It is the tradition of the Church during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday to remember Jesus' sacrifice in crucifixion. This year at Union Chapel Indy we remember this dark time with a Tenebrae Service. "Tenebrae" is the Latin word meaning "darkness." In the sanctuary we will recall Jesus' final hours with the observance of Holy Communion (in the Methodist tradition, everyone is welcome to participate), and the biblical story of Jesus' last hours. As we tell the story we will extinguish candles, darken the sanctuary, and drape the platform in black... all symbols of the human death Jesus suffered. Worship concludes in total darkness and with a loud sound (called strepitus in Latin) to represent the closing of Jesus' tomb - and convey the sense of the total loss of God's presence and the effect of the death of Jesus on all of creation. Worshipers are invited to then leave in silence to ponder the impact of Christ's death and await the celebration of the coming Resurrection. Worship Link:

Good Fruit (Palm Sunday)

Early followers of Jesus were especially bold to live in the ways he had taught and modeled. They included and welcomed the outcast and alien. They sought justice for the oppressed. They valued and served the poor and undeserving. They lived according to the law of love, not the law of Rome. Some around them observed that "...these people have been turning the world upside down..." The core of Jesus' teaching as found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) teaches that to be a follower of his is to live in ways that seem upside down to the ways of the culture around them. In this Upside Down Kingdom of God the blessed are those who are poor, those who mourn, and those who are persecuted for his sake. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God subjects live for others, not themselves. Citizens don't live according to the rules, they live to a higher standard of love. And followers of Jesus are part of a community that shows mercy and compassion to others; never condemns, tears down, or belittles others. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, followers of Jesus are known by their loving words and actions that reflect the love and lordship of their King, Jesus the Christ. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, followers of Jesus are known by the good fruit they produce. Worship Link:

Judging Others

You hear it on the school playground; in the teens' locker room; at the coffee shop; around the water cooler at work... the seemingly harmless remarks that are intended to, ever so subtlety, raise ourselves up and put others down. "My mom and dad are taking me to Disney World for spring break. Where are you going?" "After school today my dad's taking me to pick up the car he bought me. Are you still driving your mom's van?" "Did you see how that woman was dressed? Seems a little over the top for someone her age." "What was he thinking? I would never be so crass as to say such a thing out loud - even if I thought it. No wonder he got passed over for that assignment." And the snipes, the criticisms, the judgments only escalate from here. With little effort, we can make ourselves out to be better than nearly anyone else around us. We always have a way to 'one-up' others, as we claw our way to the top of the heap. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus teaches his followers about life with him in the kingdom of God. And most everything about life with Jesus stands over and against the ways of the world. In the upside-down Kingdom of God, the poor are blessed, people live for others, the rule is love, and prayer is about relationship, not results. And Jesus also has a shortlist of don't's in his sermon. One of them: Do not judge. It seems a simple and clear enough command until we try to live it out. In the upside-down Kingdom of God, living in love with others means not condemning, criticizing, or belittling others. In the upside-down Kingdom of God, our measure is Jesus, not others. Worship Link:

The Lord's Prayer

We learn early how to get what we want. The first words toddlers learn are "please" and "thank you," the "magic words" to get what they are asking for. As we grow we learn how to behave with others so that we'll be accepted by the 'in crowd' and have influence there. We learn how to do a job to earn a paycheck so that we can buy what we want. And in the world of one-click buying on Amazon and more than 1,200 petabytes of data available on the Internet, why shouldn't we have everything we want and have it right now? It's no wonder then, that when life is not going well and we pray to God to fix, provide, or change things, we're disappointed when things don't immediately improve. After all, isn't that what prayer is all about - doing it right so that God will give me what I want? Jesus prayed often and had a lot to say about prayer. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave both instruction about prayer and an actual prayer for his followers to use. It's neither complicated nor difficult, but it has little to do with our wish lists. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, prayer has less to do with us getting what we want, and almost everything to do with God making us into what God wants. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God it's not about praying right, it's about becoming right - with God and others. Worship Link:

The Difficult Sayings

Life is easy when we know the rules and understand what's expected of us. Clearly defined tasks at work make for easier success. IKEA furniture goes together smoothly with the clear instructions provided. House rules about chores, bedtimes, and schedules make life together less stressful. But too many rules feel oppressive. Not enough clarity about what's expected, though, makes it difficult to complete tasks or live well together. What about our life as followers of Jesus? What are the expectations? Are there rules and boundaries for our behavior? In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus gives an extended teaching about the rules of life with him. In this section, often called 'The Difficult Sayings' (Matthew 5:17-48), Jesus takes the commonly understood rules for faithful living and turns them upside down, pointing out that his followers both follow these rules and live beyond them. In the upside-down kingdom of God, rules are not about what to do or not do, they are about who guides what we do or don't do. In the upside-down kingdom of God, Jesus is the rule. Worship Link:

The (Be)atitudes

While we might find it fun – even thrilling – to experience the gravity-defying ride of a roller coaster that coils, dips, drops, and turns us upside down, most of us find it uncomfortable to have our everyday lives up-ended. We have carefully laid plans, clear goals, and great hopes for our lives. We don’t find it so fun when those things get turned upside down. And it's even more disorienting to suffer those tragedies, small and large, that enter every life at some time... unexpected divorce, life-changing medical diagnosis, layoff from a job, death of someone close. Times like these seem to be the worst of what life has to offer. But in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus opens with a series of 'blessings' that seem anything but. Jesus seems to suggest that these kinds of hurts and heartaches are the very places and times we find special favor with God. Jesus has a lot to say that seems over and against the ways of the world, even counter to what seems and feels right. Could it be that what we experience as bad, wrong, painful, and tragic, Jesus can use for our good, drawing us closer to each other and closer to him? In the upside-down kingdom of God, things are not always as they seem - and that's a good thing! Worship Link:

Love Like Jesus

Today's Worship Experience: Love Like Jesus - No Exceptions You don’t have to look very far or very long to see that the world can be a harsh place. Hatred, division, bad behavior, and violence are around every turn. The news gives us a steady diet of chaos and conflict. Popular TV shows and movies bring the worst of it right into our homes. It is so pervasive that we despair at being able to overcome any of it - with either our words or our actions. But the world that Jesus came into was just as broken as ours is today. And he came with a strategy for overcoming the hate, hurt, and dysfunction. Jesus’ plan - love. And he left that plan for his followers to carry on. Loving like Jesus is not easy, but it is pretty simple. We just need to look to Jesus himself for our example. Just as Jesus has loved us, we are called to love others. And by this, the world will know. Worship Link:

Let Them See You

Sometimes it's quite obvious when we look at someone who they are and what they do. The person in a white coat in a medical building is obviously the doctor. The man or woman in the blue uniform at the scene of a car accident is obviously a law enforcement officer. The person wearing the apron behind the counter at your favorite coffee shop is obviously the barista. Sometimes it's less easy to identify the people around us. When we're lost it's hard to know who is the friendly, helpful person in view that we can go to and ask for directions. When servers in the restaurant all wear the same uniform, it can be hard to identify which one has already been at your table. In a crowd of people, it's nearly impossible to know who is the accountant, the cashier, the writer, the teacher, or the lawyer. And how do people know who you are? And especially who you are as a follower of Jesus? You don't likely where a sign on your chest or a logo on your hat identifying you as "Christian." Jesus said people would know his followers by the way they are with others; that people would know his followers by the way they love and the way they shine. Like a light on a stand and a city on a hill, the world knows we belong to Jesus by what is reflected in our words and actions. With the JJ Weeks Band in "Let Them See You," we pray, "God, let them see you in me." Worship Link: Downloadable Lenten Devotional

Hopes & Dreams

One thing that keeps us moving forward, trying new things, and being excited about life is the hopes and dreams we have for the future. Whether those be for ourselves, the ones we love, our community, or the world, the vision of a better future keeps us energized and focused. Especially when we are young we are encouraged to have high hopes and bold dreams. We are told that, "The sky is the limit!" "You can be anything you want to be!" "Just dream it, and it can happen!" Until it isn't, and you can't, and it doesn't. Were our hopes misguided? Our dreams unrealistic? Or were we just limited in our vision and ability? God calls us to a future that is greater, more, and bigger than our today. But how will we get there? Maybe it has to do with Whose dream we are dreaming and Whose power is fueling the journey. With God, dreams do come true. Worship Link:

Football Sunday

In early February every year, Americans turn their attention to the biggest football game of the season. This year the top teams will face-off on Sunday, February 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Fans will cheer from couches, living rooms, and gathering places across the country. Collectively we will consume 1.38 billion chicken wings, 12.5 million pizzas, and 11.2 million pounds of guacamole. Players and coaches will pour their hearts out and compete with passion to claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy and title of NFL Champions! But for many players, there is something even more important than the championship game. For many players their relationship with Jesus trumps even their football hopes and aspirations. Be inspired by NFL players who tell their stories of faith on February 13, 2022, at both The Garden Community Church and Union Chapel Indy. You are invited to the church at 10:00 a.m., or to the churches' social media outlets, for game day fun and to hear powerful stories of hope, grace, and life with Jesus - both on and off the gridiron. Worship Link:

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