Welcome to St. Andrew

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In addition to this Virtual Worship Service, you are invited to join us on Zoom for the
All Church Coffee Hour
Sunday, May 2 – 10:00am – 11:00am
It will be a time for Check-in, Prayers, and getting better acquainted in Small Group Conversation.
We hope you’ll join us – Bring a church friend!

Use the Zoom link in our Saturday and Sunday emails.
Email the church office if you need the Zoom link: Link Request

SUNDAY – MAY 2, 2021

“Side By Side”
Acts 8:26-40
Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

Welcome to this “virtual” worship service for Sunday, May 2, 2021
Many thanks for technical assistance / contributions from Ron Moser, Rev. Nicole Trotter, Amy Cox, Monica Bolanos Lopez, Tracy Walthard, Kelsey Walthard, and Dawne Carver.

Opening Video

“Within, Everywhere and Always” – Inspired by 1 John 4:7-21 and John 15:1-8. Writen by Kelly Ann Hall

“Within, Everywhere and Always” – featuring Kelly Ann Hall – www.theworkofthepeople.com

Opening Song

“Peace Will Come” – Written by Tom Paxton – Performed Dan Nichols

“Peace Will Come”, Written by Tom Paxton- Licensed to YouTube by Provided to YouTube by CDBaby – Peace Will Come · Dan Nichols – Road to Eden (Music Inspired by the Film)

Discovery Time & Sunday School

Click the arrow to watch Monica Bolanos Lopez present Discovery Time:

Our Sunday School Lessons for today are as follows:

PRESCHOOL LESSON:

Preschool Memory Verse for May:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Preschool children for Sunday, May 2nd:

Preschool Bottom Line for the week of May 2nd:

GRADES K-5 LESSON:

Grades K-5 Memory Verse for May:

Click the arrow below to watch the Sunday School video for our Kindergarten – 5th Grade children for Sunday, May 2nd:

Grades K-5 Bottom Line for the week of May 2nd:

Message for Youth

There are days when I wake up feeling melancholy. A sadness, like a heavy blanket, weighing me down. In the past, I’ve gotten lost in it. That feeling has stolen days from me. I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this. We all experience loss. We all experience disappointment. We all handle it in different ways. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things to help me cope with the melancholy, or what I call, the case of the blues. Tools to help me walk through the mist or fog and back into the light. Here are 3 things that help me:

First, I name it. Some days there is a definite reason for the blues. Grief on the anniversary of the death of a loved one or a friend. Some days it’s more about being exhausted, weary. Some days, I’m not sure what is causing the blues. I name it. This helps bring it out in the open and into the light. I’ve found that sometimes just saying whatever it is out loud to God, my husband or friend makes it better.

Second, I do something. It’s easy for me to get stuck and do nothing. That’s not always a bad thing, but for me, I’ve discovered it can be destructive. So I purposely will do something. Usually, I will get outdoors, go for a walk by myself or with someone else (It’s interesting how often God uses those walks to change my perspective!). I’ll trim the flowers or pull weeds. Sometimes I’ll bake. Sometimes I’ll journal. Sometimes it’s cleaning out the closet. I’ve found doing something helps focus my thoughts from me, to something else, and there is a sense of accomplishment at the end of the doing.

Next, I reach out. Sometimes I’ll text “I’m thinking of you”. Sometimes I’ll write a thank you note or email. Sometimes, I call. There is something about connecting with others that helps. God designed us to be in community so we can lift each other up and carry each other’s burdens.
Through everything, I’m talking to God. I’m sharing with Him my blues. Not because He doesn’t know them, but because He wants to hear from me. He wants me to share them with Him. I’m also naming the good things, the blessings that are in my life. Sometimes it’s easy to forget my blessings in the blues. It’s not always easy to walk through the blues, and sometimes it’s really hard to reach out to others. Yet, I’m trusting that even when I’m struggling, that I’m not alone and that God is going before me, with me and behind me, protecting and guiding me through the journey. Blessings, Dawne Carver

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 on the image below to submit a prayer request.

Prayer for Healing and Wholeness

Click the arrow below to hear Rev. Nicole Trotter offer this morning’s Prayer or read the Prayer below

This is the day of curiosity. As God leads us to conversation, we open our minds. This is the place of acceptance. As God loves all, we are called to welcome all. This is the God who unites through Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, let us worship God. Gracious One, You are in love with all people for You so love the World. But the world is dividing itself into groups, identifying only with those who believe as they themselves believe. We’ve lost the ability to converse, to listen and to hear what the “other” is saying. Help us to do what Jesus Christ did over and over again; to love those who were outcast, marginalized and seen as “other”. Give us the patience and tools and hearts to break down the walls of separation. Christ’s love invites all people to sit beside us that we might experience unity in Spirit. Into every corner of this world, we are called to love as He loved. God in Community, Holy in One, as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,

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

Faith Offering

Please continue your giving during this time, so that St. Andrew may continue to serve our local community and our membership. We recognize that some of you have been impacted financially by economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of you who can, please continue to give on a regular basis.

There are several options available:

  • 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 locked mail box: 16290 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476

Holy Scripture

Click the arrow below to see and hear Rev. Nicole Trotter offer this morning’s Scripture Reading or read the Scripture below

Prayer for Illumination – Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen

Acts 8:26-40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized? “He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

This is the word of God, for the people of God. Thanks be to God

Sermon

“Side By Side”

Rev. Nicole C. Trotter

Click the arrow below to see and hear Rev. Nicole Trotter’s Sermon or read the Sermon below

About a month ago, I mentioned a verb that’s still relatively new to our English language. The verb is “othering” and it occurs whenever one of us places a label, a stereotype, or a preconceived idea about who someone is without really knowing them, much like placing a box over someone’s head with a label. We no longer see their face or even the human being, just the label. We dehumanize through labels. 

I’ve asked this question before, but it’s worth asking again, with a little more detail… Can you think back to being a child, and try to identify when you were first taught to “other”? Was the other someone of color, a different religion, a different economic status, from a different part of town, a cultural label, gender, sexual orientation, divorced, long haired, someone who never went to college, the snooty rich, democrat, or republican? Who was the one you were taught you didn’t want to be? And are you aware of the ways that that understanding may still be playing out in your life today?

The church, the greater church is not immune to this. Throughout history the church has othered by telling people they were less than because of sexual orientation, gender, marital status. We’ve placed religious labels like the saved or unsaved, believers or non believers. We also do this through more subtle ways, like othering those we’re called to serve – the poor, the sick, the hungry.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.” 

That’s how I understand this morning’s scripture. 

Two men, completely different from one another, given every opportunity to walk away and ignore the other, instead find the image of God within one another.

Traditionally, this scripture is preached as Phillip saving the Ethiopian, bringing him the good news of the Gospel and leading him to baptism.

That’s not how I understand this scripture today. My understanding comes from this one line in one verse, in which the Ethiopian invites Phillip to sit beside him. Beside him, with him, the Greek word translated as beside is also translated as together, accompanied, companion. Not elevated above, not Phillip as teacher, and the Ethiopian as student, not one as savior and one in need of saving, not as one clean and the other unclean, one Gentile one Jew. Just companions, in an unfamiliar place, far away from home, with no one else around.

The Ethiopian Eunuch, we’re told, is a servant of the the Queen, a member of her court. He’s wealthy, he’s educated, and he invites Phillip to sit beside him….to read scripture, together, so that he might understand it. We’re also told this man is a eunuch, five times we’re told that in this passage. There’s some debate as to whether this means simply a court official or one who has been castrated, or both, because those serving royalty in close proximity were often castrated as a way of ensuring the Queens purity. For purposes of this sermon, I’m going with the latter.

The Ethiopian Eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship God. We’re not told in this scripture that he was rejected there, but we can assume that, thanks to this scripture from Deuteronomy, that I’m sure you’ll want to teach your children to memorize-

No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. (worship)
I don’t write it, I just preach it.

I imagine the man who’s come to the temple is driven from the temple, rejected, and on a road alone. He has every right to feel bitter and resentful but instead invites Phillip, a disciple, to sit beside him, to reflect together, on scripture.

Not because he needed Phillip to save him, but because he desired a companion to make meaning of his life, because it’s together in community, with one another that, we come to understand our lives… in relationship…. in communion with Christ, sitting side by side.

Years ago now, I led a youth Mission trip on the Westside of Chicago. One particular night we were led in reflection by an especially powerful speaker, Brenda Matthews, also known as Mama Brenda. Mama Brenda was a pastor, an activist and a poet. She asked the thirty High School youth who had gathered there why they were there. What was their purpose for being there? “We’re here to give back,” said one, and she said, “Give back what? Did you take something from us?” Another would say, “We’re here to bring God’s love and light,” and she’d say, “You don’t think God’s love is here already, that we’re sitting around in the dark?” After all the answers were exhausted she went on to say this….

“Children, let me tell you something. Poor people are not your project. We are not here for you to fix. Our problems are no worse than yours, just different. We may be poor, and we may be hungry, and we may have drop outs here, but you have children cutting themselves and millionaires secluded in their mansions ready to end their lives. We have a deep sense of community here, people looking out for one another, people who know one another by name. We have joy here, too. Do not go home and put our pictures on your refrigerators and embellish stories about us so you can feel better about yourselves. You are here for one reason and one reason only. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ.” 

When I first heard those words of Mama Brenda’s, it hit me hard. But those words have stayed with me all these years. And it’s changed the way I understand our role in the predominantly white church. We are not saviors, we don’t save others any more than Phillip saved the Eunuch. We sit side by side, enter into relationship with the saving love of Jesus Christ who embraced difference, and celebrated those differences around one big table. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, recognizing the image of God in the one who is not in our image.

When the Eunuch asks Phillip to sit together, beside him, he does it so they can share in scripture, and the scripture he’s seeking to understand is key. He’s reading from Isaiah, Chapter 53. Second Isaiah is a book of promise and of hope, and the verse he’s stuck on is this- “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. …. For his life is taken away from the earth.” 

This man who’s been castrated has suffered a level of humiliation and pain that few of us can relate to. We don’t hear the backstory, but we can imagine; his inability to father children, to experience sexual intimacy with another, his rejection from the temple, the place that God lived, the place he went to seeking healing and spiritual restoration… This man says, to Phillip, “sit beside me…..sit beside me……let’s talk, let me tell you how I feel like a sheep led to slaughter because of what I’ve endured.” Or in the words of the poet Mary Oliver, Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

How different would the world look if we began every encounter with an other by trading stories of despair.

Tell me about your despair, your struggles, and I’ll tell you about mine….sit with me, that’s where we find one another. Our faith knows all about despair, and no one knows it more than the one who yelled out to God from the cross.

Tell me about your despair and I will tell you about mine….and we will learn about the One who meets us there, the resurrected One, who knows despair, but also knows restoration and grace and the ability to love one another despite every obstacle. Our greatest obstacle from finding peace and wholeness is not our difference, but what we do with it. DO we allow it to divide us, or do we sit side by side and share our stories and our struggles.

Different circumstances led Phillip and the Eunuch to a place far from home, on unfamiliar ground, in the wilderness where nothing is predictable. They found there, a way to one another, through scripture, and Christ, and Spirit. 

Difference is not an obstacle, othering is. Systems that discriminate against differences are obstacles. Temples or churches that tell others they’re wrong or unworthy because they’re different are obstacles. Words like sinners, and systems that dehumanize through language like alien or illegal are an obstacle to recognizing the image of God in our fellow human beings.

BBT writes that to encounter another human being, to love neighbor as yourself, is not as someone you can control, change, fix, help, save, enroll or convince- but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it. All you have to do is to recognize another you “out there” your other self in the world-for whom you may care as instinctively as you care for yourself. To become that person even for a moment is to understand what it means to die to your self. This can be as frightening as it is liberating. It may be the only real spiritual discipline there is.

The Ethiopian was reading a book of hope and vision for a world where everyone born has a rightful place, despite all the ways we elevate ourselves above and below one another. It’s a book of Justice. God’s justice holds the vision of a world where all God’s people have access to a good life, a place in the family of things (1). In our Christian tradition we call that place- the table….The table, where Christ invites us, communes with us, the table is the place we show up to with all our differences, to share in the body and the blood of the one who sits beside us, side by side.

Difference is not an obstacle, othering is.

Tell me about your despair, your struggles and I’ll tell you about mine….sit with me, side by side, and together through Christ, we’ll discover restoration and grace and the ability to love one another despite every obstacle.

Closing Hymn

“For Everyone Born” – Sung by the Choir and Congregation of First Plymouth Church, Lincoln Nebraska.

This is a newer beautiful hymn with even more beautiful lyrics. This was the best recording of it I could find. If it’s new to you, I hope you’ll take a moment to become familiar. I look forward to one day singing it together in worship.

For Everyone Born“, by Shirley Erena Murray (1996)

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