Anna's Hosannas!
Free Worship Resources for Use with the Lectionary
First Thoughts:  This collection of scripture passages are hard, with the stoning of Stephen and the heart-wrenching Psalm 31.  In both scripture passages we have suffering, and the acknowledgement of suffering - but also the assurance of an answer from God.  For Stephen the answer comes in a vision, which elevates him above his fear of death.   His faith is whole, even as his body is broken.  And although the psalmist certainly names her complaints, they are intermixed with statements of assurance that God will surely intervene.  The temptation here, I think, is to say, that if God is going to alleviate the suffering, then the suffering isn't real after all - to skip over the times of suffering, to look toward redemption.  But that is only wishful thinking and denial.  Stephen indeed is stoned to death, a laborious and painful way to die; the psalmist's bones are indeed wasting away.  For me to understand these passages I need to understand them seasonally.  As Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time to every purpose under heaven.  The seasons of winter are just as real as the seasons of spring.  Times of misfortune are followed by times of abundance, which again lead to seasons of struggle.  Just as the psalmist goes back and forth, between lament and rejoicing, so do we in our own lives.  Those of us who try to plan against those hard times, to "set aside something for a rainy day", delude ourselves.  It is best, then, when we encounter times of darkness and death, for us to do as the psalmist does: sing of the stories of God's deliverance in the past, knowing that, in the right season, God will intervene again.  We can mimic Stephen's posture, as he faced his murderers, seeing the fate that was before him but also keeping his eyes on the heavens.  If we can submit to the truth, that life is followed by death, which is then followed by new life, and that we are in God's hands through it all, then we stop struggling against the suffering and losses in our lives, knowing they are temporary.  And we also stop clinging so much to the blossoms of our springtime, knowing that they too will fade away. 

May's Theme Song: "You Who Give Us Life"

Call to Worship (adapted from Psalm 31):
L: In you, O God, do we seek refuge;
P: Save us from death and shame.
L: Incline your ear to us,
P: And rescue us quickly out of danger.
L: You are our rock and our fortress,
P: For your name's sake lead and guide us.
L: Let your face shine upon us,
ALL: Into your hand we commit our spirits.

Alternate Call-and-Response for Psalm 31: "Into Your Hand"

Children's Message: "Who's a Baby?!"

Stewardship Meditation:  We come to to this table every Sunday, through every season.  In the darkness of winter, we come.  In the hope of spring, we come.  In the abundance of summer, we come.  In the dying of autumn, we come.  The seasons of our world mimic the seasons of our souls, sometimes full of joy and blessing, sometimes burdened with suffering and death.  But we know that God walks with us in each season.  Our greatest joys are made perfect in God's presence, and our greatest fears are overwhelmed in God's compassion.  So we gather, in season and out, to receive nourishment at God's table, and to offer our gifts and tithes. We gather because seasons wax and wane, and all things change - except the faithfulness of our God.