Welcome to ToGather.church! (Find out more about ToGather.) We come together in sadness as we again recognize the tragic disruption and loss of life to war and evil aggression against innocent people. We come to ask God to use us to help people in our broken world. As we pray in a moment, we commit ourselves to Jesus' mission of love to restore the broken and bring hope for all trapped in darkness.
Opening with Praise in Word and Song:
We begin ToGather with Paul's prayer for the new believers in Thessalonica. May we be known as people who love the broken and serve them in our day:
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. [Amen.] (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
As Paul continued with assurance and commendation for the disciples in Thessalonica, we pray that his words will be true also for you and, paraphrasing the last sentence in the following paragraph, we pray that the Lord's message rings out from you wherever you are and that your faith in God is known to all you encounter:
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. ... You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere (1 Thessalonians 1:4-8).
As we sing "Build My Life" with Pat Barrett, we are committing ourselves to live for Jesus and as Jesus' presence in our broken world that so desperately needs God's grace and our demonstration of his love:
Focusing on the Scriptures:
Our message is from our Verse of the Day:
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).
In ToGather this week, we focus on Jesus' example of loving the world and recognize his call for us to do the same. We have brothers and sisters facing great danger in Ukraine today. We urge you to pause and pray for them, along with our brothers and sisters in China and India and other places who face mounting hostility, persecution, and danger because of their faith in Jesus. Our prayers matter to God — as Ann Voskamp shared in this excerpt from a recent post:
Comfort children who cry terrified, give courage to mothers who gather to calm, strengthen leaders who stand steady to find a way to peace.
For those who need to flee — may they find our arms a safe haven.
For those who are hungry — may they find our open hands offering bread for today and living bread for all eternity.
For all the limping, weary and wounded — may they find us holding on to each other, because when we live like we all belong to each other — we answer so much of the longing in the world, even our own.
And for all those who despair, both near and far — may they find our hands and feet today to be those of King Jesus, we who get to be His very body of peace in a hurting world today.
As Ann reminds us:
In solidarity with believers everywhere, especially those facing hostility, opposition, persecution, and danger, we sing "The Greatest Command" with Hallal Music:
Phil's message reminds us that love isn't JesuShaped love unless it acts and demonstrates itself to everyone, especially those who need it as they are suffering and struggling:
Let's remember the examples Phil gave of loving "with actions and in truth" and how he amplified on each of these examples: We can offer tangible support for basic needs, emotional support for broken hearts, faithful intercessory prayer, and simple acts of kindness for everyday struggles.
We sing Bethel Music's song, "Send Me," featuring Jenn Johnson and Chris Quilala, as our conclusion to Phil's message about sharing Jesus' love with others in tangible ways:
Sharing The Supper:
The song "I Will Follow," led by Chris Tomlin, prepares our hearts to share in the Lord's Supper and re-awaken us to our commitment to be Jesus' bodily presence in our broken world and serve and love as he does:
Phil and Donna Ware remind us that as we take the bread of Communion, we are Jesus' bodily presence sent into the world, and we recommit ourselves to our covenant to share God's grace in Jesus with our world:
Closing with Commitment and a Blessing:
The events of this past week remind us that we live in a dangerous and hostile world marred by the devil's desire to wound and destroy innocent people, the same as Jesus characterized followers of the devil in his day (John 8:44). Jesus sends us into this world just as the Father once sent him (John 20:19-23). As we approach the end of our time together, let our final song be your commitment. As Hallal Music leads us, we promise that "If You Say Go," Lord Jesus, we will go to love, bless, and serve our broken world with your grace.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Amen.] (1 Thessalonians 5:23)