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  • John T. Redman, CRE

March 21 Worship

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, March 21 will be in-person and streamed on YouTube and Zoom to view at home. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.


Union Church, Newburgh NY

March 21, 2021 10:30 am

Fifth Sunday in Lent


We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship.


Lent & Holy Week: Weekly meditations posted each Wednesday in lent, based on the overall themes of peace and unity. Stay tuned for daily videos for Holy Week.

Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. March 29 and Wed. March 31 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

2021 Envelope Boxes are available in the church vestibule for pick up.

VIRTUAL Fellowship Time: Begins at 11:30 after.


PRELUDE Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring J.S. Bach, played by Dr. Margaret Small

In honor of Johann Sebastian Bach, often called the Greatest Musician of all Time, born on March 21, 1685.

CALL TO WORSHIP Adapted from Psalm 51

Leader: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. People: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Leader: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. People: Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. Leader: You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. People: Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Leader: Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. People: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Leader: Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. ALL: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit.


Dear God, who created the covenant sealed it with promise of eternal life, we praise you for your mercies that are sure and boundless. Your ways are just and your grace is unending. Fill us now with your Spirit as we gather before you , as we seek to be faithful.


Dear God, who created the covenant sealed it with promise of eternal life, we praise you for your mercies that are sure and boundless. Your ways are just and your grace is unending. Fill us now with your Spirit as we gather before you, as we seek to be faithful.


With our numerous bad habits, we need to look for the courage to admit our faults, and pray to have the strength to change our ways. Let us confess our sins together.

(moment for silent personal confession)


Friends, trust in the grace of God, trust in the love of Christ and be forgiven.

GLORIA PATRI Traditional, 2nd Century


HYMN OF PRAISE Breathe on Me, Breath of God


God of mercy, you promised never to break your covenant with us. Amid all the changing words of our generation, speak your eternal Word that does not change. Then may we respond to your gracious promises with faithful and obedient lives; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

OLD TESTAMENT READING Jeremiah 31:31-34 John Safran

NEW TESTAMENT READING John 12: 20-33 John Safran

SERMON “Maybe it was Thunder” John Redman, CRE


Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth, we come before you as your people, rejoicing in the arrival of Spring and the Hope of Easter as it approaches. We ask for your continuing watch over all those who are bringing us vaccines and help to overcome this terrible plague that has held us in its grip for an entire year, even as we caution one another to be careful in our vigilance to remain healthy for each other. And dear God, please watch over those in need from loss of income, or homes, or health and bring comfort to those in grief and mourning. And Lord, we ask for your special smiling countenance on those we name here, for

And Lord we pray for those in our own hearts whose names you already know, for their own healing and comfort, in your name and that of our redeemer Jesus Christ, who taught to pray, 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.

OFFERTORY ANTHEM Blessed Assurance Union Ringers


You can support the work of Union Church by mailing donations to 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh, NY 12550 or visit to donate online.



DOXOLOGY Union Chancel Choir


POSTLUDE Toccata in D minor (abridged) J.S. Bach, played by Dr. Margaret Small

SERMON TEXT “Maybe It Was Thunder”

If we take the Lectionary calendar and try to put it in order with the chronology of the last two weeks of Lent, we get turned around sometimes. That’s the case for this week, since this Gospel passage takes place after Palm Sunday, which of course is not until next Sunday. And next Sunday’s Gospel will only have the triumphal entry into Jerusalem as a quick finale of the reading, with most of it going to the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who has just been raised from the dead by Jesus.

By the way, we will have palms for next Sunday, and a baptism, too. But back to our scripture. These Greeks come seeking an audience with Jesus. Who are they and why is this significant? Well, perhaps since Greeks are thought of as gentiles, so the message of Jesus is spreading to the Gentile world even before his death. In this time period Greeks are thought of as truth-seekers, known to travel far and wide in search of truth, from the writings of Herodotus almost five hundred years before to these Greeks we find in Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover. As inveterate tourists, these Greeks would not have missed a visit to the Great Temple, the most magnificent sight in the city, and according to William Barclay the New Testament scholar perhaps they witnessed that tremendous scene as Jesus chased the animals and the moneychangers from the Gentile Courtyard, where that’s as far into the temple as a Gentile could go. Another scholar has surmised that these Greeks may have been traders who arrived in Jerusalem because they knew of the huge crowds that gathered every year for the Passover Feast. This scholar wonders if they might have been among those merchants whose tables were overturned by Jesus, but that’s not quite right, since in the Gospel of John Jesus has cleared the Temple early in his ministry, while Mark, Matthew and Luke do have it set on a day or two after Palm Sunday in the final week of Jesus’s life.

Is Jesus talking to these Greeks when he says his time has come? Or is he talking to all of us, Jews and Gentiles and by projection, the whole world about his glorification to come? Glorification? The word brings out images of the Messiah coming as a conquering hero, on a majestic white stallion at the head of a celestial army that will drive the Romans from the land and establish a new Kingdom modeled on David with Jerusalem as its center.

But no, this glorification is in the sense of being raised up, elevated, just as Jesus will be raised up on a cross, or more importantly be raised from the tomb, just as Lazarus was raised. And that leader’s entrance into the Holy City, is not on a white horse but on a simple donkey, in all humility. And his mission is not to conquer with militant force, but with the simple messages of grace and love and God’s forgiveness.

But whether it’s to these Greeks or to all of humanity, Jesus announces that his time now come. Contrast that with what Jesus says to his mother at the wedding feast in Cana where he says, “My time has not yet come.” But now, as he begins the third of his three trips to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, he knows that his time has come, and he tells them about a grain of wheat dropped onto the ground and how it may seem to die, but it produces many more grains. That’s the nature of it all, Jesus says, that you must lose life to gain it., As Eugene Peterson says in his translation , the Message, “anyone who holds onto that life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you will have it forever, real and eternal.”

And then these disturbing verses about Jesus being troubled, which is really asking if he is ready for this glory, and He knows he is, as he says, “Bring Glory to your Name!”

And then this voice from heaven, saying “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.” And some standing there in the crowd said that they heard thunder, and others said “an angel spoke to him here.”

Now what about that crowd? Where did they come from? They had heard about this amazing healer, and then the idea that he had called Lazarus from the tomb had caused massive crowds to see this Rabbi who had raised a man after being dead for several days.

So here we have not only Jesus and his disciples, but we have a growing number of followers and believers. So as Jesus approached Jerusalem from Bethany, there must have been a growing crowd joining in, and when the word went out in Jerusalem, an entire mass of people rushed out of the gates to meet him. In fact, Jesus had actually been hiding out for a while. In the previous chapter when Lazarus is raised from the dead, the priests and the pharisees are furious, but don’t know what to do about it, they even put a price on his head and demand that anyone with knowledge of Jesus’s whereabouts should tell them. They are convinced that he won’t have the courage to show up for the Passover Feast, and if he does, they will arrest him.

But the crowds from both outside and inside Jerusalem are so vast that the authorities don’t dare make a move at that moment, and instead wait a while, not even trying to stop Jesus from entering the Temple to teach. And that’s where the beginning of our Gospel reading for this week finds us, with Jesus’ teaching in the Temple and these Greeks coming to see him. That’s where I have sort of turned it all around by telling you how this transpired by what went on before this. And so this crowd that has gathered around Jesus hears different things after Jesus sort of argues with himself about what to say in asking God not to bring this fate on him, then admitting that this is the mission he was sent to carry out. And when he proclaims Father, bring glory to your name, God answers him by saying “I have brought glory before, and I will do so again,” you can imagine the crowd’s reaction.

You must remember that at this point in history, the Jews have come to believe that God spoke directly to people only in the ancient days of Moses and Elijah and that to their more “modern” viewpoint that God no longer speaks directly to people but through the signs he sends to their hierarchy of priests. So this probably boisterous crowd in the echoing stone walls hear this voice, or think they hear a voice, and some say that it was thunder while others say it was the voice of an angel, and others aren’t sure what to think.

But in essence Jesus replies, it wasn’t to me that voice spoke to, it was all of you. And now the world will be judged, and the ruler of this world will be overthrown. Note that he says the ruler of THIS WORLD, not meaning the stern Roman empire but the rule of sin, the heavy-handed influence of doubt and fear, that plague our thoughts and our consciences. This is the ruler that Jesus will overthrow by his message of grace and the outpouring love of God and the promise of an unending life for those who believe.

And to backtrack a bit to our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah, about God’s continuing promise. He says it won’t be like the old days when I delivered you from Egypt and you still wouldn’t do what I wanted. No, he says there will be a new covenant, a new law not delivered from on high but written upon your hearts. And you won’t need high priests telling you of this covenant because you will know it for yourselves, you will feel it, all of you from the least to the greatest. And here stands Jesus among that throng in the Temple, as proof of that new covenant and when he says “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me,” he doesn’t just mean when he is lifted up on the cross, but more so, when he is raised from the tomb.

Was it God himself or one of his angels, or was it merely thunder that they heard that day? Whatever the source, the word was out and more and more people came to believe in him and that was beginning to be just too much for the Temple authorities. They truly feared that Jesus would cause a rebellion that would bring all of them down under the crushing fist of Rome. They had seen it before, the sight of crucified bodies along the roadside was a common one, and these priests and Pharisees had no desire to be among them.

So the high priest said it would be better for one man to die than their entire nation, and they have no idea of what that one death will come to mean for all of them, and for all of us.

So my sisters and brothers in faith, I share these thoughts and words today by the Love of the Father, the Grace of the Son, and the Healing Power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


John Redman, CRE

Mobile: (914) 474-0722

Union Church

44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955

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