faith of the suffering people. The friends of the ailing individuals had faith, trust and loyalty in something outside the scope of the worldview of the hurting person. The suffering person is not only accepted for their physical failings, they are loved despite their spiritual failings.
Church is such a community, even when we meet virtually through phone lines and Facetime and Zoom. When you think about it, we are such an unlikely gathering of mostly unrelated, unique individuals – we might even say we’re a “motley crew” – with diverse personalities, needs and issues. All of us are failures in some way with our own brand of stuckness. This family of faith trusts in something greater than our everyday travails, even beyond this mess we are currently in. Even when we can’t buoy ourselves up, we buoy up each other in times of paralysis.
I remember one specific occasion when the friends in my church community picked me up from my “sleeping mat” where I lay in paralysis, and they didn’t just drop me down through the roof to God, they hurled me at God who saved me from my stuckness. A kind of “Hail Mary Pass” to God – how grateful I am!
Oh, if that isn’t God’s love!
Catching us when we’re down, waking us up when we’re asleep, lifting us up, giving us the perseverance and the love of life to live another day.
And when we are paralyzed? When we’re paralyzed, we’re given other people to love us out of our paralysis, advocate for us and be God’s love in our lives until we ourselves have the faith and trust.
Our spiritual community extends beyond our church walls to our family of origin, life partners, our spiritual friends, therapists, spiritual directors, even to those who point a finger in our face to challenge us. When we’re afraid and paralyzed by fear, when we’re so anxious it feels like we are surrounded by hundreds of roiling snakes, when we feel hopeless and are experiencing a crisis in our own faith, we can look around and see who is there to buoy us up or hurl us toward God.
The loving web of faithful community reminds us that, indeed, all along the way, particularly when we feel paralyzed, God’s forgiving, life-giving, healing love is always available. We are never, ever, separated from the gracious love of our God.
And until we can get that knowledge deep under our skin and until that knowledge becomes real for us, we can rely on our spiritual community who mirrors God’s love to us, that demonstrates God’s unrelenting love to us each day, as we nudge each other from our stuck places.
May It Be So.
My love to you all during this difficult time.