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  • John T. Redman, CRE

May 2 Worship

Updated: May 3, 2021

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, May 2 will be in-person and streamed on YouTube to view at home. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections. We will be celebrating Communion this Sunday. Please have a cracker/bread of your choice and juice/beverage on hand to join in this sacrament.

HOW TO VIEW ON YOUTUBE: YouTube broadcast will begin at 10:25 am.


For smartphones and tablets, download and install the Zoom app.

If prompted: Click “JOIN Meeting” and enter:

Meeting ID: 253 663 5871 Passcode: NO Passcode required


Union Church, Newburgh NY

May 2, 2021 10:30 am

Fifth Sunday of Easter


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.


Fundraising: Outdoor GARAGE SALE Sat. May 22, 8-4 pm in our parking lot.

25 spaces available at $25.00 per space. Tables available for rent $5 each. Refreshments will be available. CONTACT: Jeff Bousche (845) 913-8434 or the church office (845) 562-0954.

BARN SALE: Accepting items every Monday and Wednesday from 9-11 am and Sundays from 11:30-12:30 pm. NO CLOTHING. NO furniture that needs to be carried by more than one person.

Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. April 26 and Wed. April 28 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

VIRTUAL Fellowship Time: Begins after worship on Zoom. Questions? Call Pastor John at (914) 474-0722.


PRELUDE All People that on Earth Do Dwell

CALL TO WORSHIP Adapted from Psalm 22 Leader: From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. People: The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD.

Leader: All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. People: Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,

and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.


Ruler of nations, you have dominion over all Creation. You bring pride to the humble and cause the boastful to be brought low. The afflicted find hope in your mercy; while] you challenge and chasten. The comfortable. As your wisdom led our mothers and fathers through the ages, make us receptive to the word of your love. This we pray in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh. Amen.


Our failings to live up to God’s calling and commandments are as numerous as the blossoms of spring. Let us confess our sins together.


Compassionate God, we acknowledge with shame and regret that we don’t bear the fruits of your love in Christ as we should. We too often and too easily become like dead branches, worthy only to be pruned away and discarded. Forgive us, we pray. Make us worthy vessels of Christ’s love, bringing good and fruitful works to bear upon the world and its people, in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

(A moment for silent personal confession)


Friends, even death could not silence the message of love and grace brought to us in the life of Jesus. By the grace of God and the Love of Jesus, we are forgiven.

GLORIA PATRI Traditional, Second Century


HYMN OF PRAISE How Firm a Foundation


Draw us close, Holy Spirit, as the Scriptures are read, and the Word is proclaimed. Let the word of faith be on our lips and in our hearts, and let all other words slip away. May there be one voice we hear today — the voice of truth and grace. Amen.


NEW TESTAMENT READING Acts 8: 26-40 Libby Szymanowicz


SERMON Fruit of the Vine John Redman, CRE


Gracious God, we pray for all those who wander in the wilderness in these days of pandemic, days of broken covenants and shattered dreams. Give them new awareness of your presence amid their faltering steps. Keep us from judging them as weak or inferior. Help us to lend them understanding as they are led by you to find their way just as our Savior promised to search for those who stray and fold them in the Shepherd’s arms of abundant love. And Lord, we ask you to watch over and bring comfort and healing to those whom we name here:

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.

COMMUNION HYMN What Wondrous Love is this


Invitation to the Table

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Words of Institution

Prayer after Communion

OFFERTORY ANTHEM When in Our Music God is Glorified


Let us all consider what we have been blessed with and how we can best share it with those in greater need, even as we gift our church for its greater work to the Glory of God and the undying love of Jesus.


DOXOLOGY Lloyd T. Hayes


POSTLUDE Amazing Love! How Can it Be



The grape vine has long been associated with the nation of Israel, and Jesus uses the grape vine and vineyard imagery to illustrate that he is the vine and we are the branches. In the Old Testament, grape vine imagery generally has to do with degeneration and uselessness. Jeremiah accuses Israel of becoming a rotted vine. Isaiah says: “Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Almighty; the people of Judah are the vines he planted. But Isaiah cautions Israel and especially Jerusalem to repent from their selfish ways before they become like an untended vineyard and go to ruin.

In the book or Ezekiel, the wood of the grape vine is truly useless for anything but holding grapes; you can’t build anything with it, you can’t even make a small peg to hang your clothes on. The only thing you can do with it is to let it dry out and then use it for starting a fire. Many times, the prophets warn the Israelites about how poor management of the vineyard will harvest nothing but sour fruit and not much of that, either.

It’s not until the Gospels that the images of the vineyard are portrayed in a positive light, but Jeremiah, Isaiah and most particularly Ezekiel are known more for their prophecies of condemnation and potential doom than anything else. In their prophetic warnings, vineyards are destroyed and decimated, the vines wither and die and their grapes are small and sour.

And it’s ironic that even though these prophets warn of impending doom, that the very frontage of the great Temple of Jerusalem featured an elaborate grape vine sculpture in pure gold, with clusters of grapes each bigger than a man’s fist, and people competed to sponsor a new cluster or even an individual grape or a tendril of the vine to be added to that elaborate gold vine on the front entrance of the great Temple.

But in our reading for today, Jesus says he is the vine, and we are the branches. He calls himself the true vine; the Greek word is “alethinos” and it means the most genuine, the most real, the most absolutely true.

And as Jesus says, “I am the true vine,” it goes along with the other seven times that Jesus says, “I am,” among them I am the bread of life, I am the sacrificial lamb, I am the light of the world, but most importantly, I am the way, and the truth and the life. These ‘I am’ pronouncements harken back to Exodus when Moses meets God at the burning bush and God says, “I am who I am.” So here Jesus is telling us that he’s a part of God, inseparable, and who has been with God since the very beginning of creation. And these verses about God the Father being the vinegrower and pruning away any unproductive vines have been abused by brimstone preachers for centuries to warn that if you aren’t a good branch of the vine, you will be cut away to wither and dry and be fed to the flames, the flames of hell, now doubt. But it’s not about the fear of being cut away, it’s about the full promise of Jesus, to bear fruit with us, in a joint and mutual promise. Life is full of unpleasant moments and situations, Jesus implies, but abide with me, the Greek word is meno, meaning to stay, to settle, to remain faithfully and unchanging. You see, meno can have many nuances, which are important to know as we scratch our heads and try to understand what scripture might really mean.

It means physically to just stay where you are. It means also to continue to live, not die, to keep on keeping on. It can also mean to not change, to stay strong in one's resolve, remain in common purpose with others. It means to stay present, not just physically but mentally and spiritually. It means to survive unchanged.

Most of these are also different nuances of the English word "live". I can say, "I live", and it is understood that I'm not dead. I could say, "I live online" and it's understood that it is online where my imagination and attention are directed, where I feel most at home and where I prefer to be. I might say, "I choose to live in the moment," give my attention to what I'm doing right now, to the people and tasks who are physically with me at this time instead of checking my email on my phone or letting my mind drift to the thousands of things that I need to get done, such as I really need to do laundry, I have to pick up the living room, will the it rain before I finish typing this and the windows are open? What's for dinner? Oops. Not living in the moment, sorry.

But you get the idea, don’t you? This abiding in Jesus and with Jesus is more than being in his presence of his presence in us, it’s a true sharing of experience and, well, life in the spirit.

And what about this strange encounter by Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch in our reading from Acts? As I said a week or so ago, in the season of Eastertide, between Easter and Pentecost in four weeks, we read from the Book of Acts instead of from the Old Testament. Acts is generally agreed to be by the same author as the Gospel of Luke, sort of Luke volume 2, as it follows the Acts of the Apostles in the earliest days of the Church.

Philip has been sent to Gaza to preach the Good News there, but on the way, he encounters this Ethiopian eunuch traveling in an elaborate chariot on his way home from worshipping in Jerusalem. This man is a convert to Judaism, and he is reading from the Greek translation of Isiah. That’s convenient, since Philip has been recruited to be a disciple because of his own Greek background. As the early church was branching out, the mission to the Gentiles began to expand exponentially and having Greek-speaking Jews was an important aspect of this outreach effort. And Philip was one of six chosen to join the original eleven disciples to minister to the growing audience of Greek speaking seekers of truth.

So, when Philip sees the man reading from Isiah, Philip asks if he understands what he is reading –It’s the passage of the lamb to the slaughter making no sound or objection to death. And the Ethiopian asks who is this about? About the prophet himself, or someone else?

You know the story; Philip uses that moment to tell the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian is overjoyed, and he suddenly understands the prophecy. As they travel along, they come to a body of water and the Ethiopian asks if he can be baptized. And Philip does so, then as they come up out of the water Philip disappears from sight -- poof! --and ends up in the nearby city of Caesarea and the Ethiopian sees him no more, but apparently, this man returns home full of the joy of receiving the spirit and ready to share the Good News of Jesus with his own people. And Philip proceeds up the coast preaching all along the way.

So where does this find us? In the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, it’s pretty obvious – get the true Good News, believe, get baptized, spread the message. And from John 15? That’s a bit more involved, with these images of branches and fruit bearing and pruning the less productive ones, but it still revolves around the central, essential message of Christ. In my readings and research, this metaphor is carried in any one of a multitude of ways from a Christian who uses lip service yet doesn’t have faith to one whose true faith shakes him to his very soul. And this new, true vine in John’s Gospel is unlike the vine imagery in Isaiah, where the whole faith system is based on God’s covenant with Israel, but in the New Testament it’s all through a personal connection with Jesus.

That’s the covenant we will celebrate today, sharing in the symbolic feast that reminds us always of that special connection.

And so, my fellow travelers in faith, as we prepare to join in the feast, know that I share these thoughts and words with you 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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