Anna's Hosannas!
Free Worship Resources for Use with the Lectionary
To read RCL passages, check out this link from Vanderbilt University.

May Theme Song: "You Who Give Us Life"
First Thoughts: Usually I am drawn to the gospel reading on Sunday mornings, but this week I found myself interested by Acts and 1 Peter (in particular Acts 17: 26-27, and 1 Peter 3:15).  1 Peter tells us that we should be prepared to make a defense of  the hope that God has placed within us.  I thought the image was interesting - to defend ourselves, to make an argument, before the world WHY our faith exists in the first place.  I once watched a documentary on Jimmy Carter, in the middle of  which Carter faces a jaded radio interviewer. When we came to this point in the movie I grew worried.  I have always admired Carter's ability to combine his faith with rational thinking, and his willingness to stand for what he believes in whatever the cost.  And, up to this point in the documentary, my admiration had only grown.  But now I was afraid that would change.    Here Carter was faced with a young, hostile, jaded interviewer.  What if  he responded angrily, lose his cool, and be made to look foolish.  In other words, what if he did what I would probably do?!  But Carter responded with clarity and calm conviction, not a bit rattled by the interviewer's attack.  I realized then how powerful his faith really is.  Carter had not only rehearsed his position of faith, it was as part of him.  This level of maturity, of profound clarity of one's relationship with God, is not something we achieve because we make a single decision to be baptized.  It comes with a lifelong commitment to living daily in the presence of  challenging and transforming Holy Spirit.  Just like being married is different than having a one-night stand, committing our whole lives to God is a lot more work, and brings more change to our lives, than going through a single ritual of the faith one time.  Which brings me to the Acts passage, where Paul is addressing the religiousness of the Roman people, and agrees that God has created all peoples to seek and "grope" for God, perhaps thinking God is far away.  But really, Paul says,  God is quite nearby.  I came back to the analogy of marriage.  I've been married for over eight years, and sometimes I feel very lonely in the relationship.  Sometimes I look at my husband and feel there is no connection between us, and I feel the need to "work" at that relationship.  But in the meantime, if I pay attention, I will notice that I've begun to adopt some of his speech patterns, his parenting styles, his calm and accepting nature.  In other words, just having my husband in my environment, just having him nearby, influences and changes me.  We are trained, perhaps, to seek out God in big life-moments - births, deaths, weddings, baptisms, etc.   Encouraged by these grand happenings, we might grow discouraged  by the ordinariness of having God around all the time.  Nothing "BIG" is happening - maybe we're not really that connected to God after all.  But if we persist in the relationship, taking time to pray, to meditate, to read Scripture, to worship with brothers and sisters in faith, God is influencing us, imprinting upon us even when we don't realize it.  It takes many decades for a mature, powerful Christian like Carter to be "born."  It takes a lifetime.  But someone's gotta do it.  The world needs more "lifers" like him.

Call to Worship (adapted from Psalm 66):
L: Bless our God, o peoples, let the sound of God's praise be heard.
P:  God has kept us among the living, and not let our feet slip.
L: You have tested and tried us, O God
P: As silver is tested in fire.
L: We have passed through fire and water,
P: Yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
L: Truly God has listened and given heed to the words of my prayer.
ALL: Blessed be God, who has loved us with a steadfast love.

Alternate Sung Call and Response for Psalm 66: "Blessed Be Our God Who Hears"
Children's Lesson: "Looking for Ghosts"
Stewardship/Communion Meditation: We hear the lament of the Negro spiritual, "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child."  We can imagine this lament resonated in the lives of the disciples when Jesus had left them, parent-less and alone.  The childhood of their faith had passed, and now they must learn to grow into an adult kind of faith.  As we gather here today, we too sometimes feel forlorn and lost, wishing to recapture a time in our past when faith seemed to much easier, when our beliefs were pure as a child's.  But we are not allowed to remain children forever, but are challenged to grow and accept new responsibilities in our lives as Christians.  Even so, we are comforted by the promise of this table, that we are not on our own.  God has promised to send us s a Helper, to guide and counsel us.  Not to do our work for us, but to strengthen us for the work before us.  We are not alone,  held in God's hand and in this community of faith.  And so we bring ourselves, our gifts, our lives, as workers and partners in God's kingdom.